John Parker, Councillor, Toronto Ward 26, Don Valley West
Things are now back on a productive footing
Hands up everyone who wants a new department store at 70 Wicksteed.
Good. So we are all agreed that it was not our idea to invite the development proposal that has featured prominently in recent issues of this publication.
So why can’t we just make it go away?
Because these things are governed by rules, policies and procedures that bind all of us. And there is recourse to the OMB if the applicant believes it has development rights that were denied by the public process.
I brought the proposal to the attention of the Leaside community last fall. In March I convened a formal public meeting at which the applicant presented its proposal and city staff and I discussed the underlying policies and procedures. I also outlined my own approach to the application. I repeated an invitation I had put on record previously for members of the community to form a working group to join with me in addressing it.
Shortly thereafter Leaside Unite emerged, expressing strong objections to the application. I convened a meeting involving the leadership of Leaside Unite, the Leaside Property Owners’ Association and City of Toronto planning staff.
We had what I thought was a productive discussion concerning the salient elements of the application, the applicable policies, and the most sensible approach to take in response to the challenges and opportunities arising from it.
In June, Leaside Unite and the LPOA held a public meeting concerning the application. Featured on the panel were two veteran politicians whose bottom line message was “just say no”. The meeting got front page treatment in this publication.
Let me summarize that evening by noting that at the end of it the leader of Leaside Unite and I spoke privately with one another and agreed that the event had produced more heat than light.
I am confident that things have now been put back on a more productive footing. I convened another meeting that brought together the same parties as before plus city transportation services staff. (Parts of this meeting were described in September’s Leaside Life.)
I have told staff that I am committed to working with the residents group that has now emerged, and that I want staff to cooperate with that process.
So where do I stand regarding the application itself? What are my goals where it is concerned?
I have no wish to see further big box development in Leaside. But the Official Plan – adopted by council before I arrived there – allows it. Paradoxically, it also prohibits small scale retail development in the Leaside industrial area, killing the recommendation that many residents bring to me that I reduce the scale of the proposed retail spaces to something akin to the small shops that we find on our section of Bayview.
I have discussed my goals with many of you already in person, over the phone, or in correspondence, and I am happy to continue doing so. In a future column in this space I hope to discuss them with the broader readership of Leaside Life.
Carol Burtin Fripp, Vice-president, LPOA
We have now hired our lawyer
Leaside is a desirable place to live. Attractive streetscapes, good schools, excellent recreational facllities, a strong sense of community and heritage, an enviable shopping district on Bayview, a central location with access to transit as well as the DVP/401.
Unfortunately, many of these features also appeal to developers whose proposed changes would alter the community in significant ways. So it is important for Leasiders to work together to protect what we value about where we live.
This does not mean opposing all change: it means encouraging positive change but rejecting destructive change. It means looking at potential developments not just one at a time, but in a community context.
It means identifying, measuring, and mitigating the impacts of each proposed change: increased through traffic, less safe residential streets, congestion and speed along Eglinton and Bayview. It means preserving the scale and density of building, both residential and commercial.
This is why the Leaside Property Owners’ Association gets involved in issues both major (the proposed SmartCentre North mega-mall at Laird/Wicksteed, or the proposed too-big condominium on the Leaside Post Office site at Malcolm/
Millwood) and minor (such as individual Committee of Adjustment applications). We encourage Leasiders to bring local concerns to us, for advice or action.
We invite groups of residents, like Leaside Unite, who formed to oppose the building of the SmartCentre North, to join and work with us.
As I previously reported, LPOA and Leaside Unite met on July 10 with city staff and Councillor Parker to comment on SmartCentre North’s consultants’ reports, and to ask additional questions. We are still awaiting answers regarding the technical studies filed by the applicant, and have requested the city do a thorough retail and economic impact assessment of the proposal.
There must be much more careful examination of the traffic impact, not only on the closest streets, but also throughout North and South Leaside. This development affects our entire community.
To oppose the SmartCentre North application, LPOA-Leaside Unite has retained an excellent lawyer, and will be hiring other expert advice as needed to present a strong case at City Council, and the Ontario Municipal Board if necessary.
We should treat both the SmartCentre North application and the Malcolm/Millwood condo application as opportunities to consult widely with Leasiders and the city. Solutions to the traffic problems we already have (and would have more of, if the applications were allowed) can be found. Through-traffic numbers, congestion, speed, and spreading traffic patterns already pose a threat to our quality of life and safety.
A fundraising campaign is being planned. Your contributions will be what makes the difference, as they did in our successful Talbot fight.
It is not too late to prevent real harm, but once it’s gone, you can’t recreate that small town cohesive neighbourhood quality we all value. Leaside is worth fighting for. Please contact us (lpoa.ca, or leasideunite.com) or LPOA, Sunnybrook Postal Outlet, 660 Eglinton East, PO Box 50055, Toronto M4G 4G1.