Leaside has had its share of intersection realignments, along with lane and sidewalk closures thanks to Eglinton Crosstown station construction at Bayview (Leaside) and Laird stations.
But a new phase of lane, and even sidewalk closures, has started with the “mid-rise on main street” projects moving past planning approvals to the construction phase. Construction requires temporary staging space for storing material and equipment for the site, and that inevitably means lane and sidewalk closures that reduce traffic flow and create congestion. But is this really true – are the closures on Bayview and Laird inevitable?
At its Sept. 13 meeting, North York Community Council dealt with two construction staging applications in Leaside: 1408 to 1420 Bayview, a nine-storey condo apartment project, was for a one-year lane closure between just south of Balliol St. and north of Merton St., and the other – 146 to 150 Laird – the seniors residence project on the (heritage) Durant Motors HQ site was for a more than two-year lane closure and three-year sidewalk closure from just south of McRae to Stickney. The Bayview construction staging was referred to City Council; the other, on Laird, was referred back to staff.
Why the differences in the length of closure period, the scope (the sidewalk will NOT be closed on Bayview), and in Councillor Robinson’s motions in dealing with them?
An important difference is that the Bayview project has had a Construction Liaison Committee (CLC) including the developer, City staff, and community, and chaired by Greg Russell from the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Assn (SERRA). The CLC, working with the councillor’s office, was able to reduce the developer’s original two plus years’ lane closure request to one year. They also worked to minimize traffic interruption and allow continued pedestrian flow in this area on the west side of Bayview
Compare this to the 146-150 Laird project where there is no CLC, and the Laird lane and sidewalk closure proposal came as a surprise to residents. The Leaside Residents Association asked the councillor to convene a meeting with City staff for residents, especially on Randolph Drive, to understand the scope and impacts of the proposed closure as recommended by the staff report.
What are the concerns with the Laird proposal? Among them:
• Traffic likely to divert to Randolph, a residential street with families and children and direct feeder street to Rolph Road Elementary School.
• Loss of sidewalk on west side leaving the only option for pedestrians being to cross to the east side.
In addition, there has been a lack serious consideration of alternatives or ways of reducing the impacts:
• Making use of the vacant property at 134 Laird (former Mazda dealership). Staff said the applicant claimed this was unfeasible due to the distance (separated from the construction site by Stickney Avenue).
• Consideration of options like reversing two-lane traffic flows in morning and evening (like Jarvis Street) and removing the median to allow more space.
There’s also been a lack of a parallel planning process to implement traffic calming measures in the adjacent residential area (basically Randolph) while planning for road closures.
Councillor Robinson made a motion, which was adopted by North York Community Council, to refer the item back to staff and have Transportation Services:
• report once the developer establishes a Construction Liaison Committee with neighbourhood representatives
• explore options to shorten the timeline for the proposed sidewalk and lane closures, with a view to prioritizing pedestrian safety and eliminating the sidewalk closure if possible, and
• work with the community and developer to establish an immediate strategy to mitigate potential traffic infiltration on nearby residential streets and improve traffic flow on Laird Drive for the duration of the lane and sidewalk closure.
Of course, the fundamental question is why the City does not require the developer to carry out construction-related activities entirely on their site, and not take up City land at all? The problem is that frequently the developer is building right to the lot line – that’s the case at 146-150 Laird where the provincial tribunal refused the City’s and the LRA’s appeal, which would have required the building to be set back from the lot line.
I speak for the Leaside Residents Association and Randolph residents in appreciating the Councillor Robinson’s support in the Bayview and Laird construction staging applications. I am confident that the Construction Liaison Committee to be established will facilitate the kind of communication needed in this situation, and hopefully result in a reduced time for any required closures.