City council June 27: Château Laurier conditions, hydro unknowns, and market misfortunes

It was a stacked agenda at city council’s meeting Wednesday. Here’s a summary of the highlights:

Château Laurier redesign

Council agreed today that planners have more work to do on the design of the Château Laurier expansion, a controversial process that has dragged on for about two years.

Councillors approved a plan supported by two committees to have city staff work further with the architect to tweak the modernist design, so the proposed addition is more compatible with the downtown hotel’s historic features.

The addition of more limestone and copper is on council’s wish list, for instance.

City staff approve new Château Laurier design

Approval of the final design for the seven-storey addition ultimately rests in the hands of city staff, but a site plan will need council’s blessing.

Asked afterward why council opted for an unusual conditional approval instead of rejecting the latest design if it needed more work, Watson told reporters the proposal has come a long way and it’s impossible to make everyone happy with significant renovations to a heritage building.

“I think at some point you’re to have to say, ‘Look it, we’ve come close, they’ve moved, we’ve moved and we’ve come up with a compromise,'” he said. “At some point you have to say, ‘It’s time to get on with this.'”

“They’ve torn down their garage … and they have to get those rooms built and their garage built,”” Watson added. “So I think you have to look at it practically and pragmatically at the same time.”

Hydro Ottawa

In its 2017 annual report, released today, Hydro Ottawa announced it delivered a dividend payment of $21.9 million to the city of Ottawa.

Councillors took the opportunity to ask Jim Durrell, chair of the utility’s board of directors, about the change in government at Queen’s Park and how premier-designate Doug Ford will make good on his promise to cut hydro rates by 12 per cent.

Alta Vista-area car accident takes out two hydro poles, leaves 380 customers without power

Durrell’s reaction to Ford’s pledge was blunt.

“I don’t know how you do it, frankly,” he said.

Coun. Riley Brockington specifically asked whether cutting hydro rates to that extent would impact Hydro Ottawa’s dividends to the city. Durrell and President and CEO Bryce Conrad told council they “don’t have a crystal ball” but will “do everything” they can to protect the utility’s finances.

Ottawa Markets called for regulation changes

Council also recessed to hold Ottawa Markets’ first annual general meeting since the not-for-profit agency was struck six months ago. Ottawa Markets is responsible for managing the city-owned ByWard and Parkdale Markets.

Peter Hume, a former city councillor who chairs the board of directors, had more bad news than good to give councillors. The “plethora” of farmers’ markets elsewhere in the city pose “stiff competition,” Hume said, and the group is struggling with “restrictive” municipal zoning rules and infrastructure that is “difficult” to manage, like public washrooms.

On top of that, the group’s revenues are “insufficient” to meet its mandate, and maintaining a fully-staffed, volunteer executive is also proving a challenge, Hume said. He told councillors four directors have already resigned for workload-related reasons.

Hume presented Ottawa Markets’ four-year strategic plan to council, which included an ambitious wish list. The group wants to revitalize the ByWard Market heritage building at 55 ByWard Market Square — adding fully-accessible public washrooms as part of that — and attracting one or more “national brand specialty retailer tenants.”

The group also wants city council to fast-track changes to zoning by-laws so that a greater variety of leases can be allowed.

Other developments:

  • Council also passed a motion from Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Jan Harder requesting $600,000 to launch an environmental assessment study on extending the light rail transit (LRT) system to Barrhaven
  • Councillors approved a request to hire 10 additional police officers and assign them to the guns and gangs unit at a cost of $660,000
  • Coun. David Chernushenko gave notice that he will put forward a proposal to name a new footbridge at Fifth Avenue and Clegg Street the “Flora Footbridge,” after Flora MacDonald. The former member of Parliament was the country’s first female foreign minister. She passed away in 2015. Chernushenko said MacDonald lived close to where the footbridge is being built.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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