“HANDBAGS AT DAWN”

Last night (2007.09.20), City Councillors Paula Fletcher and Sandra Bussin hosted a meeting at Riverdale Collegiate Institute to update us on the applications for rezoning of what used to be called the Foundry District, the 18-acre lot at 629 Eastern Ave. Kyle Benham from the city’s Economic Development Division was present too.

The perennially unsympathetic Bussin opened proceedings at 18:47, and would carry on to be dour and bureaucratic the whole night long. She’s always like that. If you’re looking for charisma, go for a pet rock instead.

We were, additionally, subjected to simply awful PowerPoint slides, with appalling type (all Arial all the time) and hundreds of words of text that nobody could possibly read. Oh, and true to form, Fletcher’s office had to keep sending out corrections because it couldn’t get the day and date to agree.

BUSSIN: We’re here to talk about the application from 629 Eastern. There’s a pre-conference hearing at the OMB on October 4. Individuals like yourselves may participate. [Asks how many are here from the Beach, from businesses in the Beach, from Riverdale. She has to be prompted to mention Leslieville, the neighbourhood in which the development resides.]

FLETCHER: How many have been at these meetings before? Quite a few. (MPP) Peter Tabuns couldn’t be here or sponsor this during the election.

There’s a new Web site coming out, NoBigBox.CA.

It’s 19 acres (7.5 ha). Formerly the site of the Toronto Iron Works and the A.R. Clarke Tannery. Usage for film was added to zoning. The application for rezoning came in August 2004 for such uses as residential, office, service retail, hotel. You all remember the 14-storey residential buildings we were shown. (The retail was presumably to service those.)

The applicant took the city to the OMB. Fall 2006: The Rose Corp. sold a 50% interest to SmartCentres [perverse corporate orthography: Smart!Centres], originally called FirstPro, whose sites are mostly anchored by Wal-Mart or Home Depot. SmartCentres is the representative owner at the OMB.

On May 1, SmartCentres delivered plans to the city as ordered by the OMB.

It’s zoned as I2 D5, a restricted industrial area that permits manufacturing, film, but no retail uses. It’s governed by the old Official Plan. In the new one, the South of Eastern district is an employment zone, the last standalone one in the old City of Toronto. Numerous uses are permitted, including offices, manufacturing.

City Council passed an amendment. Major retail was permitted at the edges, but power centres were banned. But here, with the short distance between Eastern and Lake Shore, the whole thing is an edge.

The intention is to build almost 700,000 square feet of retail, almost 1,900 parking spots. The new Canadian Tire (at Leslie and Lake Shore) is about 200,000 square feet, but it fell under a different zoning. It also has 450 parking spaces (at “the Lake Shore lot”). They propose a few residential units on top of retail, but with only 60 parking spots. Maybe that’s the carryover of residential from the original application. Two new traffic lights would have to go in.

In February 2006, City Council decided to discourage the loss of employment by encouraging the retention of employment areas. Decided not to support residential uses of such lands. June 2007: Council refused the application for 629, 633, 675 Eastern. Asked the Minister of Municipal Affairs to issue a zoning order.

In Toronto, employment districts house over 370,000 jobs. We have the same concentration of jobs as the 905 – 45 per hectare. To meet the city’s target of 300,000 additional jobs by 2031, we’d have to add 6.7 million square metres of employment districts.

By the end of October, the city will issue a South of Eastern employment study, covering Eastern, Lake Shore, Woodfield, and the Don. It’s a secondary plan for the area. Motions have been made for new Community Improvement Plans for this area and others, like the port lands and the West Don Lands.

We received over 1,000 letters and petitions for the Council meeting in July. Toronto and East York Community Council unanimously opposed the application in a recorded vote. (Runs two videoclips, one from tough-as-nails Theresa Tate of East End Garden Centre.) About 14 people delivered deputations at the meeting.

The community wants value-adding jobs [sic], environmental sustainability, connection to the waterfront.

The applicant has submitted a mass model, functional and service reports, [and many others listed on a slide].

They’re doing telephone polling. They’re asking what the new area should be called: Lifestyle District, Urban Lifestyle Centre, Urban Panorama, Urban Market Square, Urban Lifestyle District, Urban Marketplace. (MAN: What about calling it the Urban Blight Centre?)

On October 4, at 10:00 A.M., at 655 Bay St., 16th Floor, will be the OMB pre-hearing. That is the last chance to register yourself as a party or a participant. (She’d like 40 people to show up.) Our lawyer will ask for a public meeting to be held out here in the evening. Some of the other parties will be the city, Loblaws, the post office. IATSE may be a party. The city is preparing an issues list for the pre-hearing.

Q&A

  1. Q. from woman: If we got a thousand letters and petitions, how much more opposition will it take to just shut down the whole process?

    Dismissive, bored, off-topic A. from Bussin: We’d like 20 participants. The more who come out, the greater the impact. Always refer to the impact on planning, not just your preferences.

    FLETCHER: We can’t just stop it, no. The city solicitor will file our names at the hearing.

  2. Q. from man: What is the position of the film-industry owners and unions?

    A. from Bussin: IATSE will come out in opposition, we expect. We don’t have an absolute answer about the film industry. Canada Post will probably oppose it.

    FLETCHER: The Toronto Film Board is concerned about the lack of shooting space and the diminution of small- and medium-sized studios. There are many more film uses in the district than just movie shoots.

    FILM TECHNICIAN: When we lose 629 and Pier 27, it will be a net loss of studio space irrespective of Filmport. But you can’t shoot two films in one big studio. We need more than just the big studios – for things like TV shows, Saw, The Hulk [they’re remaking that already?]. We don’t want all that to go.

