August 22nd, 2014
The Toronto Star
Trying to get from one place to another in Toronto can sometimes feel like a nightmare.
But councillor Josh Matlow (Open Josh Matlow’s policard) says the key to easing some of the city’s epic congestion, for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike is to make it harder for developers to take over public space for their construction.
Matlow will bring forward a motion at City Council’s Aug. 25 meeting for city staff to report on the feasibility of not letting developers occupy the public right of way during construction projects, or raising fees to make it more difficult for them to do so.
“While some keep using rhetoric about the ‘war on cars’ or the ‘war on bikes’, this has an impact on everyone who wants to use Toronto’s streets and sidewalks and bike lanes,” says Matlow.
“It’s in our face every single day and residents are left to live perpetually in a construction zone.”
Just this month, merchants at Yonge and Eglinton complained that a busy stretch of Yonge St., was being closed to traffic for 48 hours over a summer weekend because a crane that was being used at a condo construction site was being taken down.
Matlow, who calls the motion a “no-brainer,” says he realizes that the long term solution lies in improving public transit but that in the meantime this is a “very clear way now” to ease gridlock.
The Ward 22 councillor says his objective is to eliminate the practice altogether, but if that’s not possible, he’d like to raise the fees for developers to use public space to encourage them to find other ways to complete construction.
“Right now there’s actually incentives for them, given how easy it is to get the permits, how cheap it is for them to just take over a public street for as long as they want. We need to say that’s not right,” he says.
Brad Lamb, president of Brad J. Lamb Realty and Lamb Development Corp., says the motion is “asinine” and would “choke off development” that has created billions of dollars.
“It is the goal of a developer to not use public land … the only reason why we do it is out of absolute necessity. In other words, the building cannot be built otherwise,” he says.
He says the bigger issue is the need for a better transit system.
“It’s already exceptionally difficult to develop in the city. To make it more difficult to develop in the city with this kind of recommendation is incredibly short sighted,” he says.
Leona Savoie, of the Building Industry and Land Development Association, says that the traffic issues within Toronto are due to multiple different sources and that it seems “unfair” to blame all construction congestion to the building and development industry.
Matlow’s motion recommends that Transportation Services report to the Public Works and Infrastructure committee by February 2015.
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