Average Joe vs. The Condo

The Beach Under Seige

After community meeting, feeling better? Didn’t think so.

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OKAY neighbours, how was it for you? I’m talking about the community meeting with Sandra Bussin, the City Planner Tine Major and the developers of the proposed six-storey condo building at 1864-1876 Queen Street East at Rainsford Road.

Did you get the answers you were seeking? Did you feel better for venting your spleen? Feel empowered by the process? Calmer?

Didn’t think so.

What happens next is that the developer and their city planning pal Tine Major will go away and think of ways that they can modify the proposal to make it more palatable.

There might be another community consultation, or there might not. I’m guessing there won’t be.

As I’ve said before, there is only one way to defeat a development of this nature and that is to fight it at the Ontario Municipal Board, a body often criticized as being pro-development but which is pretty good at interpreting law.

There are strong grounds to fight this development on the basis that it is not in keeping with the processes and policies outlined in the city’s new Official Plan.

That’s what we as a community should be working towards. It’s expensive to launch an effective appeal to the OMB, but it has and can be done. Lawyers aren’t really that important in the process, but expert witnesses like former city planners are important — and they cost big bucks.

I think this issue touches every resident of the Beach who cares about their community, so perhaps there’s a case for a Beach-wide fund raising drive. Call it The Beach Preservation Protection Fund!

Indeed, it’s an issue that affects other neighbourhoods in the city. How? Because the issue is an unaccountable city planning department. One which is willing to make precedent-setting decisions unilaterally without the community input called for in the Official Plan.

The target in any appeal should be the city planning department and not the developer. The city planning department has acted inconsistently in applying the Official Plan. That’s obvious in this case and there is evidence all over the city and in prior OMB testimony to back this up.

Inconsistency in applying an Official Plan is intolerable — for developers and residents. It means no one can ever have reasonable certainty about what is or is not permitted in a particular neighbourhood.

This issue is very important for the entire Beach community. If this development proceeds, Queen Street East in the Beach could conceivably be transformed into a tunnel of six-storey or higher buildings on both sides of the street for it’s entire length.

Don’t laugh. The centre of downtown Toronto was once made of one- and two-storey buildings.

The point is that good planning requires comprehensive planning. You don’t just designate a street a major thoroughfare and target it for intensification without thinking through how you will do it. That’s why the Official Plan calls for Avenue Studies to be done along streets targeted for intensification.

No plan has ever been done in the Beach, one of the city’s most important neighbourhoods. Blame your councillor Sandra Bussin for that. She’s simply failed to do her job and put the jewel that is the Beach at the mercy of infill developers and a broken planning department.

So the only way to fight these infill developments from gradually overwhelming our community like a cancer is to fight the city planning department at the OMB and make them follow proper process and their own policies, as enunciated in their own brand new Official Plan.

The city planning department is out of control, and doesn’t believe that Beach residents have a right to have a say on what their neighbourhood should look like. Where three or four stories was once the ceiling for buildings in this charming neighbourhood, they’ve unilaterally determined that six storeys is the new height limit.

Hello! That’s not their call. The Official Plan says so.

Written by Average Joe

March 25, 2008 at 11:59 pm

Issues raised at the community meeting

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Average Joe couldn’t be there due to his general apathy for these things, but here are notes from the meeting forwarded by a fellow resident.

