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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Quarry Lands FAQ - A Historical Document

The Quarry Lands - Frequently Asked Questions

The Issue
A private developer – The Conservatory Group – has zoning rights from the 1960’s to build seven high rise towers of between 24-27 stories over 18-acres within a brownfield in Scarborough (Vic. Park/Gerrard).  The city is the second-largest landowner on the full site with approxiamately 17-acres (assigned by Build Toronto).

The Conservatory Group development:

  • Is unanimously opposed by area residents, local politicians from all three levels of government and the city’s own planning department – all of whom believe that 1960’s-era, high rise zoning on the Quarry Lands is simply bad planning.
  • Would result in a density seven times greater than the surrounding community
  • Would result in fragmented development across the broader 49-acres site, with no comprehensive plan to address community needs, increased demands on schools, social services, traffic issues and environmental considerations.
  • Would devalue city-owned land and increase infrastructure costs by creating a piecemeal rather than an integrated development across the full 49-acres site.
What Citizens are requesting
·       Responsible development on this site
·       Leadership from City Council to stop Conservatory Group plans, either through rezoning, land swaps (eg Build Toronto lands at Progress and McCowan) or other means.
·       A planning approach that sees this as an opportunity to do something in a progressive, visionary civic environment.

What is Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development (CCQLD)?
The CCQLD is an incorporated, non-profit residents' group with a board of directors and approximately 300 members.  CCQLD has been working since 2003 to ensure that any development of the Quarry is compatible with the surrounding community, is based on modern-day planning principles and takes into consideration the serious environmental sensitivity of the site.

Who owns the Quarry lands?
The Quarry is a 20 hectares (49 acres) parcel of land situated east of Victoria Park Avenue, west of Clonmore Drive, north of Gerrard Street and south of the CN rail line.  The land is mostly vacant except for a few commercial businesses along Gerrard Street and to the east of Victoria Park Ave.  The largest property owner is private developer The Conservatory Group, which operates under the name Gerrard Clonmore Developments (GCD) and owns 7.5 hectares on the eastern portion of the Quarry. GCD proposes to build on its land a high rise complex with 1455 units and seven towers as high as 27 storeys. The City of Toronto owns the second largest property, 6.7 hectares on the western portion of the Quarry, which includes the land currently that was used as a driving range. There are also seven other landowners holding smaller sections of property on the Quarry Lands.

How are the Quarry lands zoned?

The lands were designated and zoned for High Density Residential uses in 1968. The zoning on lands owned by GCD  allows approximately 1,450 units in seven towers and is still in force today. These land use permissions were implemented, in part, in recognition of the planned Scarborough Transportation Corridor, to be located immediately to the north of lands. This corridor was incorporated into both the Metropolitan Toronto and Scarborough Official Plans and was to provide for a high-speed link (rail or road) between downtown Toronto and areas to the east of Metro.  The Scarborough Expressway was scrapped in 1974 after it was determined there was no need for it.

What’s wrong with GCD’s development proposal?
The high-rise tower proposal would result in a density seven times greater than the surrounding community. It would result in fragmented development across the quarry lands with no comprehensive plan to address community needs. The GCD development is unanimously opposed by area residents, local politicians and the city’s planning department, who have said the zoning is outdated and that there is “only room for improvement.” 

Why can't the City of Toronto just rezone the land?
When the new Official Plan was passed by City Council in 2002, the Quarry Lands were designated Mixed Use, which allows for a broad range of residential, commercial, institutional, parks and open space uses.  The land owned by the Conservatory Group, however, is governed by a 1979 decision by the Supreme Court of Ontario obliging the borough of Scarborough (now the City of Toronto) to issue building permits.

What is the Birchcliff Quarry Lands Study?
The City of Toronto initiated the Birchcliff Quarry Lands Area Study in 2006 to develop a framework for planning a new neighbourhood on the full 49-acre Quarry parcel in the context of the New Official Plan.  In addition to addressing environmental concerns, the goals were to integrate a potential Quarry Lands development into the broader community as well as study infrastructure, the capacity of local roads, and the need for parks and community services. A working group of stakeholders and interested community members was established and contemplated numerous development scenarios for the full Quarry Lands site. The working group process put on hold in late 2008 to enable direct discussions with GCD, arising out of a standstill agreement between the City and GCD through proceedings at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

