Church ‘temporary’ lot readers talk about market parking solution

The city is between two official plans – the new council-approved official plan awaits provincial approval – and the latest update generally has stronger language discouraging downtown surface parking.

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Ottawa’s iconic church on Sussex Drive could continue to have ‘temporary’ parking, prompting the frustrated councilor to pursue a proposal that could solve a future parking problem for the ByWard Market.

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Under city zoning, about 40% of parking behind Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica is considered temporary, forcing the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall to apply for multi-year exemptions if it wants to continue operating the land commercial.

On January 27, the city’s planning committee will be asked to approve a three-year exemption, much to the dismay of Rideau-Vanier County. Mathieu Fleury and the Lowertown Community Association.

The first exemption was granted in June 2005 and it has been extended three times since then, with the last expiring in May 2018.

In the meantime, the City is moving forward with its plan to transform the ByWard Market public realm, including replacing the Clarence Street parking lot with a destination building.

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According to Fleury, the city plans to issue a call for expressions of interest in February to fit out the building. The city sees an opportunity to move the parking lot to an underground structure somewhere on the edge of the market, making the church parking lot an attractive site.

The city has a reserve account for parking projects “and that would do the trick,” Fleury said.

“There is a unique opportunity here where the source of funds to build an underground parking lot may not need to come from the archdiocese,” Fleury said. “The city might be interested. Creating a working group and moving forward will be my intention.

Fleury said a turnover in the administration of the archdiocese has delayed conversations, which he says have fallen silent during the pandemic.

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The 142-space car park behind the church has two different planning approvals.

The southern part has 85 spaces and was made permanent by the city council before the merger. The 57-space northern section, which once had two buildings, was considered a temporary parking lot to help the archdiocese raise funds for the redevelopment and upkeep of the church.

The parking lot behind the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa.  Approximately 40% of parking is considered temporary.
The parking lot behind the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica of Ottawa. Approximately 40% of parking is considered temporary. Photo by Jean Levac /Postmedia

The Archdiocese’s current position is detailed in planning application documents filed with City Hall on behalf of its planning consultant, Fotenn.

There have been various parking lot redevelopment projects, but the work has been impacted by several events, including the merger of the Dioceses of Ottawa and Alexandria-Cornwall, the relocation of head offices, the COVID-19 pandemic and the installation of a new archbishop. .

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According to a development logic of Fotenn, the archdiocese “is not in a position of financial or administrative stability to take over the long-term development of the parking area”.

The temporary portion of the parking lot has been out of compliance since 2018, leaving the archdiocese to either use the land for church-specific purposes only or seek another exemption to use it as commercial land to generate revenue.

It is a complicated time in Ottawa’s planning history to consider “temporary” parking.

The city is between two official plans – the new council-approved official plan awaits provincial approval – and the latest update generally has stronger language discouraging downtown surface parking.

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Yet both versions of the official plan allow for temporary land uses, such as parking, and planning staff approves another three-year extension for parking at the church. The current parking arrangement is “functional”, the planning department said in a report.

For years, the Lowertown Community Association has championed the city’s case for temporary parking permits.

Warren Waters, president of planning for the association, says people need to understand the history of the temporary lot to understand why residents are upset.

The two buildings that once stood there were heritage structures and the community, through the city, was assured there would be replacement development when the former Ontario Municipal Board approved an implementation plan in 2005.

“The whole town should care, regardless of the developer,” Waters said.

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Jerry B. Hatch