New Chateau Laurier renderings released Thursday May 23, 2019.
Heritage Ottawa says it needs $150,000 to fight city decisions allowing a controversial addition to the historic Château Laurier.David Flemming, a member of the volunteer advocacy group, said the cost estimate is based on a court case and a separate planning appeal.“It’s fair to say we’ll end up in some litigation,” Flemming said Tuesday as Heritage Ottawa launched an online fundraising campaign.Larco Investments, the owner of the Château Laurier, has city council’s blessing to pursue a boxy seven-storey addition on the north side of the hotel.In June 2018 council unanimously supported a conditional heritage permit and city staff approved the final design tweaks earlier this year. On July 10, council voted 14-9 against rescinding the project’s heritage permit.With a heritage permit secured, Larco can continue with the land-use approval process. The company has been eyeing a September meeting of the committee of adjustment to get an approved minor variance for the project and satisfy zoning requirements for the land.The committee of adjustment is made up of citizens. A decision on the variance, either way, would likely trigger an appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. Heritage Ottawa could appeal an approval of a minor variance and Larco could appeal a rejection.A planning appeal would buy time in hopes of Larco becoming more willing to make further design changes, something that many councillors were hoping to achieve earlier this month.On the other hand, the Vancouver-based company has already scaled down the project from the original 2016 concept and has shown no interest in additional design changes and delaying construction.Flemming said it’s likely that Heritage Ottawa would pursue a court application while following the regular municipal planning appeal process.Taking the city to court is financially risky for a volunteer organization. Losing a legal challenge could lead to a court ordering the organization to pay the city’s legal costs.However, according to Flemming, Heritage Ottawa feels it needs to lead the charge on behalf of opponents since the organization exists to advocate for the city’s heritage buildings.The city’s defence has already been mapped out at a high level in a July 5 memo to council on the legal implications related to the Château Laurier planning file.The city points out there have been hundreds of staff meetings, multiple public engagement opportunities, several consultations with stakeholder agencies and frequent design reviews. Council unanimously put the final design decision in staff’s hands and the professional planning staff did the work that politicians wanted.Heritage Ottawa retained lawyer Michael Polowin at Gowling WLG to lay out the legal options. Lawyer Marc Denhez, a former Ontario Municipal Board adjudicator who was once the president of Heritage Ottawa, is also providing legal guidance to the organization.Drawing the city into a court battle over the hotel addition could also cost municipal taxpayers. The city might have to hire an outside lawyer for a court hearing.Flemming said he believes there’s enough opposition to the design to justify legal action against the city.“I’m a taxpayer too,” Flemming said, “but I think the people of Ottawa have spoken on this. It’s not just us.”email@example.com/JonathanWilling ALSO IN THE NEWS:Third incident of dead fish found in Lièvre RiverAnalysis: Why Ontario’s government of rapid-fire change might alter its approachFireflies are flooding Ottawa with light this summer