“Water, water everywhere, but not a study in sight”

Sunnybrook plaza map 2015
Photo by: John Naulls

It’s got to come to a head! Should the developer, with the tacit agreement of the City, be allowed to create a potential disaster for neighbouring (and future) residents? I’m referring to the placing of what amounts to a massive dam in the centre of an underground river, and not knowing what the effects will be on all the properties around.

RioCan’s 660 Eglinton Ave redevelopment project replaces a two-storey building with no underground parking with two 19-storey and 12-storey buildings with a two-level below grade garage. While the effects are unknown, we do have some documented past experience at the site to offer some clues. Since my column in the September Leaside Life, which mentioned the water issue, the litany of problems on this site has come to light. Solutions to these problems have been expensive, and have sometimes turned out to be only temporary fixes, and not solutions at all. Here’s a tally of past problems and current geohydrological and geotechnical challenges involving properties at or near the Bayview and Eglinton intersection:

  • In 2004, according to a Town Crier article at the time, the Rogers video store in the Sunnybrook Plaza experienced basement collapse due to subsidence that cost about $100,000 to fix.
  • According to former Councillor Jane Pitfield, the old Dominion store on the northwest corner was moved back because of subsidence. There is no current development application for this property, but one is expected there eventually.
  • Metrolinx will be dewatering areas surrounding the LRT station, changing the soil composition, but no engineering reports on the impacts are publically available.
  • When Metrolinx issued the Request for Proposals for construction of the LRT station they required infrastructure allowance sufficient for up to 22 storeys. A development application is expected for that corner.
  • Metrolinx’s recently completed LRT tunnel, which crosses the underground stream east of Eglinton, has, to date, an unknown impact on the water movement.

What do the neighbouring home owners, apartment residents  and Talbot Park baseball players think of the water flow issue if RioCan’s two towers get approved without any prior study of the impact on the underground levels and foundations beneath those towers on water flow within the “basin”? In fact, what about the future residents of the apartments at 660 Eglinton East? Will they face costly repairs, after RioCan has departed for other projects?

So what’s the problem? City-required studies for development applications are for individual projects that do not take other projects or the total picture into account. These issues are often minimized by the proponent – “they can be dealt with through engineering” – but the nature of this issue is that the potential impacts are not limited to the applicant’s site. In addition there appear to be potential legal liability concerns for the City as the regulator, as well as for the applicant. Does the City care about this?

It appears not. The LPOA sent a sharp letter to the City detailing the water (and ravine slope) concerns and asked for the City to require the necessary studies PRIOR to the commencement of OMB hearings. The response was an offer for the LPOA and residents to meet with John Andreevski, the senior planner on the file, together with Councillor Burnside. That meeting happened on Tuesday, September 13. The planner’s response was the same: “These issues will be dealt with during site plan” (i.e consideration of the site plan application).

RioCan wants to begin mediation on October 12, and the City appears to be compliant on that one, too. It appears the City is sleep-walking into an OMB hearing without having required studies that would help it to assess this application on this site, with its most unusual and complex hydrology. Whose side is the City on?

About Geoff Kettel 222 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.