Ottawa Council to vote on motion to stall Chateau Laurier redevelopment: Legal battle likely if it passes


Ontario Construction News staff writer

Ottawa City Council will vote today whether to revoke a provisional heritage permit, which would allow developers to proceed with a controversial addition to the Chateau Laurier Hotel.

The project has been mired in controversy since developer Larco Investments Inc. initially proposed in 2015 to tear down a parking garage and building a new, extensive addition to the building at the edge of Parliament Hill.

Heritage advocates have argued that the proposed addition is out of character with the building’s design, mass, and structure.

However, the developers say they have modified the design and complied with all of the city’s requirements.

Director of development Art Phillips and planning consultant Dennis Jacobs say in a letter to city council that Capital Holdings Ltd., a subsidiary of Larco Investments, has followed the city’s direction and has consulted with the National Capital Commission.

“We recognize there has been significant controversy in Ottawa over our proposed design,” the letter says as reported in The Ottawa Citizen. “Everyone has agreed that the above ground garage previously occupying the site had no heritage value and served only to limit any physical connection with Major’s Hill Park. However, what we have learned over the last three years is that there is no unanimity on what should replace the garage.”

In a memo to council, Rick O’Connor, the city clerk and solicitor, and Stephen Willis, general manager, planning, infrastructure and economic development department, report to council that while there is no procedural reason why the motion to cancel the heritage permit cannot be placed before city council and be passed, if that happens, there will likely be significant and expensive legal costs and the city may not fare well in the ongoing litigation with the developer.

City staff “held 16 meetings with the applicant to discuss the numerous improvements needed to satisfy the heritage permit conditions,” the officials said in their memo. “This included a full-day workshop with the architects in heir Toronto offices attended by city staff and a return fifth visit to the urban Design Review Panel in March, 2019.”

“These efforts built upon the previous engagement efforts, including public consultation on the site plan control application which included two public open house sessions, online engagement including a survey tool and a webpage on dedicated to the Chateau Laurier, in addition to the usual posting of on-site signs, notice to community groups, and making the plans and studies available on the Development Application Search page,” among other efforts.

The city officials said the developers made several changes as requested, leaving the developer with three options if the city decides to stall the project.  

These include:

  1. The owner could submit a new application under the Ontario Heritage Act and a new application for site plan approval;
  2. The owner could seek a declaration in the Superior Court that the conditions imposed by Council  in June, 2018 have been fulfilled. If this happens, the court case might take six to eight moths, and would cost the city about $100,000 in legal fees. There would be additional costs if the developer prevails in court of $33,000 to $50,000.

“Given the opinion of planning staff with respect to he conditions it is very likely that the owner would be successful in obtain a declaration that the three conditions have been fulfilled,” the municipal memo said.

Finally, the owner could appeal the refusal of the Chief Building Official to issue a building permit.

The city officials say the owner would likely be successful, but because the process will be quicker with the second option, they would probably select it. In any case, the city would need to pay at least $100,000 in court costs, O’Connor and Willis wrote.


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