Will Leaside LRT station site be an MZO?

Will Leaside be getting an MZO? What’s that? An abbreviation for musical term mezzo forte (moderately loud)? No – but musical or not, I bet you had not heard of a Minister’s Zoning Order until the attempted demolition of The Foundry in the St. Lawrence neighbourhood burst into the news at the end of January. The provincial government overrode the City’s Official Plan and zoning bylaws and started to demolish the designated heritage buildings that constitute the former Dominion Wheel and Foundries Company. That is, until the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association went to court and obtained a temporary injunction. On Feb. 26, a full hearing of the case was set before a panel of three judges. Demolition is halted, by order of the court, until the results of that hearing.

Could the same thing happen in Leaside? I think so, at the Leaside (Bayview) LRT station site and its neighbours to the south.

• The province has had longstanding plans as far back as 2013 to facilitate redevelopment /intensification of the LRT station site. Metrolinx negotiations with the owner allowed the owner to build a new condominium over the station. Metrolinx subsequently acquired the adjacent properties, not necessary for constructing the station, because they fit within the plan to put the property to dual use.

• When the construction of the station began, Councillor Burnside expressed concern that the LRT station was being designed with underground infrastructure capable of supporting building(s) of up to 22 storeys, yet the zoning allowed only eight storeys.

• A May, 2019 Metrolinx News article, “As Toronto looks to future growth, Leaside Station holds design secrets to grow with,” confirmed the presence of underpins, and boasted “We’re building a time machine in Leaside.”

• No planning approvals (i.e. Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Bylaw Amendments) for a high-rise development have been sought from the City.

• Normally, an owner has to have planning approval for a development in order to demolish. Unless the province overrides the City and uses an MZO!

What about the neighbouring properties to the south?

• 1779-81 and 1783-85 Bayview Ave. are the northernmost of 10 properties that constitute the “Talbot quads.” The properties each contain a two-storey, four-unit apartment complex (“quadraplex”) constructed in 1934-35 in the Neo-Tudor style. 1783-85 Bayview is listed and designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. But 1779-81 Bayview is not heritage-protected.

• The owner of 1783-85 Bayview has recently moved to evict the tenants. Metrolinx is the current owner, but plans to transfer ownership to the developer – the same one that owns 1779-81 Bayview, and they have an agreement for the Station site.

• And what about the tenants at 1783-85 Bayview? What recourse do they have? It is unclear if Metrolinx has the right to evict as it isn’t the one requiring the building to be vacant so it can be demolished.

None of this is really a surprise. In the July, 2019 Leaside Life I wrote about how the province overrode City Council and approved changes to the Midtown in Focus plan. Interestingly, the government’s changes (made to increase tower height limits) did not change the Leaside station site or the quads.

So, what can we do about this? I have submitted the issue to Councillor Jaye Robinson, City Planning, and the Housing Secretariat. We’ll see what they say, but we may have to do what the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood did, in short order: galvanize and organize, launch a petition, hire a lawyer, and fundraise. We need the provincial government to learn that they need to follow due process in planning and not override the City’s plans and residents. n

About Geoff Kettel 144 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.