Province’s new rules allowing sky-blocking tower in North Leaside

Residents to challenge 25-storey condo plan resulting from government overriding city restrictions

The provincial government’s rewrite of Toronto’s Midtown in Focus plan has left North Leaside residents potentially in the dark.

A 25-storey, mixed-use condominium at the southeast corner of Bayview and Broadway avenues (1837-1845 Bayview Ave.) was proposed in a rezoning application Nov. 8, 2021, and it’s a result of the provincial government’s changes to city plans.

In June 2019, Midtown in Focus was changed by the Progressive Conservative government to exclude height restrictions on proposed developments in the city. That opened opportunities for developers to go beyond the zoning limits, much to the concern of the Leaside Residents’ Association.

“[The government] overruled the city’s intents for that land, as well as many other sites in midtown, without any further consultation,” co-president Geoff Kettel said in a late April phone conversation.

‘Say no to bad planning’

North Leaside resident Jim Parker, who lives on Bessborough Drive directly behind the proposed condo tower, said his neighbours first saw the notice of the development just before Christmas, and they quickly came together, meeting bi-weekly.

The single-family houses on the streets now show yellow signs that read, “Say no to bad planning,” on their front lawns and boulevards.

“My concern is that I’m right behind it,” the brother of former MPP and city councillor John Parker said. “It’s going to block out the sky for me. If I’m in the backyard, it’s going to be right there and that will be my only view.”

But what’s alarmed residents more so is the provincial government’s use of Minister’s Zoning Orders to counter the city’s plans.

“The City of Toronto had designated that particular spot of five houses, they had designated that for six stories,” Parker said. “Then when the official plan went to the province for approval [they] increased it to 35 stories.”

The neighbourhood is organizing to challenge the development at the Ontario Land Tribunal, which is the Ontario Municipal Board’s successor. Re-introduced on June 1, 2021, the OLT was the result of merging five tribunals into one.

The new board makes it harder for participants to get involved in their neighbourhood’s planning. To participate, organizations need to be designated parties or participants.

City planning designated the area for six storeys, with an eight-storey, mixed-use building down the street on the southwest corner of Bayview and Glazebrook avenues. Another 30-storey tower has been proposed at the southeast corner of Bayview and Eglinton Avenue East, above the LRT station currently under construction and to the west of Talbot Park.

“The idea is that the higher buildings would be closer to the station, not hundreds of metres away from the station,” Kettel said. “There are numerous changes to benefit the developers or donors to the party.”

Planner Jason Xie from North York Community Planning said in an email response that they cannot comment on the appropriateness of the development, but they do expect a request-for-directions report, which will outline recommendations. Current zoning is residential-detached, “which allows for one unit in a detached house on each lot.”

The provincial government’s changes to the Midtown in Focus plan have allowed for developers to propose larger projects, including at 1837–1845 Bayview Ave.

Fighting for residents’ voices

Ward 15 councillor Jaye Robinson is aware of the application and has expressed concern.

“At a height of 25-storeys positioned on a hilltop, the proposed development would tower over the surrounding residential neighbourhood — shadowing nearby properties and green spaces,” she said in an email statement. “The applicant has made it clear that they are not willing to work with City Planning staff or the local community by appealing to the Ontario Land Tribunal so early in the process, before undertaking any community consultation.

“While the final decision on this application is now in the hands of the OLT, I will continue to fight for residents’ voices to be heard in the process.”

A public meeting has been slated for May 5 to discuss the planning framework that governs development in the city and the local area, the application, and any issues raised so far.

“After separate presentations by city staff and the applicant, residents, community members, and stakeholders can ask questions and provide feedback to the Ward Councillor, City staff, and the applicant,” Xie said.

North Leasiders are ready for the meeting and Parker is aware their concerns will be met with the NIMBY stigma.

“It literally is in my backyard,” he said. “I realize I can’t push that button too hard, but nonetheless, good planning does require these angular planes, which is about 45 degrees. Tall buildings should be graduated to a mid-rise building and then to a low-rise building.”

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