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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CCQLD Statement at Ontario Municipal Board

Hi everyone,

Below is the statement CCQLD made at the Ontario Municipal Board hearing this afternoon. The Board is considering Gerrard Clonmore Developments' site plan application on one of its proposed high-rise tower blocks, as well a rezoning application for smaller unit sizes on a select number of units. The City is opposing the application and CCQLD is one of three groups granted participant status by the Board.

The hearing is likely to last until mid-to-late next week. We won't know until the end of hearing if the Board decision will be given out at that time or after a longer period of deliberation. Either way, after the OMB hearing is complete, as a community we will need to regroup and plan our next steps.

An update on the independent environmental report CCQLD has commissioned from AiMS Consulting: We have seen a first draft and have replied with some questions and requests for elaboration in some places. We expect to have the final report within the next two weeks and will share it at that time.

CCQLD Participant Presentation to Ontario Municipal Board, re. Quarry Lands
Feb. 17, 2010

Thank you Mr. Chairman,

We appreciate the opportunity to be here today. Very quickly, I’d like to provide the board with some brief background about our organization before outlining several reasons why we oppose this application.

Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development was formed in 2003, after hundreds of area residents turned out to a public meeting in response to GCD’s minor variance application to the Scarborough Committee of Adjustment. CCQLD was incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2005, focused exclusively on this issue. We hold yearly Annual General Meetings, with our Board of Directors elected by our membership. Membership is $10 per year and is open to anyone, with voting restricted to members living in the area. We currently have approximately 180 members from the community. Our board of directors meets regularly, and our board and other members have organized, taken part and attended countless initiatives over the past six years, including brownfield conferences, community meetings, design charettes, city meetings, previous OMB hearings, and most recently the Special Committee meetings that arose out of the standstill agreement from November 2008.

Our objectives as outlined in our constitution are to “represent the interests of the residents of the general area defined by, but not limited to, Main Street to the west, Birchmount Rd on the east, from Lake Ontario to the south to Danforth Ave. on the north, in their desire to see an appropriate use of the lands known as The Quarry Lands.”

Our constitution states that CCQLD starts with the premise that the land use proposed by one owner/developer, GCD, “does not represent the best use of the lands.” It goes on to say that CCQLD “will make reasonable efforts to determine and advocate for the best use of the lands. It is not a prescribed goal of the Association to develop such a plan; however, it accepts that should it occur that it would be of significant benefit.”

We say this to make the point that this is not NIMBY-ism at play. Far from it. We understand the need and rationale for urban intensification, and we agree with it. Many people in our community -- in fact probably the majority of people seven years ago when our group was formed -- wanted the quarry lands to stay as is or be used as a park. CCQLD recognized long ago this is not a realistic nor even necessarily desirable outcome. Instead, we choose to see this land as an opportunity to do something special, and we believe we have helped move the community a long way over the past six years to a stage where the public discussion now focuses around a number of visions of what we want or are prepared to see happen there.

In order to manage expectations, we have repeatedly stated to our members and the community that whatever takes place on the quarry lands, it won’t necessarily be a mirror of the overwhelmingly single family homes that surround this property and make up the surrounding area. We have also repeatedly stated that the eventual development must be responsible development. It must be something that enhances our community, and provides an outcome of which all parties can all be proud.

With respect, the application before you envisions a development that meets none of these criteria.

We are opposing this application for several reasons:

First, as you know, the City of Toronto had been engaged in a Birchcliff Quarry Lands Area Study over the full 49-acre Quarry lands site prior to the Special Committee meetings. But the Quarry Lands study has been an extremely valuable and helpful process for area residents, and I would guess city planners and perhaps even GCD itself. The debates and discussions were at a high level because of the knowledge that has been transferred, the information sharing, and the exchange of positions and ideas. This is the right way to go about building a city. CCQLD commends city planning staff, the community, our city councilor and everyone involved for their commitment to a process that is not easy, but one that is absolutely necessary. And it needs an opportunity to be finished in order for a comprehensive plan to be developed. We cannot create healthy communities and healthy neighbourhoods – green, pedestrian-friendly, livable, with appropriate services and facilities – in isolation.

Secondly, we are opposing this application because the outcome it would help facilitate is fundamentally at odds with good planning and city building in the 21st century. As you know, the zoning on this property is from 1968 and was framed in the backdrop of a planned Scarborough expressway. We cannot overstate how much the planning context has changed since then. This land would never be zoned for high density towers today, for countless well-thought out reasons, many of which are expressed in the Toronto City Plan. By approving this application for smaller unit sizes, ostensibly to reflect current market conditions, the OMB would be making this high density, high rise development more economical and easier to build, and thereby enabling and indeed reinforcing the worst of 1960s planning in the modern, forward-thinking, progressive city of Toronto in 2009.

The proposed development contemplates 1,455 units over roughly 18 acres – an area that only covers roughly two-fifths of the quarry site. Yet the proposed development on these 18 acres would result in a density more than seven times greater than the surrounding community. This is not responsible development by anyone’s standard, and it is not a development the OMB should be party to enabling.

And third, we wish to highlight what is actually happening here: the applicant is attempting to move ahead with a development that is soundly opposed by the City and by neighbourhood residents, and they are attempting to make it more economically viable by appealing to current market conditions and current practices as a justification for rezoning. Yet on the other hand, they are holding fast to outdated high density zoning from the 1960s that would never be granted today. We submit that this violates the principle of fairness. The corollary would be that the 1968 zoning can also be changed based on current planning standards and best practices, in which case a development such as this, in our opinion would not be considered on this land.

Similarly, we do not believe the argument that this development has already been ‘approved’ by the city whether it be 20 years ago or 40 years ago is germane to the matter before you. Logically this would be the same as saying that a development from 100 years ago was approved at that time, and so now we must move ahead. Things have changed drastically since the 1960s, and we know the proposed development is not at all consistent with good city-building or community building.

This is a community that is extremely concerned about the proposed development, not development per se. On behalf of our membership and the surrounding community, we strongly urge you to side with responsible development and deny this application.

Thank you.