Comment from David Godley: May 4, 2015 “Character of Long Branch” meeting at The Assembly Hall
The following May 3 and May 4, 2015 comments are from David Godley of Long Branch. I have done some minor copy editing and have added headings.
1) David Godley writes (May 4, 2015):
I attended the meeting at the Assembly Hall today and would like to thank Councillor Grimes and his staff for putting this together.
I would like to thank Barbara Leibel for helping to bring this about as well as a number of residents who contacted the Councillor’s office.
The meeting was instructive as to processes and so the neighbourhood knows exactly who does what and why.
As someone who likes the pure form of public participation where the community shapes the neighbourhood I would offer the following comments.
On the public participation front no geographical restrictions should be put on a community meetings.
They should be inclusive rather than exclusive meetings.
Time was restricted with the meeting still in full flow.
Planners gave an excellent presentation of background information but were defensive rather than constructive.
Major points should have been noted and dealt with later. Justifying actions just made people more angry and used up valuable question time.
The presentation was too wide covering of OMB matters rather than focusing on the City level.
No indication was given if further steps are to be taken at the City level.
Some legitimisation of residents was given by planners but not enough.
The culture of civic engagement has been lost.
The Lakeshore Planning Council’s function is to advise on public participation and a rich resource is being lost by not using them.
On this matter everyone is on the same side. Surely we can get some “conversation” going.
The major conflict was what the planners says were supposed to happen and what the the residents say is happening.
Character of Long Branch
Not only is the character of Long Branch deteriorating with no strategy for special treatment in sight but residents are suffering significant hardships over long times.
Fortunately about 150 residents were comfortably accommodated.
Residents of 27th Street turned out in force. Ms Casella and Ms Gregory gave powerful presentations as did Ms Cusimano on 48 35th Street.
One constructive suggestion was that severance fees should be increased to supervise construction more closely.
Concerns from residents
Many residents raised concerns and I have documented more.
Local appeal boards, tighter official Plan policies and Planning Act amendments may help in the long run but what to do now.
Long Branch neighbourhood/residents group
Brian Liberty is in the process of organising a neighbourhood/residents group. There are a wealth of talented people in Long Branch.
I would suggest this group meet with local planners, Official Plan planners and to go over all the issues and see what can be done in terms of strategy for improvement.
The best way to deal with this is a neighbourhood plan which is standard practice to resolve neighbourhood issues. This involves a background report, City appointed Committee of stakeholders, SWOT analysis, public meetings, submissions and adoption of plan.
We heard that staff struggles to even put out comments on severances and variances.
Hopefully we will hear from councillor Grimes what the next step will be or if there is to be a next step.
We can only do so much with the present system. We need something comprehensive to give residents some level of confidence as well as dealing with minor improvements to the process.
2) David Godley writes (May 3, 2015):
A lovely May morning. Here is some guidance and more information for Long Branch Residents on Community Meeting, Monday 4 MAY 7-9pm @ the Assembly Hall.
1) This is the first meeting for the Long Branch area as a whole in living memory.
It is important to get all the issues on the table so they can be resolved.
My favourite strategy is to require a neighbourhood meeting between the applicants and interested parties before a new build goes to the Committee of Adjustment, preferably before an application is submitted.
Consensus could result in a detached house which is harmonious with the neighbourhood and provides affordable housing.
But scores of strategies are needed.
2) We know that most members of the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board) are unqualified to make decisions, are ignorant of the planning framework or are in the clutches of the development industry.
They are the major problem in the larger issue of continued erosion of citizenship rights.
The Ontario Government has promised (again) to review the OMB and that should happen starting Fall 2015.
This is when the OMB issues need to be aired.
3) The focus on this meeting is how the Local Planners for Etobicoke/York can improve their performance and strategies to resolve other issues.
The Committee of Adjustment staff are responsive, friendly and efficient but it is the qualified local planners who write reports on variances and severances and give evidence at the OMB.
Jennifer Keesmaat, Chief Planner has now recognised the “lack of confidence in local planners” issue and has indicated she will get back to me this coming week.
She has the most challenging planner job in Canada with complex issues in a fast moving physical and political environment. She has proved she can make progress.
4) Neil Cresswell, head of Local Planning, is to present at this meeting and must be persuaded by his boss, politicians and the public to up his game.
Shortage of staff has led to comments being submitted only on the clearer cases of breach of the Official Plan.
The planning comments usually ignore impacts on neighbours and do not quote OP (Official Plan) policy 4.1.5c the key policy for streetscape.
This clearly has negative outcomes at the OMB especially when development planners do not highlight impacts on neighbouring properties and say there is streetscape fit.
168 Lake Promenade
168 Lake Promenade is the poster child for this. (the blue monstrosities at 31st)
5) I gave supplementary evidence to support the local planning stance at the 168 OMB hearing but little if any weight is given to my testimony.
The only reason I go to hearings is because local planning evidence is both too narrow, weak and in some parts incorrect.
4 James Street
168 and 4 James approval by the OMB should have raised alarm bells but finally we have a community meeting thanks to the Councillor’s advisors.
Councillor Grimes has been supportive of residents by writing objections to the Committee of Adjustment and by arranging City planner’s and lawyers for hearings.
But we need to be proactive if we are not to continue going downhill. So thank you Councillor for setting up the May 4th meeting.
6) Local Planning do not appear to recognise the legitimacy of citizens in planning decisions and are getting more like the OMB.
For example the Planning Department arranged with the developer to settle behind the backs of the objecting citizens on 25 24th Street.
This was higher density and out of keeping with the existing or planned neighbourhood and ignored the Official Plan.
For 48 35th Street the severance was not objected to leaving the City without planning evidence when it was obvious to everyone else that the split was damaging to the neighbourhood.
On 18 Ash, coming up on May 7th Committee of Adjustment, there is no objection by local planning to 0.61 density from 0.35, a major factor in impact on adjoining property.
On 92 22nd Street, my supplementary report attached for the May 7 meeting, it seems to be thought that planning has something to do with what the Committee has approved previously when this is irrelevant to a planning position.
Influence of citizens
7) There has been rapid diminution of the citizens influence over how their neighbourhood should develop.
However it is the neighbourhood who pay our politicians and planners and we should be calling the tune, although broader issues need to be taken into account.
Public customer service is at a low.
The meeting is the first of many steps needed to correct a balance that was in place in Mayor Crombie’s time.
8) Our citizens are emigrating after their grueling experiences with the planning process.
The owner of 168 is emigrating to UK probably with a loss of a couple of hundred dollars to his property. At least in England planning appeals are dealt with fairly by qualified planners on a more efficient basis.
David Godley 416-255-0492
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