El-Chantiry disappointed with Vanier Porsche media coverage

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

CITY HALL – Ward 5 Coun. Eli El-Chantiry says recent media coverage of a $2.9 million grant for a luxury car dealership proposed for Vanier has been deeply slanted and not indicative of the value a business likes that brings to the city.

“I feel sorry for the Mrak family (Mark Motors),” El-Chantiry told West Carleton Online yesterday (May 25). “If that was my business, and that was the reception I got from city council and the media, I might take my business somewhere else.”

A map of the CIP area along Montreal Road.
A map of the boundary for businesses within the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan. Courtesy the City of Ottawa

Last week, Ottawa’s Finance and Development committee (FEDco) approved an application for a new Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan grant for Mark Motors to replace the Audi and Alfa Romeo/Maserati dealerships across from Notre Dame Cemetery with a new, two-storey Porsche building that city staff describe in a report as “world-class.”

It is projected to cost $17 million to build, with the owners paying $1.7 million to the City of Ottawa for development fees and building permits.

After it is constructed, the owners’ property taxes would rise by more than 12 times, from $25,625 per year to $355,620.

The city targeted Vanier for a community improvement plan in 2019. That designation, a tool allowed by the provincial government, allows the city to offer grants of up to 75 per cent of the increase in property taxes as an incentive to get owners to upgrade their properties and boost business.

The story blew up on the Twitter social media community with outrage boiling the entire issue down to ‘city gives Porsche $3 million.’

Soon after the social media rage last week, Ottawa councillors Catherine McKenney and Shawn Menard launched a petition opposing the grant titled ‘No tax breaks for Porsche.’

The Ottawa Citizen ran editorials and front page stories on the issue.

El-Chantiry had two major issues with the outrage and the coverage.

First, he wanted to know why McKenney and Menard only became opposed to the issue last week.

“Why didn’t they speak up when we approved the Montreal Road Community Improvement Plan (CIP)?” he said. “If they wanted that money to go somewhere else, why didn’t they do something when we went through that process? It was approved unanimously. All of them voted for that.”

The idea of the CIP was first forwarded by Mayor Jim Watson and Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury in March of 2019. It rises to council today (May 26) during council’s regular meeting.

El-Chantiry was especially disappointed with the media coverage and portrayal.

“A couple of years ago we gave even more money for a Holiday Inn Express and car dealership in west Ottawa,” El-Chantiry said. “We didn’t hear a word.”

Now the headlines give the angle the city is giving a pile of taxpayer money to some already rich luxury car maker.

“They never called me,” El-Chantiry said. “They talked to two councillors, both who are suddenly opposed to it. I’m the city’s business improvement association liaison (the Vanier BIA played a large role in the design of the CIP). Why did the BIA support this decision? I could have explained it for them. I’m on the COVID-19 Economic Development Recovery Task Force. I want to create business jobs. It’s going to change the whole dynamic of Montreal Road. We get $1 million a year and nearly $400,000 in taxes a year after its built.”

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2 thoughts on “El-Chantiry disappointed with Vanier Porsche media coverage

  • May 27, 2021 at 6:15 pm

    A quick look at the coverage clears up the issue. The local community association and the councilors do support the Montreal Road community improvement plan. The community association which represents local residents and their councilors oppose this particular project because they don’t feel it will benefit the local community and the city didn’t prove its case for how it could or would.

    “I agree with the Community Improvement Plan, but I know and what people see here is that this application does not meet the criteria,” said Councilor McKenney about the CIP proposal for the Porsche dealership. “A car dealership, no matter whether it’s Honda, or a Porsche or a Volkswagen, it does not first off belong on a traditional main street. This does not meet the criteria of a CIP, it will do nothing for urban renewal.”

    The councilors’ petition which was not successful, stated. “Montreal Road is one of the most important streets in our city. It runs through the heart of a historically diverse, strong-knit community that has long been economically disadvantaged …. The Community Improvement Plan is an opportunity to reverse this. ….Trickle-down economics thinking that supports a $2.9 million tax break to a Porsche dealership will not advantage the residents of Vanier or the city at large, nor will it spur the economic activity that small businesses need today.”

    BIA’s are organized by the city to represent businesses, not necessarily the desires of local residents. In fact, those interests are often polar opposites. The dealership, a BIA member, will benefit people who want Porsches and the Mrak Family who own the business. The BIA and the community want new businesses but the community doesn’t want this kind of one. BIAs have their hands tied when one of their members has a project that isn’t supported by local residents. Unless it’s something outrageous they can’t or at least won’t oppose a fellow member’s business project.

    So this project may benefit the city as a whole but the people who live there don’t want it at their expense or at the cost of the success of the improvement project and the chance to return the strip to its traditional character as the heart of their community.

    It’s pretty plain why they didn’t feel it was necessary to speak to Eli as the city’s Business Improvement Association liaison. The BIA and the City’s voice was already loud and clear.

  • June 8, 2021 at 3:39 pm

    A decision on a matter like this affects the whole city but most Ottawans knew little about what was going on until it was before council. I appreciate the comments above but am not sure of the source. It seems like the people of Vanier had little input into this decision. I feel our own community of West Carleton has lost touch with decisions being made in the city that affect our community. Almost all the promises made to us at the time of amalgamation have been broken. City council has managed to avoid scrutiny and accountability by disbanding most of the citizen advisory committees. Changes in media coverage also leads to a less informed public. In general, I think when the next election is held we will see a vacuum effect on the electorate and I hope people will be more aware that democracy is suffering in Ottawa. Adele Muldoon