Are we facing the start of retail contagion?

Roger Cattell
Roger Cattell [Photo: Paddy Duncan]
A good-size crowd attended the LPOA’s Annual General Meeting on Nov. 25, and it was a lively and informative event featuring our new city councillor, Jon Burnside, as speaker.

We also awarded Leasider Roger Cattell, the man behind the Drive Slowly signs campaign, a certificate as the 2014 Honorary LPOA Member. He spoke about the importance of safer streets and individual initiative in getting real results.

For those of you who couldn’t be there, let me bring you up to date on Leaside’s State of the Union, as 2014 draws to a close.

Many of the issues LPOA is engaging in are ones which will continue into the new year and well beyond that.

There is excessive retail development, such as a potential Costco store on Overlea Blvd. on the site of the former Coca-Cola office building and plant. Although not in Leaside, there would be major implications for us, particularly regarding traffic, since streets such as Southvale, McRae and Broadway would carry shoppers from west and north of us.

And yet the developer’s traffic impact studies do not include Leaside streets! We have met with the city’s planners and transportation staff to impress upon them the importance of considering the traffic impact of a Costco on our neighbourhood’s streets.

There are also related matters, like the impact of heavy retail-oriented traffic on TTC services (including the 88 South Leaside bus), and even more gridlock on Laird.

Another concern: what is called “retail contagion,” where one retail mall leads to another retail outlet and then to another one, changing the entire nature of an area, big bit by big bit.

We need the city to hold a second official community consultation meeting about the Costco application. The previous consultation meeting was over a year ago, and much more information exists now, and must be considered.

By the time this edition of Leaside Life reaches you, we expect to hear news about a Business Improvement Area (BIA) for the South Bayview shopping area. It’s really important to support our local shopkeepers, who face stiff competition from the big box stores along Laird.

Bayview offers a unique milieu and is a great asset for Leaside. For that reason, when the LPOA won a financial settlement with SmartCentres last year, we earmarked $25,000 for this BIA to help them succeed.

Traffic issues continue to matter to us all, whether we live on busy or (what we used to call) quiet streets. We know that to ignore traffic problems — heavy flow, speeding, and drivers diverting through Leaside — only allows these problems to get worse. And the longer they are allowed to get worse, the harder it is to find solutions.

LPOA will be involved in pursuing solutions, both short-term (during the construction period of the LRT) and longer term. We expect to be busy on many traffic-related matters in 2015.

My co-president Geoff Kettel’s AGM report dealt primarily with development, and related topics.

LPOA has been involved in several cases at the Ontario Municipal Board and has made some significant advances, but the OMB continues to present a real hurdle to neighbourhood efforts.

We are encouraged that as a new city council term begins there is more and more official interest in seeking a more resident-friendly replacement for the OMB. Builders and developers have deep pockets and can afford lengthy and expensive hearings and consultants; ratepayer groups and individual citizens are at a major disadvantage here.

LPOA directors have attended meetings (public and private, to underline Leaside’s issues) of the Eglinton Connects process, in particular regarding their mid-rise policies, and will continue to press for protection of Leaside’s arterials from excessive building height.

As well, we depute (always in writing, when possible in person) at Committee of Adjustment meetings, which is where, all too often, building bylaws regarding height and size are misapplied.

What should be called a “major” variance is frequently considered “minor,” the result being that huge additions and monster homes are given permission, changing entire streetscapes. It is no longer required for Committee of Adjustment members to actually go to sites to see how the applications before them could affect nearby houses and along the street.

We’ll be continuing to assist neighbours.

LPOA is also involved in heritage conservation, and with the possibility of establishing a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) here. Contrary to what some people fear, an HCD does not prevent homeowners from improving their homes, and areas which have HCDs generally see their house values increase. If the city agrees to underwrite an HCD for this neighbourhood (there is already funding in the heritage budget) we’ll hold a public meeting to ensure that residents’ priorities will be taken into account.

Having already used up much more than my usual Leaside Life column’s length allotment, I had better draw to a close. But check out the LPOA’s website, where you will also find a very good AGM PowerPoint report made by local planner Doug Obright at the AGM on the development challenges ahead (and what we can do about them).

Last of all, a very big Thank You to our AGM’s financial sponsors, The Leaside Pub, and realtors Bonnie Byford, Patrick Rocca, Charlene Kalia, and Carol Wrigley.

I wish you all a very Happy New Year! The LPOA board looks forward to working with you in the coming year. We meet at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of every month at the Trace Manes building, and you are welcome to come, to depute or just to listen and ask questions.

The next meeting is on Jan. 7, when we expect to hear more about a major proposed development on the west side of Bayview between Hillsdale and Soudan. It may not be on “our” side of Bayview, but it would have quite an impact on us!

About Carol Burtin Fripp 139 Articles
Carol Burtin Fripp is Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, and is Chair of the LRA's Traffic Committee. Over the years, she has served on numerous East York and City task forces. Now a retired television producer (TVO and CBC), she writes Leaside Life's monthly LRA column, and has created a daily international current affairs newsletter read from Newfoundland to New Zealand.