Burnside gets OMB appeal against retail spread

What’s driving change in Leaside?  Sure “the market” is a key driver, but the North York Committee of Adjustment, which decides on severances and minor variance applications for properties in residential Leaside and the Leaside Business Park, is facilitating change in Leaside’s land-use and built form.

Spending a day at the committee is instructive in understanding the process of change. The committee meets every two weeks and two or three residential applications involving Leaside at a meeting is typical.

Agnes Vermes, of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association (LPOA) reports that in 2014 the LPOA submitted 41 letters in response to applications to the committee. A major concern is that applications increasingly involve demolitions rather than renovations. 

The Committee of Adjustment has no power to refuse demolitions; the hemorrhage of original built form will not change until the Heritage Conservation District is in place to enable some control over existing building structures.

The agenda for Jan. 8, the first meeting of this new year, included five applications involving properties in Leaside, three in the residential area and two in the Business Park.

So what happened?

The three residential applications were deferred and the two Business Park applications were approved.

Here are the details of each Leaside case that day:

The two Business Park applications both involved areas currently zoned for employment uses to be re-zoned to permit non-industrial uses, and hinged on the Official Plan and zoning by-law requirements for change in use.

The application for 11-25 Industrial St. involved a proposed two-storey fitness centre and surface parking connecting to the existing shopping centre anchored by Longo’s.

The Official Plan requires frontage on a major street as precondition to allowing commercial development in employment lands. As such, all Laird Ave. big box store developments, including the original First Pro (later SmartCentre), First Capital (Longo’s) and SmartCentre North (expected to have a Walmart) were approved on the basis of having frontage on Laird.

This application, which represents a major expansion of the First Capital development at Longo’s north to Industrial St., does not front on Laird, or so it was thought!  The city staff report, the Leaside Business Park Association, and the LPOA all lined up on this side of the matter. However First Capital’s lawyer stated that First Capital had acquired the land and under the definition of “lot” in the city’s 2013 comprehensive zoning by-law, which was based on ownership not on physical frontage, it was considered to front on Laird.

The committee accepted this and approved the application. So it would now appear that we can expect further retail encroachment eastwards.

Or maybe not. Councillor Jon Burnside proposed, and the North York Community Council approved, an appeal to the OMB at its meeting on Jan. 13

Moms to be…and More, which has a multi-front store on Bayview Ave. and has recently leased a warehouse in the Business Park at 196 Wicksteed/89 Research Rd,. wanted a re-zoning to permit a retail outlet. This was approved (for the period of the lease) by the committee, over the opposition of the Leaside Business Park Association, as it was deemed to be a “minor” variance, and within the committee’s authority to approve.

In each of the three residential deferrals, discussion among the applicant, the architect, the neighbours and the councillor’s office immediately before the hearing persuaded the applicant to ask for a deferral to allow time to consider changes. The committee then agreed to defer the application at the request of the owner.

The point of the committee’s deferral was to allow time for the applicants to discuss their intentions with the neighbours and the community. Hopefully this will now occur, but it is apparent, and unfortunate, that the applicants had to be “shaken” to start the process. The applicants will likely be back to the committee, hopefully with significant changes to reduce their impact on neighbours’ property, the streetscape and the community.

For the neighbours the process starts with a notice in the mail. They then have to take the time to attend a day-time meeting at North York Civic Centre.

If they disagree with the committee’s decision they can appeal to the OMB for a cost of $125. But the people I speak to at the committee are not experts in planning and zoning. I think there is a need for information and training in zoning and the Committee of Adjustment process. This might be a great project for the LPOA and the councillor’s office to work on together?

The 24 Sutherland Dr. application was to construct a new two-storey detached house with integral at-grade garage while demolishing the existing house. This house is located just west of Bessborough Dr., part of an intact row of original homes on the block. It is also just up the road from the heritage designated Talbot apartments that were saved from demolition following a difficult fight at the OMB in 2009 and 2010. The application involved 12 variances over two by-laws (net of seven variances when duplications are considered) including building length, height and floor space index.

The 143 Donlea Dr. (between Sutherland and Laird) application was also to construct a new two-storey house with integral garage, demolishing the existing dwelling, and involving eight variances over two by-laws (net of five variances) including height, length and floor space index.

The 328 Bessborough Dr. (north of Broadway) application was to construct a two-storey addition to the south portion of the existing two-storey dwelling and demolish an existing one-storey addition and garage. There were four variances over two by-laws (net of two variances) for parking space and side yard setback. The immediate neighbour had concerns about the addition’s impact on access to the side of their property and the utilities such as drains and hydro that were there. This application reveals how even when the extent of the work is less (an addition, not wholesale demolition/reconstruction) the impact to the immediate neighbours can be significant and adversely affect their property.

About Geoff Kettel 218 Articles
Geoff Kettel is a community connector and advocate for “making places better”. He is currently Co-President of the Leaside Residents Association, Co-Chair of the Federation of North Toronto Residents‘ Associations (FoNTRA), member of the Toronto Preservation Board and Past Chair of the North York Community Preservation Panel. He writes a monthly column on heritage and planning in Leaside Life.