Ottawa city council approved the sixth design iteration of the Château Laurier’s proposed addition of a two-tower, 159-unit extension. The approval came from a split vote during Council on Thursday February 24th.  The final vote count 10 nays 14 yays. I voted against it.

I addressed council on this. Here are my thoughts:

Yesterday we found ourselves in the same place we were in July 10th, 2019. 

I heard excuses from some at the table: 

“Council members hands are tied even if they didn’t like the addition”

  • You didn’t like it but what other choice did you have
  • “Council members hands are tied even if they didn’t like the addition”
  • Some even said: “the owner is not prepared to spend time and money on a sixth design”
  • If council revoked the approval, and the hotel owners won a court challenge, that the city could end up with a worse version of the addition
  • At the time, Tim Marc also said a new plan would have to go through the city’s usual process, including council approval. 
  • Some also said: We don’t make decisions influencing private property. 
    Contrarily, we do. Actually, most times we vote at Council we do (think of the vote for 4497 O’keefe, 847 Woodroffe, 1705 Carling,.. etc. you get the the point). The issuance, or not of a heritage permit is what Council needed to consider.
  • Heritage Ottawa took on the fight most of Council wasn’t prepared to. 

We had a responsibility to consider the report recommendations, to weigh public feedback and to leverage the tools we have as a Council to signify our position on this addition. The vote stamps the City’s position in time.

Some key information:

  • The Chateau Laurier is a National Historic SiteParks Canada guidelines define that it should be compatible with, subordinate to and distinguishable from the historic place. 
  • I strongly feel the heritage building should be the focus, and the addition should remain in its shadow to maintain its architectural dominance.
    • This latest addition, does not do this.
  • We didn’t pick the architect, this architect wanted something new, that is Larco’s problem.
  • We have heard from local residents, from architects and heritage experts that this addition is Not an award- winning design

The decision is on issuance or not of the Heritage permit.

  • if Council either imposes conditions or refuses an application under the Ontario Heritage Act (regardless of staff recommendation) the property owner can appeal the decision of Council to the Conservation Review Board. The CRB holds a hearing and makes a non-binding recommendation back to Council. Council would then review that recommendation and make a final decision. 

Voting no to the report, allows City council to clearly to the federal government to intervene on this matter, a matter of National significance.

Listen to my speech at Council here: https://youtu.be/toZuo_FPJdc

The motion I presented specifically requests that the federal government strengthen protection on sites such as the Chateau Laurier. This motion addresses not only the request, but it also highlights specific considerations when creating this protection. 

These considerations include providing federal oversight, providing leadership and support for elected officials responsible for approvals and leadership for understanding heritage conservation and support and leadership for privately-owned historic sites when deciding to make alterations. 

These specific directions should further protect not only heritage sites in our Capital, but also for sites across our Country – as the issue today is something that could arise in any municipality, town or village. 

It is important to protect our heritage, and our history. And understand its value.