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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Community Upset as City Approves Old Mill 10-Storey Condo

KPRI trying to find out how much the land was sold for: Community Upset as City Approves Old Mill 10-Storey Condo on Green Space
From KPRI Spring 2008 Newsletter

By: Anna Traer – KPRI Director
The Kingsway Park Ratepayers Inc. (KPRI), together with 25 ratepayer associations, 2 heritage and historical groups and some 200 residents, opposed the application for a 10-storey condominium building on land along the Humber River Valley and across from the historic Old Mill Inn (“the Land”). The Land is designated in the Toronto Official Plan as “Parks and Open Space Areas – Natural Areas” and it is part of Toronto’s Green Space System as described in the Toronto Official Plan.

All efforts to save 322 trees and stop this development on Green Space was dismissed by City Council on March 4, 2008 when Councillors voted 26-12 in favour of the development by the applicant, Sanek Investments Inc., on behalf of the owners of the Old Mill Inn. As a result, firstly, the Toronto Official Plan will be amended to change the site from "Parks and Open Space Areas - Natural Areas" to "Apartment Neighbourhood". Many residents believe that the integrity of the Toronto Official Plan has been weakened by the fact that its policies setting out to protect, improve and add to the Green Space System have not been upheld. Secondly, the Land will be rezoned for the third time as detailed below.
  1. 1963 - rezoned from Second Density Residential Classification (R2) to Limited Commercial Classification provided that the Land's use was limited to automobile parking only in conjunction with the Old Mill. Note that in 1981, the Old Mill Inn and restaurant was exempted from zoning with respect to standards for restaurants because of the unique and distinct land use and significant historical, architectural and scenic interest of the Old Mill.
  2. 1985 - rezoned from Limited Commercial to Private Open Space under a condition that no buildings are to be erected on the existing Old Mill parking area (further details below).
  3. [2008] - approved by Council for rezoning from Private Open Space to Sixth Density Residential Classification (R6).
No where in the Staff Reports dated January 25, 2008 and February 11, 2008 were restrictive covenants prohibiting construction of any buildings on the Lands mentioned. No where else in the immediate area is property rated R6.
Councillors heard from the community, including deputations by KPRI on behalf of itself and the Confederation of Resident & Ratepayer Associations in Toronto (CORRA - representing some 24 ratepayer associations city-wide, of which KPRI and SARA are members), Old Millside Residents' Association, Swansea Area Ratepayers’ Association (SARA), Warren Park Ratepayers’ Association, Humber Heritage Committee and Swansea Historical Society. Almost every one was in opposition to the development. Below are approximate numbers of residents and associations that opposed the development during the City process.
  • 70 residents at the Community Consultation Meeting held on April 17, 2007.
  • 40 residents and 6 representatives of ratepayers’ associations, heritage and historical organizations, many of whom braved a winter storm and made a deputation before a fully packed chamber hall at the Etobicoke York Community Council meeting (“EYCC”) on February 12, 2008.
  • 167 residents and 26 ratepayers associations sent a communication to the City Clerk, many of whom sought a deferral of the ‘Old Mill item’ before City Council on March 3 – 4, 2008 so that Staff Reports dated January 25, 2008 and February 11, 2008 could be reviewed for deficiencies.
Was 18 days sufficient time for the community that strongly opposed the development to review the Staff Report dated January 25 before EYCC on February 12? Was 1 day sufficient time to review the Supplementary Staff Report dated February 11 before EYCC?Was the development rushed through the City process?
Councillor Holyday’s motion to receive the Staff Report was narrowly defeated by City Council (15-21). If granted, it would have provided an opportunity for ratepayers and residents to bring information to Councillors so that their vote may be given with full knowledge of all issues in favour of and in opposition to the development. For example, 10 days after the vote, KRPI obtained a copy of the former City of York Council minutes of September 17, 1984. Item 831 dealt with the Land in which an amendment to the Official Plan and rezoning of the Land was conditional upon the execution of a three party agreement (City of York, Old Mill Investments Limited and Metropolitan Toronto and Region Conservation Authority) entitled “
Agreement to Prohibit Erection of Structures”, whereby the City of York required that the Old Mill and Conservation Authority covenant with the City of York that no buildings are to be erected on the existing Old Mill parking area within the Regional Flood Plan as presently defined by the Conservation Authority and on the lands which are to be acquired from the City of York for the expansion of the Old Mill parking lot. 
This agreement was not dealt with in the Staff Reports. Neither did the Staff Reports highlight impacts on Parks and Open Space Areas - Natural Areas. 
Councillor Peter Milczyn’s motion to approve the application cites support for the development by staff - Toronto & Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), Urban Forestry and City Planning. Staff made recommendations, which included an extensive ecological restoration and replacement of trees cut down. Toronto Tree Advocate Joe Pantalone, in consultation with Peter Milczyn, brought amendments to the motion to ensure the applicant will replace trees by a 3:1 ratio. Is this ratio sufficient given that tree canopy replacement may require a greater ratio? Is it acceptable that many of the replacement trees will be planted in the parklands nearby since there is insufficient space to plant them on site?
City Council will be required to approve the site plan subject to a community consultation process addressing concerns such as urban design, landscaping, sidewalk and traffic.
A sense of being in a unique enclave of the City with a view of the vast Humber Ravine is lost to urban development. A precedent has been set along the Humber River and on Green Space throughout the city.

Should this development be brought before the Ontario Municipal Board? Should not City Council protect, improve and add to green space as it said it would in its own Toronto Official Plan? Only you can make a difference by having your say by talking to or writing your ratepayers' association and local Councillor what you think, and voting at the next municipal election.