‘It’s been a difficult fall,’ developer says, as Baseline highrises approved by city committee

Theberge Baseline Road project
Developer Joey Theberge has filed a proposal to build three highrises at the site of site of the Fisher Heights Plaza strip mall, just south of the Central Experimental Farm.

A development proposal that will ultimately see three mixed-use highrises constructed on Baseline Road at Fisher Avenue has been approved by the city’s planning and housing committee, despite concerns about shadowing on the nearby Central Experimental Farm. 

The proposal filed by local developer Theberge Homes includes plans to build two 24-storey towers and a 32-storey tower at 780 Baseline Rd., the site of a strip mall that contains the original Lone Star Texas Grill. 

The first phase of the project, which included one of the 24-storey highrises, was approved by the committee in November. At the time, staff were directed to continue analysis on the remaining towers due to concerns that shadows from the buildings would disrupt agricultural research at the neighbouring experimental farm. 

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In response to some of those concerns, the committee on Wednesday approved an amendment to increase the maximum podium height of the buildings, which reduces the overall height of the towers and lessens the potential for shadowing, according to staff. 

The development would include 1,089 residential units and nearly 31,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space split among the three buildings. 

“It’s been a difficult fall,” Joey Theberge, president of Theberge Homes, told committee members. “It’s been a two-year back-and-forth with the city. There’s been a lot of mitigation and renderings done over the last couple of years.”

Theberge said the company has met with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the federal department raising concerns over shadowing at the farm, to discuss the development. 

“It was a pretty productive meeting, actually,” he said. “They mentioned some of their concerns and I shared what my concerns were and we decided that we’d keep working together over the next few years as we get into the site plans for phase two.”

A number of studies have been done over the past few months to assess shadowing concerns, not only for the Theberge development, but on other proposals around the Central Experimental Farm.

Prior to approving the proposal Wednesday, multiple committee members expressed frustration at the lack of participation from the federal government to help come to a consensus on concerns around the farm. 

“We are tasked with approving housing; we are tasked with addressing our housing supply crisis,” said Somerset Coun. Ariel Troster. 

“Intensification along Carling (Avenue) was something that was very clearly communicated when the city debated the new Official Plan. At that point, the federal government did not come forward with concerns about the experimental farm … I’m uncomfortable with the notion that we’re being asked to approve something that has an expert challenge lodged against it but there doesn’t seem to be a perfect solution here.”

Committee vice-chair and Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower said the committee’s priority is to approve housing projects with the policies and tools it has on hand. On those grounds, he said the Theberge development was reasonable. 

“These shadows will have an impact in some way on the farm, but they’re not preventing research,” he said. “They might change the specific research happening there in some way, but it doesn’t affect the size of the farm, the ability to farm, the ability to do research. I just don’t see a reason why we wouldn’t approve this development today.”

The full proposal will go before city council on Feb. 7.

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