  • The meeting was fairly well attended, but there were many empty seats.
  • The vast majority of residents at the meeting indicated by a show of hands that they oppose any building higher than four stories in the Beach — which has been the standard for many years.
  • City planner Tine Major admitted in response to a question that she supports six-storey buildings on Queen Street in the Beach.
  • The developer and Major, the city planner on this file, pointed to the fact that there is already one six-storey building in the Beach. This is the building across from Kew Gardens Park where the Green & Shady store is. However, one resident at the meeting pointed out that the “Green & Shady” building has nothing opposite it on the South side of the street except the park, so the street scape is not negatively affected. In the case of the proposed six-storey building at Queen and Rainsford road, which has a five-storey condo block immediately across the street, the proposed development will create a “downtown feel” to the street.
  • There was a lot of concern about the impact of the additional traffic that would be created by the commercial stores/restaurants etc that will be on the ground floor and the fact that the underground parking for 40-odd vehicles will exit in the laneway. Residents asked for a traffic study, but Bussin and Major said only major developments required a traffic study. Someone pointed out that the difference between minor and major is probably just two units and a very subjective standard. The possibility of making the underground parking exit to Rainsford Road was floated, but residents said whatever solution is found should be based on a traffic and parking impact study.
  • Shadow, privacy and line of sight were raised by a few residents who live closest to the proposed development. One man said he used to be able to see the lake from his home, which is the second house north of the proposed development on the East side of Rainsford. He can no longer see the lake since the new condo building was erected on the South side of Queen. And now, if the proposed six-storey condo block goes ahead, he will not see the sun. A woman who lives next door also complained about the impact of shadow, and a resident raised the issue of the shade impact on trees and people’s gardens.
  • Some people seemed more worried about temporary inconvenience during construction than about the permanent impacts. They wanted to know how they would be able to access the lane during construction. (While this is obviously important, it is a temporary thing.)
  • People seemed to have a lot of difficulty comprehending the size of the building. They asked repeatedly for comparisons to the Starbucks building, which is three stories. The architect said there was a two storey difference, which is not accurate. The proposed building is three stories higher.
  • Although Tine Major’s preliminary report made much of the green features in the building, architect Richard Ziegler made it clear that the green features are very much up in the air. He could not commit that any of them would actually be implemented.
  • One resident raised concerns about what uses would be allowed in the ground floor commercial units. He asked if a by-law could be drawn up to limit the commercial uses and also ban the use of boulevards for bars or restaurants. He said there was such a restriction in place for the south side commercial premises, but Sandra Bussin said the lack of restaurants on the south side of the street was due to the developer’s own policies and nothing to do with bylaws. (Average Joe recalls that the condo developers did say at a meeting several years ago that the city had put some severe restrictions on the type of tenants they could have in the commercial units, so me thinks Bussin isn’t well informed.)
  • Two people said they supported the building. One argued that there is a housing shortage and this type of development is required. ( Average Joe wants to know what genius said that because, according to the city planning department, there’s no shortage of upmarket condos in the city. What’s needed is more low-cost housing, which is actually what will be demolished to make way for the expensive condos.) The resident says it is not clear exactly who these supporters are because no one from the neighbourhood recognized them. Also, it should be noted that no one at the meeting said they did not want to see any development of the property. Rather the arguments were about the size, height, impact and appropriateness of the proposed development so close to a neighbourhood.

Sounds like the meeting was generally a waste of time, as these things usually are. I’m not sure why the city bothers because they never actually listen to the input anyway.

Oh, it just occurred to me, do city planners get paid extra to attend these meetings? Is that why they do them?

What are the next steps? Well, this is how the city explains it (I’ve emphasized the part that I think is most relevant at the very end):

Community Consultation Meeting
Although not required by the Planning Act, a community consultation meeting is held on almost every Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment application. The meeting is organized by Planning staff and usually attended by the Ward Councillor. The meeting provides staff an opportunity to outline the planning process to the local community and provide developers an opportunity to publicly present their proposal. It also provides the local community an opportunity to comment on the proposal. This input is taken into account by City staff when discussing revisions to your proposal.

Response to Applicant
The Planner co-ordinates responses from the circulation, political input received through the consideration of the Preliminary Report and any comments from the public. These responses are then given to you for revising your proposal.

• While the Planner may provide you with early responses from City divisions, the STAR process requires the Planner to give you a response within 9 weeks of the application submission.

Application Revision and Resubmission
In response to the comments on your initial submission, you may revise to the proposal, provide additional information or direct that further work be prepared. You should co-ordinate this material with, and provide a second submission to, the Planner. In order to facilitate the City’s review, you should include a covering letter with all resubmissions. This letter should indicate how and where the proposal has been revised and, if appropriate, why any requested revisions were not made.

• The target timelines of the STAR process assume you will make an appropriate resubmission to the City within 6 weeks of receiving the comments on the initial submission. Should this not occur, the STAR target timelines will not be met.

It is during this step that the value of pre-application consultation and the submission of a complete application is realized. The time and cost incurred by you from additional cycles of revisions and resubmissions can be significantly reduced by these actions.

Recirculation, Consultation, Further Revisions and Finalization of Application
This step in the process involves:
• Recirculating your revised proposal to the departments and agencies that need to review the changes.
• Holding further discussions over new material and/or technical matters.
• Conducting any further consultations with the Ward Councillor or the local community.
• Undertaking any subsequent resubmissions and recirculations arising from these considerations.
• These steps may be repeated until your application is finalized.

Public Meeting at Community Council
The Planning Act requires that the City hold a Public Meeting to consider all applications for amendments to the Official Plan or Zoning By-laws. This responsibility has been assigned to the four Community Councils and, if the application has City-wide significance, the Planning and Transportation Committee.

Once your application(s) has been finalized, the City will issue a formal notice of the Public Meeting in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act or as directed by Community Council through the Preliminary Report. The City also requires the sign posted on the property changed to indicate the date and time of the Public Meeting.

