Dirty pool on Bayview

The development application for the mid-rise building with retail at grade on Bayview between Soudan and Hillsdale is an example of the dirty pool being played by some developers in the Midtown/Leaside area.

The Bayview developer, Brown Group, reduced its original application from eight storeys to seven, but it also bought up property on the residential street behind the proposed building.

Since the Official Plan restricts height and massing to a 45-degree angular plane taken from the edge of the property line, the further away the higher the height can go. But encroachment into adjacent Neighbourhoods-designated areas is contrary to the Official Plan.

Brown Group would end up with about the same number of apartments.

Encroachment into adjacent Neighbourhood-designated properties is a serious threat to the character of neighbourhoods. We are seeing it at places like 90 Eglinton West, 220 McRae (at Sutherland), and at Soudan and Redpath. And it appears likely to be attempted for the old McDonald’s site.

When the planning policy idea about “neighbourhood transition areas”, which proposed allowing the use of “second tier” properties on Avenues, to make bigger mid-rise buildings possible, was brought forward by Eglinton Connects for approval it was rejected by City Council due to opposition from residents in affected areas.

When the Brown Group’s original proposal was submitted in December 2014, the LPOA along with residents on both sides of Bayview expressed concern about massing and height. The LPOA has been firm in pressing for a five- to six-storey height whether it’s on Bayview, Laird or Eglinton.

At long last City Planning appears to be concerned that development in Midtown may be out of control. They sent a letter to the recent May community meeting in May for 1674-1684 Bayview saying that they plan to defer the staff report on the proposal to later in the year, to await direction from the Midtown in Focus planning report.

And in several recent examples City Planning is opposing encroachment into neighbourhoods, for example a stacked townhouse development proposal at Lawrence and Weybourne.

Unfortunately Councillor Matlow, on the west side of Bayview, is making hints that he is ready to accept seven storeys on this site, to prevent the developer going to the OMB. And the LPOA’s counterpart on the other side of Bayview, the South Eglinton Resident and Ratepayers Assn. (SERRA), may go along with this.

The LPOA is concerned for precedent on both Bayview and Eglinton.

But the planning considerations on Bayview are more complex given its north-south orientation and the need for sunlight on the wide sidewalks on the east side. What happens on this site is an important precedent for preserving the liveability and desirability of our Bayview.

939 Eglinton

The community’s high hopes for a productive process in talks with the Diamondcorp application for 939 Eglinton Ave. East appear to have been dashed.

A working committee involving residents, the LPOA, and the developer was created this spring to deal with the original plan that had four tall buildings, of 19, 24, 31,and 34 storeys, plus a six-storey office building. Many felt the plan was breathtaking in its audacity.

The working group, which has had five meetings to date, has been presented with revised proposals that are variations on a common theme, of two stepped and terraced tall buildings fronting on Eglinton, and one tall point tower mid block on the west side, with a park on the east side mid block, and retaining the existing two-storey commercial building at the rear.

Basically it’s a similar scenario as before, but with three tall buildings rather than four, and a small park in place of one tower. And with no new office space on the south side, it becomes even more residential dominant, less true to the intent of the “mixed use” land designation to provide jobs and well as homes.

Brian Athey, the LPOA’s representative on the working group, has submitted a letter to the working group that sets out several key concerns: the proposal is too massive and tall; it’s not in keeping with several key Official Plan policies, and it is not in keeping with the type of development viewed to be reasonable by the community.

In addition the Offical Plan envisions the preparation of detailed planning policies prior to proposals for new neighbourhoods being considered, so the Laird Focus area study should be completed before any decision is made on the proposal.

Despite promises from City Planning earlier this year, there is still no action on the Laird Focus Area study.

Athey concluded his letter: “Unfortunately, height and density are the most critical issues associated with this proposal and are unacceptable as currently proposed.”

Garden Court, 1477 Bayview

I get a number of inquiries about the city’s sign at the Garden Court apartments for a planning application, and people worry about whether this unique and lovely complex of apartment buildings is threatened, despite it being heritage designated.

An application was made in 2014 to convert the rental apartments to a condominium and City Council refused the application outright in August 2014. So why is the sign still there?

No surprise, the owner appealed the refusal to the Ontario Municipal Board, but the application has still not been heard, almost two years later. A prehearing conference has been scheduled for June 24, yet the applicant has not contacted the affected tenants as required by the OMB. Notice has to be extended to ensure all interested people are informed and given an opportunity to speak.

So there is a question of whether the applicant is serious in proceeding with the appeal. The city opposed the application on the basis of the loss of affordable housing, and the lack of public benefit from the plan.

The answer to the question about whether the heritage is threatened by this application is “no”, the heritage status of the property is tied to the property, regardless of whether the tenure is rental or a condominium. (And the sign was taken down about a month ago.)

Sunnybrook Plaza

This project is moving closer to a hearing at the OMB and concerned Leaside residents have begun fundraising for the inevitable costs. The revised RioCan redevelopment application proposes 19-storey and 12-storey towers, which would add more than 400 new residences and two levels of parking to the north-east corner of Bayview and Eglinton.

RioCan has not waited for a city decision on the application, but has gone directly to the OMB.

On June 4, North York Community Council recommended to City Council that it oppose the application at the OMB. And it also asked the city to continue negotiating with the developer.

The community will not be part of those discussions. Planning staff can reach a deal behind closed doors, and everyone is surprised (including the local councillor).

That’s why it’s vital that the community be represented as a Party with enhanced legal status at the OMB. And that’s why the Concerned Residents of Leaside (CRL), a group mostly of neighbours of the proposed development, needs to raise funds to enable the LPOA to hire a lawyer and planner to ensure that the interests of the Leaside community are protected.

At a meeting held on a wide lawn on Bessborough on June 18, a good crowd of residents received an update on the project from Adam Brueckner and others. Speakers emphasized that the RioCan development is the first one on Eglinton directly related to the Eglinton Light Rail Transit project. It will serve as a precedent for what developers can expect to get on Eglinton.

Residents wanting to support the drive can donate through a fundraising web site (http://gofundme.com/28f4f8k). Donations can also be made through Paypal on the LPOA (lpoa.ca) website, or by cheque sent to the LPOA (mail address here: http://lpoa.ca/contact-us/. Visit the CRL website at http://leaside660.com.

Committee chief blasts planners

There are signs that the political climate for development in Leaside and Midtown areas may be changing. Councillor David Shiner, chair of the city’s powerful Planning and Growth Management Committee (PGMC), delivered a scathing commentary to Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat and other senior City Planning managers during the update on the Midtown in Focus Plan at the PGMC meeting on June 15. Effectively, he stated that City Planning had lost control over the Midtown area and he expects them to get control back.

About Geoff Kettel 222 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.