My deputation to North York Community Council, August 12, 2014 (part 2)

Speaking in opposition to NY34.85 - Final Report - Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment Applications - 2384-2388 Yonge Street and 31 Montgomery Avenue (Ward 16 - Statutory: Planning Act, RSO 1990)

Thank you, Madame Chair, and good afternoon. My name is Sean Boulton.

You know, the problem with all four community council meetings happening at the same time is that you can't be everywhere at once. So today, I had to choose. I could go to Toronto-East York, and speak against an egregious development that's going to be approved two blocks away from me in ward 22 where I live. And it'll be approved because a few weeks ago, the Ontario Municipal Board cut the City's legs out from under it on an even bigger project a block north. Or, I could come here, and speak against both a boulevard café across the street from me in ward 25 and this development that you're surely going to approve across the street from me in ward 16. Well, here I am.

First of all, I quite like the look of the building as planned. And given how rarely we see rental construction in Toronto, it makes me very uncomfortable to argue against it.

Ordinarily, this is where I'd start talking about how Yonge and Eglinton is already past its breaking point with development. I'd use the analogy of our having moved the equivalent population of the city of Kenora into an area of one kilometre square over the course of a decade. I'd tell you about how you can't just keep adding housing stock without ensuring that infrastructure is built in parallel. That I can't get on the subway in the morning, or get in and out of the only grocery store in the neighbourhood in a reasonable time. But even if you've never heard me say these things before, you probably already know them. So for this project in particular, I'll offer you two alternate objections.

First of all, for where this building is planned to go up, I feel it's too big. The ward 22 project that I mentioned earlier is at least within the Yonge-Eglinton Urban Growth Centre, and it's within an Apartment neighbourhood. So there are some arguments for the height and density being requested. This site, on the other hand, is outside of the urban growth centre. And it's partly on an Avenue and partly within a Neighbourhoods designation.

Last year, the city went through a very lengthy and detailed block planning study for the area bounded by Yonge, Duplex, Helendale, and Orchard View. There was extensive community consultation and planning to determine Urban Design Guidelines for this area, resulting in an official plan amendment that was approved by City Council in December. If they haven't already, city planning staff should be taking a bow for their work on that project. And that plan amendment, taken together with the recent Midtown in Focus study, has the chance to be a real positive force for change within our community.

Now, one piece of that plan amendment was that the appropriate built form for development along the Yonge Street side of the block is midrise. This site is just north of that plan amendment, even further away from Yonge and Eglinton. It's also directly beside a neighbourhood of single-family homes. I don't understand how this is all of a sudden the right spot for a tall building. In fact, the city is at the OMB right now arguing against two tall building applications that fall within that plan amendment area. How will you seriously be able to argue against tall buildings on those sites if you approve one on this site?

And if we're going to just throw up tall buildings everyone on this stretch of Yonge, aren't we invalidating much of that work last year? The city either believes that Avenues like Yonge Street are best served by midrise development, or it doesn't. And if it doesn't, then the Chief Planner's Twitter feed is about to get a lot less interesting.

Secondly, I believe we shouldn't be talking about development on this site period. I love the idea of getting some use of the Station K building, which the City has quite rightly designated as heritage. I'm excited by a nicely-designed public space out front of that building — I mean, the community's already made the space out there public, but the nicely-designed part would be a real improvement.

But 89 years ago, this corner was designated as a National Historic Site. It has the plaque, and a flag, and everything. It's the one-time home of Montgomery's Tavern and, almost 177 years ago, was the grounds for a famous battle in the Upper Canada Rebellion.

These are things that every Canadian kid learns about in school, or at least they did when I was growing up. The corner needs to be a focal point in the community. In fact, Station K would make an excellent location for a Toronto museum. So yes, please, by all means — show this site the love that it deserves. It's a place where people should meet and gather and even celebrate our history. What it's not is a place where we should throw up a tower that'll overshadow everything around it.

What we're talking about here are the very building blocks of responsible government. To my mind, building an apartment block here would be very irresponsible.

This is the full version of my remarks, as written. Due to the size of the agenda NYCC was dealing with, I pared down the front end by quite a bit when I got to the microphone.