A Final Report that contains staff recommendations on your application(s) is prepared for Community Council. The purpose of the Public Meeting is to consider the staff report and provide a public forum for debate on the merits of your application(s). You will have an opportunity to present your proposal, the public can write in or attend to make their views known and Community Council has the opportunity to evaluate your application(s).

City Council Decision
Community Councils and/or the Planning and Transportation Committee will make recommendations on your application(s) to City Council for a final decision. Based on these recommendations, City Council can amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-laws through
enactment of an amending By-law.

• The STAR process target for City Council to consider your application(s) is within 8 months of submission.

Plan or By-law Amendment Comes Into Effect
The Planning Act provides an administrative and appeal process to City Council’s decision on amending the Official Plan and/or Zoning By-laws.

• The City must issue a notice of approval within 15 days of City Council’s decision.

• After this notice has been issued, there is a 20 day period within which a party can appeal this approval to the Ontario Municipal Board.

• If no appeal is submitted, the amendment(s) comes into effect.

A similar administrative and appeal procedure applies should City Council refuse your application(s).

Written by Average Joe

March 25, 2008 at 11:41 pm

How the city planning process works

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Okay, maybe the headline is an oxymoron.

The process doesn’t actually work unless you’re a rich developer. Yeah, Joe is cynical, but he recognizes that not everyone is, so you might be interested in how the process works and what the timelines are.

The following explanation is taken from a City of Toronto guide for developers (there’s no guide for average joes who just want to know how the City, developers and unaccountable appointees go about screwing up perfectly good neighbourhoods).

I direct your attention to the final phase of the process — the last resort. This is where you appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, an expensive proposition for average joes. One residents’ group recently had to raise $142,000 for their OMB fight. So if you really want to oppose this thing, start fund raising. Mrs. Joe is quite the baker, so she could contribute some muffins for a bake sale (just kidding about the baking). Seriously, I’m not kidding about fund raising. Look at what’s happening with the Beach Lakefront Neighbourhood Association on the other side of the beach with another condo application, that’s what they’re doing.

Official Plan and Zoning Amendment Applications

Application Purpose

Official Plan Amendment
If you wish to use, alter or develop your property in a way that does not conform with the Official Plan, you must apply for a site specific Official Plan Amendment. Any change to the Official Plan requires an Official Plan Amendment application.

Zoning By-law Amendment
If you wish to use, alter or develop your property in a way that does not conform with the Zoning By-law, you must apply for a site-specific amendment to the Zoning By-law. You can do this through either a Zoning By-law Amendment application (commonly called a rezoning) or a Minor Variance application.

• Rezonings are used for major revisions to the By-law such as land use changes or significant increases in permitted building heights and development densities.

• Minor Variances are used for issues such as small changes to building setback or parking requirements.

If you are uncertain whether your development proposal involves a rezoning or a Minor Variance, contact Planning staff. You should consider applying for a Project Review that will identify any features of your proposal that do not comply with the Zoning By-law.

Section 37 of the Planning Act allows the City, through a rezoning, to grant additional height and/or density beyond what is otherwise permitted in the Zoning By-law in return for facilities, services or matters provided by the owner and referred to as community benefits. The proposed larger development must represent good planning. You should discuss with Planning staff the applicability of Section 37 to your proposal and the type and scope of the community benefits you could provide. If community benefits are appropriate, they will be secured through an agreement registered on title.

Combined Applications
Often you may have to apply to amend the Zoning By-law and the Official Plan at the same time. In most cases, development proposals that require a Zoning By-law Amendment also involve Site Plan Control approval. If you submit these applications at the same time for the same property they will be reviewed together.

You may submit Committee of Adjustment applications at any of the four Customer Service counters. For faster service, you are encouraged to submit your application to the office in the area where your property is located.

What is an Official Plan?

Section 17 of the Planning Act requires the City to have an Official Plan. The Official Plan is a legal document approved by City Council that describes policies and objectives for future land uses. The Official Plan is prepared in consultation with City residents and reflects a community vision for future change and development.

The Official Plan is a blueprint for how the City will grow over the next 30 years. It describes the location for new housing, industry, parks, office and retail areas, community services and other land uses. The Official Plan also establishes policies for the built environment, for improvements to the City’s hard services (such as transit, roads, sewers, etc.) and for the protection of the City’s natural environment.

What is a Zoning By-law?

