City says no to Elgie plan

The battle over the future of the oldest home in Leaside has entered another phase.

In a display of solidarity with the affected neighbours, the North York Committee of Adjustment on Jan.8 unanimously voted to reject the severances and zoning bylaw variances requested by Renaissance Fine Homes for 262 Bessborough Dr. (Thomas G. Elgie House).

The property is designated and the city has rejected the development application, so more than likely the next stop is to the OMB? 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we are not there yet.

At the moment there is no OMB application. Perhaps Renaissance will reconsider their approach to the project, which currently involves demolishing the later additions to the original house, and moving the original structure forward to enable the severance of two new lots and the construction of new houses on either side.

How did we get here?

This was the second time that the committee had considered severance of the property and variances. On Oct. 17 last year the committee deferred a decision because, while historical designation of the property was being recommended, it had not yet come to city council for approval.

Subsequently, on Nov. 13, council passed the Intent to Designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act. No appeals of the Intent to Designate were received by the city by the end of the notice period (Jan. 4 this year), so designation, which provides legal protection for the property and its heritage attributes, is assured.

At the committee, several neighbours and the Leaside Property Owners’ Association asked that the application be rejected on the grounds that the application was not in compliance with the heritage designation. Advice from Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) staff to the committee supported that view.

The staff report stated that “proposed alterations include moving the farmhouse southward and eastward from its original location. It is the opinion of HPS staff that the amount of alteration proposed to this designated property will negatively impact the integrity of the heritage attributes of this important heritage resource in Leaside…

“HPS could support severance of the property into two lots (not three) with the designated portion of the farmhouse retained in situ…

“HPS considers severing into two versus three lots (to be) a reasonable compromise that allows for some additional development on the designated property.”

HPS staff’s offer would result in restoring the house to its original perspective facing north (not east), where, to quote an earlier Saving old Leaside column, it sat “on a vantage point overlooking the picturesque Walmsley Brook, the heart of the 200-acre Elgie Estate, which stretched south and east from Bayview and Eglinton for half a century. Since then, streets have been laid out, and lands have been subdivided, but the Elgie farmhouse remains as a testament to those earlier times.”

At this point Renaissance faces a Hobson’s choice. While they have not opposed the heritage designation per se, they needed more lenient heritage attributes to make their three lot scheme work.

City heritage staff would support a two-lot solution, but that would no doubt be much less remunerative for the developer. So which will they choose?

We will know within a month. They have 20 days from the date of the Committee of Adjustment hearing to file an appeal to the OMB.

About Geoff Kettel 221 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.