Storage shed becomes hot topic

Photo by Geoff Kettel.

Q. When does a storage shed become a hot topic? A. When it is no longer just a storage shed of course!  A newly built “ancillary structure” in the backyard of a North Leaside house has led to a flurry of interest on Leaside Facebook sites. The owner has been saying how great their new home office is. Others say – how come this got built? Some folks are opposed and some supportive. The thing is that it appears that the actual use/layout has changed from what was applied for and approved. Let’s look at what happened.

The applicant applied in October, 2019 to the Committee of Adjustment (CofA) for permission to construct a storage shed in the backyard with several “minor” variances (reduced side yard setbacks, deficient rear yard soft landscaping).  Based on the intended use (storage shed) and the plans, the Leaside Residents Association (LRA), did not feel a need to comment. But  despite several letters of support submitted from neighbours, the application was refused by the Committee. As is their right, the owner appealed the CofA’s refusal of the application to the Toronto Local Appeal Board (TLAB).

In February, 2020, TLAB heard and approved the appeal. Present at the hearing were the applicant and the applicant’s expert witness. There were no residents present. And neither was the LRA, who, having not participated at the Committee stage, was not aware that the refusal had been appealed.

The primary issue is whether the “as built” construction matches what was approved by the TLAB.  The application approved by the TLAB stated that the structure was for ‘storage’. The drawings even show multiple bikes stored in this “shed.” The plans did not show any HVAC system or water.

Fast forward to today and the North York Building Department has agreed to check that “as built” construction complies with the TLAB decision. If it is indeed the case that “as built” does not comply with the application as approved, the City should ensure that the project is changed to comply.

A secondary issue is a procedural one. As noted, the TLAB did not hear from residents or the LRA. The LRA was not given an opportunity to participate because the LRA did not send in a letter or appear at the CofA. Typically in these cases (where they are aware), the resident association requests the Councillor bring a motion to have City staff oppose the appeal at TLAB (and they usually agree).

But this case may be more – it may be a preview of a type of development that may soon be permitted under the “garden suites” initiative that is currently being developed by City Planning, and which is expected to come to City Council later this year. Garden suites, sometimes called “granny suites,” allow a separate independent living accommodation on the lot, representing a “house behind a house” situation. This was previously forbidden due to safety issues, due to the lack of access to the street in case of emergencies, environmental issues such as reduced absorptive capacity, and increased runoff, noise, etc. And it is being proposed to be based on “as of right” approval without neighbour consultation!   

Is any of this a concern to you? Please let me know (and copy Councillor Jaye Robinson as well).

About Geoff Kettel 152 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.