Conserving Long Branch – January 2017 Update from David Godley

Photo source: David Godley

Photo source: David Godley

Update:

We’ve had a question regarding what the De Gasperis decision, which David has referred to from time to time, means.

David writes:

“De Gasperis is the Divisional Court decision which says minor means small in size and small in impact. You can google it and get the Aird Bayliss summary.

“Minor has been used as 10% rule of thumb for 50 years since Minor was
defined in the Planning Act in 1946.”

[End of update]

 

A previous, widely read post featuring text and photos from David Godley is entitled:

Long Branch Urban Design Guidelines Pilot Project – Illustrated Analysis Grid prepared by David Godley

The following January 2017 message is from David Godley:

Welcome to 2017.

2016 has been a grim year for planning matters in our neighbourhood. Long Branch has been billed “Muskoka in the City” after its cottage origins and beautiful mature trees.

But insensitive intensification is increasing and we are losing many mature trees.

Character is in various states of devastation across the City. We are still trying to get figures that purportedly give Ward 6 easily the most severances of the 44 wards.

The OMB rotten apple has contaminated other groups such as Committees of Adjustment who are playing havoc with the Official Plan and developers who ever increase their desired density.

The November 3 COA meeting resembled a kangaroo court with verdicts apparently already decided and questions undermining presenters rather than probing.

In Mississauga development is driven by the community. In Toronto development is driven by the development industry.

Individual citizens have been abused by the OMB and are increasingly abused by Committees of Adjustment.

The ignored and alienated community cannot help being pessimistic and aggrieved but they still keep battling on when so much seems to be lost.

Thank you to all who played a part in 2016.

However, like capitalism, when it has gone too far (according to the head of McKinsey, global management consultants), there are seeds of hope for the future.

Local Area Bodies could act as saviours if they slough off the OMB’s bad habits.

Relief could come for Committee of Adjustment applications if a fixed figure for density increases is applied by the City.

Both the Urban Design Guidelines and the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association could push us over the top towards real planning and reinforcing neighbourhood character.

Sarah Rogers, the temporary (18 months) Secretary Treasurer of the Committee of Adjustment is busy collecting data by studying files and interviewing key players including Committee of Adjustment members and Councillors.

On December 19th representatives from the Long Branch Neighbourhood Association met with Sarah. She will move to an analysis stage at some unknown point in the future.

Ongoing Training of Committee of Adjustment members (highly necessary to understand both planning and their role) is on her mind.

Reading Chief Planner’s tweets gives some great ideas and is written with a positive attitude. Just google Jennifer Keesmaat.

All the best for your next trip around the sun.

David

Contents

1) OMB Review

2) General Updates

3) Specific Updates

*

1) Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) Review – Submission from a Long Branch Resident

To the OMB Review Committee,

Thank you for this opportunity to submit my thoughts regarding the effect of OMB decisions on Toronto, and specifically, on the neighbourhood in which I have lived for six years, Long Branch.

My understanding of the city’s Official Plan is that it aims to maintain a sense of ‘place’ for the people who live in Toronto’s neighbourhoods. Although an abstract concept, it is possible to break down the meaning of ‘place’ by identifying its constituents.

Recently I did some research on the history of Long Branch by browsing the Toronto.ca website. I ended up at the ‘Discover’ section of the Etobicoke Historical Society. There the Society lists three things that it deems most significant to characterising the area: people, events, and places.

These three aspects of the Etobicoke Historical Society’s characterisation of the region provide a sense of how to understand the notion of ‘place’. A place, in a broad sense, is a community that shares a history that was created by the people who lived there, the things they did, and the buildings they lived in. Of these three, only the physical structures provide a living connection to Etobicoke as a ‘place’. Physical structures on their own don’t create a sense of place, but taken together, they can and do create an ethos or feeling of place that residents can experience and even embrace.

Toronto is known internationally as one of the most diverse cities in the world. What makes us diverse is a combination of the diversity of our people, the diversity of the way our people live their unique lives, and the diversity of our neighbourhoods.

By ‘neighbourhood’ I am referring to more than mere physical boundaries on a map. That is an ‘area’, and for an area to become a neighbourhood it needs a unique character or personality. When I moved into Long Branch the neighbourhood was described as “Muskoka in the City”. I had come from downtown Toronto and was amazed at how different Long Branch looked and felt from other places. My impression of the neighbourhood was largely the result of the architecture: small charming post-war homes with large lots and neat gardens. It was like being outside of the city.

Today the neighbourhood is being altered in a negative way and its unique character is being eroded. The individual homes that collectively constitute the neighbourhood’s distinctive personality are being replaced by relatively massive houses completely lacking in design or any sense of place. Looking at these new homes being approved by the OMB one would not be able to tell if the home was in Long Branch, Burlington, or any other suburb with mass produced housing.

None of this is to say that the neighbourhood cannot or should not change. Rather, I am saying that it is not only possible but also desirable to shape changes in ways that respect the neighbourhood’s existing character. It is good for the neighbourhood, it is good for city planning, and it is good for the city as a whole.

What I am asking for is consistent with existing legislation, namely the Official Plan. Given that the legislative framework is clear that development must respect the existing character of the neighbourhood, one has to ask why this isn’t happening. Why aren’t the laws being enforced?

Citizens of Toronto and Ontario elect our representatives because we trust them, and a significant part of that trust is that they ensure the rule of law. This not only includes their own actions as individuals, but the actions of individuals who staff the offices and various Boards and Panels that are tasked with ensuring that the areas of activity they oversee conform to the law in practice.

As individual citizens we rely on each of you to enforce the law. It is an honour that we bestow upon you, and in this case, you are failing us. As Long Branch residents we are working to preserve the character of our neighbourhood and this effort connects to other worthy goals.

