Time to man the barricades

Alan Redway

Change is in the works, drastic change to the way in which Leasiders have been dealing with redevelopment proposals. That change is known as the Development Permit System (DPS).

DPS is authorized by the Ontario Planning Act. In 2007 Toronto City Council gave its planning department permission to initiate a process which would put DPS in place in the city’s communities and neighbourhoods, including Leaside.

Historically the Ontario Planning Act has given residents the right to object to any and every development or redevelopment proposal that doesn’t comply with the local zoning by-law. Currently that can be done before the application receives approval either at the Community Council or at the Committee of Adjustments, or if it is approved by appealing to the Ontario Municipal Board. 

DPS will eliminate the rights to consultation, objection and appeal. In return for surrendering these rights the city planners will give Leasiders the opportunity to attend one or more local meetings to agree on development criteria which we feel will fit our community. Of course those criteria will be constrained by the fact that they must also implement the Toronto Official Plan (OP) and achieve the goals set out in the OP.

Once in place the criteria will be cast in stone. So provided a redevelopment application meets those criteria it will be approved by the city planners. Developers will have a right to appeal the planners’ decision but affected residents will have no right of appeal.

Presumably the criteria for the Leaside neighbourhoods will be presented to us by the city planners, discussed and agreed upon at local consultation meetings of property owners, tenants and business owners.

The planners admit that very few tenants and business owners are likely to attend. What the planners don’t say is that very few property owners ever turn up either for general planning meetings such as these.

If there is a meeting to discuss a specific proposal affecting your own property you’ll be there for sure but not so likely if it’s just to discuss general planning principles.

Four general public meetings have been held to inform residents about the DPS, one each in Etobicoke, Scarborough, Toronto and North York. How many Leasiders attended any one of those meetings? I counted only one other one at the Toronto meeting.

On April 9 a meeting was held here in Leaside with Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat as the speaker. She gave a general overview of her role and that of the city planning staff but during her two-hour presentation she talked only briefly, for approximately 10 minutes, on the subject of DPS.

At the prior Toronto meeting which lasted some four hours DPS was the only subject discussed. While Leaside has a population in the thousands fewer than 150 attended the April 9 meeting. Have most Leasiders even heard of DPS? Let alone understand it and know how it will affect them.

Fortunately, none of these meetings held so far were to set the development criteria for our community. Those meetings will be crucial because once the criteria is set residents will have no further input or right to object to an individual redevelopment application.

When those meetings are held the Leasiders who do attend will be establishing the physical character of our community not only for themselves but for those who don’t attend and for future residents as well.

DPS is the inevitable result of the total amalgamation of Metropolitan Toronto into the Megacity. Toronto councillors faced with massive agendas have delegated as many of their responsibilities as possible either to their personal assistants or to the bureaucrats.

Quite understandably the city planners feel that numerous public meeting on development applications seldom resolve the issues and are a waste of their time which they could better spend on what in their opinion are much more important matters.

The final decision to implement DPS rests with our councillor and his colleagues on Toronto city council.

The last line of the French version of O Canada applies here:  “Protegera  nos foyers et nos droits,” which translated reads: Guard our homes and our rights. In the past, Leasiders have always done just that.

About Alan Redway 30 Articles
Alan Redway is a retired lawyer, born in Toronto, with a degree in Commerce and Finance from the University of Toronto and a law degree from Osgoode Hall law School. Mr. Redway served for ten years on the council of the Borough of East York, six of those years as the Mayor of East York and a member of Metropolitan Toronto Council and Executive Committee. Later he was elected to the parliament of Canada where he served for almost ten years as a Progressive Conservative member of the House of Commons and as Minister of State (Housing). He has written for Leaside Life and the East York Chronicle. In 2014 he published his first book, "Governing Toronto: Bringing back the city that worked."