Section 34 of the Planning Act grants the City authority to implement land use controls through Zoning By-laws. The Zoning By-law is the legal document that implements policies and objectives described in the Official Plan and regulates the use and development of buildings and land by:

• Stating exactly what types of land uses are permitted in various areas. Examples of these uses are residential, commercial, mixed commercial-residential, institutional and industrial.

• Outlining how the land can be developed by establishing precise standards for factors such as lot size and frontage, building setbacks, the height and built form of structures, the number and dimensions of parking and loading spaces and requirements for open space.

Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment Application Requirements

To ensure the City’s interests are met and to appropriately assess the technical aspects of your proposal, the City requires submission of a number of information items with your application(s). These are outlined below as Compulsory Requirements (those that will be required for the majority of applications) and Other Possible Requirements (those that are dependent upon the specifics of the application).

Please note:

• While these requirements exceed the minimums established in the Planning Act, they are requested by the City and other municipalities in order to undertake an adequate quality of review.

• Not all of these requirements will apply to your proposal.

• Your pre-application consultation meeting will determine which of these must be provided with your initial submission to consider your application complete.

• Only complete applications will qualify for the STAR process and the City’s commitment to the target timelines.

The level of detail required for most of the reports/studies listed below can vary widely depending on the nature of your property and your proposal. In some cases, a single-page letter from a qualified expert will be adequate, while in other situations a major study will be necessary. The requirement for, and scope of, any reports/studies can be determined during your pre-application consultation meeting. (See Appendices for further details).

Compulsory Requirements
• Application Fees
• Completed Application Form(s), including Authorization of Agent form
• Covering Letter, which briefly outlines the nature of the application(s), details of the pre-application consultations, full contents of the submission package and contact names for the application(s)
• Appropriate Plans/Drawings
• Planning Rationale
• Transportation Impact Study
• Servicing Report, including stormwater management considerations
• Arborist/Tree Preservation Report

Other Possible Requirements
• Community Services and Facilities Studies may be required for large sites that are inadequately serviced or located in areas experiencing major growth or change.
• Housing Issues Report if seeking to demolish existing rental residential properties, intensify existing rental sites, convert existing rental housing to condominium or proposing a residential development in excess of 5 hectares.
• Section 37 Community Benefits if seeking a significant increase in height or density through a rezoning.
• Computer Generated Building Mass Model.
• Pedestrian Level Wind Study if the proposal is for buildings six storeys (20 metres) or greater in height.
• Sun/Shadow Study if the proposal is for buildings six storeys (20 metres) or greater in height.
• Loading Study if the proposal is seeking to amend existing City By-law loading standards.
• Parking Study if the proposal is seeking to amend existing City By-law parking standards.
• Contaminated Site Assessment if the property is a potentially contaminated site that is going to a more sensitive land use or is in the area of influence of a former waste disposal site.
• Natural Heritage Impact Study if the proposal is likely to have impacts on the natural heritage system shown on Map 9 of the Official Plan.
• Environmental Impact Study if the proposal is likely to have impacts on aspects of the natural environment not considered in a Natural Heritage Impact Study.
• Archaeological Assessment if the property is on the City’s database of lands containing archaeological potential.
• Heritage Impact Statement (Conservation Strategy) if the property is on the City of Toronto’s Inventory of Heritage Properties, which includes both listed and designated properties.
• Other reports/studies identified through staff consultation.

Review Procedure for Official Plan Amendments, Zoning By-law Amendments and Combined Applications

This section outlines the steps the City will undertake to review your application(s). It also provides important target timeline milestones in the STAR process so you can monitor the progress of your application(s) through the process.

Pre-Application Consultation
You are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this Pre-Application consultation as it will save you time and money as you proceed through the review process. Speak to the Planning Consultant at your local district office before you complete and submit your application(s). The Planning Consultant will provide preliminary information and may direct you to other appropriate staff. This will be followed by a more formal consultation meeting arranged through a Planner. This meeting may involve staff from a number of City divisions and identifies issues of concern and concurrence, guides the content of the application submission (reports, studies, drawings, etc.) and identifies the need for any further applications or approvals.

In particular, you are strongly encouraged to undertake this consultation for proposals to convert lands in the City’s Employment Districts into residential land uses and for conversions of rental housing into condominium. The City discourages these types of applications as they do not comply with the basic policy and land use principles of the City’s Official Plan.

Submission of a Complete Application
The City will consider your application(s) to be “complete” if it is accompanied by the required information identified in this Guide and through your pre-application consultation discussions.

Submission of a complete application is crucial to the City’s commitment to meet the STAR target timelines. A complete application will allow a more efficient and comprehensive review of all supporting material by the City.

If you submit an incomplete application(s), the City may respond in a number of ways. Usually, the City will return your application and request that you submit the outstanding information.

