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North York Council names street "OMB Folly"

Skeezix

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Just because Toronto council (and others) can by NIMBYish and "wrong" does not validate that claim. I don't buy that the OMB makes decisions on that basis as a general rule, and certainly not 100% of the time.

I've seen too many absurd decisions to believe that they somehow have the monopoly on proper planning procedures.

At best, they are just as fallible as city councils.
At worst, they are regularly overruling decisions made by democratically elected councils.

Nowhere else in this country has a similar board and I don't buy that, say, the council in Vancouver is inherently more competent than ours. I think there would be mistakes -just as there are now - if the OMB were abolished but overall we'd be just fine.

Toronto council has taken a lot of crap from them over the years and whether or not they are right in this particular instance, it was inevitable that the frustrations of council would materialize. It's a bit immature, I guess, and yet I'm impressed.

That said, I'm trying to picture this exact site...is it near the police station?

I have said this before, but I have sat through numerous City Council debates on planning applications and numerous OMB hearings. And there is almost always a more careful and intelligent analysis of the planning merits and of the applicable policies at the OMB than at Council.

As for the Vancouver example, it's really apples and oranges. With no OMB, planning decisions sometimes end up in the courts -- if ratepayers find the OMB intimidating, try the Ontario Divisional Court. And, in any event, the planning system is fundamentally different than the one in Ontario. Although Councillors enact overall policies, site-specific applications are reviewed by a non-political design review committee and approved by three-member approval board. City councillors, and politics, are generally removed from the process. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, there is no ward system in Vancouver -- whereas there may be negative aspects of not having ward Councillors, from a planning perpective it means that Councillors are less beholden to NIMBY politics and are better able to plan with City-wide and long-term interests in mind.

I would welcome a Vancouver-type system here, and I suspect that it would render the OMB irrelevant. Until Toronto grows up and adopts something of that nature, however, there will always be an OMB to babysit the politicians.

As for "being just fine" if the OMB were abolished, personally I fundamentally fear that Toronto's planning and growth would be very negatively impacted without the OMB. City Council routinely shows itself incapable of handling these matter. In particular, the practice of Councillors defering to the local Councillor on planning matters ensures that political considerations, rather than planning ones, govern the day, and renders the process at Council rather undemocratic.
 

Uncle Teddy

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Huh? I'm sure these townhouses will be roughly the same price as the bungalows in the area, only buyers will probably get "less house" for their money, which means poorer people will not be living here...the townhouse residents are all but guaranteed to be more well-off than the widows living in neighbouring bungalows.

Most of those widows could not buy their houses today. The area is rapidly becoming Lawrence Park north.
 

waterloowarrior

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Skeezix is right on... there are examples all over Ontario where councillors will approve a development despite it being bad planning and recommended against by staff, and examples where a great planning application recommended for approval is denied due to political pressure (especially infill applications).

Even if both staff and councillors disagree with an application, it does not mean that decision is based on good planning - e.g. staff may have a bias against a height increase despite there being no good planning reason against it, or they seek a 'consensus' that tries to please everyone where an application should have been approved outright or with fewer changes.
 

scarberiankhatru

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Most of those widows could not buy their houses today. The area is rapidly becoming Lawrence Park north.

It's really not (not rapidly, I mean, at least, not this part of North York Centre), and won't be until the area is nothing but McMansions, which won't be for decades, and full of people who bought the homes when they were priced at well over $1M (replace that rough figure with $2M or more due to decades of inflation). Assuming these proposed townhouses sell for about what other townhouses in the area do, most of the bungalows are inhabited by widows or by middle class families and whoever will live in these townhouses will compare very well in terms of income with the inhabitants of the non-McMansion homes that actually still dominate the area in question (the area contains a fair number of c.1960 split level homes, which have been all but untouched by McMansoinization, while the c.1950 homes ripe for redevelopment mostly reside on narrow lots, which have thus far saved them from replacement). I think the townhouse inhabitants will either have higher incomes, or will have lower incomes but be 'better off' (such as recent retirees, yuppies, DINKs, etc., who can afford to spend a similar amount of money on less house).

edit - here's the website: http://www.basswoodpark.ca/home.html - the townhouses are both larger and more expensive than I thought they'd be, more than large enough for families of more than 2 people. Doady's fears of malicious segregation are unfounded, but it does slightly skew in favour of Uncle Teddy's Lawrence Park effect.
 

Whoaccio

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Personally, I sort of like the street name "OMB Folly." I would pay a small premium to live on such a street in fact.

It does seem sort of trivial considering how mundane this project is. Maybe if they were building a highrise, but townhouses? I don't like how the Official Plan has made developing the "stable areas", or anything that isn't an "avenue", into an impossibility. It was clearly conceived with reference to areas like the Annex and Cabbage town, not the bulk of the suburban 416. The postwar bungalows are just being McMansion-ed. It hurts affordability, as there is no density increase, and is leaving us with seas of hideous buildings. I live around Glencairn Stn. station and nobody will intensify the area because of the by-laws. It's not like we are preserving decent heritage or architecture either, because most of the bungalows are being demolished to make way for the biggest homes their lots will take (complete with columns, no less). It is the worst of both worlds.
 

