Conserving Long Branch Quality of Life – November 2015 Update from David Godley

David Godley writes:

Greetings from one of the prettiest and historic neighbourhoods in Toronto. We are doing our best to keep it that way but it takes an enormous effort for even small improvements.
Here are some things which are happening at the moment in our neighbourhood.

1. 39 Fairfield, OMB decision

6 units have been approved in a detached house on a 50 feet wide lot.
3 units were already permitted as they were in existence before the bylaw came into force in 1964.
Illegal units have existed for decades.

The Chair (Bruce) has planning qualifications but failed to ask the development planner relevant questions. This was particularly important as Planning Department staff were not present.

The Planning Department opposed as did the Committee of Adjustment but the Councillor was not asked to provide planning and legal staff to be present as the residents assumed it would happen automatically.

Long Branch citizens were hung out to dry. This must never happen again. A role perhaps for the emerging Neighbourhood Association.

The decision stated that in light of no contrary planning evidence the application would be approved based on development planner’s evidence.

Resident’s views are therefore irrelevant. The chair might as well have cancelled the hearing at the outset.

The Planning Department were also criticised for not doing a “fulsome ” report which thanks to Neil Cresswell they are now doing.

The OMB system of appeal stinks. (see next item)

2. Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Appraisal

Based on participation in 9 recent Long Branch hearings by yours truly.

The OMB is the appeal body for planning matters from the decisions of the Committee of Adjustment (COA) – smaller scale issues like severances and variances.

The OMB approved all applications. The Planning Department recommended refusal on all cases. The COA, a City appointed body, refused all but one. Strong opposition to all proposals was voiced by residents.

The OMB has often been controversial but only recently has it become an arm of the development industry with decisions much less impartial than a decade ago.

The OMB relies on highly conflicted development planners who are handsomely rewarded by their employers to act as advocates for inappropriate development.

They twist the Official Plan which is very clear in its meaning; how can a development planner with no comprehension of urban design or public participation possibly know what is in the Planning Departments mind as to the intent of the Official Plan (OP).

They also gloss over or ignore key components of the Official Plan. They invent the intent of the zoning bylaw to suit themselves. They exaggerate what minor means despite the Divisional Court decision known as Degasperis (not overridden by the North Barrie Plaza case) supporting that minor must be both impact and size.

They ignore the impact on neighbours when commenting on desirability despite rights being transferred to the development lot and away from neighbour’s lots. Relying on development planner’s good will is farcical. Perhaps the Canadian Institute of Planners should investigate.

In all these cases the Planning Department and residents comments may have been heard but no weight given to them. Residents are sometimes treated with undisguised contempt particularly by two individual hearing officers. All residents are treated with contempt in the decisions.

The OMB place private interests (it is all about money) over the public good and are consequently not fit for purpose.

A better name might be the Orwellian Municipal Board as they operate in a fantasyland where good planning is unrecognised.

Non conformity to the OP equals conformity; the intent of the zoning bylaw is overlooked; minor variances are major and bad planning is good.

The community has no say and the Planning Department is seen as out of touch and ignored. Confidence is wrongly put on opportunists acting for rich developers. The OMB is either naive or corrupt.

Any decision without the OMB’s input would be better whether it is Local Area Boards, eliminating hearings de novo or having no appeal at all.

The Planning Act and planning in Ontario has been compromised. The OMB have inflicted great damage on communities in Long Branch (as well as all over Toronto) by yielding to financial interests of those not even part to the local community. It is time for the broken OMB system to be thrown out as it is beyond repair. Let them swim with the dodos!

It is up to the Province to move quickly. The have already once been derailed by the building industry on having a review of the OMB. Now is the time to make amends in an upcoming long overdue review.

3. Long Branch Neighbourhood Association (LBNA) Notice of Community meeting.

A piece of Long Branch history will start on November 30, 2015. Be part of the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association initiation!

A community meeting, organised by Brian Liberty, a resident of Long Branch, will be held as follows:

Date: 30 November 2015 (Monday)
Time: 7pm to 8.30pm
Place: Humber College South, Room L1017,
(Building L is behind Tim Horton’s south of the Assembly Hall)

All those interested are welcome.

The meeting will be followed up with another meeting on December 7 (Monday evening) for those who wish to actively participate.

The purpose of the association is to conserve the character of Long Branch and enhance the community.

As we know there are planning issues but these will not be discussed on the 30th. They will be dealt with by the Association.

Rather it is intended to find a group of people to participate in a Neighbourhood Association.

A December 7 evening meeting is planned for those interested in taking an active part.

Mimico Residents Association, who have set up a successful group, will be present.

The Long Branch group formed will be able to formulate a way forward for the association.

There is a wealth of talent in Long Branch. People are passionate about the neighbourhood.

