Comments on Columbus Development

These are my comments to the lead planner for the proposed development at 261 and 265 Columbus Avenue.

21 January 2020

Dear Ms O’Connor

Please consider the following to be my formal comments on the application at 261 and 265 Columbus Avenue, application D07-12-19-0192 in Ward 13, Rideau-Rockcliffe.

While I understand that much of Overbrook is slated for intensification as prescribed in the Official Plan, my key concerns around this development involve:

  1. Design;
  2. Infrastructure service impacts; and the
  3. Size and mass of the building.

While I generally support the need to encourage intensification, those efforts should not be detrimental to the community. New development projects ideally should complement and not compete with the unique character of the Overbrook neighbourhood. However, without any specifications in the by-law to compel property developers to create a design that better interacts with the street, I understand that design in this specific case is subjective.

I am still not enthused by the building’s design, as I do not believe it complements the neighbourhood, and agree with many area residents who have stated that despite an ‘institutional style’ being invoked as inspiration, the building is ultimately not an institution such as a schoolhouse, but is a residential building. Therefore, I would prefer to see a design that better complements the surrounding community by encompassing a mix of external materials to create more interest, greater articulation to break up the massing, and if at all possible, features to enhance the interaction of the building with the street through the inclusion of balconies, more greenspace landscaping and meaningful amenity space in the front of the building such as picnic tables or benches.

Concerning infrastructure service impacts, I have heard from many residents that there have been repeated sewer backups and basement flooding on this block on Columbus Avenue and throughout Overbrook, writ large. As the area is earmarked for intensification, I strongly urge longer term consideration and careful planning as to how this densification will affect underground infrastructure services. In the case of this development, going from two single family homes to 34 units is akin from going from approximately eight people living on two lots to approximately 50 people on the combined lot. This represents a 525 percent population increase in the same space, with each person in the newly proposed building producing more waste and using more water.

With regards to size and scale of the building, without sidewalks on Columbus Avenue, I have safety concerns for the additional people in the immediate vicinity. With the number of parking spaces available, the design assumes that many of the people living in the development once built will either walk or bike to conduct their chores or commuting; but the street design does not have a sidewalk, wider width for cycling or adjacent, immediate public transportation to facilitate active transportation.

The neighbouring development currently occurring at 324 Donald Street, while large, fronts a designated arterial road that has a sidewalk, public transit access and greater width to facilitate cycling. The Donald Street development is an example of better compatibility and densification. I had been told that previous discussions about sidewalks on Columbus Avenue were not advanced because there was not the foot traffic to support it. Without a sidewalk and adequate street width, the proposed building at its proposed current scale is not appropriate for the current location on Columbus Avenue.

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