planning

Reforming the Committee of Adjustment

For the past six years, one of my chief priorities at City Hall has been to make the Committee of Adjustment (CoA) more effective, accountable and transparent.

In 2014, I placed multiple motions intended to overhaul the Committee of Adjustment, recommending professional training for CoA members, better engagement of residents and improvements to the public notices and notification process.

This year, there are plans to hold training sessions for CoA members in all four districts. This training will focus on the Neighbourhoods policy of the City’s Official Plan to ensure that CoA members are more attune to and respectful of the needs and desires of our local neighbourhoods.

City Planning is also planning to host a roundtable discussion this year with resident groups in each district to discuss outreach strategies and how the CoA can be more accessible and user-friendly. As a result of recent meetings I’ve had with Planning staff, the notice sign is also being redesigned to make it more visible and staff are exploring other strategies to improve the public notice process altogether.

I’ve long advocated for the audio-visual recording of CoA meetings, which finally came to fruition last fall. Currently, the city is working to enable live-streaming of CoA panels on Planning’s Youtube page by the end of the summer, this will increase the accountability of the CoA and allow residents to follow the proceedings in real time..

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.

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.

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.

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!

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.

Post City Column: Bayview design study underway

By Jaye Robinson
Post City Magazine — Bayview Edition
January 2014

Bayview Avenue from Lawrence Avenue East to Highway 401 is facing significant intensification and development pressure.

Throughout the fall, I have been working with residents and ratepayer associations as well as senior City of Toronto planning staff, including our chief planner, to develop solutions to protect and preserve Bayview’s unique and distinctive character.

In early November, I held a community meeting to give residents an opportunity to speak directly to city planning staff. A clear majority of the neighbourhood —including Bayview-area residents’ associations — voted to undertake a design guidelines study of Bayview from Lawrence to the 401.

I am pleased to report that immediately after the meeting I moved a successful motion at North York Community Council directing staff to get the study underway.

Design guidelines provide a framework for evaluating development applications and setting out setback, landscaping, privacy and other key design issues. They should also help prevent townhouse creep onto adjoining side streets. A similar study was undertaken for Bayview north of the 401.

Community and neighbourhood consultations will be the focus of the study. We need your input, and I encourage you to get involved when the study gets off the ground next year!

If you would like to receive updates about the study — including public consultation dates — please send me an email at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca, or give my office a call at 416-395-6408.

Port Lands Planning Study

The city and Waterfront Toronto are conducting four studies on economic development, urban design, transportation and infrastructure issues in the Port Lands and the area south of Eastern Avenue.

The first study will focus on developing a planning framework for the Port Lands, building on momentum from the Port Lands Acceleration Initiative, which I pushed forward last year at City Council and maintains Waterfront Toronto’s vision for a green, mixed-use waterfront while saving $120 million in infrastructure costs.

In fall 2012, I moved a successful motion asking city staff to explore all of the options to speed up the naturalization of the Don River, a key first step to unlocking development in the Port Lands, and I am pleased to see the initial planning steps getting underway!

A public consultation meeting is being held on Thursday, November 28 at 6 p.m. in the Riverdale Collegiate auditorium (1094 Gerrard St. E).

For more information, please visit http://www.portlandsconsultation.ca.

Bayview Avenue Planning Meeting

As you know, Bayview Avenue is facing significant intensification pressure. I have been meeting with senior city planning staff, including our Chief Planner, to highlight the issue and identify how we can preserve what makes Bayview and its adjacent neighbourhoods unique and livable.

I have also heard directly from many of you and very much appreciate the feedback and perspective.

Based on that feedback, I have organized a community meeting to discuss development on Bayview between Lawrence Avenue and the 401.

The meeting will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, November 6th at Crescent School (in the Centre for Creative Learning) at 2365 Bayview.

The meeting is an opportunity to speak directly to senior city planning staff and to think through our options and possible next steps as a community.

Please let me know if you can attend by sending me an email at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca or by calling my office at (416) 395-6408. Also, please do not hesitate to let me know if you would like to receive email updates as we move forward.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Planning reform updates

I ran on protecting neighbourhoods and have been crisscrossing the Ward throughout the fall attending community consultations and organizing communities.

My aim is to give neighbourhoods the strongest possible voice in the planning process, to put planning decisions in local hands.

Unfortunately, the Ontario Municipal Board more often than not blocks local decision making.

In February 2012, I voted along with City Council to ask the province to remove Toronto from the OMB’s jurisdiction. Unfortunately, this decision rests with the province and the province has not acted on the city’s request.

The good news is that we are making inroads on other planning reform issues that are within our purview.

I am eagerly awaiting a report that is expected to recommend that the city establish a local appeal board. The local appeal board would hear appeals from the Committee of Adjustment instead of the OMB – shifting power back into the city’s hands over smaller planning and zoning issues.

The report is also expected to recommend improvements to the Committee of Adjustment process that resulted from a Federation of North Toronto Ratepayers’ Association study that I helped off the ground alongside the Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee.

Queen’s Park recently announced a review of Ontario’s land use planning and appeal system. You can read more about the review here. However, the province has made it clear that it is not considering eliminating the OMB.

In that context, if you would like the province to act on City Council’s request to remove Toronto from the OMB’s jurisdiction, I encourage you to write to your local MPP – only the province can remove Toronto from the OMB and put planning decisions back into local hands.

Please let me know if you would like to receive planning reform updates by sending me an email or calling my office at (416) 395-6408.