Heritage Ottawa calls the modern addition to the landmark Chateau Laurier in the Parliamentary district of Ottawa “the most disgraceful act of heritage vandalism of our generation.”
However the city heritage staff likes it. How can two organizations who should know heritage be so divided by the addition?
Here’s how. The city heritage staff had never even designated Les Soeurs de la Visitation convent in Westboro heritage when it was purchased by Ashcroft Homes. The convent was probably the prize piece of heritage west of Bank Street at the time.
So city heritage staff either didn’t care about the convent or didn’t know. How can you respect a staff that does that?
Of course, the city planning department loves development because the charges builders pay go straight into the planning department … one of the grossest conflicts-of-interest in Canadian governmental history. So planning will love it. That department has never seen a beige brown box it didn’t like.
The planning committee, run by the developers’ best friend, Barrhaven Councillor Jan Harder, loves new buildings because developers fund councillors’ campaigns and that keeps the pols in power. And from the pathetic debate on the high-rise and zoning report, many councillors don’t do their homework or read their reports or care.
That high-rise report was so spirited through city hall that the public barely had a chance to say boo before it was rubber-stamped by city council in four seconds. Developers liked it however.
Then at city council, Mayor Jim Watson loves developers for all of the above reasons as do many councillors for the above reasons so the Chateau addition is a done deal and that’s why developers love the mayor and councillors. Witness the fleecing the city took at Lansdowne, where as a “partner” to the project, the city trickle of revenue that comes from the development is put in a fund to repair city assets on the site that it doesn’t control. And it leases city land, some of the most valuable in this community, for a nominal fee to the operators of Lansdowne.
So in effect, the city gets nothing from Lansdowne and loses revenue for the land it leases for next to nothing on the site. But Watson loves it and councillors love it and the city’s partners love it. Wonder why?
Already we have city heritage staff finding ways to make the Chateau addition look as though it can’t be stopped. And if council, in a miracle, voted down the addition, the city’s own heritage staff report would be used by the developers to destroy the city’s own legal case in an appeal.
So who speaks for the people of Ottawa? Well … no one. It’s all just a sleazy charade so that planning gets money, councillors get their campaigns funded and developers get whatever they want.
So Heritage Ottawa is really the only organization in this mix which isn’t getting money from this sleazy system.
And it says the Chateau addition is “the most disgraceful act of heritage vandalism of our generation.” Heritage Ottawa is right.
But the fix is in and the last people who could stop this travesty don’t get seriously consulted … the residents of Ottawa.
If the city doesn’t stop the Chateau addition, voters should throw out on Oct. 22 every councillor who supports it. That way the residents of this community have an opportunity to shut down this faulty system that is an affront to democracy.
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