As the National Capital Commission begins assessing park land at the edge of New Edinburgh’s heritage conservation district for potential development, the community has become concerned about their intentions.
as the area the NCC is assessing is the last treed park in the district.
On Nov. 18, the NCC began conducting a land survey, geotechnical study and a cursory review of the land to determine sources of potential contamination at a parkland site bounded by Sussex Drive John Street and Stanely Avenue located at the edge of the New Edinburgh heritage conservation district. The process is scheduled to conclude on Dec. 23.
On the same day, New Edinburgh Community Alliance president Joan Mason was informed in a letter from the NCC that the assessments were to take place.
“This is a green precinct that could offer all kinds of historic tourism,” Mason said. “This is a site that should be shared by all – it is part of our heritage. Green space is at premium here.”
The letter explained the actions were as a result of interest from a prospective buyer who had approached the NCC about the property. The community sees this park as the last true green space in the heritage-designated portion of the neighbourhood.
Mason responded with a letter sent to the NCC on behalf of the alliance on Nov. 19.
“As this property is within the boundaries of the New Edinburgh heritage conservation district, we will vigorously oppose the sale of the land for development purposes,” Mason wrote. “This last bit of green space, in such a vitally important location next to the two most historically significant residences in this country, should not be lost to Canada.”
This is not the first time NECA has fought to keep this green space. The last time a development was proposed for the site was in 2005, Mason said, and the alliance successfully fought to keep the land untouched.
The only reason the area is a park is because the former McKay Mills was torn down, Mason said, and she said the NCC should be looking to take care of the historical areas of the city.
“When you go to a historic city, what I think Ottawa is, what do people want to see? They generally seek out heritage. Heritage is huge,” Mason said. “At this particular locale, it is a pretty special chunk of land and to have it off limits completely is wrong.”
Mason said the NCC letter indicates the interested party is looking at using part of the land for a diplomatic mission, which the alliance fears would only become a potentially sterile embassy.
NCC spokesman Jean Wolf said the assessment exploratory and that there is no confirmed interest from any embassies.
“They say that is not the case. But the letter called it a diplomatic mission,” Mason said. “If it didn’t say that it was imminent, we would not have responded with immediacy.”
She indicated in her letter to the NCC that the alliance was prepared once again to fight to maintain the property as parkland.
“It is for all Canadians that we will fight to preserve this legacy and to retain the natural assets of this quintessentially “National and Green Precinct,’” the letter stated.
Wolf did confirm, however, that the heritage heritage conservation district designation does proscribe what can and can’t be done with the land.
“The designation creates obligations for the title owner that will likely be passed on to any future titleholder,” Wolf said.
It does not, Wolf added, prohibit the sale of the land which leaves Mason very concerned.
“It depends what they mean by what they say,” she said. “By agreeing it is a heritage designated area, they are just clarifying what we know it already is.”
Leslie Maitland, president of Heritage Ottawa, said development in a heritage designated area is more than possible, but there needs to be an understanding of the designation.
“As long as a new owner understands and respects what the heritage conservation district asks for, there generally aren't problems,” Maitland said.
With the work beginning on the land, Mason said they have not received any response to the letter she sent or any more communication from the NCC concerning the park land at this time.