Neighbours gang up against monster home

You get a notice in the mail about a Committee of Adjustment hearing for 10 “minor variances” for the house next door. Oh, and by the way, the existing house will be demolished.

So what do you do?

Well, if you are like Allan Parkin you go door to door to each of your neighbours up and down the street, and explain what this means, your concerns, and why they should be concerned as well. You get them to write letters of opposition, copy to the councillor, and, yes, today you use social media (“Monster Home New Build Application”) to get community attention to your plight.

So Parkin enumerated a long list of concerns on the Leaside Community Facebook about his neighbour’s application for 33 Sharron and the impacts of construction on his property and the  adjoining property: It would

  • build an out-of-character monster home that would blight Leaside streets permanently and create precedents for the next house in Leaside to be even bigger, at the expense of everyone, but especially the adjoining homes;
  • dig basements deeper than adjoining foundations very close to these foundations, leaving adjoining neighbours to risk structural integrity undermined by the excavations;
  • expose foundations and weeping tile, leaving adjoining homes with risks of water in their basements;
  • trespass on the adjoining properties, because building without trespass is impossible, while resisting any requests for a security deposit or proof of insurance, before allowing access to adjoining properties.

Further, Parkin stated that “this bullying of law abiding homeowners and taxpayers is going on everywhere in the city and will get worse as more developers become convinced that the legal, planning and regulatory frameworks only apply to other people. In this case it is happening to me, it has happened to many people and it can happen to you unless we unify to stop it”.

There’s lots more on Allan’s Facebook post about his meetings with the owners and their  “builder”, and what in polite circles is called a lack of “transparency” about their identity and their plans. So what is behind this?  Clearly the enormous financial gains to be made in real estate is causing a tsunami of change in our neighborhood.

And there is more. As Leah McLaren said in an April 8 weekend Globe and Mail, “When your neighbourhood becomes so ‘desirable’ the only thing you can buy is a $3 million house, something is very wrong”.

Well, Leaside is not there yet, but Jethro Seymour, Leaside Life’s intrepid real estate writer, recently reported Leaside’s first $3 million sale.

We read the revelations of tax avoidance through offshore tax havens and wonder if, like Vancouver and London, the feeding frenzy in Toronto is being driven by offshore money seeking a safe haven.

In a March 23 Globe and Mail article, real estate reporter Tamsi McMahon reported on an analysis by economists whose research showed that as many as one-third of all home purchases in the Vancouver region last year and 14 per cent in Toronto came from buyers in China.

This week a flyer came in the mailbox from “your Leaside realtor with local and global buyers and investors” offering “global connections with foreign buyers”.

It appears that Leaside real estate has gone international, and affordability for local buyers is the likely loser.

Now let’s get back to 33 Sharron’s date at the Committee of Adjustment.

Allan Parkin and the neighbours trooped to North York Civic Centre for the committee. After seeming an eternity the Sharron item came up, the arguments were made, and the item came back to the committee.

A motion was made to refuse the variances, and it passed.

All variances were denied. The relief was palpable.

In the written decision the committee stated “the variances are not minor”.

But is this just stage one and we will likely be at the Ontario Municipal Board by summer?  Well it seems not this time. I learned today that the owner, Regina Volovik,has put the property up for sale on MLS. Let’s hope the new owner will be more respectful of the neighbours and the neighbourhood. I guess we can always hope but if Parkin and the neighbours have to fight again, they will.

Just before going to press I spoke to Parkin. He would like to acknowledge the enormous support from his street neighbours, the community and the LPOA. It is a community victory.

About Geoff Kettel 223 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.