Why is the Ontario Municipal Board involved?
     In 2006, GCD filed a rezoning application with the City of Toronto to reduce the size of the units in the proposed towers.  City Council directed staff to review the application concurrently with the Birchcliff Quarry Lands Study.  In 2007, the developer appealed to the OMB. Another issue before the OMB is a filed site plan application for one of GCD’s planned tower blocks. In late 2008, GCD and City representatives agreed to defer the hearing via a standstill agreement to permit discussions of a comprehensive development plan for the entire parcel of land. A committee was struck with the participation of GCD, city planning staff, Build Toronto, councillors Brian Ashton and Sandra Bussin, CCQLD and other community members.  The discussions failed to result in agreement among the parties, and the OMB heard the appeal in late February 2010.  Groups that argued against GCD included the City of Toronto, Toronto Region Conservation Authority, CCQLD and two other community groups, Our Community Speaks and East Beach Community Association. A decision by the OMB is pending and expected soon.

What are the environmental concerns?
The Quarry got its name because the land was used to quarry sand and gravel in the 1940's and 1950's.  From 1954 - 1960, the land was used as an unregulated municipal dump.
In 2006, the City of Toronto commissioned environmental testing on its parcel of land and retained Decommissioning Consulting Services Ltd. (DCS) to do the assessment.  DCS found that the site contains large tracts of "fill materials" which are impacted with heavy metals such as arsenic, boron, beryllium, copper, lead and zinc.  These contaminants exceed Ontario residential standards.  
In the mid-1980's barrels of xylene were unearthed during the building of a small mall and 16 buried drums of xylene and other contaminants were discovered elsewhere on the property during construction of a storm sewer.  The DCS report revealed small areas of "magnetic anomalies" which could suggest more isolated buried drums, but more intrusive investigation would be required.
Varying levels of organic vapours including methane gas have been measured emanating from the land. This would need to be mitigated by an engineered venting system.
The groundwater table is surprisingly of good quality except for a small area where dioxins and furans are found, but the levels do not exceed allowable limits set by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.
According to DCS, the Quarry is suitable for residential construction but the land would need to be remediated and an Environmental Risk Assessment would have to be undertaken. However, Build Toronto recently disclosed that a significant portion of city-owned lands is so unstable that for all intents and purposes it cannot be remediated for development.
The proposed development is also located on the site of a wetland identified under Ontario Regulation 166/06.  The Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) conducted an assessment that identifies the Quarry as an important contributor to the natural heritage system with the City of Toronto.  According to TRCA, the Quarry includes uncommon oak forests and supports some species of conservation concern.  TRCA recommends that A Natural Heritage Impact Study should be conducted.
An independent environmental report commissioned by CCQLD recommended that before any comprehensive development takes place, the community insist on a full Environmental Risk Assessment over the full lands under consideration, with public participation and a detailed Risk Management Plan; updated Environmental Site Assessments to conform to new provincial standards; inclusion of Environmental Impact Statements from all developers; and the establishment of a Brownfield Trust Fund to ensure maintenance of risk management measures.

