CVCA at Work: Committee of Adjustments

By: Jill Prott, Co-President, CVCA

One of the City View Community Association (CVCA) activities is the monitoring of applications to the Committee of Adjustments (COA). 

Most of City View is in the R1FF zoning by-law that sets out the minimum front lot width, lot area, setbacks and maximum building heights and lot coverage for our area.  When a developer or owner wants to build outside these parameters a variance must be requested and approved by the COA. 

The CVCA monitors the Agendas for Panel 2 of the COA, that are posted on Ottwatch.ca to identify up-coming applications for City View and review the submitted documents.  Panel 2 of the COA handles applications for Ottawa’s inner urban core and meets on Wednesday evenings – every two weeks.  Individuals, groups and community associations can submit comments in advance or at the hearings. Meetings are currently being held online and can be viewed later on Youtube.

So far this year, the CVCA has attended and commented at five hearings, and are aware of five more coming up.

Most of these City View applications are to replace a single home with two larger houses on much smaller lots. Although the City of Ottawa by-law requires a 64 foot (19.5 m ) frontage and lot area of 6458.35  sq. ft. (600 sq. m), most of these builds want variances down to 50 foot frontages (15.24m) and 5,000 sq. ft (464.52 sq. m.) in area. This type of infill on 50 foot lots was first approved in 2013, before the CVCA was monitoring these applications. Since that time, over 70 such applications have been approved – involving 140 new builds. 

Notices must be posted on the property 30 days before a hearing, and residents within 600m must be notified. If you will be affected or have concerns or questions on a proposed infill please contact the CVCA for support

The CVCA tries to monitor each property following its sale to ensure trees are not removed illegally before a Tree Information Report (TIR) is completed.  Also, copies of the TIR, plans and the Ottawa Planner’s Report are requested and reviewed to ensure the application is complete and accurate and any questions are answered and issues addressed. 

The CVCA comments on such issues as drainage, preservation of additional trees, character of the neighbourhood, illegal projections, and requests for additional variances. When additional variances (such as height or setbacks are requested, in addition to lot widths and lot areas that are usually 22.6% less than what are required) we consider these additional variances avoidable and unnecessary. 

Because City View has no storm sewers, drainage is a major issue here. When two large houses replace a single home, the existing expanse of greenspace and trees that once absorbed storm water is removed and replaced with houses that cover over 45% of the property – with multiple projections and wide impermeable driveways. This affects the drainage for adjacent properties and the rest of the community.

It is illegal to fill drainage ditches, as they are an important component of our ‘rural’ drainage system. Therefore, at the very least, reinstatement of ditches and drainage culverts under driveways must be made mandatory for these new ‘builds’. 

COA approval is based on four tests. The CVCA agrees with one dissenting member of the COA panel that “these requested variances in City View, to facilitate the development of two detached dwellings on undersized lots, do not meet the general intent and purpose of the Zoning By law. The City’s Official Plan policies encourage infill and intensification, but the provisions of the Zoning Bylaw (R1FF (632) zone), which reflect greater limits on the character of residential infill, have not been updated to reflect the same intent.”  Nor can these variances be considered ‘minor’.  

Developers are encouraged by the City to contact community associations prior to submission of a COA application to discuss, identify and try to resolve any issues. The CVCA is always willing to meet with developers, and we have met with some, in hopes that we can work together to ensure City View continues to be a community that we can all appreciate.

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