With each house that is torn down a tremendous amount of waste is created, not only in the rubble that was once a home, but in the massive amounts of energy and materials required to build another home. With each small home that is replaced by a larger one, the cost of housing rises and the city becomes that much less affordable to the average person. Ironically, the Mayor promised not to raise taxes, and yet, by allowing developers to double the cost of housing the city is by extension doubling the amount of tax home-owners have to pay. I understand that from an economic perspective this might be good for the city’s revenue stream, but from an ethical perspective allowing the cost of housing to increase beyond what most people can afford so that property tax revenue can increase is a highly unfair and regressive way to tax individuals. It’s a kind of double tax when one considers the increasing sizes of mortgages that people must pay down.

There is a kind of cultural and political arrogance in allowing perfectly functional homes to be torn down when people in our city and around the world lack adequate housing. In my view, it is shameful to show such disregard for the larger economic, environmental and social context with which issues of housing connect.

As our representatives and individuals charged with upholding the rule of law, I ask that you give this issue the attention it deserves and place yourselves on the side of working to protect Toronto. At the end of the day, do you want to see yourself as someone who used your official position to erode the diversity of our great city, or do you want to see yourself as someone who did what you could to guide the city’s growth in ways that honour the law and the diverse people who live under it?

Sincerely,

Mark Davidson, LL.B., Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Law and Society Program
Sir Wilfrid Laurier University

[End of text]

Note: The Province are aiming at March/April for draft legislation according to our MPP Peter Milcvzyn

2) General Updates

a) All Committee of Adjustment Meetings will be videoed starting January 12 2017. Meetings will be held for Etobicoke applications every 4 weeks to the end of summer.

b) Urban Design Study. Notices will be coming out shortly for a community meeting at the beginning of February. Delay was caused by discussions between Planning Department and Consultant and issues nave now been resolved.

c) Long Branch Neighbourhood Association. Brian Liberty’s family are back to being on an even keel so a general meeting is forthcoming.

d) Len Ford Apartments redevelopment. An application is expected to be made shortly. The new Senior Planner s will handle the file (Sipo Maphangoh).

e) New Planner Olivia Antonel, from North York Committee of Adjustment, will assist Daniel and Travis in making comments on Etobicoke York COA applications; if they have time in between OMB hearings!

f) Mississauga’s approach to civic engagement stands in start contrast to the track record for Toronto

Jaan Pill 416-722-6630 Preserved Stories

g) The Local Appeal Body members have been nominated and will be dealt with by Council. LAB should be up and running in the next few months if all goes according to plan. [David Godley has included, in his January 2017 message to his email list, an attached file related to the LAB; please contact David if you wish a copy of the attachment.]

From the people appointed there are high hopes that we can get out of the grave the OMB have dug for planning.

h) OMB decisions will be issues only by email starting January 1st. Appeal fees rose from $125 per severance or severance to $300 with an addtional $25 each for variance applications related to the severance.

h) Letter to MPP Peter Milczyn (from me on minor variance definition) below:

Letter from David Godley to MPP Peter Milczyn

Thank you for holding the meeting about the OMB at the Long Branch Legion.

Please to see you are going ahead with allowing municipalities the option to define a minor variance.

The current definition of the City of Toronto is “Small changes or exceptions to existing land use or development restrictions contained in the zoning bylaw are called minor variances.”

This jives with the Divisional Court “De Gasperis” and what was the practice for 50 years.

Now the system has gone haywire as you will have noted in my submission to the OMB Review.

I also attach Mark Davidson’s review to get a more overall perspective.

If Toronto were to define minor including a 20% (for example) limit on density the COA could get back to normality.

Denser proposals would go through rezoning and have the full attention they deserve in the form of appropriate participation and full rationale from the Planning Department and other relevant departments.

What I want to make sure is that a specific figure could be permitted to be used in the definition. If the Planning Act Amendment could specifically reference this it would make it easier for Municipalities.

They would more unlikely to be challenged through legal mechanisms.

The following is symbolic showing the development industry getting a free ride on the Public’s back.

Planning has lost the will of the people principle.

All the best for Christmas and the next trip around the sun.

David

[End of text]

*

3) Specific Updates

Applications for severance and variances

32 36th Street, (2) 3 storey buildings, soldier houses 0.35 to 0.81 density with many variances. The perfect example of non fit at huge density increase. No COA date.

75 Forty First Street, (2) 2 storey buildings, one existing and one proposed from density 0.35 to 0.63. Two storeys is a better fit for the street than 3 storeys but the density and mass of the new one is too great. No COA date

11 Garden Place, (2) 2 storey long buildings from 0.35 density to 0.70. Two storeys is a better fit for the street than 3 storeys although the density is too high and the mass too great. February 9 COA Hearing.

Applications from Dec 8 Committee of Adjustment

81 26th St. Deferred, Awaiting Community Meeting

22 33rd St. Deferred, Awaiting Community Meeting

OMB Hearings

80 Twenty Third Street, January 4 2017.
2 Ash Avenue, January 23 2017
68 Daisy Avenue, 73 4 storey townhouse units, February 24 2017
2 Shamrock Avenue, March 8 2017
82 Twenty Seventh Street, March 21 2017

9 Meaford , April 11 2017

5 Ramsgate, Awaiting Date

20 Elton, Awaiting Date

24 Thirty Third, Awaiting Date

40 37th, Awaiting Date

14 Villa, Awaiting Date

OPA 320, Awaiting Date

Those concerned with applications that were approved by the COA and supported by Planning should keep in touch with Legal to ensure the hiring of an independent planner in plenty of time.

Contact the Councillors office for contacts.

David Godley, an independent planning voice

[End of text from David Godley]

 

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