The weather may be better now but it’s been a bad spring for Leaside’s storied streetscapes and upsetting for those who care about the incremental loss of Leaside’s heritage. Except that on Rumsey Road the loss is more than incremental. Four neighbouring two-storey houses were demolished, supposedly because of leakage from an oil tank. The houses will be replaced by four single detached houses, after the soil is decontaminated. This loss was unannounced, and without public involvement of any kind, since there was no Committee of Adjustment application.
Recent weeks have also seen the day of reckoning for two properties where there was prior awareness and local interest: 34 Cameron Cresc., the centre-hall plan Tudor Revival beauty that the LPOA had fought to preserve, but in the end was forced to withdraw its appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, citing the lack of support from the abutting neighbours; and 41 Sharron Dr., a delightful Arts and Crafts “cottage,” where neighbours were successful in getting the Committee of Adjustment to refuse all variances but which was demolished without notice. The owner did not appeal the Committee decision, but the City issued a demolition permit and building permit, so the owner must have submitted plans without any variances. Another notable demolition (though expected) was 30 Parkhurst Blvd., further to the OMB approval of the owner’s successful appeal of the Committee of Adjustment’s earlier refusal decision.
Still, the news is not all bleak. My column in Leaside Life (March 2018) reported that the City was back at the Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB) defending the Talbot Quads on Bayview threatened with demolition, reversing their withdrawal from the case in October 2017. I can now report that the battle to save 1755-1757 Bayview Ave. has been won. A settlement was reached among all four parties: the City, the LPOA, the owner of a neighbouring quad, and the applicant. The property will still become two semi-detached homes, rather than four apartments, but the applicant changed the plans to conform to the heritage designation, and allowed an addition on the back.
So what can we learn from these “infill” situations? The current planning and building processes including Committee of Adjustment, appeal mechanisms, and the rules around demolition and building permits are not working to protect Leaside’s character. We are seeing increasing demolitions and something has to be done. When heritage legislation is applied, it seems to be reasonably effective.
In the 2018 budget the City approved proceeding with a process called Cultural Heritage Resource Assessment (CHRA), which will examine Leaside’s built form character, and “list” groups of properties in the City’s Register of Heritage Properties. The same process resulted in listings of several commercial properties on Bayview (through Midtown in Focus). In the event of a demolition application the City would be able to designate the property, or ensure legal protection, within 90 days of the application. Let’s hope this CHRA gets going soon.