  3. MAN: What stands in the way of the studios’ working out a common position, except for TFS?

    FLETCHER: Competition among studios.

    (Film technician lists Cinespace, Showline, TFS, the Mirkopoulos brothers [who own one or more of the preceding, a fact nobody ever clarifies for me], the small studios in Etobicoke.)

  4. [Off-topic question about Filmport untranscribed.]

  5. MICHAEL ROSENBERG with procedural points: Toronto and East York Community Council is also meeting October 4. There’s an agenda item on Eastern Avenue.

    BUSSIN (interrupting with a peeved and put-out tone): No, there is none.

    — My main concern with Wal-Mart is low wages. Some aspects of the city’s plan tend toward the same thing, like R&D, which leads to consuming resources. It’s a choice between two bad plans.

    BENHAM: In the secondary plan, we will identify economic opportunities. We won’t be putting all our eggs in one basket. We’ll be looking at key trends. Some that are suitable might be information technology, business services like consulting and engineering.

  6. Q. from man: How do we get a hold of the items that were submitted to the city?

    BUSSIN: At the pre-conference hearing.

    BENHAM: They’re in the planning department in a stack this high. Parties to the proceeding may demand copies. They’re publicly available, just not conveniently available.

  7. [Long question about communities that have successfully stopped Wal-Mart untranscribed.]

  8. Q. from woman: Why was Canadian Tire allowed? Won’t that weaken our position?

    BUSSIN: It was zoned in a regeneration area.

    BENHAM: Let’s not fool ourselves: It’ll be used against us. But we want to shift the focus to good employment. Things have changed.

  9. Q. from cyclist: I see a near-accident most days of the week along Lake Shore. Won’t the increase in traffic lead to more accidents? What’s the projected impact?

    BUSSIN: That will be part of our argument. [In other words, she refused to answer the question.]

  10. Q. from woman: We’ve got lots of people opposed, sure. But planning? We had previously approved these uses, then changed our minds. What can we refer to in order to make our planning arguments?

    BENHAM: The old Official Plan and zoning didn’t allow retail. This application must be judged by those rules. We want to maintain employment districts for 15, 20, a hundred years. The new Official Plan has big-box permissions, the two arterial roads here make this a different kind of site.

    — Different in what way?

    — Everything here is an “edge.” Think of what happened with Home Depot down at the port lands. That was a different direction from what the city wanted at the waterfront. We’ve got a vision it doesn’t fit into. The vision will be in the secondary plan that’s coming up.

    — The vision is underway, not finished?

    — It’s mostly to maintain employment.

    [Jack Layton phones in.]

  11. Q. from man: Secondary plan: What other uses do you envision? Quasi-industrial, retail?

    BENHAM: The real addition will be office uses currently not permitted. The existing zoning will continue. At the moment, an architecture firm couldn’t build a building for itself. Commercial but not retail. We do want to scale back auto-type uses; body shops create their own kinds of problems.

  12. Q. from man: Realistically, we’re up against what happened on Laird Dr. with Canada Wire.

    BUSSIN: East York wanted it.

    — Then they got what they deserved.

  13. Q. from man: Where is the slide with the ten steps we have to take after we go to this meeting? And who’s leading it?

    BUSSIN: The city solicitor.

    MAN: That’s not what he’s asking.

    BUSSIN: The reason for the meeting is to place your name on the list as a participant.

    — OK, but what are steps five through nine?

    — Go through the hearing process. Make it clear there’s a community response.

  14. I got up and said we have a precedent in living memory of prevailing at the OMB – one of the three applications on West Queen West. (The other two the city settled behind Active 18’s back.) We have to start thinking about what happens after we succeed. Rose Corp. and SmartCentres could sell the lot to somebody worse, or just submit a new application. We may have expertise as film technicians and whatnot, but few of us have objective qualifications to plan out an 18-acre areas. We need to have a plan for the site that goes beyond buzzwords like sustainability and bike lanes. (Some applause. Bussin then muttered something about the city’s proposing what kind of uses it wants.)

  15. Q. from woman with the Friends of Leslieville: What about this business of applying to the minister for an order?

    WOMAN 2: It’s on the Web site. [Which one, and where?]

    DONNA HENDERSON: I’ve been here 16 years. NoBigBox.CA goes live on Saturday; full-blown site up in a couple of weeks. We sent in a request to the Minister of Housing and Development [sic]; I got a response yesterday that he couldn’t comment. I don’t have all the answers. I’m just not gonna let those bastards into my neighbourhood.

    KELLY CARMICHAEL: There will be a bigger launch after the election. We also talked about having the city expropriate the land.

    [Discussion about how Bloor at Dufferin has become a wasteland since Wal-Mart opened in the Dufferin Mall. No discussion about the fact that the mall was probably the problem, and that Toronto has a tradition of small urban malls.]

    CARMICHAEL: A group of us have been meeting regularly. [They have? Where?] On the site, we’ll have current facts, news, events, posters, sign-ups, petitions, legal strategy. We’ve divided Queen East into 15 sections from the DVP to Neville. In the next couple of weeks we’ll be sending people out to each section. We see the Beach as a big part of this. There will be a meeting before October 4.

  16. Q. from man: Isn’t this due in part to the giveaway to Filmport? They got the idea they could get away with whatever they wanted.

    [Showing true colours, and perhaps mistaking her role here as equivalent to speaker of City Council, Bussin uses the microphone to talk right over him, ignore his question, and force him to shut up.]

  17. [Presentation from a man from Dufferin Court about fighting Wal-Mart untranscribed.]

Meeting ends at 20:06. Let’s not invite Sandra Bussin back to these, please. If I wanted a robot as my city councillor, I’d vote for the Terminator.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2007.09.21 12:44. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2007/09/21/nobigbox/

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