Get to know your neighbours. Community involvement is rewarding.

Publicity will also be through flyers delivered door to door. Anyone wishing to help with this task please contact me.

A few people have volunteered already!

Please feel free to contact me about any aspect of this meeting.

David Godley 416-255-0492

4. 33 42nd and 58 Ash.

These two severance applications for 3 storey soldier houses are coming up at 3pm 19 November Committee of Adjustment meeting.

Cathy Richardson a neighbour is organising a petition of objection on 33, helped by Diane Cusimano. Let me know if anyone could accompany Cathy to give moral and/or technical support as this process is new to her.

I know of no objectors to 58 Ash. I have commented to COA (attached) on both applications. I have requested the Councillor’s office to support refusal although have had no confirmation yet.

5. 56 Ash

Application for two more soldier houses have been recently submitted.

6. 40 38th

This application (2 soldiers) comes up on December 3 2015 COA.

7. 24 33rd

A pair of semis proposed in the application.
I am meeting with neighbour this coming week.

8. 9 Atherton

Refused by COA and appealed to OMB. House is still for sale.

This would be difficult for even the OMB to approve and there is a strong group of residents opposing led by Christine Mercado ably abetted by Liz Read.

A request to our Councillor to provide legal and planning staff is needed if not already done.

9. 97 27th St

The appeal to the OMB is to be heard Jan 14 2015 10am at the OMB offices 655 Bay.
An opportunity to see the Board in action.

10. 65 Laburnham

The COA has already approved soldier houses on the two lots to the west.
A developer owns the property and is expected to apply for the 5th and 6th in a row shortly.

11. Long Branch Trust idea

Mark Davidson has suggested the following.

“I had an idea I wanted to run by you. What is the possibility of setting up something like a ‘Long Branch Trust’ that would bid against developers?

The trust would contain, at a minimum, a real estate lawyer, a lawyer who knows development law, an architect, and a contractor, plus investors (perhaps the city itself would participate through some kind of heritage program or something similar).

Everyone would be committed to preserving the character of Long Branch, and though the trust would potentially be outbid by developers, in some cases it might be able to purchase the home and rebuild or add on in ways consistent with the area. Since the trust wouldn’t be as concerned with profit as developers, it might win since its price margins would be lower.

At any rate, even if this isn’t viable, and may be something that’s already been considered, it’s a way of thinking about other ways to respond to the destruction of our area’s character.

I’d be happy to meet with Mark Grimes to discuss this.”

This could be done individually or through LBNA.

12. Lakeshore Planning Council Corporation (LPCC)

This is a volunteer body that looks after the planning interests of the overall Lakeshore area – Long Branch, Alderwood, New Toronto, Mimico and Humber Bay Shores. The Chair Tim Dobson lives in Long Branch.

It has been going since the early 1990s and drove the opposition to housing on the Lakeshore Hospital Grounds.

LPCC are concentrating their efforts on Mimico where massive densities are being proposed.

They support a transport hub at the Christie plant for GO buses and trains, Humber loop and buses with high end offices and research labs (jobs) and no residential.

They recently passed a motion to have proposed elevations circulated with COA notices as well as the street facade showing abutting houses to scale.

As it is, notices are basically a foreign language to most people as they are in legalese.

13. Vincent Massey School, 68 Daisy

Despite an unclear location on the notice about 30 citizens attended. Some people never made the meeting. 73 4 storey town houses are proposed around the old school building.
Issues revolved around traffic and parking, height and streetscape among others.

Heritage designation of the 3 storey school which is fully used for daycare was discussed as well as how to fund the purchase of the building and surrounds from Dunpar.

The gym would be demolished according to an understanding between Dunpar and the daycare (200 children). For more details contact tskelto@toronto.ca at the Planning Department.

14. Round Table on Mediation within the COA process

Long Branch has been invited to participate by CORRA the umbrella group for neighbourhood associations through LPCC, a member.

One spot has been registered for Long Branch but the date has not been fixed.
This could be an item for the emerging LBNA depending on timing.

15. “Neighbourhoods” policy wording in the Official Plan

There is strong concern that the proposed wording will be too loose and not strictly technical.

This may mean that the OMB has flexibility to interpret in an incorrect manner.

The wording has not been finalised although we should be able to view a copy on line next week in the Planning Report to the Planning and Growth Management Meeting at City Hall.

Also Planning should be reporting on the proposed Local Area Board to replace the OMB on COA matters soon.

[Please refer to an earlier post:]

Comments from David Godley regarding discussion related to Official Plan: Neighbourhood policies, Section 4.15 

Enjoy the beautiful autumn weather as it may be next April when we get pleasanter days. And that is optimistic even though we have been promised a sunnier political climate!

Please feel free to contact me on any of these items and supply news as it unfolds.

David

 

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