What is the history of the Quarry lands?
  • 1940's 1950's – 1960’s  - owned by Toronto Brick Company and used as a sand and gravel quarry. 1954 - used as an unregulated municipal landfill site 1963 Runnymede Development Corporation acquires the lands from the Township of Scarborough.
  • 1970's - Runnymede enters into development agreement with Borough of Scarborough 1974 Ontario Environment Minister grants approval to develop property in accordance with 1971 Environmental Protection Act. 1975 Runnymede building permits denied by Borough of Scarborough on grounds that Runnymede declined to install services in development agreement. 1976 Scarborough planning staff launch Birchliff Secondary Plan Review. 1977 Runnymede takes Scarborough to court for issuance of permits. 1979 Supreme Court issued an Order of Mandamus obliging the Borough to issue permits upon completion of sewer and water works
  • 1980's - Apartment market cools; Runnymede does not pursue development
  • 1984 - Barrels of xylene are uncovered during construction of retail plaza
  • 1986 - Scarborough formally introduced Site Plan Control Approval powers in all Zoning By-Laws 1988 - Runnymede submitted a site plan control application
  • 1989 - Significant opposition from community, City of Scarborough and Metro Council leads to petitioning of Ontario Environment Minister to conduct an environmental assessment.
  • 1990 - Environment Minister declines environmental assessment provided certain conditions are met including an environmental audit. 1990 - Public Liaison Committee established to hold public meetings. 1991 - 1992 - MacLaren Engineers conducts environmental audit. 1992 - Ministry of Environment responds to audit with questions about methodologies and assumptions. 1993 - Audit is revised and resubmitted to the Ministry. 1994 - Ministry responds to revised report with additional questions which were addressed by engineering firm. 1995 - Ministry responds with more questions and concerns. 1997 - Ministry releases new guidelines for contaminated sites which effectively removed Ministry from approving consultant's reports. 1998  - Metro Toronto follows Scarborough's lead and removes Scarborough Expressway from Official Plan. 1998 or 1999 - Runnymede sells the Quarry lands to Gerrard Clonmore Developments (The Conservatory Group).
  • 2000 - Toronto Region Conservation Authority takes inventory of vegetation and species on Quarry wetland. 
  • 2002 - After years of inactivity, City of Scarborough closes the 1988 Site Plan Control Approval application.
  • 2003 - Without prior notice, GCD files a minor variance application to reduce the minimum size of apartments required by zoning by-law . Hundreds of angry Birchcliff residents meet at a local church to opposed the GCD plan;  Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development is founded.  Committee of Adjustment defers variance application sine die without a decision.  Decision can not be appealed to the OMB.  Toronto City Council approves Birchcliff Quarry Lands Study and working group of interested stakeholders and residents is established.
  • 2006 - GCD files a rezoning application for unit size reductions.   Council directs staff to review application concurrently with Birchcliff Quarry Lands Area Study.
  • 2007 - GCD appeals rezoning application to the OMB. 
  • 2008, 2009 - GCD agrees to defer OMB hearing to permit ‘without prejudice’ discussions of a comprehensive development plan for all 20 hectares of the Quarry Lands. Special committee discussions begin involving GCD, City planning officials, community representatives, TEDCO (Toronto Economic Development Corporation, now Build Toronto) and Councilors Brian Ashton and Sandra Bussin. Discussions conclude without agreement
  • 2010 – GCD proceeds with OMB hearing in February; more than 1,000 area residents and elected politicians from all 3 levels of government attend a public rally opposing GCD plans; (April) decision announced in favour of GCD in August of 2010.  October 2010 saw us holding our very 1st All-Candidates Meeting for City Councillor; we said goodbye to outgoing city Councillor Brian Ashton (retired from city politics) and we ushered new city Councillor Gary Crawford
  • 2011 –Conservatory Group scheduled appeared before OMB in Feb regarding minor changes to site plan application for ‘Block 1’. The change is with respect to unit sizes to better conform to city’s tall building guidelines. This would require a further by-law amendment; May 26 all parties to returned to OMB.  Year begins with new faces: Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Gary Crawford; new MP (Dan Harris); new head of Scarborough planning (Raymond David); and within a few months, new lead at Build Toronto (Prakash David).  Hearing continues at Ontario Municipal Board related to procedural issues around proposed ‘Block 1’ of GCD’s high-rise plan. OMB has dismissed zoning and environmental arguments against proposed GCD plan
  • CCQLD meets with Build Toronto at Build offices, with positive signs.  CCQLD meets with Ministry of Environment officials, arranged by MPP Lorenzo Berardinetti’s office.  Gary Crawford, Dan Harris attend CCQLD’s May board meeting.  Months of talks between Build Toronto and GCD over potential land swap with Scarborough Town Centre property end without success.  York students engage in Quarry research project; community meeting cancelled but class project is ongoing.  Runnymede sells shopping plaza land to RioCan (focused exclusively on retail)
  • 2012 - Surprise motion from Gerrard Clonmore Developments (GCD) at the Scarborough Committee of Adjustment in March. The application was to seek approval to sever a portion of GCD's property on the Quarry Lands site. Thanks to those who were able to make it out to the meeting and others who complained of improper notice, as CCQLD did, the hearing was deferred. GCD has since appealed the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and a hearing was expected in late summer.
