development

Intensification & the OMB in Yonge-Eglinton

The Yonge and Eglinton neighbourhood is experiencing some of the most extreme intensification in the entire city – by 2030, between 24,000 and 28,000 new residents are expected to live in the area.

The Ontario Municipal Board has continued to approve development after development without considering whether there is the infrastructure capacity to handle such a huge increase of development and the impacts to the existing community.

The OMB-approved 35-storey building at 18-30 Erskine Avenue – right next to John Fisher Junior Public School – is the ultimate example of this irresponsible and narrow-focused provincial planning process. While I’m encouraged by the province’s recently announced reforms to the OMB, they’re unfortunately too late for already approved developments like the one at 18-30 Erskine and the overdevelopment of Yonge-Eglinton more generally.

In the meantime, the city is developing a new planning framework – called Midtown in Focus – to improve parks, open space and streetscape in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. In 2015, I moved to expand the scope of Midtown in Focus to include a review of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transit, transportation networks, community services, water and energy.

Midtown in Focus will begin to come to fruition later this year when city staff bring forward draft recommendations for the updated Yonge Eglinton Secondary Plan. The new Secondary Plan is expected to be completed in mid-2018.

Improving Residential Infill Construction Sites

In my first term, based on feedback from residents, I moved several motions urging the city to improve its response to residential infill construction sites and ensure that our neighbourhoods are protected and respected when undergoing development.

 

In response, last year city staff developed a multi-faceted strategy to minimize the negative impacts of residential infill construction and streamline how the city deals with problem properties.

Since the approval of this strategy, we’ve made significant headway in encouraging good construction practices and ensuring proper enforcement, including:

  • A new introductory inspection to clarify the city’s expectations with the builder
  • A policy for expanding the use of tickets as an enforcement tool
  • Enhanced training for building inspectors

Toronto Building is also in the midst of developing requirements for a new and improved notice that permit holders will be required to post on site.

Be sure to check out toronto.ca/infill, which provides resources for residents, including a Good Neighbour Guide outlining requirements, best practices and communication tips to help everyone involved move smoothly through the project.

Update on Improvements to Residential Infill Construction

In my first term, based on what I was hearing from residents, I moved several motions urging the city to improve its response to residential infill construction sites and ensure that our neighbourhoods are protected and respected when undergoing development.

In response, last year city staff developed a multi-faceted strategy to minimize the negative impacts of residential infill construction and streamline how the city deals with problem properties.

Since the approval of this strategy, we’ve made significant headway in encouraging good construction practices and ensuring proper enforcement , including:

  • A new introductory inspection to clarify the city’s expectations with the builder
  • A policy for expanding the use of tickets as an enforcement tool
  • Enhanced training for building inspectors

Toronto Building is also in the midst of developing requirements for a new and improved notice that permit holders will be required to post on site.

Be sure to check out toronto.ca/infill, which provides great resources for residents, including a Good Neighbour Guide outlining requirements, best practices and communication tips to help everyone involved move smoothly through the project.

Committee of Adjustment

Since I became your local Councillor in 2010, I’ve advocated for reforms to make the Committee of Adjustment more effective, accountable and transparent. While there is still a long way to go, I’m happy to let you know that a number of improvements have been announced recently.

One of my goals has been to make the Committee of Adjustment more accessible and user-friendly, and I’m pleased to share that detailed information about minor variance and consent applications is now available through the Application Information Centre. This means that you can easily access all variance lists, site plans and supporting documents online.

The city has also just announced the launch of the Committee of Adjustment’s Mediation Pilot Program. This free and voluntary program will allow neighbours to access professional assistance and avoid extensive – and expensive – appeals.

The mediation sessions will be conducted by a neutral third-party mediator and a neutral, experienced professional planner with knowledge of the city’s planning policies and minor variance legislation.

To learn more about the Mediation Pilot Program, click here.

Improvements to the Committee of Adjustment

As you may know, in my first term I moved several successful motions requesting significant improvements to the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) in order to strengthen transparency and accountability.

I’m please to let you know that City Planning is finally moving ahead with a number of these improvements.

Earlier this year, city staff implemented my recommendation to record CoA hearings. In the coming months, they’ll also be mobilizing technology in other ways to reduce costs and waste.

For example, the newly launched eServices portal requires digital submission of CoA applications – this means that information and decisions relating to active applications will be easily available online at the Application Information Centre on the city’s website.

City Planning has also prepared a CoA brochure that will help residents navigate the processes and procedures of the Committee and more effectively engage in hearings.

Moving forward, city staff will be conducting a full review of CoA processes in each district of Toronto to ensure a more consistent practice across the entire city.

Ontario Municipal Board Review

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) has had a significant impact on Ward 25 – from Yonge and Eglinton to Bayview Avenue and Don Mills, our neighbourhoods are under intense pressure because of the OMB.

