McConnell cautions against OMB appeal for Esplanade tower

St. Lawrence Neighbourhood residents were not thrilled by a proposed 34-storey mixed-use building at 75 The Esplanade and made this clear at a public consultation on Oct. 27. However, as taller buildings become more and more prevalent, city planners are urging Downtowners to work with developers towards building tall structures that will benefit communities.

Harhay Construction is seeking a zoning bylaw amendment to make this building possible as the current bylaw would cap it at 36 metres.

Some residents were concerned about the building’s proposed design and criticizing the lack of green space. Others worried about the building’s impact on the neighbourhood’s family friendly nature and suggested marketing the units towards families and accommodating daycares in some of the retail spaces.

Residents of 55 The Esplanade were particularly concerned about the proposed building’s height and the resulting shadows. Many feared their neighbours, many of whom are already disenfranchised, would be “trapped in a cave.”

Some even asked how to petition for an outright refusal of Harhay Developments’ proposal, but Councillor Pam McConnell urged residents to spend their energy working toward a compromise with the developers. The St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Association (SLNA) and Harhay Developments were receptive to this idea and have already started a dialogue.

“I’ve been involved with the SLNA on past projects,” said Harhay Construction president Chris Harhay “I believe it’s a really good, fulsome process during a consultation to have organized groups who are more aware of the bigger picture.”

“I think we’re on our way to having this conversation,” said SLNA president Suzanne Kavanagh,”It seems that Chris [Harhay] is listening because they’ve made some adjustments, but there’s still a lot of work to be done and lots of tweaking.”

McConnell pointed out that both the developer and the community have the right to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) but cautioned against resorting to that measure.

”We try, as much as possible, to make resolutions inside our community because when we go to the OMB, they respect neither our community nor our official plans,” said McConnell, “Unless we want to have someone else decide our fate, we have to look at resolving it here.”

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