Recently, a building permit application was submitted to the City of Ottawa from the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) – the French Catholic School Board here in Ottawa; for the construction of a dome at L’École secondaire catholique Garneau.
As a resident of Blackburn Hamlet, I am no stranger to sports domes. In the Hamlet, there are two air-inflated domes, one at Louis Riel Secondary School – the largest such dome in North America. The second one, nearby at the Hornet’s Nest, the appropriately named SuperDome. These domes support recreational activities for thousands of students and athletes from all over Ottawa.
Unfortunately, this newly-proposed third dome would be very different from the two existing domes in a very important way, it would be built immediately adjacent to an existing residential community, with homes literally feet away from the base of the roughly five-storey tall structure. Not only would this placement put it at odds with our two existing domes, it would actually make it an anomaly from all other inflatable domes in Ottawa, and from what I can gather, it would be out of line from all other similar sized domes in all of Ontario.
It is easy to assume that those in opposition to this application are simply suffering from NIMBYism, that we have grown accustomed to the character of our community and are opposed to change. I have to emphasize that that is not at all the case. In Orléans, we have several preferable options, two of which I directly raised as suggestions. Near Millennium Park, the CECCE has L’École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges. A sprawling area, that would allow the dome to be distanced from local residents, as well as be surrounded by ample other athletic and recreational facilities. Additionally, if there was the desire to build a dome further west in Orléans, they could look slightly south, where I had also raised the idea of Le Collège catholique Mer Bleue. Around that school, there is the same open field site offered at Garneau, however Mer Bleue is not surrounded by residential homes, with the wider surrounding area only now being developed. This area of Orléans is also woefully lacking in athletic facilities and would greatly benefit from the recreational options provided by this dome.
The dome application, as it stands, is simply for a building permit on school-owned land, and does not require any special amendments to zoning by-laws. However, it should be acknowledged that the zoning by-laws as they are written, likely never had envisioned a 5-storey, inflated bubble superstructure, a stone’s throw from residential homes, some with original owners, that have been in place for over 30 years. At one of the community consultations that was put on by the CECCE, when a community member asked the presenters if they would ever want this dome built so close to their homes, the awkwardness of the mumbled response by the school board representative was palpable.
The CECCE, to their credit, has made improvements in their design to try to make the dome more palatable to the surrounding neighbours. They moved it closer to Orléans Boulevard, and further north on their land. However, the ultimate, and I dare say only, objection anyone has had to this proposal is the location being so heavily surrounded by homes. Residents that used to look out on a schoolyard, will now be literally feet away from an 18 metre tall, grey, amorphous bubble. As long as this dome remains on this site, no degree of tinkering with the site plans will ever be able to make it justifiable to the community. As I stated earlier, literally no other dome of this scale has ever been constructed this close to homes in our city, and seemingly the entirety of Ontario.
Though there may be limited avenues for rejecting the building permit from a regulatory or legislative process, as I am sure the drafters of our current by-laws never imagined such a superstructure being built on a schoolyard, I implore and appeal to the school board to please hear the singular concern from the community and move the dome. There are other locations in our community, ones not far down the road from this site, that would be substantially more appropriate.
I have already shared these views with the City’s Planning Department as they process the application and develop their recommendation. If you have not done so already, I would encourage you to also submit your comments to the City Planner in charge of this file, Evode Rwagasore, so that he fully understands our community’s concerns and opposition to this project as he is making his decision.
Please note, the deadline for submitting your comments is December 31, 2020 and you can do so at: https://devapps.ottawa.ca/en/applications/__BABM8M/details
Additionally you can reach out to Mr. Rwagasore by email at Evode.Rwagasore@ottawa.ca or by phone at 613-580-2424 x16483. Once the public consultation deadline has passed City staff will review the information and provide their recommendation. Once I have received staff’s recommendation, I will be sure to share it publicly with the community.