The OMB is a provincially appointed, quasi-judicial administrative tribunal that hears planning appeals from the municipal level. When an application is appealed to the OMB, it’s the OMB – not the City of Toronto – that decides whether to approve the application.

The OMB Members that preside over cases are often not from Toronto and do not have the intimate knowledge and local context of our neighbourhoods that the city’s planning departments and local representatives have.

Additionally, while many jurisdictions have planning appeal bodies, none have the same power and broad rights that the OMB does. The OMB has more extensive influence over local planning-related matters than any other provincial board in Canada.

Since I became your local Councillor, nearly every major development in Ward 25 has been appealed to the OMB. This has resulted in over 3,800 residential units and 330 storeys being decided by the province, not the city.

I’ve voted four times with City Council to remove Toronto from the jurisdiction of the OMB. Although the province has not yet acted on releasing Toronto from the OMB’s grasp, they’ve launched a review of the Board’s scope and effectiveness.

You can read more about the review here.

In particular, the province is focusing on five areas:

  • The OMB’s jurisdiction and powers;
  • Citizen participation and local perspective;
  • Clear and predictable decision-making;
  • Modern procedures and faster decisions; and,
  • Alternative dispute resolution and fewer hearings.

I strongly encourage you to participate in the review and share your feedback on the OMB with the province. There are several ways to get involved:

  • Submit or upload your comments using an online web-form
  • Email OMBReview@ontario.ca
  • Call 1-855-776-8011
  • Mail a submission to: Ontario Municipal Board Review, Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Provincial Planning Policy Branch, 777 Bay Street (13th Floor), Toronto, M5G 2E5

The deadline for providing feedback is December 19, 2016.

I also encourage you to attend the province’s OMB Town Hall in Toronto on November 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. To RSVP, please click here.

Planning in the Midtown Neighbourhood

Midtown in Focus is an innovative vision for the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and includes planning principles to improve parks, open space and the streetscape.

City Council approved Midtown in Focus with broad community support in 2014 following an extensive public consultation process. The plan aims to increase green space in the Yonge-Eglinton area and is a key component of the area’s livability moving forward.

Unfortunately, since the passing of the Midtown in Focus plan, it has been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. The first pre-hearing for this appeal will be held on July 12.

If you’re interested in getting involved in fighting this appeal, please don’t hesitate to contact my office.

Brainstorming with residents, city staff and neighbouring Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb at the latest Midtown Planning Group meeting.

Brainstorming with residents, city staff and neighbouring Councillor Christin Carmichael Greb at the latest Midtown Planning Group meeting.

Progress on Residential Infill Construction

Residential infill construction activity in Toronto has more than doubled between 2010 and 2015 – and 33% of this construction is happening in Ward 25 and the two neighbouring Wards.

Last term, I moved several motions at the Planning & Growth Management Committee – directly based on what I was hearing from local residents – to improve and streamline the city’s response to problem residential infill construction sites.

In response to my recommendations, city staff have designed an interdivisional strategy to minimize and mitigate the negative impacts of residential infill construction activity.

The strategy is three-pronged and involves:

  • Improvements to the complaint management system to ensure complaints are dealt with more effectively, including enhanced coordination between city divisions;
  • Improvements to communication with residents, including the creation of a city website with key information, the development of a best practices guide for builders and required construction signage on-site; and,
  • Development of good construction practices, including improved education, more effective enforcement, a ticketing pilot project and enhanced building inspector knowledge

It’s high time that contractors start playing by the rules and that residents have easy access to information that will help them better navigate what’s happening in their neighbourhoods.

Staff’s recommendations also provide timelines for the roll out of each recommendation – in my mind, this improves transparency and holds the city accountable.

You can read staff’s full report by clicking here.

In early 2017, Municipal Licensing & Standards will provide recommendations on dust control measures, including the enactment of a bylaw regulating dust from construction activities.

Improving Transparency and Accountability at the Committee of Adjustment

Improvements to the Committee of Adjustment are on the way!

Back in June 2014, I moved a successful motion requesting city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment. In particular, I asked for:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well-informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

For the full text of my motion, click here.

I’m pleased to announce that, at this month’s Planning and Growth Management Committee, city staff brought forward a report recommending the purchase and installation of a device that would allow for the full audio-visual recording of Committee of Adjustment meetings.

Click here to read the report.

Audio-visual recordings of Committee of Adjustment panels will improve the transparency of the process by keeping a record of the meetings.

The device will be installed at City Hall in January 2016.

While there is a significant amount of work still to be done to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, I’m heartened to see the realization of one of my long-standing recommendations. I look forward to seeing more improvements to the Committee of Adjustment in the near future.

The Planning and Growth Management Committee also requested a report on the feasibility of live-streaming Committee of Adjustment meetings – this means you could follow the meetings from the comfort of your home.

