Sunday, February 17, 2008

Council approves community consultation on project's site plan

A 10-storey condominium proposed to be built on The Old Mill's upper parking lot got the green light this week despite opposition by residents' groups.

The Etobicoke York Community Council voted Tuesday night to grant Old Mill owners Official Plan and zoning amendments to build an 84-unit condo with a four-storey underground garage with 218 parking spaces.

"I appreciate people's dislike, but this type of application is not dealt with lightly by staff or council," said local Ward 5 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) Councillor Peter Milczyn, after 13 residents addressed the committee in opposition to the project.

Councillors adopted Milczyn's amendments to permit community consultation on the project's site plan - not normally a public process - for landscaping and streetscaping to address traffic safety concerns, as well as the detailed design of ecological features.

Santek Investments Inc., which represents The Old Mill owners, want to build the condo in part to resolve its longstanding parking shortage. During peak periods, patrons routinely park on Old Mill Road, and in neighbouring parking lots.

Opponents charge that granting approval to change the city ravine-protected site's OP designation from "Parks and Open Space Areas - Natural Areas" to "Apartment Neighbourhood" could threaten ravines across the city.

"If the city continues to violate the spirit and intent of the Official Plan then the Official Plan will stand for nothing," said John Boudreau of Old Millside Residents' Association, an area located on the east side of the Humber River.

"It will be open season on ravines across the City of Toronto." Madeleine McDowell, representing the Humber Heritage Committee and the Swansea Historical Society, defended the Humber River Valley. "'Open Space' is not empty waiting to be filled," she said. "This is not in the common good of the people. The valley is the neighbourhood, much more than Bloor Street."
But commenting agency Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and councillors disagreed.
The application met two TRCA tests: it demonstrated no risk of flooding on the site or adjacent sites, and actually would replace a parking lot on 3,500-square metres with 10,000 square metres of plantings down the river valley, Steven Heuchert, TRCA's manager of development planning and regulation said yesterday in an interview.

"In an ideal world both of the parking lots would be reverted back to green space," Heuchert said. "You would replace the development impacts there now, due to the parking lots, with a forest lot or wetland habitat.

"But realistically, that's not going to happen... We try to get the best we can, while ensuring our basic principles are covered."

Boudreau questioned why city staff and councillors defend the Official Plan on some applications, and not others.

Recently, the city and a Kingsway residents' group fought - and lost - an Ontario Municipal Board battle over Dunpar Developments Inc.'s proposed seven-storey condominium in an area where the Dundas West Avenue Study dictates five storeys. The project also included the purchase of three neighbourhood houses.

The two applications represent completely different planning contexts, Milczyn said.
"While (Dunpar's application) was about an extra floor and pushing the building of a few houses into the neighbourhood, the next application might want to take more houses out of the neighbourhood, might want more extra floors or several buildings with several extra floors.
"Over time, it could result in hundreds and hundreds of extra units, and a completely different look to that area rather than what the vision was," Milczyn said in an interview Wednesday, adding it has implications for how other avenue studies across Toronto might be treated.
By comparison, The Old Mill condo decision isn't likely to have a domino effect on other city ravines, Milczyn said.

"The Old Mill application is one single, unique, isolated site," he said. "What happens on that doesn't really set a precedent for any neighbouring sites, additional sites along the Humber (River) and likely not on any or many sites anywhere else within the city."

BY TAMARA SHEPHARD February 14, 2008 03:43 PM

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