Making your submission in person is recommended as this provides an opportunity for immediate confirmation of the completeness of your submission.

If you submit an application that meets the minimum submission requirements of the Planning Act but do not submit the additional information, the City will process your application and will not be subject to its STAR timeline commitments.

Application Circulation
Upon receiving your application, the City will review it for completeness and assign it to a STAR stream. You will receive an acknowledgement letter providing the file number(s) and stream for the application(s) and requesting that signage be erected on the property.

• Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments are streamed Complex and are targeted for resolution within 9 months from the submission of a complete application. Your application will then be circulated to a number of City divisions for technical review and comment.

• The STAR process requires that the first internal comments be provided to the Planning Division within 8 weeks of the application submission. Depending upon the circumstances of your property, various external agencies may also be asked to comment on your proposal. For example, if your property is close to a watercourse, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will be asked for their input and/or approval (a service for which the TRCA charges). If your property is next to a rail line, the appropriate rail authority will be asked to comment.

Preliminary Report
All Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment applications are presented to Community Council or Planning and Transportation Committee (if the application has city-wide significance) for review and direction through a Preliminary Report. This report provides an early opportunity to raise and discuss any issues of concern, recommends direction on the extent of community consultation and indicates the expected timing for a final report to City Council.

• The Preliminary Report will be presented to Community Council or Planning and Transportation Committee within two meeting cycles of the date you applied. Technical review of your application will continue during this process.

Community Consultation Meeting
Although not required by the Planning Act, a community consultation meeting is held on almost every Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendment application. The meeting is organized by Planning staff and usually attended by the Ward Councillor. The meeting provides staff an opportunity to outline the planning process to the local community and provide you an opportunity to publicly present your proposal. It also provides the local community an opportunity to comment on the proposal. This input is taken into account by City staff when discussing revisions to your proposal.

• The STAR process assumes this meeting will be held within two months from the date that Community Council considers the Preliminary Report.

Response to Applicant
The Planner assigned to your application(s) co-ordinates responses from the circulation, political input received through the consideration of the Preliminary Report and any comments from the public. These responses are then given to you for revising your proposal.

• While the Planner may provide you with early responses from City divisions, the STAR process requires the Planner to give you a response within 9 weeks of the application submission.

Application Revision and Resubmission
In response to the comments on your initial submission, you may revise to the proposal, provide additional information or direct that further work be prepared. You should co-ordinate this material with, and provide a second submission to, the Planner. In order to facilitate the City’s review, you should include a covering letter with all resubmissions. This letter should indicate how and where the proposal has been revised and, if appropriate, why any requested revisions were not made.

• The target timelines of the STAR process assume you will make an appropriate resubmission to the City within 6 weeks of receiving the comments on the initial submission. Should this not occur, the STAR target timelines will not be met.

It is during this step that the value of pre-application consultation and the submission of a complete application is realized. The time and cost incurred by you from additional cycles of revisions and resubmissions can be significantly reduced by these actions.

Recirculation, Consultation, Further Revisions and Finalization of Application
This step in the process involves:
• Recirculating your revised proposal to the departments and agencies that need to review the changes.
• Holding further discussions over new material and/or technical matters.
• Conducting any further consultations with the Ward Councillor or the local community.
• Undertaking any subsequent resubmissions and recirculations arising from these considerations.
• These steps may be repeated until your application is finalized.

Public Meeting at Community Council
The Planning Act requires that the City hold a Public Meeting to consider all applications for amendments to the Official Plan or Zoning By-laws. This responsibility has been assigned to the four Community Councils and, if the application has City-wide significance, the Planning and Transportation Committee.

Once your application(s) has been finalized, the City will issue a formal notice of the Public Meeting in accordance with the requirements of the Planning Act or as directed by Community Council through the Preliminary Report. The City also requires the sign posted on the property changed to indicate the date and time of the Public Meeting.

A Final Report that contains staff recommendations on your application(s) is prepared for Community Council. The purpose of the Public Meeting is to consider the staff report and provide a public forum for debate on the merits of your application(s). You will have an opportunity to present your proposal, the public can write in or attend to make their views known and Community Council has the opportunity to evaluate your application(s).

City Council Decision
Community Councils and/or the Planning and Transportation Committee will make recommendations on your application(s) to City Council for a final decision. Based on these recommendations, City Council can amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-laws through
enactment of an amending By-law.

• The STAR process target for City Council to consider your application(s) is within 8 months of submission.

Plan or By-law Amendment Comes Into Effect
The Planning Act provides an administrative and appeal process to City Council’s decision on amending the Official Plan and/or Zoning By-laws.

