Remember former education minister John Snobelen’s famous injunction: “Let’s create a crisis”? New claims of crisis whether in education, healthcare, child care, housing, or planning are being used to justify changes that are being proposed and implemented with little planning, consultation, and little to no chance of appeal.
As a resident of Leaside, Toronto, and Ontario I feel like I and everyone around me are all of a sudden being blasted by these changes. Just to focus on planning and housing, the government is working on major changes, some of which have been announced, and some which are expected later this spring. Here’s what’s being proposed currently that will affect Leaside.
The province has proposed amendments to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017, to address policies seen as potential barriers to the development of housing, job creation and business. These amendments affect both Leaside residential and industrial areas in at least two ways:
First, the amendments propose to increase the radius of the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA – the area to be intensified) from 500m to 800m. An intensification zone with a radius of 800m measures 201.0 hectares in area, which represents a 2.56-fold increase over the 78.5 hectares covered by the current MTSA, with a radius of 500m. Three MTSAs affect Leaside – Leaside (Bayview), Laird and Leslie. Based on the current 500m radius, the increased density has been able to be channelled such that the existing residential areas would not be greatly affected. At Laird, for example, the required density increase is being contained within the former industrial lands of the Laird/Eglinton/Vanderhoof/Aerodrome block that is part of the Laird in Focus Study and Plan. At 800m radius, there would be vastly more pressure to expand mid- and high-rise projects into the neighbourhood-designated lands – the existing Leaside residential area.
Second, the Amendments will allow for areas designated as Employment Area in the Official Plan to be converted more easily, instead of having to wait for the next “municipal comprehensive review.” To ensure employment areas that are crucial to the province’s economy are not converted without a more comprehensive assessment of employment land need, the government is proposing to identify Provincially Significant Employment Zones (PSEZ) that would not be eligible for conversion during the proposed transitional period. However, Leaside is not one, and in fact there are very few areas so designated in Toronto. It is a concern that the Leaside Business Park, which still retains several manufacturing businesses with well paying jobs, could more easily be squeezed out by retail and even residential uses.
The government has also been holding consultations with key stakeholders on housing supply issues and is considering changes to the Planning Act and the Provincial Policy Statement (PPS). Full disclosure: I have participated in a couple of meetings as representative of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA). At this moment there is no indication as to what proposals the government will bring forward. We will know more in the spring.
The reality is that these provincial changes are complex, requiring an understanding of the current processes to evaluate them, and will have a long-term impact on Leaside …and the City. And they are in addition to the regular diet of local planning studies such as Laird in Focus and site-specific development applications that require our community’s constant attention.
So, what can we do about it? First and most important, please pay attention. In just one instance to date, the government blinked – it withdrew its Bill 66 – The Open for Business Planning law that would have allowed individual developments to be exempted from a stack of planning and environmental legislation. We need to ensure that simplistic and hastily conceived legislation does not pass without proper consultation. Peace, order and good government, anyone?