Planning committee approves Château Laurier site plan, but Fleury pursues council vote on design

Rendering: Larco Investments

Thursday, June 13, 2019

OTTAWA CITIZEN, By Jon Willing

It might land the City of Ottawa in court, but a councillor will try to get city council to make a final decision on the Château Laurier’s controversial design for a hotel addition.

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury indicated on Thursday he’ll put council on notice that he’ll ask for the heritage permit to be pulled on the development, virtually ensuring municipal politicians vote on the design.

Planning committee voted 8-3 to approve the site plan application by hotel owner Larco Investments, giving the company another necessary approval for construction. Councillors Riley Brockington, Jeff Leiper and Scott Moffatt voted against the site plan.

All the design criticism, though, falls into a discussion regarding the heritage permit.

Council granted a conditional heritage permit in June 2018, leaving it up to city planning staff to make sure a final design has more limestone, a broken-up north facade and geometric proportions similar to the historic hotel. Planning staff have approved the changes leading to the latest design.

Fleury, not content with the potential final design, says he’ll give council a heads-up that he’ll ask for a vote on whether or not the city should pull the heritage permit. If he puts council on notice June 26, the vote would happen July 10.

Councillors heard that if council decides to cancel the heritage permit, Larco could sue the city, resulting in a six-figure legal bill for city hall after years of court process and an uncertain result.

Cumberland Coun. Stephen Blais said the drawings of the hotel addition are “ugly” and he hopes the real building will look better, but he can’t justify asking taxpayers to pay a big legal bill over fighting the case in court.

On the other hand, Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper said he’ll help Fleury get the matter to the floor of council.

“I think it’s critical for councillors to weigh in,” Leiper said.

The planning committee on Thursday was tasked with determining if the addition will be functional and safe.

It was also another chance for the public to comment on the design.

Fifteen people called on councillors to block the hotel owner from making the design a reality.

Former MP David Collenette called it a “travesty” and he appealed to the committee to defer the decision so Mayor Jim Watson could push Larco for another design.

“The Château is fire. The addition is water,” architectural historian Peter Coffman said.

Barry Padolsky and Carolyn Quinn, members of the city’s built-heritage subcommittee, urged the planning committee to demand a better design.

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Contact the Mayor and Ottawa City Councillors before July 10, 2019.

Click here for details: https://heritageottawa.org/chateau-laurier-addition