TJ O'Pootertoot

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I would welcome a Vancouver-type system here, and I suspect that it would render the OMB irrelevant. Until Toronto grows up and adopts something of that nature, however, there will always be an OMB to babysit the politicians.

Of course, we're talking about Toronto on these boards but the OMB is province-wide so, two questions:

1) Even if they wanted to, can Toronto adopt something along the lines of Vancouver's system without provincial legislation?

2) Why do Toronto and Ontario municipalities need a body that no one else does? I cited Vancouver in my earlier example and certainly they have a different municipal structure, and I agree that the ward system encourages NIMBYism, but there seems something fundamentally insulting about the OMB's very existence. Whatever its merits, it clearly seems to be a relic of an obsolete, parochial province-city relationship.

And just a last comment - I've seen decent decisions and absurd ones from the OMB but I think the greatest problem with it might be how developers wield it like a threat over municipalities. The Minto situation is a great example of the city capitulating not to what they thought was right but rather gambling based on what they feared the OMB would do. I've seen that pattern many times.
 

ShonTron

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Minto was right, in that case.

I would suggest a municipal planning appeal board that would only agree to hear cases if:

- In the case of a developer/landowner, the proposal rejection is in contravention of municipal official and special area plans; or specific provincial planning acts, such as Places to Grow, Greenbelt, Niagara Escarpment, or Conservation Act.

- In the case of a third party, if the approval of a proposal contravenes anything above or if there is a specific and direct threat to the natural or heritage environment that has not been addressed by any of the above.

Such an appeal board would also have the authority to force a city to rule on an application before it if there is undue delay, rather than actually start the appeal process before the city even had a chance to respond.

Edit: Perhaps in this case, under these guidelines, this development would not have happened. It's certainly not the worst decision the OMB made, not by a long shot. But the OMB made enough bad decsions that something has to give.
 

Chuck

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To take this topic one step further, healthy downtown areas require support from surrounding neighbourhoods. Low density detached houses do not cut it, which is one of the reasons why many American city centres fail. Global cities like New York, Paris, and London contain large swaths of higher density housing surrounding the city core, and if NYCC or even Toronto are to become anything more than they currently are, low density detached housing has to be abolished from the central city.

I think that the next step for NYCC is to permit the construction of townhouses in the entire area between the 401, Steeles, Bayview, and Bathurst. Just building condos on Yonge won't go far enough to create a true node.
 

afransen

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Maybe I'm missing something here. What is the big deal with townhouses? By that, I mean why would they even care that detached homes are being replaced with townhouses?
 

Whoaccio

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I think that the next step for NYCC is to permit the construction of townhouses in the entire area between the 401, Steeles, Bayview, and Bathurst. Just building condos on Yonge won't go far enough to create a true node.

It's true. To re-purpose E. Burgess, we need a zone of transition from the tower-dominated Yonge Corridor to the detached homes which have up till now dominated the region. Were I imperator of Toronto, I would rezone all of the land within a zone roughly like the one you set out to accommodate more mid rise high density housing. One annoying aspect is that, when discussing condos, many people lament that we don't have some kind of Parisian "midrise" housing stock. Ignoring the dozens of inaccuracies that brings up, they usually ignore that it would require rezoning a good chunk of Toronto's "stable neighborhoods." A recent proposal near where I live got NIMBYed for a project which was like 4 storeys. You would think that they were proposing the Tower of Babel for the site...
 

TJ O'Pootertoot

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It's true. To re-purpose E. Burgess, we need a zone of transition from the tower-dominated Yonge Corridor to the detached homes which have up till now dominated the region.

Aren't there townhomes along Doris? I haven't done a real drive-around of those sidestreets in a while. In general, however, I agree.

I also basically agree with Shontron's take on what the OMB should be.
The problem now is that anyone can appeal anything. If a muni is reviewing its secondary plan and you don't like that your plan, which can't even be built for five years, is taking longer than 90 days - just go to the OMB.

You've got money and lord knows we taxpayers do so let's start duking it out early! Developers can even appeal OMB cases they've lost, as in this neverending case...

http://www.yorkregion.com/article/81955

In that case, the OMB will rule based on 2002 planning rules (!) and the board already discounted Save the Rouge's environmental arguments (ie that the lands are directly in the midst of the Rouge headwaters) because they were regarded as an irrelevant private interest.

Technically, you can buy a piece of land in a residential neighbourhood, and propose a conference centre or a zoo. Council will reject something so absurd but it's still you're right to go to the OMB. You may LOSE there, but in the meantime you'll have wasted lots of peoples' money and time. In the meantime, maybe council will capitulate and let you build a SMALL zoo, just because they don't know that the OMB will see the absurdity of your plan.

And then there the other arguments about how expensive and otherwise inaccessible it is for citizens. Even if it does not need to be abolished, it certainly needs major reform.
 

MegaMax

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There's that one case up in Innisfil that the Toronto Star is talking about, where the OMB will rule if the homeowners in the area will have to pay the expenses of the developer. The OMB agreed to hear the case, and while the homeowners lost, the developer's bill came to over $3 Million!

http://www.thestar.com/comment/article/515979

The resort probably would have been built anyway, Innisfil Council wanted it. But it's that leapfrog development that might overtake places like that. The OMB is bloated and needs to tightly controlled. The conditions above make sense, though Big Bay Point would still have happened.
 

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