Background document (June 22, 2015) from David Godley regarding: Character of Long Branch

For an important update, related to the following background document from David Godley, please refer to a recent post entitled:

Update regarding Character of Long Branch: Message from Ward 6 Councillor Mark Grimes

Following text is from David Godley:


New Houses in Long Branch: Severances & Variances – Draft Issues

David Godley
416 255 0492

June 22 2015

The Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, has acknowledged that planning issues in Long Branch are important and has referred the matters to her head of Etobicoke/York Planning, Neil Cresswell. Neil Cresswell presented at the May 4th 2015 community meeting arranged by Councillor Grimes.

This list of issues is the basis for discussion between the Planning Department and the Long Branch community. It has been prepared with input from those who have first hand experience over the last few years.

The overall issue is that houses are being built that do not respect and reinforce the character of the neighbourhood in accordance with the 2006 Official Plan. Furthermore the houses have significant increases in density way beyond what is envisaged by the De Gasperis Division Court case; they create overshadowing and overlook, are overpowering, block views and destroy healthy mature trees. They can negatively affect lifestyle for neighbours and create stressful situations over long periods of time during the application process.

The most common form of development is splitting a 50 feet frontage lot to build 3 storey twin houses. Similar house types on narrow single lots are of equal concern. There are a number of variations on the theme with semis and 2 storey singles with mutual driveway and minimal side yards.

The OMB cannot be relied on to follow the Official Plan, determine a minor variance or understand the intent of the zoning bylaw. The OMB is the prime problem since they seem to be advocates for the development industry. Many inept decisions have already been made in Long Branch. The OMB is to be reviewed starting this Fall by the Province so these issues are focused on local matters.

1. Planning Department Philosophy

A. Does the Planning Department see the applicant’s wishes as part of the planning analysis.

B. Does the Planning Department see the community’s wishes as part of the planning analysis. Can residents shape their own neighbourhood. In other words is it local government democracy by the people or the people.

C. Does the Planning Department see its role as representative of citizens and may be teacher, adviser, technical expert, negotiator and procurer (J. Wilson March 1983, Plan Canada) or as a separate technical entity.

D. Does the Planning Department recognise resident’s rights to be part of a negotiation with the applicant. (25 24th St)

2. Planning Department Comments and Evidence

A. Can the strongest physical section of the Official Plan 4.1.5c be quoted in planning comments and used in evidence at OMB hearings.

B. Can the strongest urban design section of the Official Plan 3.1. 2. 3 be quoted in planning comments and used in evidence at OMB hearings.

C. Can the intent of the zoning bylaw to eliminate 3 storey dwellings by control of raised first floor be included in the comments and evidence at the OMB.

D. Can the De Gasperis Divisonal Court case be quoted in the comments and used in evidence to determine “minor” as in variance.

E. How does the Department assess “minor”

F. Can the impacts on neighbouring properties and the streetscape be assessed in comments and used in evidence at the OMB.

G. Can planners take into account raised deck privacy and neighbouring rear yard setbacks in their comments.

H. Can the Department reflect the views of the public in their comments.

I. How does the Planning Department determine which applications deserve comment.

J. Can the Planning Department prepare intent on the zoning requirements which are to be varied. The large side yard set back required for a corner lot was dismissed as irrelevant at the 20 James hearing.

K. Can the Plannning Department provide sesity and storey heights for nearby properties.

3. Initial Process

The turnaround for stakeholders of the 200 feet/ 60 metre circulation area is minimal and some would say not in accordance with due process. If a resident goes on vacation the COA may have already made a decision by the time they return. Plus people often have no idea what a severance or variance is or where to turn for help. Relatively small proposals are complex. This process needs reviewing in light of less dependence on mail especially among the young and the weakening of postal service due to lack of home delivery. The review needs to balance the interests of applicant and residents looking at different options.

A. Can applications for new builds be sent out to a Long Branch Community Association when a complete application has been submitted. Can the agenda be posted on line several days earlier at the same time politicians receive it.

B. Can new build applicants be required to meet those affected in the neighbourhood prior and/or the Long Branch Community Association prior to the Committee of Adjustment meeting. Such a meeting with neighbours usually takes place during the Committee of Adjustment meeting, often without results as positions become fixed.

C. Can the planner’s name be on notices to give advice, in addition to the COA contact.

D Can the planner’s comments be held off on new builds until public input is known so that the Councillor, Long Branch Community Association and neighbours have a chance to talk to the planner.

E. Can the elevations and house plans be circulated with the COA official notices. Those affected have to visit the COA office to find out critical details currently.

4. Trees

2 27th St saw 2 mature trees legally but needlessly destroyed and a further 7 destroyed illegally. The developer at 2 27th has lost its $250,000 deposit. The developer at 75 27th is managing to kill a giant by illegally paving over the front yard. Can anything be done as a conviction for neighbourhood vandalism.