  • CCQLD met with Councillor Gary Crawford and city planning and legal staff to discuss the case and ensure all parties are prepared. We have been assured that notice for all future hearings related to the Quarry Lands will be widely circulated
  • Build Toronto has changed course. They are now talking about concepts and a design plan over the city-owned lands that we believe merits presentation to the community. Build Toronto's ideas are outlined in the letter directly below this note. As you can see, Build is considering a low-density development with single-family homes, a large park space and a retail development at the northwest corner of the site. Build has responded favorably to CCQLD's request that they share ideas at full community meeting organized by CCQLD, and have said they would be ready to do so in September.  
  • Public meeting held by BT October 3, 2012 @ Malvern Collegiate Institute 55 Malvern Ave.  Build Toronto's announces initial plans call for its roughly 20 acres of land be divided among low-rise residential (50 percent), retail (25 percent) and park space (25 percent) uses.
  • OMB hearing Oct. 16 - This is over the Conservatory Group’s application to sever one of its four ‘blocks’ —  the area known as block 1 — on the southwest portion of its lands.
  • November - CCQLD launches its own Community Survey Questionnaire to our membership.
  • GCD won their appeal to OMB.
  • 2013 – CCQLD announces Tim Weber as its new Presidents and thanks Mark Brender for his contributions and expertise in the role.
  • Survey closed as of Feb. 12th.
  • May 13th - first community meeting with city planners about the Quarry Lands. City Planners will be there along with representatives from Build Toronto.
  • That May 13th meeting was more of presentation than a community consultation. However, it did clarify that the “low-rise residential” will sole owned condominium units not apartment rentals. Clarification was provided that the “Big-box” would be a “department store” or “home improvement” retailer.
  • the issues that are still being discussed are the (a) Increased Traffic & Roadway Patterns – the results of the traffic studies needs to be disclosed i.e. increased number of vehicles and where are the new traffic signals going or are there going to be any new signals?  More, importantly, what can be done with the dangerous corner of Clonmore & Gerrard on the curve? (b) Big-box retailer- who is it & will they be a socially responsible & sustainable employer (c) The Park – what should or should not be there? Alternatively, do we just leave nature alone?  (d) Schools – questions around capacity (e) density – how much is too much & how will it affect all the other issues mentioned prior. 
  • In December 2013, our Board met with Build Toronto at their offices downtown and they made their presentation (with visuals) to us, which is the current plan that exists now. They announced their partnership with EVERGREEN for assistance with the green roof atop of the big-box retail and the park space.
  • February 2014 was a nice surprise for us because we were lucky enough to have Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmat attend our monthly board meeting. There we discussed various topics and she shared with us her thoughts.  By the end, we were very encouraged to find that she said (I’m paraphrasing here), I’m going to give it my best efforts to find a better alternative to towers on the Quarry Lands.
  • That brings us to March 2014. You will be happy to know that now due to the new guidelines for non-profits we have now moved our year-end to December 31st annually and therefore we will now hold our AGM annually in April.
  • In addition, Build Toronto and EVERGREEN hosted a meeting on the 18th of March to discuss the topic of the park space on the Build Toronto lands.  EVERGREEN did a slide presentation explaining what they do and some previous & present projects they have done and are doing now.  Following that, there was group discussion.
April 2014 Build and Evergreen are preparing a report on our community meeting held on  March 18th. That report should be available in the next few weeks and all those who left an email address at the meeting will be getting a copy. CCQLD will also be sending out copies to all our members. We are hearing rumblings that Build Toronto and the City’s planning department have been discussing ways to adjust the exterior design of the ‘large format retail’ building to make it a better fit for our neighbourhood. 

May 2014 - The Quarry Lands Park report, based on our last community meeting, is taking longer than expected.  Build Toronto says the report, from Evergreen, should be ready by the end of May.
End of May brought us the long awaited release of Evergreen’s Summary from the Build Toronto meeting held on March 18.

After the summer break in July & August, we returned to our regular schedule and we held an All-Candidates Meeting for the municipal election for City Councillor.  There were 8 candidates on the ballot of only which 4 showed up to debate. Election results have us a new mayor – John Tory, Gary Crawford is re-elected as our City Councillor and Parthi Kandaval our new school trustee for this Ward.

Going Forward:

Moving forward it’s in all our best interests as a community to ensure our voices are heard.  We must speak up both individually and as a group to get our ideas, comments and questions across to those that can answer them, whether it’s your ideas for the park space or questions about traffic.   We must remain vigilant, maintain our forward momentum and stay on course. Community Engagement is key. We must ensure that all new people moving into the area are aware of the issues surrounding the Quarry Lands and what and how that will affect them.

        All that said, much remains to be done to ensure responsible development – and CCQLD needs new ideas and new energy to get there.