For your consideration: a review of development in Don Valley North
Last week, we talked about the municipal planning process and how it's changing. There was a huge sigh of relief last year when the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) was phased out by the provincial government.
To refresh your memory: the OMB was an independent tribunal which heard appeals on municipal planning disputes. The OMB was heavily criticized because of its power to conduct de novo hearings. Those of you who took Latin in school know de novo means "a second time; afresh."
This means City Council could vote to oppose a development but the OMB had the power to throw out that decision and hear a developer's appeal afresh – with little to no regard for Council or community members’ objections.
Luckily, the OMB's replacement, the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT), does not conduct de novo hearings. It must consider both the opinions of City Council and community members. If the LPAT decides a developer's appeal is legitimate, the course of action is to have the developer, community and City come to a mutual settlement.
This change in scope has led to some confusion. Many developers with active applications at the time of the change from OMB to LPAT have had to navigate a murky and rushed process. Some of the applications affected are in our own ward – let's take a look.
Bayview Village Mall
Starting in the west side of the ward, we have the large application at Bayview Village Mall. There are rumours in the community that the City and the developer have reached a final settlement agreement on what shape the development will take and no one will be allowed to know what it is. That is not the case.
The applicant (QuadReal) and the City must present a settlement in an appeal hearing, and both parties are discussing what would get them to that point. They have not shown us a finished product simply because they don't have one yet. Before the finished product can be adopted, the settlement report will have to be presented to City Council. When the settlement is presented at LPAT, the Bayview Village Association and the Bayview Sheppard Neighbourhood Alliance will get to voice their thoughts on the settlement.
As your local councillor, I will look at any settlement in the context of the concerns I’ve heard from you, from community groups and the notes City Planning took from the community working group process they conducted last year. I’m in no rush, but future hearing dates chosen by the LPAT may require me to gather any additional community opinions on a last minute basis. I'll keep you posted.
Canadian Tire Lands
In the area surrounding Leslie subway station, dubbed the Canadian Tire Lands, are many major projects that were approved long ago. When years pass before an approved project proceeds, the developer often comes back to request changes before applying for building permits. Such is the case with the Canadian Tire Lands.
For example, when the master plan for the Canadian Tire Lands was approved almost 20 years ago, there was talk about re-aligning the Oriole GO Station to connect to the subway, but the station design wasn’t complete. Now that it is, there is reason to have another look at that idea.
City Planners have the right to determine the level of approval needed. Minor variances, such as changing the entrance to a building, might not require community consultation. If Planners decide a developer is asking for a major variance, such as adding more units or another building entirely, a whole new planning process, complete with full community consultation, will be required. We will hear soon whether any major variances are required here.
2450 Victoria Park
On the eastern edge of the ward is a massive application at Victoria Park and Consumers Road, known as 2450 Victoria Park. In this case, the developer appealed to the OMB before the final report was even presented to City Council. Early hearings on the application have been held, and now that the LPAT is in place there has been an effort to keep all sides working together until a reasonable proposal is agreed on. The application still contains a 44-storey building on the site, so we haven't quite reached "reasonable" yet.
City Planning staff will continue to argue that 2450 Victoria Park, in its current form, is not suitable for the area and does not align with the master plan for the whole Consumers Road business park.
To prove they're not ready to settle, City Planning staff presented a report called a Request for Direction to North York Community Council last week. The report asked Council to officially direct City Planning and Legal staff to continue opposing the application until the appropriate changes are made. This also serves as a signal to LPAT that they should demand all parties keep working towards a mutual settlement.
These are just the major sites in the works at the moment, but you can see each one requires a very involved process with the layering of unique considerations. Next week, I'll return to discussing current issues with an added element: Ryan Lo from my team will begin contributing a brief section dedicated to planning updates in Don Valley North. That way, you can stay informed and know where to look for the latest news from City Planning.