Letter from Long Branch resident David Godley to executive director of Ontario Municipal Board

Below is a letter from David Godley of Long Branch to Lynda Tanaka, executive director of the Ontario Municipal Board, as well as a letter to the Official Plan Review team.

David Godley has requested that people send an email to Lynda Tanaka at ontario.municipal.board@ontario.ca asking for a copy of her reply to this letter. I’ve sent in a request myself but have not yet received a copy of the response from OMB.

It’s very useful, I believe, for residents of Toronto to share information related to processes, which are ultimately a matter of political choices and political interests, by which planning decisions are made in Toronto.

Political choices are matters concerning which citizens in democratic societies, sometimes or occasionally, and sometimes more than occasionally, have the opportunity to offer input.

David Godley’s two letters can be found below:

The finalised letter to the Official Plan Review team is below.

6 May 2013

To Lynda Tanaka, Executive Director, Ontario Municipal Board via ontario.municipal.board@ontario.ca

As a friend of the Board, I emailed you on April 15 to explain some difficulties with Ontario Municipal Board decisions.

As yet I have not received an acknowledgement of receipt, or a process to deal with the shortcomings identified.

We have a serious and urgent situation.

The Board is under siege with criticism from citizens, community groups, the City and provincial opposition through a private member’s bill by Rosario Marchese.

It would be so much better, more efficient and more elegant to deal with the issues internally rather than through reform.

Currently a number of OMB members are undermining both City Planning and the OMB itself.

I attach
1. The letter for response. [regarding 11 Lake Promenade]
2. The letter to the the City’s Official Plan Review Team.
3. The letter reviewing the decision of hearing officer on 168 Lake Promenade. [168 Lake Promenade]
4. Material comparing the decisions of hearing officers on 4 James Street with 364 Lake Promenade.

I look forward to an acknowledgement in the very near future.

Please let me know how you wish to proceed to resolve this in a collegial fashion.

Yours truly

David Godley

[The following is a text from a related letter, developed with input from several residents, from David Godley:]

Toronto Official Plan Review – Shaping the Neighbourhood

I have been involved in severance/variance activity in South Long Branch for over 30 years.

The Official Plan’s key policies for severances and variances are found in (impacts) and 4.1.5 (neighbourhood character). These policies seem fine on the surface especially as they are supported by statements on sensitive and gradual changes in “Neighbourhoods” designations. However the development industry, (with the aid of some OMB decisions), have been able to gain inappropriate approvals.

The main stumbling block appears to be the lack of differentiation between adjacent buildings and the broader neighbourhood. The OMB has previously justified division of land and minor variances based on another building, streets away and in another zone. A number of adjudicators at the OMB give little weight to character.

Even if the comparative development is close but out of sight, it should not be used in decisions making. For example if there are small lots around the corner from larger lots and not a visible part of the streetscape on the road outside of the proposed development, they should not be included in the analysis.

In addition the top down planning in some OMB decisions preclude much weight being assigned to those neighbour’s opinions who are affected over the long term.

Severances and variances are local matters and the neighbours should have significant influence especially as the development is basically a money-making venture for the developer yet a lifestyle change for the neighbours. Empowerment of communities is not only good planning but a sign of a healthy society, and allows local considerations to be evaluated alongside wider planning considerations.

The character of South Long Branch can change rapidly as one travels through it either as a pedestrian or on wheels, even on the same street. The character of the neighbourhood at the front of a particular lot is unique.

Although there may be a prevailing character of the overall neighbourhood, say of large detached homes, this is of lesser importance than the micro character of the subject area. The broad “study areas” that some planners rely on to establish character are irrelevant. It is the nearby properties and particularly the immediate area that are critical.

I propose:

A. Instead of using “fit, compatible, out of keeping and harmonious” that “respect and reinforce the character” (which is stronger) should be substituted throughout the document as it relates to neighbourhoods.

B be changed as follows  [underlined text is what is recommended as additions]:

3. New development will be massed and its exterior façade will be designed to fit harmoniously respect and reinforce the traditional neighbourhood character into its existing and/or planned context, and its impacts on neighbourhood uses and streets…

c. providing for adequate light and privacyminimising impact on adjacent uses in terms of natural light, overshadowing, overlook, views, wind and overpowering buildings and walls.

C 4.1.5 be changed as follows:

Development in established Neighbourhoods will respect and reinforce the existing physical traditional character of the neighbourhood with emphasis on nearby development and priority on the immediate area, including in particular

a) patterns of streets, blocks, lanes, parks and public building sites

b) size and configuration of lots

c) heights, massing, scale, size and dwelling type of nearby residential properties

d) prevailing building type(s)

e) setbacks of buildings from the street or streets

f) prevailing patterns of rear and side yard setbacks and landscaped open space

g) continuation of special landscape features and built form features that contribute to the unique physical character of the neighbourhood including tree preservation

h) conservation of heritage buildings, structures and landscapes

i) integration of the streetscape façade with physical features including architectural elements

j) the opinion of those who are affected in particular the immediately adjacent residents and owners.

No changes will only be made through rezoning, minor variance, consent or other public action that are out of keeping with respect and reinforce the physical character of the neighbourhood. Every variance will be minor and comparatively small both numerically and in terms of impact.*

“The prevailing….. another neighbourhood.”.

*The De Gasperis Divisional Court decision clearly enunciates both variables must be met to be minor.

C. A strengthened policy is needed to emphasise that matters of character take precedence over matters of intensification and density.

D. To back up the public participation Section 5.5 should be built upon to include community involvement policies.

At present these are sketchy with a notion to make the process “fair, open and accessible” but nothing on the level of policies found in other Official Plans for example “The general principles underlying planning procedures are that all members of the public affected by a proposal should be notified and given the opportunity to submit comments; public input should start early in the process and public participation should be based on consensus and mediation; there should be a free flow of information”,  in the Dundas Official Plan.

David Godley

6 May 2013


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