Be on the lookout for that report in 2016!

Local Appeal Body

As no doubt you’re aware, Toronto is facing incredible intensification pressure. That’s why I’m pleased to announce that the city is getting traction on real and significant planning reform!

In my first term in office, I worked with the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the establishment of a Local Appeal Body (LAB) off the ground. City Council approved the LAB in July 2014.

The LAB will be an independent decision-making body that will replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) in hearing appeals of minor variance and consent applications.

The goal is to give Toronto more control over defining its own neighbourhoods. For example, the city, not the province, will appoint LAB members and set up the appointments process. The LAB will also determine its own rules of practice and procedure.

A report from City Planning about the LAB will be coming to Executive Committee in January 2016.

For more information on the LAB, check out this staff presentation from spring 2014.

Intensification in the Yonge & Eglinton Community

Toronto is experiencing unprecedented growth. While many neighbourhoods are feeling the pinch, few are experiencing levels of growth and change like the Yonge-Eglinton area. This growth has direct impacts on our built form and infrastructure – from transit to schools to stormwater management.

That’s why, in July 2015, I asked the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

The goal of the study, the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, is to develop an evidence-based planning approach that can better inform the development review process and policy-making moving forward.

From my perspective, any and all growth needs to be effectively managed to ensure the continued liveability of our community. These planning tools will guide the vision, form and fit of future developments with a focus on the context-specific character of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood.

Building on the recently City Council-approved Midtown in Focus, a plan focusing on public realm improvements to streets, buildings and open spaces, the Yonge and Eglinton Review is really four plans in one. Using recent growth analyses, the Review examines built form, cultural heritage, community infrastructure and transportation and municipal services.

A key component of the review involves a detailed analysis of the performance and capacity of city infrastructure, including transportation networks, water, wastewater and energy. The final report will outline what infrastructural improvements would be needed based on projected growth estimates.

Expected in Spring 2016, the report will enhance the development review process by providing hard data on the multiple impacts of intensification in Yonge-Eglinton.

The bottom line is that we want to maintain the unique feel of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood and the characteristics that make it a vibrant community.

For updates on the Yonge and Eglinton Growth, Built Form and Infrastructure Review, click here.

Intensification and Development Pressure in Yonge-Eglinton

Intensification is a major issue across Ward 25. The Yonge-Eglinton area in particular is facing very significant development pressure.

That’s why I moved a motion earlier this year at City Council directing the Chief Planner to report on planning tools that can be used to help manage the growth and intensification pressure in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. Click here to read my motion.

I also directed staff to accelerate the built form study of the Yonge-Eglinton area. The goal of this study is to develop up-to-date policies to guide growth and maintain the neighbourhood’s quality of life. The study builds on the Midtown in Focus plan, a City Council approved strategy to improve parks, open spaces and streets.

To stay up-to-date about the master plan for the Yonge-Eglinton area, click here.

Increasing Fees in Construction Contracts

I chaired the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in summer 2015 where we approved a pilot to apply acceleration and delay costs in construction contracts.

The goal is to reduce congestion by speeding up construction on city roads, particularly high-traffic corridors.

The pilot has a two-pronged approach:

  • Financial penalties for construction delays
  • An innovative tendering process that considers both overall cost and completion time

Other jurisdictions, including Ottawa and York Region, have had success in applying acceleration and delay costs to high-priority construction projects.

City staff will report back on the pilot to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee in 2017.

Click here for more information.

Construction Site Nuisances – Improving Our Response

As I wrote in my last eNewsletter, I brought a motion forward to last month’s Planning and Growth Management Committee asking the city to improve its response to problem residential infill construction.

Living near a construction site can be disruptive, to say the least, and I’m pleased to report that the Committee passed my motion.

Based on Ward 25’s experience, my motion directs the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Posting key information on site, like noise restrictions and parking permissions;
  • Effective enforcement measures to ensure compliance with all applicable regulations;
  • Streamlining the city’s response by identifying a single lead to liaise with the neighbourhood and coordinate an interdivisional response; and,
  • Measures to deal with buildings that are not built according to approved plans and drawings.

Please see the full text of my motion here.

 

Construction Coordination

We are deep into an unprecedented construction season.

While the increased construction activity signals much needed and long overdue investment in our city’s basic infrastructure, it also brings congestion and disruption.

In response, the city is redoubling its construction coordination efforts.

I recently met with the Director of the city’s Major Capital Infrastructure Coordination (MCIC) group – the lead on construction coordination.

MCIC’s job is to organize and connect key stakeholders from city divisions (Water, Transportation, TTC), third-party utility and telecommunication companies (Toronto Hydro, Enbridge, Rogers, Bell) as well as private developers, share information and identify opportunities to bundle and streamline work.

