Gloucester tower fuels concerns over ‘colonial’ OMB Consultation is futile:residents

Dennis Hanagan –

Judging by audience reaction, councillor Adam Vaughan said what a lot of people were thinking about the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) at April’s Toronto East York community council meeting.

Vaughan dumped on the OMB for interfering with decisions Toronto makes on planning issues. He likened it to the city being under “colonial” rule.

“If we continue to be governed by the OMB, if we continue to have arbitrary rulings from the OMB which undermine the integrity of the official plan and the decisions we make here at council (then) while we live in that colonial setting, we will not have the control over our planning process the way Montreal, Vancouver, Boston, New York and Chicago (do),” he said.

The Trinity-Spadina councillor was responding to frustration voiced by members of the public who said they’re not given early enough notification when development proposals are received by the city so they can respond to them from the start, rather than trying to play catchup after the proposal has already gained traction in the planning process.

Without total control over planning “the developers and the OMB will decide what happens to this city, not the people of Toronto,” said Vaughan.

(Trinity-Spadina NDP MPP Rosario Marchese has introduced a bill to the Ontario legislature that would exempt Toronto from OMB oversight. As of March 7 the bill was referred to the province’s standing committee on Finance and Economic Affairs following second reading.)

Community council heard people express weariness over the number of towers sprouting up in the Downtown core. One that drew particular attention is a zoning amendment application to pave the way for a 34- storey building on the
northeast corner of Yonge and Gloucester streets.

It would contain 232 residential units and would retain the existing 5-storey heritage building at 2 Gloucester, the former Masonic Hall. The planning department has recommended approving the zoning amendment application.

Resident Kathryn Holden said she could give only “a kernel” of approval to the project then gave her general impression of Downtown development.

“It seems to me that development in our Downtown is totally out of control. A medium height, a low-rise height is never considered in the Downtown community. We do not need tall towers,” she said, adding they’re an irritant to the community.

“It’s like a stone in your shoe.”

Robert Fabian, co-chair of the Church Wellesley Neighbourhood Association’s development committee, asked whether the city considers the strain put on infrastructure by increased density.Gloucester

“We are concerned the city has authorized a significant intensification in our neighbourhood without … any investment in infrastructure. It doesn’t work to stuff more and more people in our neighbourhood without including the public infrastructure.”

Community member Ann Hatch suggested tall towers rising behind the blocks of 19th-century buildings fronting Yonge will darken the street even at high noon. “The entire thing will be in shadow.”

Toronto Centre- Rosedale councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam spoke about residents and the hours of work they put in to respond to development proposals.

“The community is very tired of having to do all this work to improve the applications as they move forward,” she said.

Community council made no decision about the Yonge-Gloucester application and is forwarding it to city council.