• The City must issue a notice of approval within 15 days of City Council’s decision.

• After this notice has been issued, there is a 20 day period within which a party can appeal this approval to the Ontario Municipal Board.

• If no appeal is submitted, the amendment(s) comes into effect.

A similar administrative and appeal procedure applies should City Council refuse your application(s).

Written by Average Joe

February 19, 2008 at 10:51 pm

Sandra Bussin to Average Joe: Get lost!

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SANDRA Bussin doesn’t want to hear from Average Joe no more.

As a courtesy, I sent her an email about my most recent post about the article in the Beach Metro Community News. You know, so that she can see what I’m saying and what others around these parts are reading.

You’d think she’d like to know, as the councillor for this ward and all that — someone with a stake in the issues.

But no, Sandra doesn’t want to hear from Average Joe. Hear no evil…

She writes: “Please refrain from sending further e-mail communications to my office and remove my e-mail from your list. Councillor Bussin /hb/dmc”

So Average Joe is officially ostracized by Sandra Bussin. But that’s okay, because being on speaking terms with her would not make a bit of difference anyway.

Bussin has no power to influence what happens in this neighbourhood. She admits as much herself. In fact, no one at the city has any real say-so anymore. It’s all a crock. The process is bogus.

The only people with any say-so are unaccountable appointees to a quasi-judicial provincial body called the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

And that is a crap shoot at the best of times, as you will learn if you follow the story of the above average joes in the Kingsway I wrote about earlier. As a follow-on, the National Post reported on Friday that these residents, who spent $142,000 fighting a developer, lost their case before the OMB. Basically, the city and their legal counsel argued the case on the wrong grounds.

Importantly, however, in the OMB ruling (PDF), which you should read if you want a sense for the issues in these kinds of cases, the panel makes some disparaging remarks about the city’s so-called “avenue studies.” Residents have been told these studies set maximum restrictions on what can happen in a neighbourhood and are supposed to give peace of mind to all.

Not so, says the panel in this case, which was widely seen as a test of the city’s new official plan and the “avenue study” process. The OMB says developers can still appeal to the OMB and the OMB reserves the right to override anything the community decides in the avenue studies. In other words, all power rests with the OMB.

Bottomline: Councillor Bussin can pretend that she matters, but she really doesn’t. She’s just there to pretend that we have a say and that there is accountability in the system.

The people with the power are the OMB. As a community, your best bet is to raise funds to go to the OMB. Start early and don’t waste your energy on people who can’t help you. Like Sandra Bussin.

Written by Average Joe

February 19, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Planning department backs condo, Bussin sits on fence

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Beach Metro Community News has written an article about the proposed development, and I think it makes it quite clear that the planning department is backing this development and that our local councillor dropped the ball by not insisting that a study be done on the impact of the zoning of Queen Street East as an Avenue in the Official Plan.

Basically, the city planning department wants to forever change the character of Queen Street East in the Beach from low-rise to mid-rise without community input. Yeah, there’ll be a public meeting, but that means nothing because a few locals mouthing off about a local issue is not the point.

This development has much bigger consequences beyond the specific site. If this 6-storey development — the highest building in The Beach — goes ahead (and it will), it sets a precedent for the entire strip of Queen Street East in the Beach.

In her whitewash preliminary report on the project, so-called planner Tine Major says that there does not appear to be opportunities for further development in the area. Obviously, she has not been to the area because she would know if she had that there are many two-storey houses on the north side of Queen between Woodbine and Kingston just like those on the proposed development site that could be demolished to make way for six, seven or eight-storey condos.

And what’s to stop an owner of a two- or three-storey commercial/residential building in The Beach demolishing it and then putting up a condo block? Nothing.

The Beach as we know it is dead.

AND THERE IS NOTHING AVERAGE JOES LIKE US CAN DO TO STOP IT. Nothing, unless you can come up with a cool $150,000 to take it to the OMB.

Here’s the story from BMCN, with remarks from me:

New six-storey development planned for Queen/Woodbine
by Carole Stimmell

Queen Street west of Woodbine appears to be the location of the next development to push the current zoning envelope. Richard Ziegler, acting for owner Frank Riedel, has applied to rezone 1864 to 1876 Queen St. E. (just east of Rainsford Road) in order to construct a six-storey mixed-use building. The building would have 28 residential units with commercial on the first floor and one level of below grade parking containing 49 spaces.

