In 2017, the property owners of 30 Merton filed an application to the City to redevelop the parking garage. At the community meeting held later that fall, I heard a number of very valid concerns about the development proposal. These include: the size and scale of the building, vehicular and pedestrian safety on both Merton and Al Green Lane, the location of the vehicular ramps on Al Green Lane and the overall cumulative impact of increased density on infrastructure and social services. Subsequently, the 30 Merton property owner filed an appeal to the provincial Ontario Municipal Board (now called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal or LPAT). This is a provincial tribunal that ultimately has the final say on all development in Toronto.
It is important to note that the positive changes to the planning process approved by the previous provincial government were reversed by the current one, which returned developer-friendly rules. Unfortunately, the current Doug Ford government also overturned our community-led Midtown in Focus plan, which would have limited this building in height to 15 storeys to fit within the existing character of Merton Street. Doug Ford’s plan now permits a height potentially up to 40 storeys on this site.
Solicitors representing the City (myself and City Council), the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (SERRA), and other adjacent property owners registered as “Parties” to oppose the application. As part of the LPAT process, an option exists for Parties to participate in a mediated settlement to reach a compromise that might be acceptable to the various groups participating in the LPAT appeal as well as the local community. If a settlement is not reached, the proposal is brought towards the Tribunal for a full hearing where a provincially appointed adjudicator makes the final decision based on the most recently approved provincial legislation and plans.
A mediation session took place this winter, resulting in a potential agreement. While we oppose the system that gives an unelected provincial body the final say over planning decisions, we believe that a better development outcome will be achieved through this process than what could potentially be built if the decision was left in the hands of a provincially appointed adjudicator.
Before approving the agreement, I ensured that the proposed LPAT resolution would be made public, rather than remain confidential which is the typical settlement process. I hosted an online community meeting joined by City Planning and the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (SERRA) on July 22nd, to share the new plan. While many of those in attendance, including myself, are not supportive of the height and scale, they were largely convinced, based on the facts, that it was the best outcome achievable, given the reality. While I personally would have liked to continue opposing the agreement, I knew it would be irresponsible given that it was clear, based on the City planner and solicitor’s advice, that the Ford government’s new rules would have favoured the developer in a full LPAT hearing. I recorded the meeting which can be viewed in full on my website here and I would encourage you to watch the discussion and presentation made by City Planning staff.
Changes to the development through the mediation process include:
· Reduction of the base building from 7-5 storeys
· Reduction of the actual tower floor plate
· Increased setback of the building on Merton
· The tower height remains at 37-storeys given the new provincial plan potentially permits up to 40 storeys now on this site
· Significant improvements to the safety and function of Al Green Laneway from Balliol Street down to the Beltline
· The three vehicular access points originally proposed on Al Green Laneway have been consolidated into one point on Merton
· A 1.7m pedestrian walkway in the lane
· Resurfacing of the laneway paid for by the developer and other opportunities to make it a more welcoming space including, but not limited to new lighting and public art.
· Inclusion of a small-scale retail space on Merton Street. The small size of the retail space will limit it to local neighbourhood uses
· A larger ratio of family-sized units
· A $4.1 million contribution that can go towards the Davisville Aquatic Centre, further laneway improvements and any other community priorities like improvements to local parks or the streetscape.
You can access the entire settlement, City Planning report that further outlines the appeal and City process and City Council decision here.
The application will need to go through the City’s site plan approval process where technical details related to engineering, forestry, landscaping, servicing and construction management plan will have to be reviewed and approved before any permits are issued. Later this year, I will be working with SERRA to strike a community construction liaise committee to help ensure any construction impacts are mitigated and the developer is held accountable to the plan. I would also like to form a resident-led working group to consult on making Al Green laneway a safer and more welcoming place. If you are interested in being involved with either of these community groups, please email me at email@example.com to let me know
I’m deeply concerned over the development pressure in Davisville right now and the new challenges we are facing as a result of Doug Ford’s Midtown Plan that mandates development that cannot keep pace with the necessary infrastructure and social services needs in a community in our already dense community. In this e-newsletter I have launched a campaign to fight back against the provincial planning changes imposed upon us that greatly impact our Midtown community’s quality of life. Click here to learn more about how you can take action. I will also be holding an online Davisville Town Hall meeting in the fall to provide an update on the development issues we face as a community and how we can work together to demand the best development outcomes given the constraints we are facing. Please monitor upcoming e-newsletters for details.