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.

Heritage Building Demolished in Neighbouring Ward 16

Like many of you, I was devastated to learn about the sudden demolition of the Bank of Montreal heritage building in neighbouring Ward 16 at Yonge and Roselawn in late January.

In a previous development application for the site, city staff had identified a number of heritage attributes on the building and were in the process of reviewing the property for heritage designation. Unfortunately, under the Ontario Planning Act, the province only permits the city to deny a demolition permit if the building is formally designated as a heritage property, which is a lengthy process.

Heritage properties on Toronto’s commercial boulevards are important contributors to the character and health of our vibrant communities. That’s why I recently voted with City Council on two motions requesting that the province strengthen the city’s ability to protect historic landmarks in our neighbourhoods.

The first motion requests that the Province of Ontario give Toronto more authority in designating heritage properties under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would help speed up the process to protect buildings. Council also requested more control over the demolition of non-residential properties. At present, residential properties must submit an approved building permit prior to demolishing a structure but commercial properties do not currently have the same restrictions.

The second motion asks for internal improvements in Toronto Building and City Planning to improve the city’s current heritage review process and make it easier to identify proposed demolitions of buildings with heritage significance.

We must do more to protect the character of our main streetscapes and commercial boulevards, especially in light of the unprecedented over-development and density in the Yonge-Eglinton area – and these motions are an important step forward.

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.

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.