(The developer claims this is a green building. But if it is a green building, why are there almost two cars for each unit? LEED, which is a green development standard out of the US, urges developers to eliminate parking to encourage fewer vehicles and more transit use. This building is a “greenwash” project. The planning department bought it hook, line and sinker and is blinded by the hype. Look deeply and there’s actually not that much that is green about the building.)

The new building would replace six two-storey and one three-storey structures, two of which are mixed-use and five are detached houses.

(More about the current buildings is here.)

The rezoning is necessary because the current zoning only allows for development up to two times the area of the lot and a maximum height of 12 metres. The proposed development has a density of 3.9 times the area of the lot, and a height of 19.88 metres.

(19.88 meters is not the actual height. The planning department doesn’t measure to the top of the building’s “mechanicals” (elevator shafts and air conditioning units etc), which sit on top of the roof. Why they don’t measure to the top of the mechanical stacks I don’t know, because last time I checked mechanicals are not made of glass, so they cause lots of shadow. The permitted density is 2 times the lot, so the proposal is for double that. )

Leontine Major, the senior planner in charge of reviewing the application, said that the proposed building does not meet the current zoning criteria. However, under the new City of Toronto plan, the site is located on an Avenue. Avenues are “important corridors along major streets where reurbanization is anticipated and encouraged,” according to the plan. “Some of the Avenues already serve as ‘main streets’ that are focal points for the local community.” In her preliminary report, Major states that this portion of Queen Street East is such an Avenue.

While Avenue designation would normally be established through an Avenue Study, development may be permitted prior to a study if a Avenue Segment Study is done to determine the implications for the community and future development on the remainder of the Avenue.

(This Avenue issue is huge. Bussin should have pushed for a study in the Beach a long time ago. She actually agreed to do some kind of study in the Triangle at a minuted community council meeting 9 years ago, but never did. Dropped the ball! Other communities — including Queen West Triangle and O’Connor Ave.– have had “avenue studies” done where the community and developers agreed on things like heights and set backs. But in The Beach, nada. So developers are trying to get in now. They can set precedents if they move in before the community sets limits through an avenue study. The Beach character is under threat, and Bussin is dreaming of turning the whole neighbourhood into a heritage district. That’s never going to happen, and even if it did, we tear down heritage buildings in The Beach. Remember the Pavilion that stood on the old Greenwood Raceway? It was a designated Heritage building and they tore it down! To make way for condos. Fool me once…)

While the site plan review has only begun and a community consulation meeting is planned for the end of March, the Beach Triangle Residents’ Association has already expressed some concerns about the project.

In a letter to the City of Toronto Planning department dated Jan. 18, chair of the association, Ingrid Furtado, states that the neighbourhood has “become somewhat wary of the public planning process.” She points to the lengthy consulation that the community went through during the development of the racetrack site, particularly with regard to building heights, “only to have several of those concordances unilaterally set aside by subsequent ‘minor variance’ decisions.”

(Yeah, I remember that. Bussin and Jakobek stabbed us in the back. They never showed up at the Committee of Adjustment meeting after claiming at a community meeting that they would. Instead they did a side-deal with the developer where they’d drop their opposition if the developer “donated” the big show house that used to be on the corner of Queen and Woodbine. The developer put the thing on a wide-load truck and moved it to the new park as a venue controlled by Community Centre 55. But the building had no utilities, was never used, and had to be torn down — at taxpayers’ expense. The developer SAVED MONEY because it was cheaper to move the building than tear it down. At the same time, they got their extra floor on the last two condo buildings and took in a couple extra million. Sweet deal! That’s your local councillors’ track records, people. They’ll sell you out for a pile of junk, though I think that was more Jakobek’s doing than Sandra’s. But she let the man walk all over her. )

Furtado also notes that Triangle residents who live near a development similar to that proposed have experienced many problems involving the laneway behind the building both during the construction and due to ongoing illegal parking, noise and garbage. There is also the issue of six mature trees which will have to be removed for the development.

(Go Ingrid! And those trees, did someone say this is a “green” building? Slap me to make sure this ain’t a dream. But Ingrid, this isn’t about construction noise, this is about what we get after the construction is done. And that’s downtown-like streetscape entirely out of keeping with the charm and character of the street. We also will be left with a precedent to do the same along the rest of Queen in the Beach. That’s what’s really at issue here. Queen Street in the Beach has been identified for intensification by the city planning department. That intensification, if it means 6-storey Condo blocks, will ruin the charm of this neighbourhood. Jakobek sold us out and railroaded us on the Greenwood development condos, but are we going to let that guy be our legacy?)

Major said that, while she has not made any decision on the proposal, the height of the building should not be a problem. In fact, although the building will be one storey higher than the development to the south, because its upper storeys will be stepped back, it will appear from the street to be much lower.

