As you know, ONNI Group submitted an application for a 32 storey residential building to the City in December 2014. As the site had previously been approved at 19 storeys, this was a big change and one that neither I or City Planning were in support of.
A public meeting to discuss the application was hosted by City Planning on June 15, 2015 at the Fort York Visitor Centre and was well attended by residents of the Fort York Community. At the meeting, it was clear that neighbours shared my concern that the height of the building did not meet the character of the neighbourhood. The City Planner responsible for the file agreed that proposed height was too tall for the neighbourhood and advised ONNI of this. Unfortunately, instead of submitting revisions, ONNI filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in July 2015.
While the City lawyer began to prepare the City’s case to the OMB opposed to the application, City Planning staff continued to negotiate with the applicant in hopes of resolving outstanding issues and coming to an agreement on a more appropriate building proposal to avoid leaving this decision up to the OMB.
On November 9, City of Toronto Planning staff brought a confidential settlement proposal to City Council for their consideration. As is the case with most matters awaiting hearings at the OMB, the settlement was kept confidential before the City agreed on the direction to take. While I would have preferred to bring this matter to the community for a presentation and discussion, unfortunately this was not possible due to timing and the confidentiality of the settlement proposed.
While the settlement makes some concessions, it means we are able to secure a better building than we might have got should the matter be decided by the OMB. We were also able to secure a greater number of family sized (2 & 3 bedroom) units. City Planning and Legal staff, who are familiar with outcomes and decisions at the OMB, recommended this settlement and based on their advice, I supported this settlement as it is a much better alternative than a Board decision.
Here are some of the particulars of the settlement compared to the current permission and the proposal.
The settlement also secures some funds for improving parkland and public space in the neighbourhood. Where the City will spend this money will be the subject of future public dialogue.
The Ontario Municipal Board is a failed process. Unfortunately, our city is routinely making concessions to developers on the advice of Planning staff and City lawyers so that we do not lose at the OMB. I have supported bills and made deputationsrequesting the province change the legislation and free Toronto from the OMB so that we can determine the ultimate fate of our city and neighbourhoods. Sadly, little has been done to change the arrangement, but we must continue to demand change from the provincial government. Please contact your MPP and express your concern with the process.