Two recent decisions, one from the OMB involving an appeal by the LPOA of a Committee of Adjustment decision, and the other involving a Committee of Adjustment decision, are noteworthy – and disappointing.
Both cases concerned applications for minor variances involving demolition and replacement of the existing dwellings: original two-storey houses in Tudor Revival style, each part of an ensemble of similar (but individually unique) homes in intact blocks on their respective streets, Parkhurst and Cameron.
Both were built in the 1930s: the builder of 30 Parkhurst was Arthur Brockington, who built more than 50 houses in Leaside; the builder of 34 Cameron is not known, but the house is associated with the first owner (and perhaps commissioned by) George Markness, businessman and community leader (chair of the Leaside school board). In each case, before the Committee of Adjustment hearing for the property, heritage nominations were submitted. In the case of 30 Parkhurst, Heritage Preservation Services did not intervene, but in the case of 34 Cameron they did by sending a letter requesting deferral of the application for minor variances.
The OMB decision for 30 Parkhurst from the August 23, 2017 hearing was recently issued, and the decision was to authorize the variances. The decision states that the Board relied on the opinion of the applicant’s planner, who “finds that the type of change…is first, consistent with and conforms to what is envisioned in the OP (Official Plan) and second is not unlike other approvals within the study area and the broader Leaside neighbourhood.” Of course it all depends on the definition of study area. Our study area was the block on which the dwelling was situated and the houses on the opposite side. That part of Parkhurst has seen little change.
The Committee of Adjustment decision in the case of 34 Cameron was to approve the application (with some minor modifications) despite a letter from Heritage Preservation Services requesting the Committee to defer the application for six months to allow time for the City to do a heritage assessment. There were three motions made:
1. To defer the application for three months – failed to get a seconder.
2. To refuse the application – failed to get a seconder.
3. To approve the application with modified variances – passed.
What was shocking about the hearing was that some members of the Committee apparently accepted the emotional appeal of the applicant claiming financial hardship if the application were deferred. The Planning Act is clear that the Committee’s decisions are to be made on planning grounds only.
Once again the Committee of Adjustment’s lack of technical rigour implicates it most severely in the erosion of Leaside character, one dwelling at a time.