Monday, September 15, 2008

But we Want a Plaza

Edenbridge plaza plot rezoned despite raucous opposition

An evening session of the Etobicoke-York Community Council disintegrated into a melee of shouted accusations this week as councillors turned on one another and several residents stormed out of chambers claiming a lack of due democratic process.

The public meeting was called Tuesday night to discuss the contentious city-staff-backed (and ultimately council-approved) rezoning of Edenbridge Plaza in order to bring it in line with the Apartment Neighbourhoods designation of the City of Toronto's Official Plan. Its approval paves the way for the construction of a towering mixed-use condominium development on the 7,049 square metre site at 25 Fontenay Ct., in the Scarlett Road and Eglinton Avenue West area.
"This is communism, not a democracy here," said Ward 2 Councillor Rob Ford as, one by one, his colleagues spoke out in favour of the proposal.

"I hope our local councillor (Ward 4's Gloria Lindsay Luby) votes against this, but if she doesn't I'd urge residents to remember that at election time," he added, to the applause of outraged local residents.

Ford is a resident of Edenbridge Drive and the tables turned on him when Ward 12 Councillor Frank DiGiorgio cautioned him against voting on the proposal due to a conflict of interest, citing the project clearly "affects him personally."

But Ford shrugged off the notion: "I'm not going to (declare a conflict) because you only do that when you stand to make money. I'm going to lose money on this."

Spontaneous jeers from the packed council chambers throughout the proceedings prompted Council Chair Frances Nunziata to ask several instigators to either quiet down or leave, but several residents stomped out of their own accord, calling the proceedings "a joke."

The controversial condominium in question will contain a total of 247 residential units between two towers - one 19-storey and one 12-storey - linked by a five-storey podium containing commercial and amenity space. But local community members, the majority of whom are seniors, said what the community really needs is a walkable, one-stop shopping plaza, not more population-intensifying and traffic-congesting highrises.

"This is a case where planners, developers and our own councillor have gone mad, and all in the name of growth," longtime local resident Jeanne Quee said, aiming her attack at Lindsay Luby. "The city loves developers, but what about the local community? To hell with them; their concerns don't seem to matter. And that is very tragic."

Under its current Local Planned Commercial (CPL) zoning, the site allows for a commercial plaza at a maximum height of two storeys; residential use is not authorized. The existing plaza now houses a pharmacy, bank, barber shop and a now-vacant grocery store, among others - amenities both sides of the debate concede are local necessities given the high senior population in the area.

"I know the community is never going to be happy with this development, but I have to do what I believe will best rejuvenate the community. This is the right development," Lindsay Luby said, noting she's arranged for a community bus to transport seniors to nearby shopping plazas during the construction phase of the project. "It's just a matter of getting through this. Hopefully, in time, there will be a great plaza (on this site) that will meet all the needs you have."

Robert Truman, an independently hired planner on the project, said that while he can't guarantee that the retail podium of the proposal will contain all of the amenities currently available at the plaza, it is not the owner's intention to leave his neighbours hanging.

"This is a case of a person trying to do the right thing for the community...We're aware that the plaza is going downhill," he said. "The inclusion of retail in any such development is risky, but because it's part of the city plan, the owner agreed to it and he's replacing the retail space almost equally (1,377 metres squared proposed versus 1,770 metres squared existing)."

In addition to securing that retail space in the proposed development, Lindsay Luby was also able to negotiate a $300,000 contribution toward the improvement of the Edenbridge Community Centre as a Section 37 benefit under the Planning Act - a move some of her fellow councillors applauded her for.

"In terms of due diligence, Councillor Lindsay Luby has done everything in her power to act in the interests of her community," Ward 17 Councillor Cesar Palacio said, expressing his concern that should the rezoning application not be approved by council, all that hard work would be for naught.

"The leverage we currently have in getting benefits under Section 37 will disappear if we reject this and end up at the OMB (Ontario Municipal Board), where lawyers make the decisions," he added. "It's better to have your local councillors in the driver's seat."

"The OMB can easily overturn any decision this board makes," Ward 7 Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti agreed. "In doing so, this community stands to lose everything...(this proposal) is the best you're going to get."

With the exception of Ford, all councillors present voted in favour of rezoning the site. The matter will go before Toronto City Council later this month for final approval.

David Pylyp; The location is prime for redevelopment and the best use would be for a high rise residential development. Having said that, IF.. If the plaza had been supported by its community then the plaza owners would not be looking at the redevelopment of the site.

No business venture can survive without neighbourhood support and ultimately profitability.

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