A. Can Urban Forestry refuse a destruction permit if the tree is in the way of an approved plan.

B. Can Urban Forestry analyse tree preservation at the beginning of the process or at least give red flags in their comments rather than simply making the approval subject to conditions. This needs to include boundary trees on abutting land.

C. Can an applicant be asked to prepare an analysis of tree preservation prior to submission of an application where trees are an issue.

Official Plan

A. Can trees be added to the Official Plan criteria in Section 4.1.5 of the Official Plan.

B. Can the new 3 storey houses which have been built contrary to the Official Plan and are
alien to the neighbourhood be eliminated from character assessment. This would enhance the traditional character and not reproduce the inappropriate character. In Alderwood some areas have a majority of development which do not reinforce neighbourhood character.

C. Can the side of the street in which the application sits be given the highest priority for assessing character. This may be the case in the draft wording for revisions to the Neighbourhoods section but it is not entirely clear.

D. Can reduction of sideyards next to existing houses not be compromised in cases of severance. 2 feet sideyards are not fully functional and any reduction of sideyard in the new builds abutting existing houses seems like an infringement of abutting property rights.

E. Can the Official Plan indicate that the closer the houses are to the subject site the more critical they are in assessing neighbourhood character.

F. Can intent of policies be shown in sidebars.

G. Can Lake Promenade have a “scenic”, “trail” or “multiple mode designation”.

H. That a policy be introduced “that the community be involved in the a planning process as early as possible.”

5. Urban Design

A. Can the Planning Department apply zoning to prevent identical twin house as is contained in the Alderwood zoning bylaw.

B. Can the Planning Department apply zoning or policies to control flat roofs or can this be a factor in assessing urban design fit.

C. Can the Planning Department use their Official Plan Section and Urban Design Section and Urban Forestry to brief Committee of Adjustment members and local planners on their various specializations.

D. Can an applicant be asked to prepare analysis of neighbourhood character as part of the application prior to submission.

E. Can an applicant be asked to prepare shadow diagrams as part of a submission.

F. Can an applicant be asked to prepare a bird’s eye view of the proposal and next door properties as in 11 Lake Promenade.

G. Can the Planning Department provide guidelines for an applicant on urban design for submitting a neighbourhood character analysis.

H. Can the Planning Department eliminate the loophole that unfinished floor levels 3 feet below ground level need not be counted as gross floor area. Yet as soon as a “carpet is put down” these rooms count as gross floor area. At 86 23rd this trick would have increased density from around 0.70 to over 0.90. Fortunately the OMB refused the applications.

6. Administrative

A. Can the Planning Department raise fees so that staff can comprehensively review and follow up on severance and variance applications and development.

B. Can applicants be required to call their buildings 3 storey (rather than 2 storey) when that is the appearance from the road with the first floor being nearest to the ground level ie give a lay interpretation rather than a zoning interpretation.

C. Can applicants be required to accurately mark trees and other features to be a complete application.

D. Can there be some protocol for citizen inquiries and the length of time to acknowledge and reply. Some staff reply promptly, others not so much.

E Can the Planning Department prepare guidelines for planners who make comments on new build applications.

7. Information

A. Can applicants for new builds be required to show to scale front elevation of the proposal and both abutting properties to give an impression of the immediate streetscape.

B. Can the Planning Department produce a list of staff with telephone numbers for tree destruction (2 27th) zoning infractions (75 27th) building infractions (18 Ash), hoardings, signs and advertisements (26th St), mud tracking, poor maintenance, traffic matters etc.

C. Can planning staff keep those involved in a an OMB hearing including the Long Branch Community Association informed of developments such as lack of available planning witness eg 48 35th Street.

C. Can the package presented by the Planning Department on May 4th be distributed to the community or at least the Community Association.
D. Can neighbours be kept up to date on items affecting their part of the neighbourhood eg stop work orders (2 27th St), tree convictions, variance/severance applications.
E. Can guidelines be prepared to help residents through the complicated negotiation, objection and appeal process.
F. Can a website be set up showing active applications and their status.

8. Potential Remedies

A. What does the Department think of applying a heritage district to parts or the whole of Long Branch.

B. What does the Department think of drawing up urban design guidelines for Long Branch.

C. What does the Department think of carrying out a preservation zoning bylaw study and using an interim zoning under Section 38 similar to the Royal York/Bloor area.

D. What does the Department think about carrying out a neighbourhood plan with stakeholder committee, meetings to discuss various aspects of planning and a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats analysis.This involves preparing a policy and action plan for the community. If the Department have objections to the plan they put them to the political representatives. (Crombie era planning)

E. What does the Department think of applying limited site plan control to new builds.

F. Would the planning department support a detached house with a secondary suite as an alternative to a severance. Are there other uses which might fit the neighbourhood creating minimal impact on neighbours for 50 feet frontage lots.


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