Councillor Josh Matlow

Update on 206 Russell Hill Road

In 2018 an application was submitted to the City that proposed demolishing the home at 206 Russell Hill Road and replacing it with a four-unit, 3-storey townhouse building. At the community consultation meeting, a number of South Hill residents raised concerns over the configuration of the townhouses, impacts to the ravine and shared insight on potential heritage value of the building.

Heritage Planning staff undertook an extensive review and in 2019, recommended that the property be included on the Heritage Register and be designated under the Ontario Heritage Act. This recommendation was supported by the Toronto Preservation Board and City Council. You can read the City’s report for designation here

It was my understanding that the heritage matter had been resolved and that this home was protected. However, an appeal was made to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal (LPAT) and the City’s position was challenged based on an alleged administrative error regarding notification. The LPAT adjudicator made the determination that the property owner did not receive the legislated notice by the deadline and this has resulted in the City being required to repeal the heritage bylaw.

What this means is that 206 Russell Hill Road is no longer protected under the Ontario Heritage Act and the developer is permitted to demolish the building and redevelop the site.

I found this news to be incredulous and completely absurd that there was not a system in place by the City to ensure that critical legislated notices were handled correctly. While I have been advised by City Clerks that system has now been fixed, I have also been advised that this mistake for 206 Russell Hill Road cannot be retroactively fixed. This is not for lack of trying, but legislatively the City has no other feasible avenues to continue challenging this decision.

Last City Council meeting a proposed settlement offer, which included revised plans of the development proposal, were brought forward for a vote. Due to the legal nature of LPAT development appeals, the plans remained confidential and I was unable to share and consult with the wider community on whether they were acceptable. On a matter of principle, I did not support the development proposal but it was accepted by City Council.

I am deeply angry and frustrated that a legal technicality could result in the loss of a home that warranted protection under the Ontario Heritage Act. I understand that many of you upon learning this news will share my frustration and it’s valid. I want to assure that as your local representative, I have pressed city staff to overturn every rock to find a way to continue challenging the decision but legislatively, the City has no other feasible avenues. While I have been assured that the systems that resulted in this error have been fixed, the outcome is unacceptable and should have never been able to happen.

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