After a 24-hour delay, Ottawa city council has decided to allow the owners of the Château Laurier to build their planned addition which has been panned by architects, the public and even council members, some of whom voted to allow it to go forward.
The initial motion put forth by Coun. Mathieu Fleury was to rescind the heritage permit given to Larco Investments, the owners of the hotel, but after that vote failed, councillors Diane Deans and Rick Chiarelli put forth a further motion for reconsideration.
According to Deans, that motion was intended to be brought to the next council meeting at the end of August and would have given councillors the summer break to speak to constituents about the issue.
Instead, in a move that surprised those councillors, mayor Jim Watson introduced his own motion to bring the vote to a special meeting the following day — which also passed, bringing the delay down to 24 hours.
That vote failed today 13 – 10, which means the addition is now free to be built.
“We’ve been dealing with this for something like 1,200 days and the majority of members of council said you know what? It’s time to move on,” said Watson to reporters after the meeting. “This has been debated for a long time.”
“Literally dozens and dozens of meetings and consultations and the overwhelming view of the members of council was we’ve got to get on with it make a decision.”
WATCH: Château Laurier renovation plan causes a ruckus
Watson and indeed most members of council have voiced their displeasure with design, though the majority believed they do not have the right to force a design on a private land owner.
“If I owned that building, I wouldn’t put that additional, but unfortunately I don’t own the building the city doesn’t own the building,” said Watson. “It’s owned by private property owners. And at the end of the day they do have rights to choose the design and style that they want for their building.”
The controversial design has been widely criticized for its design and lack of cohesion with the rest of the hotel’s Gothic Revival design. People across the country have voiced their displeasure with the design, even Ottawa-born comedian Tom Green stopped by the meeting today to share his thoughts on the design.
“It looks like a wall,” said Green. “It looks like Donald Trump’s wall is being built to hide the Château Laurier from one of the most dramatic and historic vistas in the world.
“To put a blemish on it like that, I think, is just sort of a travesty.”
While this does mark the end of this saga in terms of bureaucracy at city hall, the fight is not quite over. Friends of Château Laurier, a coalition of citizens concerned about the proposed renovations to the hotel, have retained council in order to fight the proposed addition.
The National Capital Commission also announced in a statement Thursday afternoon that they will be doing all in their power to make sure the addition integrates well with the neighbouring federal lands.
“Although the NCC does not have authority under the National Capital Act over the design of the proposed addition to the Château Laurier, we are committed to ensuring that the elements of the project within the NCC’s authority are executed in accordance with the highest standards of excellence,” said the commission in a statement.
“To that end, assuming the proponent receives the remaining zoning approvals from the City of Ottawa, the NCC will require that the proponent achieve the successful fulfillment of the conditions within its authority.”
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