At LPOA’s January public board meeting, The Brown Group presented a new proposal for a block-long, nine-storey condominium- plus-mixed-use building on Bayview Ave., from Hillsdale to Soudan. The current zoning for that block is designated as Neighbourhood, which limits building heights to four storeys, primarily detached and semi-detached houses, with townhouses and walk-up apartments.
An Official Plan amendment would be required to allow mixed uses in a block which is now totally low-rise residential, not to mention requiring a zoning bylaw amendment.
Zoning bylaws and official plans are not created overnight; they evolve over many months (sometimes years) to create and reflect communities. Residents’ views are solicited at official meetings held by the city, and more informal but equally important ones organized by local ratepayer groups like the Leaside Property Owners’ Association.
Successful communities are the result of much consultative work. The idea is to plan based on neighbourhoods’ needs and wants. Residential, commercial, industrial, and recreational areas are set out. Maximum heights of buildings, density limits, street and road allowances are defined.
Resulting official plans, and bylaws, are meant to last, to ensure stability. They provide the framework within which we regulate new development applications. It is a serious matter to amend them, or at least it should be.
Current bylaws should not be seen merely as a “jumping off” point for permitting the building of new and inappropriate uses. Development applications should fit neighbourhoods, not redefine or damage them. Change is not a bad thing if it’s change for the better, and approved by the community, under the framework provided by proper planning bylaws.
The Brown Group proposal includes 172 residential units, with retail or other uses on the ground floor. In an attempt to reduce shadowing over adjacent homes on Hillsdale and Soudan, the building would be stepped back on the north, south and west sides, with nine storeys along Bayview, a major and overpowering contrast to the two storeys across the street on the east side, not to mention the two-storey commercial/residential mix south of Hillsdale.
Does a nine-storey building fit the existing two-storey context of the rest of the neighbourhood? A lot of people in both Leaside and Davisville Village don’t think so, and attended a December community meeting to say so. The LPOA board heard The Brown Group’s presentation and questioned them about the proposed height as well as block-long massing. Our concerns also include its impact on the Bayview shopping district and nascent Business Improvement Area, as well as any precedent such a giant building would create.
We have all seen what ‘retail contagion’ has done to Laird Dr. If The Brown Group’s proposed development were approved by the city, could it not create another kind of development contagion along Bayview? Would the precedent of permitting nine storeys a block south of Eglinton encourage city planners to give permission for new even higher buildings at the LRT-intersection of Bayview and Eglinton? Very possibly.
These are all important considerations. Remember the old adage, “Create in haste, repent at leisure”?
It is worth taking the time, and doing the work, to protect what is good about our zoning bylaw controls, before we damage the nature and scale of the community. n
The LPOA Board to Directors meets at 7:30 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month at the Trace Manes building. You are welcome to join us – to depute, ask questions, have your say, or just listen. Our next meeting is on Feb. 4.