Article: A little house, now four $1.2M units. What’s cost to City View?

Ottawa Citizen article by Kelly Egan published on July 8, 2021

Egan: One little house becomes four $1.2M units. But at what cost to City View?

At 75 Granton Ave. in City View, there is a little white house with a huge maple out front, and — though the grass is overgrown — an air of faded pride about the place.

In a real way, the future of 75 Granton is the future of the city, almost all you need to know about “intensification” and the aspirations of our official planning blueprints.

The house is to be demolished, the big maple cut down, the grape-vines and fig trees removed. In its place would go two doubles, each with a rentable basement unit — so one dwelling on 90-foot frontage becomes eight.

The four main units will sell for about $1.2 million, with the parking situation unclear. Granton has no storm sewers, or sidewalks, or curbs, among the last inner-Greenbelt areas to use ditches to collect runoff (and not always well).

The neighbours, predictably, are not happy, as evidenced by the angry eloquence of Maria Szadziuk, who lives up the street.

“City View is zoned for single family housing and has been since its inception more than 70 years ago. Allowing multiple family units will change the unique character of this neighbourhood forever,” she wrote to the city planner and ward councillor.

“Cramming TWO duplexes with EIGHT families and FOUR parking spaces into a small lot, awkwardly squeezed under a power line and currently containing a single family house is, to put it plainly, a harebrained scheme which, in my opinion, borders on the criminal.”

Nancy Wilson is co-president of the City View Community Association and, at age 65, a lifer in the neighbourhood. Because City View was built with fairly modest houses on big lots — 100-foot frontage is common — it has been ripe for tear-downs and big rebuilds.

But, with small exceptions, it has always had R1 zoning (single-family home only) but this application is asking for a conversion to R2 to allow multiples.

“The zoning is the big one,” she said one day this week. “If they open it up to that (R2), it’s going to be all through here. It’s scary.”

Wilson and others worry City View just doesn’t have the bones to withstand a sharp increase in density. Its roads are narrow, crowned and cracked. With slight exceptions, it has no curbs or sidewalks and its underground piping (sewage and storm) is not up to modern urban standards.

“In the spring, we have ducks living in the ditches.”

(We spoke on her porch over the grinding sound of heavy equipment across the street at 21 Withrow Ave., a once wooded two-acre site that was a hidden gem with its 1850s stone house, famous as the base for a Confederation-era poet. The association failed to stop about a dozen million-dollar houses from going ahead.)

Wilson and her co-president Jill Prot spoke of an exhaustion in monitoring and fighting big rebuilds and massive footprints that are changing the character of the neighbourhood. They have fought and lost variance cases at Committee of Adjustment, by rough count, 78 times.

There is another factor leading opponents to think the deck at 75 Granton is stacked.

The application to rezone is being brought by Peter Hume (HP Urban Inc.) and Jack Stirling (The Stirling Group), two old hands who know Ottawa’s planning department inside-out.

Hume was a longtime city councillor and former chair of the Planning Committee and Stirling was a municipal planning leader. His name came to the forefront last month in a stinging report from the Integrity Commissioner that, essentially, said his longstanding friendship and professional relationship with committee boss Jan Harder looked like a conflict of interest.

Looked so bad, in fact, that Harder, the Barrhaven councillor, up and quit as chair of the committee.

Wilson is not suggesting wrongdoing, but points to the natural inclination to connect the dots. “It still leaves a bad taste in your mouth when you see their names on a development in an area that is totally wrong and it’s coming up (for a vote).”

Hume, meanwhile, doesn’t see this application as the start of an R2 march into City View. “We think these are going to be very attractive additions to the community.”

He argues the Granton site is close to other multi-unit lots, borders a hydro corridor, satisfies provincial and city goals for more density — especially near Baseline transit — and suits the “15-minute” neighbourhood concept.

He said the planning process is very prescribed in terms of mandatory steps and says he will not be lobbying councillors for approval.

“In my opinion, there is no ‘cooking the books’, so to speak. Everything is very transparent.”

A virtual public meeting is scheduled July 14, with planning committee in September. The residents will be watching.

“We have to keep fighting because it’s something we believe in,” said Wilson.

To contact Kelly Egan, please call 613-291-6265 or email

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