Leave It To The Planning Department


The dream of quiet residential living still survives but the City of Ottawa is doing its best to end it.

Here is why people love their homes. This might come as news to city staff and a journalist or two.

Most people get married or some such similar relationship and add a couple of youngsters to the mix.

It’s a time of wonder, love and building lives together.

It usually also comes with a need to buy a home so people with families tend to gravitate to quiet residential streets with lovely backyards because they like quiet residential streets with lovely backyards. They then spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and much of their lives making their house a home … and paying off the mortgage.

They have bonds with their neighbours through their kids’ hockey or soccer games and a like love of quiet residential streets with lovely backyards. So they want to keep their neighbourhood quiet, residential and beautiful. A peaceful repose from the day’s troubles.

Most people take care of their homes, treat their neighbours with respect and many friendships arise out of home-owning. The dream of a nice home in a quiet residential neighbourhood began with the Cleavers and remains in many peoples’ minds today.

Enter the City of Ottawa planning department. The tall foreheads there want to preserve corner stores in residential neighbourhoods … at least that’s what they say. And who can argued with that?

Corner stores provide convenience in a community at usually high costs. But most of them have been there for many decades and people who bought homes next to them knew what the advantages and many disadvantages of being a neighbour there are. Many Ottawans would prefer not to live beside a corner store, a pub, a strip mall or low-rise housing.

So putting new commercial structures in residential areas is likely to be extremely unpopular. People don’t want kids next door blasting music from their cars and throwing litter around. A pub next door brings with it drunks who pee in the shrubs (ask the people of the Glebe), make large amounts of noise at closing and take up all the parking on the street. Neighbours with that thrust upon them are likely to yearn for their old quiet neighbours and the neighbourhood for which they paid hundred of thousands of dollars as an admission fee.

So why is the city inviting all this trouble. Your friendly neighbourhood Bulldog has some possible reasons:

1. Some bushy-tailed naive-thinking planners think this is a good idea. Why we can bring wine bars and exotic restaurants into residential neighbourhoods binding them together in cohesive communities. What they’re really building is a jug-milk joint, a tacky tuck shop and a take-out pizza place. All are better suited for commercial ribbons if the owner can afford the rent there after all the city-planned extremification on them;

2. These small commercial plazas or stores are the thin edge of the wedge of taking the residential out of residential zoning. You can hear the planners now: “If Leafy Lane can have a jug-milk store and a pizza joint, why shouldn’t there be room for some 16- and 14-storey highrises there. Down go the century-old homes in favour of a couple of beige boxes with people inside. And folks on the 16th storey take away the privacy of single-family back yards, even when they don’t try.

Remember 335 Roosevelt? That’s where the city wanted to plunk the aforementioned two towers of highrise in a residential neighbourhood. That was such terrible planning that even the developer-friendly Ontario Municipal Board coughed up that one. Imagine … the City of Ottawa is more pro-building than the OMB. Will wonders never cease at Ottawa City Hall?

I still hold out the option of contracting out the planning department to the development industry to streamline the process. And that way city planners can find more jobs with developers and the results are all the same. No need for taxpayers to cover the cost of a rubber-stamp planning department.

So what’s going on at city hall on this file? Well if you believe in the tooth fairy, it’s No. 1 above. If you want to make money off people who believe in No. 1, bet on No. 2.

I wouldn’t trust the planning department as far as I could throw it. Anybody who believes the planning department is in favour of little quiet commercial establishments in traditional neighbourhoods also owns a part of the Brooklyn Bridge and some bitchin’ swampland in Florida.

There is nothing in this for residential homeowners who should remember they are also residential voters and the time of a reform mayor grows closer.

These aren’t good intentions gone astray. No … this is an attack on the residential character of inner-city neighbourhoods. To think otherwise is to be horribly naive.

Don’t believe The Bulldog? Look at the planning department’s record. Done? Now do you believe the Dawg? This planning department hasn’t changed a bit.

And politicians put up these plazas at the peril of their jobs. Just how many neighbourhoods can a councillor or mayor alienate before they lose their jobs.

All the while the people on the street just want a quiet residential street with lovely backyards that they’ve worked a lifetime to achieve.

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