City staff support controversial four-building proposal in Sandy Hill

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A local developer’s controversial plan to build four mid-rise apartment buildings that would add more than 300 rental units to a small Sandy Hill neighbourhood is set to go before the city’s planning committee next week.

Robinson Village Ltd. Partnership is proposing to build a nine-storey, 190-unit apartment building at 36 Robinson Ave. as well as three separate six-storey dwellings each containing 46 units. The addresses of those sites are 17, 19 and 23 Robinson Ave., 27, 29 and 31 Robinson Ave. and 130, 134 and 138 Robinson Ave.

Robinson Village is a small neighbourhood just north of the Queensway and west of the Ottawa River, not far from the University of Ottawa’s main and Lees campuses. Most of the surrounding dwellings are single-family homes, low-rise apartments and townhouses.

According to a city staff report, the buildings would include a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. Although city zoning calls for a minimum of 17 parking spots for residents at the six-storey sites, the developer wants to have just three spots at each property, along with two spots for visitors and one car-sharing space. 

The nine-storey building would have a total of 53 spaces for residents as opposed to the required minimum of 81 spaces.

Although city staff have endorsed the developer’s plans, residents have lodged a number of complaints about the proposed new buildings, including a lack of parking and access for emergency vehicles as well as worries that the units would attract short-term student or transient tenants rather than long-term renters. 

Opponents of the project submitted a petition against its approval containing 92 signatures. However, staff note in the report that the city cannot legally reject a planning application based on the demographics of the tenants it is targeting. 

According to the staff report, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury, who represents the ward, cited various concerns with the original proposal “regarding the reduction of parking, density, student housing, property management, roof-top terraces, surface parking, building design and unit diversification.”

In his comments, Fleury referred to the proposed six-storey buildings as “Bunkhouses 2.0,” saying they would jam too many new residents into a quiet enclave of Sandy Hill.

“The impact of nearly doubling (or more) the number of residents in a small community leads to many issues of concern,” he added, citing fears that tenants would create too much noise as well as the area’s lack of access to major roads and amenities such as a supermarket.

In response, the report says, the developers amended the plan to boost the number of two-bedroom units in each building from zero to 18, added two extra parking spaces at each site for residents and reduced the size of the outdoor rooftop amenity areas, among other changes. The applicant has also committed to employing supervisors at the sites 24 hours a day, the report says.

Staff argue the proposed developments are consistent with the existing zoning and should be approved. 

“The area is accessible to emergency vehicles, and challenges such as street snow clearing fall outside the land use planning process,” the report adds, noting that the city can reduce the number of required parking spaces because the properties are within 800 metres of the Lees transit station.

The city’s planning committee is scheduled to consider the application at its next meeting on Jan. 23.