What did you do in 2020? We went to the TLAB

“We’re off to the TLAB.” You and your neighbours might have heard that term if you were involved in a Committee of Adjustment decision that was appealed.

What is the TLAB? The Toronto Local Appeal Board is the tribunal which hears appeals from the Committee of Adjustment (CofA) on severances and minor variances (some not so minor!). The TLAB replaced the Ontario Municipal Board for City of Toronto appeals starting in 2017. The idea was to swap one provincially appointed, unaccountable appeal tribunal with a City-appointed, more accountable appeals tribunal, with adjudicators residing in Toronto, and therefore perhaps more acquainted with Toronto neighbourhoods. The process is similar to the old OMB, though in fact we find that while the rules are similar, there is way more paper work…and similar, if not more, focus on “legal status,” expert witnesses, and lengthy hearings, which tend to discourage and work against residents.

Now that the TLAB has been in place for over three years, it’s time to ask how we, that is Leaside, are doing? To answer that question, I analyzed the 22 Leaside residential appeals dealt with by the TLAB from 2017 to 2020. Here is what I found (get ready for some technical info):

Severances

Of the 22 cases, four involved severances (i.e. splitting a lot into two or more lots), and 18 involved minor variances (to the zoning bylaw relative to its requirements for density, massing, etc.

With the severances, three cases were appeals by applicants of refusals by CofA, and one was an appeal by LRA/residents of approval by the CofA. Of the three applicant appeals, none were allowed, one was refused (79 Brentcliffe), one was settled (1755-1757 Bayview), and the hearing in one appeal was delayed due to COVID but has now been scheduled for the new year (21 Killdeer). In one CofA decision to approve, which was appealed by LRA/residents, the TLAB decision awaits (16 Kenrae).

Minor variances

Of the minor variances, eight cases were appeals by applicants of refusals by CofA; 10 were appeals by LRA/residents of approvals by CofA. Of the eight applicant appeals, four were allowed (195 Glenvale, 248 Sutherland, 476 Broadway and 85 Rykert), two were settled (158 McRae and 82 Hanna), and in two cases the applicant withdrew (75 Randolph and 146 Randolph).

Of the 10 LRA/resident appeals of CofA approval decisions, three were allowed (8 Parklea, 184 McRae, 38 Rykert), one was settled (123 Rumsey), in three cases, LRA/residents withdrew (34 Cameron, 327 Sutherland and 8 Rykert), and in three the TLAB hearing was deferred due to COVID and is now scheduled for the New Year (83 Glenvale, 67 Sutherland and 120 Randolph). 

What do these results mean for Leaside residents? 

Though the numbers are small, it appears we’re doing better with severances than minor variances. My sense is this is largely due to the wide community support in opposition to severance applications compared with that generally experienced with minor variance applications. There have been very few lot severances from Leaside’s legacy lot plan, and severances if allowed would be precedent-setting and transformational to the character of Leaside’s neighbourhoods.

LRA/residents’ efforts on appeals of minor variances have variable success and have failed to stem the infiltration of designs that do not “fit” Leaside, such as the “jumped up” two-storey over a garage design.

So, should we pack it in and focus our efforts elsewhere? I argue no – there are often improvements even to approved projects, such as by placing conditions on the approval, and more generally there is a need to hold the CoA process to account through the appeal process. Our appeals are not frivolous, and residents’ involvement is ultimately good for the community. 

However, one thing is clear, if we are going to “save old Leaside,” we need to use other tools like heritage conservation and changes to the zoning bylaw (such as outlawing integral garages on narrow lots as was done in Davisville).

Finally, a shout-out to Councillor Jaye Robinson to thank her for her support in moving to have City staff assigned for LRA/resident-sponsored appeals.

About Geoff Kettel 140 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.