IN A SUCCESSFUL urban setting, there is always a tension between maintaining the stability and character of a neighbourhood and the need for new housing stock. Over the last decade, a number of battles have been fought in the Beach over this issue, with winners and losers on both sides.
So ultimately, who should decide what is in the best long term interests of the community – taking into account the competing requirements of residents who have committed their homes and lives to the status quo of a neighbourhood and the land owners/property developers who are entitled to get the maximum return on their investment?
There are two recent development proposals which would seem to expand the envelope on local zoning. Both will probably end up being decided at the Ontario Municipal Board.
On June 26, about 100 neighbours from the Neville Park south area attended a meeting at St. Aidan’s Church held by Councillor Sandra Bussin. It was billed as an information session to give residents their first opportunity to see the official plan amendment and rezoning application for 2/4 Neville Park Blvd/Lakeshore.
The application, submitted by architects Sweeny Sterling Finlayson and Co, calls for a five storey, 16-unit apartment (condo) building and one detached house to be built on the properties. Because the proposed height and the density of the building is considerably over that allowed by local zoning (12 m allowed, 17.4 m requested; .6 density permitted, 1.94 proposed), the city would have to approve the deviations.
Dermott Sweeny, who is one of the developers of the property, said in his presentation to the meeting that the condo would have a maximum of 16 units ranging from 2,500 to 10,000 sq ft. The final number could be less because the building’s flexibility allows it to be configured into a smaller number of larger units.
Each condo will be served by an elevator which opens directly into the unit, so space taken up by hallways is at a minimum.
Sweeny reassured the audience that he intends “to maintain Gordon Kaiser’s gardens.” And while, he admitted, a few trees would have to go, the developer’s plan call for planting more.
Sweeny argued that there were already two four-storey apartment buildings on the lakeshore very close to Neville Park. He also pointed out that, “If three single family houses were built on the property, it would take up the same volume [as the condo].”
His final argument was that the developer could – as of right – build three duplexes (even triplexes) on the site. “Our project is better than that,” he concluded.
Sweeny has an additional vested interest in this development. He plans on moving in to one of the units when it is completed.
As the developers took their leave so that residents could “strategize,” Bussin made her feelings known. She does not support the project because she believes it will have a negative impact on the quality of life in the Beach. It would also set a precedent for development of other sites on the beach lakefront.
None of the audience who spoke appeared to favour the development in its current configuration. “We are looking at the Harbourfrontization of the Beach,” said one.
However, City Planner Leontine Major said that the planning department will be taking a careful look at the project, starting with getting input from a number of other city departments such as fire, works and urban forestry. Major said the planning report to Toronto/East York Community Council would be available this fall. At that time, an official community consultation will also be held. Then, once the applicant has a chance to respond and/or revise their application, the public will have another opportunity to make presentations at community council.