Wong-Tam wants report on development pressures

With Downtown building growth outpacing necessary services such as health care and sewers, Downtown Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam and the Toronto and East York community council have asked city staff to report in January on ways to handle the pressure.

The adverse impacts of having entire blocks of downtown Toronto turn into massive, multi-year construction sites are harming the health and well-being of residents,” Wong-Tam  said in a letter to council at its November meeting.

She said the intensification is also creating “a disruptive environment and financial hardship” for business owners. Council colleagues Joe Cressy of Ward 20 and Deputy Mayor Pam McConnell of Ward 28 co-signed the letter.

It was titled “Request for a Report on Planning Tools to Ensure Municipal Service Levels and Infrastructure Keep Pace with Downtown Development Forecast.”

Wong-Tam said the city has seen “incredible” residential and commercial growth over the past 5 years. Of that, she said, Downtown and the Central Waterfront have taken on 38% of residential growth and 46% of commercial growth.

But she said falling behind is the growth of capital improvements and infrastructure for health care facilities, affordable daycare and long-term care spaces, parkland, schools, community services, hydro, water, sewers, public transit and transportation.

Wong-Tam said road-occupancy permits given to builders contribute to traffic gridlock in development-heavy neighbourhoods. She added “inaccessible and unsafe conditions” for pedestrians and cyclists are created by “unsightly” construction sites and hoarding.

According to Wong-Tam’s letter, an October 2016 city planning report called “How Does the City Grow” revealed that Toronto has already exceeded what the province’s growth plan anticipated.

Her letter states that from 2001 to 2015, the City of Toronto approved and completed almost 200,000 residential units “which represents 50% of the anticipated growth of almost 400,000 units by 2041 in the already amended Provincial Growth Plan.”

City planning and other city divisions have reviewed and developed new policies through TOcore to address the rapid growth. “Unfortunately,” said the councillor, “this comprehensive planning framework will take time becoming a fully enforceable secondary plan, even without an Ontario Municipal Board appeal.”

She said development applications keep rolling in and are slowing city staff’s ability to complete their work and get the implementation of TOcore underway by mid-2017.

Wong-Tam withdrew an earlier request she made to Toronto community council that asked for a report on implementing a 1-year moratorium on new Downtown tall-building residential development.

— Dennis Hanagan