August 2015 Update from David Godley – Keeping Long Branch Long Branch

The following text is from David Godley:

Greetings Long Branch Residents

Incremental progress is being made in stemming the destruction of Long Branch character. Please feel free to ask for clarification or additional information.

Urban Design Study

As noted previously, Long Branch is to be an urban design pilot study by consultants. Once completed it can be used for setting an example for other neighbourhoods in the City.

City Planning Comments on Severances

Comments are now more fulsome and recommend deferral so that all parties can meet.

Neighbourhood Fit

Residents know that the nearby houses are more important to neighbourhood fit than houses at a distance.

All urban designers support this. Up to now City Planners have not used this approach. No development planner or OMB hearing officer dealing with Long Branch recently has recognised this as they rely on “expert witnesses”.

Unfortunately planning is not the OMB’s strong suit. We need well versed planners to make sound decisions.

The 39 33rd Street OMB hearing was the first time this notion of the micro-neighbourhood has received any real attention.

OMB Hearing for 39 33rd Street

This took place on July 30th and 31st 2015. The residents did an excellent job of presenting their opposition with Jason Woodman and Nick Buczuk taking the lead.
Sarah O’Connor from City Legal and Anthony Hommik from City Planning did an excellent job. The City for the first time zeroed in on the most potent Official Plan policy – nearby dwelling fit.

The Chair was Blair Taylor who was also member for 4 27th St and 6 Shamrock OMB hearings. The 4 27th hearing was completed on July 23rd.

To have either of these proposals refused needs Mr Taylor to change his tune from the 6 Shamrock decision.

His report basically concluded that if you have poor development somewhere in the neighbourhood it justifies poor development anywhere.

OMB Hearing for 18 Daisy Avenue

This hearing took place on 23 February 2015. Another travesty decision. The OMB under chair Helen Jackson approved a semi detached pair on a 45 feet lot increasing the density from 0.35 permitted to 1.00.

Now we will have the densest, smallest lots in North Long Branch because she thought this was the emerging character. She must have missed the evidence on the Official Plan! (PL 141055)

18 Ash Committee of Adjustment

A surprising result on the surface. About half a dozen residents had negotiated with the developer’s designer to have a more traditional appearance and supported the proposal from 0.35 density to 0.59.

However it was refused by the Committee. This was the same developer that deliberately and illegally destroyed 7 mature healthy trees at 2 27th Street.

Meetings with Planning Staff

I have two meetings set up for this month to meet with senior officials on Local Planning and Committee of Adjustment matters.

Pre Submission Meetings

I have been involved in two cases where the potential applicant has consulted with neighbours recently before submission. This is a good sign. In one case it could lead to a complete refashioning of a new house.

Land Assemblies

On the grapevine it has been learned that the car dealerships north of Lake Shore Blvd will be redeveloped and St Agnes Church and Hogle Funeral Home are being purchased for redevelopment. Any definite information on this would enable those affected to influence proposals early in the process. Perhaps the Councillor’s Office could follow up on this one. Feel free to make a request.

Planning Bill 57

The chief feature affecting Long Branch is the revised definition of “minor” as in variance. This will be before the Legislature this Fall.

Review of OMB

No timelines have been established so I predict this will not be considered until 2016. That does not stop people from submitting to planningconsultation@ontario.ca. We may have a Local Appeal Board within a year and the City will be holding public meetings on this before a report is tabled in November.

I have already made a couple of submissions, one based on the OMB critique below:

THE OMB’s SEVEN DEADLY SINS

1) The OMB is an arms length body and therefore should not be politically influenced. However the Board put too much weight on Provincial Intensification policies at the expense of Toronto’s Official Plan policies which state that neighbourhood character is more important than intensification. This is entirely within Provincial Policies as the Official Plan conforms to them. The cornerstone strategy in the Official Plan directs intensification away from neighbourhoods. There is no planning legitimacy to any of the severance approvals in Long Branch. Yet the Province overrule the Committee of Adjustment and Planning Department not to mention strong opposition to those negatively affected about 75% of the time.

2) The contest between a rich and knowledgeable development industry against the poor unknowledgeable citizen is grossly unfair. The OMB takes no account of this or their own mandate on fairness.

3) The OMB is so naive that they do not realise the deep conflict of development planner’s evidence. No one is allowed to mention this at a hearing.

4) The OMB relies on expert witnesses who clearly do not tell the whole truth. They skim over or not mention policies that harm their case and emphasise policies that help them. This is the basis the OMB can say black is white and frequently do. This is illustrated in the decision on 48 35th Street. (PL140100). Since there is no expert evidence to contradict the developer’s planner, the Chair simply parroted his opinion which naturally avoids any awkward policies from the Official Plan. Simple matters like conditions which residents requested were ignored. Maybe she lost her notes!

5) The OMB’s approach ignores the Official Plan policies, zoning intent and definition of minor and all the legal and planning framework. I am puzzled why they ignore the Divisional court De Gasperis ruling that minor refers to size and impact. The hearing officers in Long Branch have no planning expertise and cannot comprehend urban design. The only one who was a qualified planner (but not well versed) approved 168 Lake Promenade, the worst decision so far along with 2 27th Street. Fortunatlety member Atcheson is no longer a Board member.

6) The OMB tends to treat citizens with contempt. This has led to much relevant evidence not being presented.

7) The OMB is in practice unaccountable. The Ombudsman simply says it is the system that is at fault. The Divisional Courts are out of reach for ordinary citizens.

I have given evidence at several OMB hearings recently. I was not allowed to give expert evidence despite having far broader and balanced expertise than qualified expert planners. I was labelled activist despite supporting the Committee of Adjustment and Planning Department.

As a qualified planner I can tell you none of the decisions to approve were based on good planning or deferred to common sense and rationality.

The Province is the appropriate place to deal with appeals. A long time ago the OMB did a good job. Not any more. The whole process has been skewed mostly by the development industry with the collusion of the OMB.

Few people have faith that the Government will change the culture of the OMB despite a review coming this fall. That is why the the City of Toronto is using its power to create its own Local Appeal Board that could conceivably be operational within a year.

However that leaves the rest of the Province at the mercy of a body supremely unfit for making planning decisions.

The Province could easily change to the English model which has worked satisfactorily for over 60 years. Here professional planners make reasoned decisions from a planning rather than legal perspective. It is essential that planning evidence be analysed critically by a well seasoned planner to make any sense at all. This can also be done by written representation which is much more affordable than hearings.

The OMB is a sham and embarrassment to all Ontarians. Last week’s sermon preached “Confront tyranny”!

 

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