The City has received a site plan control application from Broadstreet Properties to construct four six-storey apartment buildings and a two-storey commercial building at 360 Bobolink Ridge, in a project called “Blackstone Village”.

Thanks to residents who have shared their feedback with me and City staff so far. This post will address the most common questions and issues raised by residents.

 

Wasn’t this supposed to be a commercial retail plaza?

At one point, yes. A commercial retail plaza was previously proposed in 2013. The owner has since sold this part of the site, shelving those plans.  The new owner is primarily a residential developer and is proposing apartments with a small retail component.

They are not beholden to the previous retail plans, but do have to adhere to the site’s zoning and City planning regulations.

 

 

Does the zoning allow apartments?

Yes. The site is zoned “Arterial Main Street”, which allows a wide variety of commercial and/or residential uses, including apartment buildings. The applicant is not asking for any changes to the zoning by-law or the City’s Official Plan.

 

 

What about the Village Green?

The Village Green, described in the Fernbank Community Design Plan as a public open space and civic gathering place within an urban context, is designated to be located in the property between this one and the Lépine land (5000 Robert Grant Avenue)—not at 360 Bobolink Ridge.

When the owner of that property decides to build, they will be required to design and build the Village Green as part of that development.

 

Can the City force the developer to build more retail at 360 Bobolink Ridge?

The developer is proposing a two-storey commercial building that could involve ground-floor commercial with tenant amenities and second floor office space.

I’ve met with the developer about their proposal and I’ve asked them to revise their plans to include more retail. Unfortunately the City can’t force them to build retail, since the zoning in place allows for both residential and/or commercial. Even though the area is designated for “mixed use”, the developer is not required to include both.

The zoning was established in 2009 through the master plan for the Fernbank area, known as the Fernbank Community Design Plan (CDP). In part because of the pandemic, residential demand has gone up and retail demand has gone down. Developers will always respond to the market, and as a result we’re now seeing more development of residential buildings in mixed use zones. In this case, I wish we had more tools to require commercial where the community needs it.

I will be continuing to encourage the builder to include a larger retail component. I always strongly encourage developers to include both residential and commercial in areas designated for mixed use in order to provide residents with opportunities to work and shop within walking distance of where they live. This is an important part of the City’s “15-minute neighbourhood” concept in the New Official Plan.

 

 

There’s a lot of parking on the site. Is that allowed?

Yes, there is a lot of parking; and yes, it is allowed. The City has minimum parking requirements built into the zoning, which in this case means there must be 1.2 spaces per residential unit; 2.4 spaces per 100m2 of office space; 3.4 spaces per 100m2 for personal business; and 0.2 spaces per residential unit for visitor parking. When you do the math, that ends up as 511.31 parking spaces. The applicant proposes 513 spaces, meeting the minimum.

Developers sometimes ask for a zoning by-law amendment to reduce the amount of parking required. This can often make sense for denser developments near rapid transit, as households in those situations typically own fewer cars on average. However, the applicant has not asked for any amendments in this case, and so they must adhere to the minimum amount.

The Fernbank CDP does encourage parking garages or underground parking in mixed-use areas such as this, but that is not a requirement. Having the buildings wrap around the parking lot to reduce the visual impact of asphalt from the street, but it’s still an awful lot of surface parking. I’m hoping there are ways they can mitigate the large amount of pavement on the site and I’ve asked the developer to consider building parking underground.

 

 

Our current road network can’t handle current traffic. How can you add more homes?

This is something we hear about on many development applications, and I completely understand the frustration. Infrastructure improvements often lag behind development.

When fully developed, Fernbank will have between 28,000 to 31,350 residents, approximately 9,700 to 11, 000 homes and approximately 2,500 to 2,600 jobs. The planned transportation network, including roads and traffic, is designed to provide mobility for everyone, but the capacity isn’t there yet.

As for the improvements to transportation in this area:

  • Short term: The next phase of Robert Grant Avenue from Abbott to Hazeldean should begin in fall 2022, which will alleviate many of the traffic issues near this site. Like we did for the Lépine project, we’ll look at options to limit construction at 360 Bobolink until that phase of the road is complete.
  • Long term: Robert Grant Avenue is planned to be expanded to add bus rapid transit lanes and additional lanes for traffic. The site is also just 250 meters from the planned O-Train stop at Hazeldean. The City encourages higher density development along planned transit lines and near stations to reduce reliance on driving.

 

You can learn more about planned transportation projects here…

 

 

There’s a speeding problem on Bobolink. How is that being addressed?

The City recently took over ownership of Bobolink from the developer; we are planning to implement traffic calming on Bobolink east of Robert Grant in Spring 2022.

 

 

Why apartments? Why six storeys? Why not something smaller?

The Fernbank CDP sets out where certain densities and uses should be placed in the community. 360 Bobolink Ridge is identified for higher-density development with mixed use, which would include mid-rise apartment buildings as proposed. (They can build apartments on this site for up to nine storeys “as of right”, without requiring a by-law amendment.)

The Fernbank Community Design Plan establishes an average residential density of 29 units per hectare for singles, semis, and towns across the entire Fernbank area, to provide a variety of housing types. The City’s residential land strategy requires an overall net density of 32 units per hectare, “which implies densities of 34 units per hectare for semi-detached dwellings, 45 units per hectare for townhouses, and 150 units per hectare for apartments.” This proposal has 100 units per hectare.

Areas in Fernbank designated for high-density residential are located near future rapid transit stations and comprise just 5 of the 674 hectares of the Fernbank land (1%). Low-density residential comprises 217 net hectares (32%) and medium-density residential areas include 57 hectares (9%). Mixed-use, which includes higher-density residential, is 21.5 hectares (3%). Concentrated areas of high densities with larger areas of low and medium densities is how the planned average units per hectare is achieved.

It’s not fiscally or environmentally responsible to continue expanding the city outwards, which means we will see denser housing types in newer developments than we have in the past. But we still need to have a variety of all housing types—singles, semis, towns, and apartments—to keep the housing market healthy and provide housing for people of different incomes and stages of life. Adding apartments in Stittsville and across the City, in the right amount and in the right locations, helps achieves this and avoid more sprawl.

 

 

What’s next in the process?

The comment period for this application is open until December 1, 2021. Note that you can continue to provide feedback to me and to the planner after this time.

We are also hosting a public information session on December 15 (detail to be announced soon) so that residents can learn more about the project and provide their feedback directly to the developer, who will be in attendance.

After gathering comments from the public and our office, the city’s planning staff will send their comments to the developer to refine the proposal. With some back-and-forth, the developer will prepare a revised plan that could either involve substantial changes or just small tweaks.

Staff will approve the site plan only once there are satisfied with the design. To do so, they also need my concurrence. If I do not concur (removing the delegated authority of staff), then the proposal would go to the planning committee and council for approval (as is the case with zoning by-law and official plan amendments).

 

 

More information & share your feedback

More information about the proposal is available on the City’s DevApps site…

You can share your questions or comments by using the “Send Feedback” link on DevApps or by contacting planner Kathy Rygus at kathy.rygus@ottawa.ca or (613) 580-2424 ext. 28318. You can copy glen.gower@ottawa.ca.