(Leontine has made up her mind. She supports it. Don’t be misled.)

According to the application, the developer intends to seek a LEEDS (Leadership in energy and environmental design) certification. The developed plan to have a green roof, water and energy efficient appliances and fixtures, individual metered units, passive solar features, car sharing and environmentally efficient demolition and construction techniques.

(As I said, I would like to see more on this LEED thing, because putting in so many parking spaces runs counter to the philosophy of LEEDS. By “car sharing”, they mean one parking spot for a Zip car. That parking space, at the back of the building in the lane, was too small for anything else. So Ziegler, the genius spinmeister architect, made it a Zip car parking. Brilliant smoke-and-mirrors move! Also, what power does the City have to enforce the LEED standard if the developer decides later that he doesn’t want to do some things? They cannot enforce it. It’s just a recommendation.)

Councillor Sandra Bussin will wait for the community consultation to make up her mind about the development but said that the “applicant seems willing to work with the planning department and the planner seems satisfied.”

However, she said, “I have to listen to my constituents.”

(Bussin needs to take a stand, not for this particular project, but for the impact and precedent it sets for the entire area. But she won’t because she doesn’t get it. We don’t need her sitting on the fence. We need leadership!)

Written by Average Joe

February 17, 2008 at 2:03 pm

The new view from Queen Street East’s Beach condos

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Seems that word about the proposed development of the tallest condominium building on Queen Street East in The Beach is spreading fast.

At least one owner of a condominium in the five-storey condo building at 1863 Queen Street East, on the south side between Woodbine Avenue and Boardwalk Drive has put their place on the market.

They are smart people because the views their condo currently enjoys are about to be ruined, meaning they’re likely to get less for their property if they wait.

The condo for sale is a north-facing penthouse suite that’s going for $375,000. The sales materials include the recent photograph below. It shows the seven properties that will be demolished and replaced with a six-storey condo block. It’s a recent picture from just before Christmas when we had those heavy snowfalls. Pretty picture, isn’t it?

View from penthous of current Queen Street condo

But not for long. Soon this view will be straight at a wall of fake stone and glass six stories high.

In the image below, I’ve tried to give you a sense of what this might be like once the condo building goes up. Please excuse Average Joe’s artwork. Like the current architect’s drawings submitted to the city, I will also invoke the same disclaimer of “not to scale” for my non-artist’s rendering.

Future view from Queen Street condo penthouse

How much do you think that cuts off the price of that condo and others with a view north?

Here’s another picture from a balcony overlooking the site. This one is on a lower floor and was going for $250, 000.

View from a fourth floor condo

If you have pictures or video to share, please tell Average Joe.

Written by Average Joe

January 12, 2008 at 2:57 am

Jerk chicken and the scoop on Sandra Bussin

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If you do a web search for “Sandra Bussin” you will find many unflattering comments about our local city councillor. A lot of people feel she has let them down, including Average Joe.

But if you really want to know what makes Bussin tick, you need to read this lengthy article by travel writer Susanne Pacher. It starts with the writer interviewing our councillor at City Hall, then meeting her for lunch at a local Jamaican restaurant, before the two climb into Bussin’s car for a tour of the area.

Sandra had this jerk chicken meal for lunch

During this almost surreal experience, you will learn a lot about who Sandra Bussin is and what really matters to her. And you’ll learn that she believes that short of an act of God, we are are all helpless against developers.

At one point the writer says:

Sandra explained that short of designating the entire area a protected heritage district, the hands of the planning department are often tied, and the city is not able to prevent a new project from going in.

Later on, during their tour of the neighbourhood, “Sandra” takes Pacher down Lyall Avenue:

Lyall Avenue, an east-west connection north of Kingston Road, features a row of pretty historic homes, dating back to the early 20th century. Sandra pointed out two new homes that stood out from the visually homogeneous streetscape: in the last few years a developer had come in, taken down two historic homes and built two new larger homes that do not quite fit into the street scene. Again, unless a residential area is designated a protected historic heritage district, it is very difficult to impose restrictions on the design of new properties going in.

So your councillor, like Average Joe, has given up believing that residents of The Beach can have a say in what their community should look like.

Six-, seven, ten, 20-storey condo’s lining both sides of Queen and the lakefront… ultimately we cannot stop it happening unless we can get the entire neighbourhood declared a “protected heritage district.”

And that’s not going to happen in my lifetime.

Here’s the article again: Tasty Caribbean Treats and a Neighbourhood Tour through the Beach with Sandra Bussin (a fine piece of journalism, if ever there was one.)