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E-BLAST: Council Highlights: Vacant Home Tax, Alcohol In Parks & More

Another month, another busy Council session under our belts. We tackled the Vacant Home Tax, parking fines, alcohol in parks, and much more. Read on to learn more about the biggest items that we considered at Council last week:




I want to start by updating you on the actions we have taken to address issues with this year’s Vacant Home Tax rollout. Mayor Chow and I worked together to waive all late fees for the 2023 taxation year and directed staff to redesign the Vacant Home Tax system entirely for next year.


I also moved a motion based on much of the feedback I heard from you, dear readers. Specifically, I have asked City staff to explore the possibility of using City data, like water and utility usage, to determine whether homes are vacant. I’ve also asked staff to develop a comprehensive communications plan for next year, and to consult with seniors and those without access to the internet to make sure the process is not overly burdensome.


I will be sure to keep you all up to date on the work being done to revamp the Vacant Home Tax process for next year. In the meantime, remember that you do not have to pay anything if you received a Vacant Home Tax bill in error. City staff will recognize properties that received a Vacant Home Tax bill in error as having the same occupancy status it had in 2022, so if you declared last year there is no further action you need to take right now. If you received a bill in error and you’re a new owner or unsure whether or not you filed your declaration last year, you should file a Notice of Complaint. If you have any questions or need assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out to my office.




I’m grateful to all the readers who shared their feedback when I wrote about the parking fine increases that were proposed at the Infrastructure & Environment Committee last month. I took all of your feedback into consideration for this item, and I think many of you will be happy with where Council landed.


Deputy Mayor Jennifer McKelvie, who is Chair of the Infrastructure & Environment Committee, moved an omnibus amendment to the original proposal that focused the highest parking fine increases on infractions that truly jeopardize safety or cause congestion on major roads. Other infractions that do not substantially jeopardize safety or cause traffic issues were left around the $30 or $40 mark, instead of the proposed increase to $75. I want to congratulate Deputy Mayor McKelvie on this amendment. She’s been working nonstop since staff first proposed the fine increases to find a spot where consensus was possible and achieved a great outcome for our city.



What a difference a year makes. When I first brought forward the motion to pilot alcohol consumption in select parks, it was all anyone could talk about. This month, City Council reviewed the detailed report on the outcomes of the pilot. The results: In the 27 parks across the city where alcohol was permitted, there were few to no complaints.



Staff recommended expanding the program to a list of parks that meet the eligibility criteria and making the program permanent. Some Councillors added the recommended extra parks in their wards to the program, while a few others wanted to leave their wards out of the program completely. Here in Don Valley North, there were a few other parks that met the criteria. However, I wanted to wait to add more parks to our list until I’ve had the time to consult with you. In the meantime, Skymark Park on Don Mills Road remains our designated park where drinking is permitted. You can find the others across the city at the link below:




This item deals with your recycling bins. Council considered the path forward for our blue bin program as the Province of Ontario moves to take over the handling of all recyclables by 2026. I wrote about this change in detail in an E-Blast last fall, if you need a refresher. Staff and Council had a good conversation about which service improvements we can make when this part of the Solid Waste Management equation is off our plate, such as ensuring that residents will still be able to call 311 if their bins are missed. We’ll hear back from staff later this year about the changeover, and I will be sure to communicate out everything you need to know about the new program well in advance of it coming into effect.



Council received its Annual TransformTO Net Zero Progress and Accountability Report. While significant strides in greening our transit fleets, enforcing green building standards for new builds, and more have brought us to 41% below 1990 GHG emission standards, we’re still seeing a slight increase year-over-year. That won’t get us to net zero.



Reducing emissions in existing buildings is the biggest challenge in Toronto and the rest of the world. In Toronto, emissions from natural gas-heated buildings alone make up 56% of our problem. More needs to be done on this front, and we can’t do it alone.


It is estimated that it would cost about $120 trillion to get to Net Zero worldwide by 2050, and every G20 nation would need to double their climate spending now to get there. It makes me wonder why the national discussion leading up to the next election is whether or not to scrap the carbon tax with no plan to replace the climate change investments it funds. We need strong leadership from our federal government if we want to reach our climate targets, both locally and nationally.


This report directs us to both take bold action to tackle climate change and do more planning to make our city resilient to its impacts. We need to step up our flooding mitigation work, shore up eroded water courses, and prepare energy systems to be able to function safely in climate extremes. We’re already ahead of most cities on this front but there’s much more to be done. There will be further resilience planning reported back in the coming months.




To wrap up, a bit of local news. Council unanimously passed this item to name a local park here in Don Valley North after David Caplan, and I had some lovely conversations with colleagues while lobbying for this naming. David Caplan was a North York Board of Education Trustee until he ran to be the Member of Provincial Parliament for Don Valley East. (When he ran back in 1997, the riding of Don Valley East included much of what later became Don Valley North.) Throughout his 14 years as MPP, his constituency office sat in the plaza at Sheppard Avenue and Consumers Road known as the Little Shoppes of Brian. I have received permission to name the new park across the street from his old office “David Caplan Park”.


As Ontario’s first Minister of Infrastructure, in 2006 David ushered in the bill known as “A Place to Grow: Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe”. David knew that we needed to plan for our children and grandchildren to enjoy the kind of thoughtful growth that brings not just homes but economic prosperity, mobility, and community life. This park will remind us of that every day.


 


Development Update


567 Sheppard Ave E


Proposal: Two residential towers of 45 and 55 storeys with approximately 1179 units, and a new 2-storey YMCA facility.


Status: Under review by City staff.


Details: The design of the YMCA, which is partially below grade and features proposed ceiling heights akin to a 4- to 5-storey residential building, warrants attention. The existing vehicular access from Bayview Avenue will be retained, along with the addition of a second access point from Kenaston Gardens. However, it's worth noting that the existing vehicular access along Sheppard Avenue East will be removed, and the oversight of the nearby TTC Bayview Station connection is a notable omission from the applicant’s proposal. These factors could contribute to increased traffic congestion in the area, and I am awaiting staff’s comments.


City Planner: Michael Romero - Michael.Romero@toronto.ca



 

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