Findlay Creekers suggest measures to offset impact of new subdivision
Questions are being raised over why homes were built before the roads were widened.
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Findlay Creekers whose homes back onto cemetery lands that will one day be transformed into a residential subdivision have no shortage of ideas to minimize their loss of privacy.
“We're losing all that and we're going to have a bunch of houses in our backyard,” said Doug Brousseau, who lives on Bulrush Crescent, one of two affected streets at the north end of the community.
“My biggest concern ... is having a two-storey house in my backyard where I used to have green space and coyotes and turkeys and deer. We don't want people two-storeys up looking into our houses there and we were never told they would be there.”
Homeowners recently sounded the alarm after learning the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa sold a vacant parcel of Hope Cemetery land to developer Tartan. The proposal currently working its way through the city approval process calls for the transformation of six hectares into 150 housing units, including 60 detached single-family homes and 90 townhomes.
“We're not going to stop it. We all know that. The houses are going to be built,” Brousseau said. “We'd just like consideration (for) the mix of housing. Single-family homes is fine, but they should be bungalows against bungalows.”
Melissa Côté, Tartan land use planner, said residents’ concerns have been heard.
“And we are floating around ideas, things that we can do to kind of alleviate those concerns,” she told about 25 homeowners at a public consultation meeting at the Fred Barrett Arena on Nov. 23.
Building mirror-image bungalows, putting in a buffer block and berm, planting tall trees close together, as well as increasing the distance between new homes and the existing property line are the preferred options pitched by those living on Bulrush and Mangrove crescents at the north end of Findlay Creek.
“Some of those options are viable,” Côté said. “Some, I think, could be a little more challenging.”
While the future homes backing onto existing single-family bungalow townhomes will be single-family dwellings, whether bungalows can be built will have to be discussed with Tartan and Tamarack builders, she said.
“We are sensitive to this issue,” added Pierre Dufresne, vice-president of land development at Tartan.
Randy Ray, who lives on Bulrush, urged Tartan reps to consider homeowners as well as the future loss of green space and wild animals.
He also pressed Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Michael Qaqish for an opinion on the project and was told Findlay Creek is one of many suburban communities in Ottawa that is experiencing fast-paced growth.
“The reality is we can say no to this at committee and council and (the developer) can appeal it at the (Ontario Municipal Board) and then we'd be spending our dollars on lawyers,” Qaqish said, adding that while he doesn't like giving up green space, Findlay Creek is a suburban community seeing significant housing construction.
The councillor then turned to Dufresne and asked whether he can commit to building bungalows behind about a dozen pre-existing single-storey homes.
Input from the community will be collected and options will be presented to the homebuilders, Dufresne said.
Ray, who hopes 12-foot trees spaced close together can be planted, asked how realistic it would be to put in a tree line in back of affected homes.
“We obviously didn't plant in our backyards because no one was ever going to live behind us,” he said. “So now we've got nothing – no trees, nothing.”
A landscape architect will have to be consulted, but Côté said “I think doing enhanced plantings would be a viable option.”
The new neighbourhood would be built at the same time as a 900-home subdivision proposed for a large swath of undeveloped land southwest of Bank Street and Leitrim Road. As part of the redevelopment, Kelly Farm Drive would be extended from White Alder Avenue to Leitrim Road, where a traffic signal will be installed.
Phase one of the new neighbourhood to the west of Hope Cemetery, which will begin with the addition of sewers, utilities and a stormwater pond, would get underway in the fall of 2017 or early 2018.
“I expect that you will be using that road some time in 2018,” Côté said.
The discussion also saw the return of concerns over traffic headaches on Bank Street and Leitrim and Albion roads.
“It's great that you're building roads within the complex, but we need the roads outside the complex built up,” said Barbara D’Amico, representing the Findlay Creek Community Association. “We're completely surrounded by one-lane roads.”
Dufresne said once a transportation study is complete, area developers will discuss how to move forward.
One resident suggested it doesn’t make sense to build residential neighbourhoods first before much-needed road infrastructure and other services.
“I'll start off by saying you're absolutely right,” Dufresne said. “It would be wonderful to have the infrastructure in the ground, the parks built, the community centre built ... (but) it would be unachievable financially.”
Development charges collected from new developments help fund city roads, which are expensive, and the reason they can't be built at once.
“It's really just a cash-flow issue with the city,” Dufresne said, adding “it's financially prohibitive for us to be able to come out to a site and say we're going to build roads like that.”
Qaqish agreed it is a backwards process, but said he has met with area developers to discuss whether they can pay to widen Bank Street in the short term and be paid back later by the city. No promises have yet been given.
The four developers working in Findlay Creek don't want to wait, and plan to look for solutions to alleviate congestion, said Dufresne.
“We can't just go out and build it because it's a $20- to $22-million project,” he said. “And we're as interested as anybody else in fixing it because we're going to be here for another 10 years and we have to sell houses.”
This story originally appeared in Metroland Media.