MCIC’s role does not end when construction starts. Once shovels are in the ground, MCIC is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce congestion and disruption, including accelerating or decelerating construction activity or implementing short term signal changes on surrounding streets, among other things.

Of course, there is always room for improvement – I see it day in and day out.

Please let me know if you see an example of poor construction coordination by sending me an email or calling my office. Each and every example can help us improve the city’s response going forward!

Moving Forward on Planning Reform

Toronto is moving ahead on real and significant planning reform!

The movement starts with City Council’s recent decision to create a Local Appeal Body (LAB). The LAB will hear appeals from the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) instead of the Ontario Municipal Board.

The LAB is expected to be in place by September 2015. I worked alongside the former Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee to get the LAB concept off the ground, and I am pleased to see it become a reality.

As I said during the debate at City Council, this is an opportunity to take control of our city’s planning and development and shift some decision-making power to the local, neighbourhood level where it belongs.

The decision to create a LAB is a great opportunity to rethink the CoA – to rebuild the minor variance process from the ground up.

That’s why I championed a motion at the Planning and Growth Management Committee asking for fundamental improvements to the CoA.

My motion passed unanimously and directed the Chief Planner to look at everything from extending the notice area to improving the training and professional development of CoA members to having a city planner on hand during hearings to answer questions from residents.

I also asked city staff to develop a participation strategy to ensure that the public is not only well informed but has the tools and know-how to effectively engage in the process. You can see the full motion below.

The Chief Planner’s report is expected in early 2015.

PGM TLAB by jayerobinson on Scribd

Planning Reform – Towards a Functional Committee of Adjustment

The city’s move towards a local appeal body is an opportunity to take a new approach to minor variance applications at the Committee of Adjustment.

That’s why I’ve put a significant motion on the Planning and Growth Management Committee’s June agenda.

My motion asks the city’s Chief Planner to bring forward a report in the first quarter of 2015 on key recommendations to improve how the Committee of Adjustment functions in the minor variance context.

The motion is based on your feedback over the past term, and it specifically requests the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

You can check out the full text of my motion here. Keep an eye on my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee’s June meeting!

Residential Infill Construction – Improving Our Response

Residential infill construction can be a major disruption, especially for immediate neighbours and nearby homes.

In my experience, the problems can often be complex and multifaceted, from improper shoring and fencing to noise and site safety issues to impassable streets and sidewalks.

That’s why I’ve brought a motion forward to June’s Planning and Growth Management Committee meeting asking city staff to improve how the city responds to problem residential infill construction sites.

Based on Ward 25’s feedback and experience over the past term, my motion directs the city’s Chief Building Official to examine, among other things:

  • The feasibility of identifying a single city staff lead to liaise with neighbours and coordinate an interdivisional response;
  • Improved and effective enforcement measures to ensure compliance with site and safety by-laws;
  • The feasibility of posting key information on hoarding boards, like noise restrictions and parking permissions; and,
  • Develop a plan to effectively deal with buildings that are not built according to plan.

You can see my full motion here and check my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee meeting!

Planning Reform – Towards a Functional Committee of Adjustment

The city’s move towards a local appeal body is an opportunity to take a new approach to minor variance applications at the Committee of Adjustment.

That’s why I’ve put a significant motion on the Planning and Growth Management Committee’s June agenda.

My motion asks the city’s Chief Planner to bring forward a report in the first quarter of 2015 on key recommendations to improve how the Committee of Adjustment functions in the minor variance context.

The motion is based on your feedback over the past term, and it specifically requests the Chief Planner to report on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee of Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tools to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

You can check out the full text of my motion here. Keep an eye on my next newsletter for a report on the outcome of the Committee’s June meeting!

Update on Committee of Adjustment Reform

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In June 2014, I asked city staff to bring forward a report with recommendations to improve the Committee of Adjustment.

Among other things, I directed city staff to report back on:

  • Improvements to the notice process, including the manner and form of public notices as well as extending the distribution area and timeline;
  • Training and professional development for Committee Adjustment panel members;
  • The audio-visual or audio recording of Committee of Adjustment panels; and,
  • A public participation strategy to ensure the public is well informed about the process and has the tolls to effectively engage in Committee of Adjustment hearings.

For the full text of my motion click here

Late last month, senior city staff brought two reports to the Planning and Growth Management Committee in response to my motion.

Click here and here to read the reports.

While a significant amount of good work is now under way, the reports left significant room for improvement.

That’s why, following a full and vigorous debate, I championed a series of motions pushing city staff to do better.

My motions direct the Chief Planner to hold a roundtable with residents’ associations and other neighbourhood groups to gather feedback from those most directly impacted by and involved with the Committee of Adjustment.

I also attached hard second quarter deadlines to public notice improvements and asked senior city staff to research best practices in comparable jurisdictions outside of Ontario.

For the full text of the committee’s lengthy decision, click here.