OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Feb. 21, 2014) - After three separate hearings and almost two years of waiting, Marc Denhez, Chair of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), has ruled in favour of a group of citizens in the Westboro district of Ottawa. At 4 pm yesterday afternoon, Gay Stinson and Christoph Zürcher, residents of the neighbourhood and leaders of a group called Westboro Citizens for Appropriate Development (WCAD), received notice of the board's decision that stated that the City of Ottawa and Uniform Urban Developments totally disregarded the neighbourhood character policies of the community design plan and secondary plan and 'indeed, the entire subject of height - the major distinguishing characteristic of this project and the core of the proposed Official Plan Amendment'. There was no planning basis provided to support the application so it was modified to reflect the neighbourhood concerns dropping the height for 14 and 16 storeys to 8 storeys.
"This announcement is a huge relief for all of us, says Stinson, we are tremendously relieved and pleased that our voices were heard. We are even more thrilled with the implications for the City, the planning department and for the official plan and planning principles."
Back in May 2012, WCAD appeared before the OMB against the City of Ottawa and Uniform Developments supported by Dennis Jacobs, Momentum Planning and Communications and former Director of Planning with the City, as an expert witness and represented by their lawyer Kristi Ross of Fogler Rubinoff. WCAD won this round and the development was refused. The developers represented by Janet Bradley of Borden Ladner Gervais appealed on a process issue and in October 2012, they were successful in getting the development re-instated.
However, the determination of WCAD was evident as even in the face of mounting personal costs, Gay Stinson and Christoph Zürcher continued on without legal representation due to financial constraints. The decision to continue was strongly supported by Mr. Jacobs who said "that this was a landmark case and a clear example of where the City of Ottawa was not following its own policies to the detriment of the Westboro community."
Round 3 of this epic battle took place in October 2013 and Stinson ably conducted the hearing herself; calling expert testimony from Mr. Jacobs and cross-examining the witnesses from the City of Ottawa and Uniform Urban Developments. The result was yesterday's decision which is truly decisive in support of WCAD. In what is described as a clear disregard of their own consultative process, the City of Ottawa was chastised by the Board in this decision.
"It is hoped says Zürcher, that this decision will send a clear message to the City of Ottawa and the development community that the plans we develop through strong community consultation mean something and need to be respected and followed."