Thai embassy office project rejected by planning committee
The project would see the embassy tear down its current building at 180 Island Park Dr., just off the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, and build a two-storey office building in its place.
“This is an office building between single-detached homes and parkland. This is going to stick out like a sore thumb,” warned Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper at committee.
The area councillor has backed residents who oppose the embassy’s rezoning application, several of whom made presentations to the planning committee to protest the precedent they argued would be set by permitting an office building in a residential area.
“Why on earth would the planners allow this? It’s a 100-year-old planned residential street on an NCC parkways system,” said Heather Mitchell, who spoke on behalf of the Westboro Community Association.
“If you approve this, you are opening the door to the same type of zoning change all across the city.”
The Royal Thai Embassy has occupied the current building since 1987, and has been grandfathered in under the current zoning rules.
The embassy’s plans to demolish and rebuild would see it relinquish its permission to use the property as it has for decades — as an embassy office, in what is now a residential zone. To construct a new office building, the embassy would require a zoning bylaw amendment.
Staff pointed out in their report to committee that the current embassy building’s longstanding use as an office “has not caused any adverse undo impact on the surrounding community.”
Development review manager Douglas James also argued to committee that a rezoning approval would not automatically set a precedent for future planning decisions.
“Although everyone has a right to come here and ask for permission to rezone a property, because we allowed it here, there is no such thing as precedent, there is no guarantee that would be allowed in any other place. We looked at this application on its own merit, for this location.”
Leiper said he’s offered his help to the embassy to find a more appropriate location for a new office.
“It’s not up to us to rezone this property in a way that is incompatible with the stated intent of our R1 zone when there are alternatives available. Expediency is not a good basis on which to do land-use planning.”
Committee members voted 2-7 against recommending the rezoning, contrary to a staff recommendation. Councillors Scott Moffatt and Allan Hubley voted in favour.
Mayor Jim Watson told this newspaper he’s “glad” the planning committee rejected the embassy’s application. Island Park Drive isn’t suitable for office buildings, he said.
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