We’ve asked city to change review firm

Graham Shirley

This is the first in a series of articles from Leaside Unite, the group formed by Leaside residents to oppose the SmartCentre North proposal. Leaside Unite has joined with the Leaside Property Owners’ Association (LPOA) to pursue a joint strategy.

There is much misunderstanding and misinformation about the municipal process for development applications.

Contrary to what you may have heard, the SmartCentre North proposal is NOT permitted at the intended location (70 and 80 Wicksteed).

The city’s Official Plan designates the site as Employment Areas, not retail. The plan states consideration may be given to permit large scale/stand-alone retail stores and ‘power centres’ if it can be demonstrated that:

•         The surrounding area can accommodate the extra traffic the development would generate.

•         The economic health of nearby shopping districts would not be adversely affected.

Leaside Unite requested the city hire an objective firm to review the retail and eonomic impact of the proposed SmartCentre North on the area. The original firm hired by the city to undertake this review has done a number of market capacity and economic impact studies for SmartCentres in the past, and is therefore in a perceived conflict of interest.

As part of the review process, the city has circulated the developer’s application to several city departments for examination and comment. They have also requested more technical studies from the developer’s consultants.

Leaside Unite and the LPOA have added additional comments and requests. We noted significant omissions in the developer’s studies, especially regarding traffic. For instance, their report of current, existing traffic volumes in the Laird/Wicksteed area show lower volumes than those obtained from statistics available in the city’s data base.

Staff have noted the developer’s traffic volume analyses require revision to reflect actual conditions and realistic assumptions of worst case scenarios.

To date, SmartCentre has not submitted these revised analyses.

While the SmartCentre’s Impact Study Update emphasizes the importance of the Eglinton Crosstown LRT as an alternative to private car usage, city staff has noticed their study does not include any reference or statistics regarding pedestrian traffic in any of the capacity analyses.

The SmartCentre studies omitted any consideration of traffic impact on North Leaside. This is not acceptable.

Residents of Leaside have a lot to lose if this development proceeds. If you want to help us challenge the SmartCentre North proposal, please contact leasideunite.com or lpoa.ca.