My year-end development review

A construction crane in Leaside.
Staff photo.

An invitation to speak to the Leaside Business Park Association AGM led me to consider the state of the nation (pardon me, the Town of Leaside). Plus this is the year-end edition of Leaside Life.

Let’s start with historical context, and to remember that Leaside was laid out in 1912 by landscape architect Frederick Gage Todd, for the Canadian Northern Railways with a residential area and an industrial area – in other words, Leaside was a complete community right from its start! Leaside was incorporated in 1913 and was an independent municipality until 1967, then joined with East York to become the Borough of East York until 1998, when the six municipalities were amalgamated into the City of Toronto. 

Intensification comes to Leaside

Driven by the Eglinton Crosstown LRT development, Leaside is dealing with major change by way of intensification: basically, high-rise on Eglinton, at Bayview, and at Laird, and mid-rise on the west sides of Bayview and Laird.   

The Eglinton Connects Plan mandated high-rise development for the Bayview Focus Area and the Laird Focus Area (Laird to Aerodrome and Eglinton to Vanderhoof).The Laird Focus Area Plan provided for Mixed Use development on the two-thirds of the area of the properties fronting on Eglinton, with Employment Areas on the remainder, fronting on Vanderhoof. It also provided for Mixed Use development on the west side of Laird.

However, the implementation of Official Plan Amendment (OPA 450) for the Laird Focus Area is under appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT, formerly the OMB, LPAT) by a property owner in each area:

(a) Hyde Park, the owner of the block east of Brentcliffe is appealing multiple provisions of OPA 450. We understand that they just submitted an application for the property – we have yet to see it. 

(b) Core Development has an active planning application for two mid-rises at 126-132 Laird and 134 Laird. OPA 450 proposes a setback from the property line on the west side of Laird to allow for improved streetscaping, sidewalks and bike lanes. Unfortunately, this is being appealed by the applicant.

The next stage in dealing with OPA 450 appeals is a case management conference scheduled for Nov. 29, 2021.

Meanwhile the 126-132 Laird and 134 Laird development applications, submitted in 2020, have been appealed to the OLT owing to Council’s not making a decision within the Planning Act’s 90-day time frame. 

The province approved a revised Growth Plan in 2019, which set (minimum) targets for jobs and population around Major Transit Station Areas (MTSAs). The Ford government widened the MTSA from 500m to “500m to 800m” from the transit station, actually increasing the area potentially affected by up to 258%! The City has to submit its implementation plan for the revised MTSA targets by June 2022. So, next spring we’ll be watching to see what the City proposes for the Leaside (Bayview) and Laird Station MTSAs.   

Approved projects on Eglinton

• The Sunnybrook Plaza redevelopment at 660 Eglinton Ave E (RioCan) is on hold awaiting completion of the Leaside LRT station.   

• The Canadian Tire plaza at 815-845 Eglinton Ave E. (RioCan) development is at site plan application stage.

• The Diamond/Camrost development at 939 Eglinton Ave E. (Brentcliffe) is well underway with the first development phase, the two towers fronting on Eglinton, almost completed.   

Under the five-year review of the Official Plan currently in progress, property owners in designated Employment Lands are given a window to request conversion from Employment Lands to other uses, mainly Mixed Use. Ten requests affecting our area came in by the deadline, including properties at Brentcliffe/Vanderhoof, Leaside Village (Laird Drive), and the Redway Road Loblaws.

These requests appear to be an effort to bring more residential into the Business Park, and as such the LRA will likely oppose them. In our experience the conversion to “Mixed Use” becomes a licence to build homes, with little else. Not exactly a “complete community.” 

Residential development

Change remains incremental, courtesy of a steady flow of applications for “minor variances” to the Committee of Adjustment. The LRA continues to oppose applications which are not “minor” and which do not maintain the character of the neighbourhood. However, bigger changes may be coming with the City’s adoption of laneway housing, (pending) garden suites, and “missing middle” housing. Stay tuned!

About Geoff Kettel 156 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.