Council to once again debate Chateau Laurier addition

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After a last-minute motion for reconsideration, the controversial Chateau Laurier expansion will be at the centre of a special meeting at city hall Thursday afternoon.

It comes after Wednesday’s meeting where council rejected Councillor Mathieu Fleury’s motion to scrap the hotel’s heritage permit. If it had passed it could have sent the designers of the addition, the fifth submitted design, back to the drawing board.

As the votes were being tallied, Councillor Diane Deans called for a motion to reconsider which she says would have let things settle for a month and might result in the hotel owners coming back with something else. Mayor Jim Watson got around that with a motion of his own, calling for a special meeting of council.

The mayor said he spoke to the heads of Larco Investments, the owner of the Chateau Laurier, and said they weren’t interested in coming up with a sixth design.

On Wednesday, councillors Glen Gower, Jenna Sudds, Matthew Luloff and Laura Dudas sent a letter to Larco asking it to voluntarily withdraw the application and listen to feedback, which has been overwhelmingly negative.

An open letter to Larco from me & councillors @Laura_Dudas, @MatthewLuloff and @JennaSudds. pic.twitter.com/JrlzrYWO1j

— Glen Gower (@glengower) July 10, 2019

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury is encouraging his colleagues to change their votes.

“Today is their chance to redeem themselves,” Fleury told Newstalk 580 CFRA. “Everyone is listening. This not just a Rideau-Vanier issue or a downtown issue. People care about this. If you vote no, you also vote no for action.”

Fleury is encouraging his colleagues to vote yes to repealing the heritage permit, saying litigation is not the only outcome.

“A yes vote is much broader,” he said. “If I’m Larco, I have options. I can go get another architect and resubmit. That doesn’t require litigation, that’s in the applicant’s hands. I can go to litigation. We don’t know who can win that litigation. I think the City is in a strong position based on our policies. We have very strong heritage policies and I don’t believe they were appropriately measured to the level of the historic and iconic nature of that site.”

“A yes vote is not a yes to litigation, it’s not a risk of losing,” Fleury said. “What it does is an action and that action is revoke the heritage permit.”

One of the councillors who will be changing his vote is College Ward’s Rick Chiarelli, who tells Newstalk 580 CFRA he voted against Fleury’s motion Wednesday as part of a broader strategy.

“In order to move reconsideration, the movers must have a mover or a seconder who also voted the other way, so the strategy was I would vote the other and become the seconder yesterday and the mover today on reconsideration,” Chiarelli said.

But he said the motion should have been reconsidered in late August, and not 24 hours later.

“The issue was supposed to be moved to the next meeting of council, either two or six weeks away, so that we have time for sober second thought and time to discuss with colleagues and the public, but the mayor quickly called a meeting for Thursday as soon as the reconsideration was done,” he said.

“I’ve been on council a long time and I’ve never seen anybody pull that move. Everybody understands that if you have reconsideration, going along with that is supposed to be a brief period of sober second thought and interaction with the public. I just hope some of the people on council who really dislike the design will vote that way.”

Penny Collenette, a co-founder of the Friends of the Chateau Laurier group was at city council Wednesday. The group vows to save the historic building from the proposed extension.

She told CFRA that, despite a request from city officials for observers to not speak or react, there was a cacophony of noise in the hall.

"People couldnt help themselves," Collenette said. "There was clapping after several councillors spoke - and it was clear that certain councillors were struggling." 

Today's council meeting, Collenette continued, is a chance for councillors that thought they were voting for due process to change their minds over a case that would happen only once in a lifetime.

"This is an exceptional case that we will not see again in our lifetime," she said. "This one is special. It is our country, our capital...if there is a chance to speak out, it would be now."

Council is set to vote in a second debate this afternoon starting at 2 p.m.

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