Ottawa council approves major development near ‘failing’ intersection, ‘park-and-cycle’ pilot
No city councillor or staff member will dispute that the intersection of Hunt Club Road and Riverside Drive is one of the worst for congestion and collisions in the city of Ottawa, but on Wednesday, a majority of council supported building a major, mixed-use development beside it that many argue will “compound” existing traffic challenges.
The 20-acre vacant site off Riverside Drive, a north-south arterial road, is now zoned for multiple residential and commercial uses, including car dealerships, a highrise apartment building and a retirement facility. The development application was submitted by St. Mary’s Development Corp., an affiliate of the Taggart Group of Companies.
“What we have now is gridlock and whatever we build will contribute to that,” argued Coun. Riley Brockington, who represents the area where the proposed development and problematic intersection are located.
Councillors voted 18-4 in favour of the zoning amendment, which was accompanied by a separate motion outlining that the city would pay the cost, in full, for an extension of Riverside Drive’s southbound right-hand turn lane onto Hunt Club Road. The funds would come from the municipality’s development charge account.
Riverside South Coun. Carol Anne Meehan, Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans and Capital Coun. Shawn Menard joined Brockington in voting against both the development application and the funding plan for the turn lane’s extension.
The Riverside and Hunt Club intersection has scored a failing grade from city staff for its shoddy ability to move high volumes of traffic, particularly during rush hour periods. It was a fact some councillors kept coming back to during the debate on Wednesday as they challenged approving a major development without first acting to resolve those serious traffic issues.
“This intersection cannot take it,” argued Meehan, saying many of her constituents pass through the intersection during their morning and afternoon commutes.
“People are asking: when does their quality of life get priority with us? And I think it’s a fair question.”
Senior city staff repeatedly argued the Trillium LRT line’s extension to Riverside South, once it launches in 2022, will be the “biggest single reliever of congestion” in the south end of Ottawa. Planning general manager Stephen Willis also argued that the issues at Riverside and Hunt Club are not unique and “stalling urban growth and intensification” would not alleviate those traffic problems.
“We have this same problem in every major arterial road heading into the city, whether it’s Bronson, Innes, Carling, Prince of Wales, Woodroffe and Greenbank,” Willis said. “I urge you not to make decisions that would be the same problem as whether you go east, west or south in this city … because all you do is move that problem to another location of the city further out, adding more congestion and traffic to the exact same corridors.”
Staff said the future widening of the Airport Parkway will also help — although that infrastructure project isn’t expected to break ground until after 2020.
“I think for the average resident … they want the infrastructure to keep pace with development applications,” Brockington told reporters after council.
Brockington and Deans also expressed frustration that the city didn’t force Taggart to pay a portion of the cost for right-turn lane extension on Riverside Drive. Willis said Taggart isn’t obligated under planning laws to pay for that because the project aims to improve existing “broader network problems” that “aren’t attributable to their development in its entirety.”
Taggart would have a strong basis to appeal if the city made them fork over for the extension, Willis told councillors.
Taggart will pay for a new signalized intersection for drivers entering and exiting the site from the southbound Riverside lanes, as well as the sidewalk reconfiguration on the west side. The city will also fund a multi-use pathway on that same side.
Council approves 3-year ‘park-and-cycle’ pilot
Council on Wednesday also green-lit, without any debate, a three-year “park-and-cycle” pilot project at Andrew Haydon Park.
As part of the pilot, scheduled to begin in 2020, the city will set aside 10 existing spots in Andrew Haydon’s parking lot for west-end residents who want to leave their vehicles there during the workday and bike the remaining distance into downtown.
The pilot would wrap up after three cycling seasons in late 2022; staff estimated the whole project would cost approximately $11,000.
In the meantime, city staff will pedal ahead with a zoning change for the site.
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