Planning For 2018 – Ward 33 E-Blast January 4th

On the snowy evening of December 23rd, we took the kids for that light drive I wrote about before Christmas. On the way home, we drove on the network of major roads in Ward 33 so I could check on the city’s snow plowing performance.

We drove the circle of Parkway Forest, one of the most dense suburban high rise neighbourhoods in all of Canada. Snow was falling in front of the giant glass window of the community centre as the last patrons filed out with their gym bags at closing time. When we left that busy community, we drove across to Henry Farm. We turned onto George Henry Blvd and came face to face with a family of deer.

A doe and her two fawns galloped up the road, coming straight towards us through the snow and then leapt into the nearest backyard. We turned off the car for a moment to avoid scaring them and to let the kids just be amazed at what they had seen. In the silent snowfall a magnificent stag came up the street looking for his family. My city-dwelling grandkids are still talking about it.

The snowy Oriole Manor House

This is what I love about the inner suburbs we live in. Sure, we are growing at a rate that sometimes seems alarming. However, we also live where planners have an arsenal of city bylaws and provincial regulations to protect the trees, ravines and even wildlife that has been here since long before we arrived. All of these rules will come in very handy over the next few years as we face a new wave of development applications. As the new year begins I think a general overview of Ward 33 is in order.

In my office, we think of the ward as divided into distinct areas facing growth in different ways. Here are some updates on each area:

1. First and foremost, we deal with Parkway Forest, our subway-served growth neighbourhood directly south of Fairview Mall. The long, multi-phased project built by developer ELAD is heading into its final phase with Block C, south of Helen Lu Rd. There is good news. The buildings in Block C are being advertised for their ground-breaking large unit design, with 10 continuous floors of two and three bedroom condos. That brings the total unit count under control and should lead to long time stable residents.

My office is pressuring city staff to move up the much needed road repairs on Parkway Forest Dr and Forest Manor Rd. I don’t believe that local road network can wait until all construction is complete as was originally planned.

2. The “Consumers Next” study of Consumers Road business park is now complete, and the resulting zoning changes are on their way to Council for final votes. The resulting development applications will be processed in the community over the next couple of years. Only one has been formally filed so far, on the Universal Productions site at Consumers Rd and Victoria Park Ave. and it is well over what the new zoning intends so there is much work to do before any approval happens.

We will treat this application the same way we have over the past decade, whenever an application in the business park comes forward. We will require maximum community engagement, not just with surrounding businesses but also with the Muirhead/Brian Village residents and condo boards, the Armenian Community Centre, and of course our new residents along the south side of Sheppard. A meeting with Armenian School Parents is coming up this month.

3. Social Housing Revitalization has been a big part of the development scene in Ward 33. Both Allenbury Gardens behind Fairview Mall and the Villaways at Leslie and Sheppard have been approved for intensification with market value condos in order to finance the rebuilding of worn out social housing units.

Allenbury Gardens was easier to begin with because it was already in an area zoned for high rises. Some Social Housing families are already back and moved into brand new town homes. In the second phase, more town homes, a couple of towers and a public park with an off-leash dog enclosure will be added to the neighbourhood for all to use.

The Villaways residents were all moved out last fall. My staff and I are working hard to resolve all outstanding construction issues. We know we’ve got to get that approved project built and return these neighbours to the community they love and miss every day they are away.

4. We are just now beginning to see development speculation in the apartment corridor that surrounds The Peanut. Toronto’s Official Plan does recommend certain forms of intensification around these types of apartment neighbourhoods. In the sixties, these buildings were part of a trend called “Tower in the Park” development. If the application had at least 1.5 acres of ground area, they would be allowed to build apartments of twelve or seventeen storeys with a fenced off field of grass around them.

Towers in the Park didn’t result in the most walkable neighbourhoods, or safe communities. These large fenced off properties didn’t lead to the addition of close and quick retail amenities. High rise children often found themselves with very daunting trips to school. At night there were never enough eyes on the street. Rest assured that since these are the problems we hope to solve, planners will view any future application in The Peanut based on its ability to solve these issues.

5. Once you set aside the major areas above, Ward 33 faces the same regular Committee of Adjustment applications to renovate single family homes as most Toronto neighbourhoods do. When you see a sign go up in your street for such a case, if you haven’t already had the owner come by and tell you what they’re planning, you should call my office. We receive a preliminary drawing and details of what variance the homeowner is asking for. If you want to object, we can be your best resource and ensure that you put your best argument forward at the Committee.

If you are planning to renovate and enlarge, and your architect says the words “Committee of Adjustment”, call us early in your design process. We can let you know what is the best way to keep the peace on your street and have a smooth ride with the planners.

Above are the “known” quantities of growth and development in Ward 33 as we go into 2018. If you are concerned about something beyond these areas, you may be reacting to a rumour. If a real estate salesman you have never heard of knocks on the door to say your neighbourhood is being expropriated and he can get you the best deal, close the door and call me. It is untrue. Our Ward is full of reputable realtors who make a great living serving you without making up tall tales. Get to know these folks.

We are also keeping a close eye on city-wide applications that may have planning implications in our area. Certainly, the overhaul of Bayview Village Mall that has just started community consultation to the west of us could impact all inner suburbs.

Over the next three months, I’ll be pushing planning staff to execute as much community engagement in Ward 33 as possible, while I am available to you as the advocate with an almost ridiculous amount of detailed memory regarding past applications and staff commitments. You have invested everything you have in our neighbourhood to make it your home. The Ward 33 Team and I are invested every day in making it the best place to live in Toronto, whether you are a single family homeowner, a busy high rise dweller or even that beautiful little family of deer.