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MRA response to current Wesley Mimico United Church Proposal

Sent: June 13, 2013

Toronto City Planning
Etobicoke York District
Bill Kiru, Manager, Central Section

Re: Wesley Mimico United Church (2 Station Road) Re-Zoning Application

Site Plan Approval: 13 143181 WET 06 SA      Rezoning: 13 143167 WET 06 OZ

Dear Mr. Kiru,

The Mimico Residents Association (MRA) has been aware of Wesley Mimico United Church’s redevelopment plans for over a year.  We have had board members attend the Church’s community forums and have also been on their distribution lists.

We recently hosted a Public Meeting (May 2013) where Harry Oussoren presented the Church’s plan for redevelopment and answered questions from residents.

The MRA had the opportunity to discuss the Public Meeting and the Church’s plans at our June 2013 board meeting.  In summary, the MRA Board feels that, based on community comments over the year as well as the Public Meeting, the re-zoning application should not be passed in its current state.

We recognize that many misconceptions have been answered by the Church, including the ‘life lease’ and ‘affordable housing’ questions.  Through the MRA Public Meeting, Harry on behalf of the church, assured us that this will be a residence specifically designed for seniors and will not become affordable rental housing if the units cannot be sold.  The MRA recently conducted a community survey and the majority stated that they do not want to see an increase in affordable rental housing in Mimico (February 2013 Survey).

The two remaining issues that need to be addressed for the MRA to support the plan are:

1)     Historical significance and appropriate preservation of the building
2)     Request for adjustments beyond the permitted allowances (density and set-backs)

Heritage Concerns:

MRA previously put out a statement stating that we would not support the demolition of the Church.  We are pleased that much of the building will remain.  However, we believe the Church should adhere to the heritage standards set by the City, the Province and the Federal government.  Toronto Heritage Preservation Services recently released comments on the Church’s proposal and stated that the proposal does not currently adhere to heritage guidelines. Residents have previously fought for preservation of Mimico Estates and the Mimico Fire Hall, and told us strongly in our June 2012 Survey that it is important to preserve and restore Mimico’s historic buildings.  We understand and support the significance of heritage to our community.

Rezoning Allowances

The MRA also has concerns over the precedent that the requested setback and density allowances set for future developments in our area, particularly along Mimico Avenue and Station Road (Setback: reduced to 1.8m from the zoning allowable 7.5m; FSI: increased to 1.89 from 1).  Although the project is for a noble cause it is hard to justify an allowance for one developer and not for the next. We believe more reasonable allowances should be considered.

We remain committed to promoting the quality of residential and economic life in and around the Mimico area.


Kyra Trainor, President
Mimico Residents Association


CC: Ward 6 Councillor Mark Grimes
CC: Harry Oussoren, Wesley Mimico United Church
CC: Etobicoke York Community Council, Re: Item EY25.14 Preliminary Report – 2 Station Road – Zoning By-law Amendment Application to be considered June 18, 2013.

14 thoughts on “MRA response to current Wesley Mimico United Church Proposal”

  1. Thank you to the MRA for shining a light on this important local issue. Wesley Mimico United Church’s proposed redevelopment into life-lease apartments for seniors/disabled persons is a noble and worthy cause and would be a welcome addition to the neighbourhood – but not at the expense of one of Mimico’s last remaining historic landmark buildings.

    The preservation of historic properties in this neighbourhood has been neglected for too long. As Mimico faces unprecedented change and “revitalization” in the years ahead, we must do all we can to preserve what’s left of our community’s unique cultural history. This building is a focal point for much of that cultural history and should be preserved.

    It’s worth noting that the MRA position is affirmed by the heritage experts at the City of Toronto’s Heritage Preservation Services (HPS) who do not support the church’s current proposal.

    The Wesley Mimico United Church redevelopment team will be understandably upset by these recent developments, but they must recognize that the concerns expressed by both the MRA and HPS are legitimate and need to be addressed.

  2. I would echo the comments of Michael Colvin. I support the comments from Heritage Preservation Services on the proposal. It is worth noting however that HPS staff have indicated that they are willing to work with the proponent to attempt to address the issues. I hope that the proponents will take advantage of their advice.

    You can read their memo as posted on the the MRA website but the conclusion is worth noting:

    “The current proposal demonstrates a level of intervention that cannot be supported by staff. However, there may be opportunities to rehabilitate the building with modifications to the current proposal that would limit the impact on the heritage attributes. Staff is hopeful that these issues can be resolved through further discussion with the applicant in conjunction with a revised proposal that is consistent with generally-accepted heritage conservation standards and principles. An objective and complete Heritage Impact Assessment should accompany any revisions to the proposal. Staff will be recommending designation of the property at 2 Station Road under the provisions of Part IV of the Ontario Heritage Act.”

  3. “The preservation of historic properties in this neighbourhood has been neglected for too long. As Mimico faces unprecedented change and “revitalization” in the years ahead, we must do all we can to preserve what’s left of our community’s unique cultural history. This building is a focal point for much of that cultural history and should be preserved.”

    Maybe the MRA should purchase Wesley United Church then to prevent them from re-developing and prevent senior citizens from having a place to live out there lives in our great community.

  4. Thank you for your letter regarding the proposed development at 2 Station Road. After careful deliberation, I do not agree with the proposed development plan as it stands. I have a number of concerns about the proposal itself and the precedent it sets for further developments on the street and in the community.

    I believe it is quite the jump to equate one who does not support the church’s existing proposal with someone who desires to prevent senior citizens from having a place to live in our community as the commenter did above.

    The church is proposing to do something they and others may perceive as valuable to the community. Still, they are acting as a developer in this scenario. As such, their proposal deserves critical appraisal no different from another developer. Though a cause may be considered “worthy”, it is prudent to ensure that it is well planned from many perspectives, not limited to but including its built heritage.

    For example, if the development is approved but only half the units are sold to seniors, are the other units opened up to anyone? And if so, what happens to the surrounding neighbourhood when the number of parking spots allocated was done according to zoning for a seniors residence (13 spots for seniors vs. 54 spots for regular residential as noted in their Parking Study )? These are important considerations that cannot be dismissed because the cause is considered to be “worthy”.

    Another cause for concern in my mind:
    In June 2012, the church outlined their rationale for repurposing the building by noting among other things, lack of parking. They also noted that their reliance on Hogle’s Funeral home for parking was not suitable for long term planning:
    “Use of the Hogle Funeral Home parking is now permitted on Sundays by the kindness of the Hogle owners, but cannot be factored into long term plans”.

    However, in the Parking Study of their proposal, (IBI GROUP FINAL REPORT: MARCH 2013) they state:
    “The G.H. Hogle Funeral Home has a parking lot across Station Street from the subject site. The lot has capacity for 40 vehicles and it is understood that there is a verbal agreement that the visitors to the church site can park in the funeral home parking facility when not in use by the funeral home.”

    To my knowledge, “verbal agreement” is not sufficient for meeting zoning requirements. Further, what occurs to the surrounding neighbours if Hogle’s decides to relocate or sell their business?

    Further review of this proposal is certainly warranted at this point, for zoning, heritage and other important issues that are directly related to the well-being of the existing community; seniors and all-ages included.
    (Note that this comment does not detail the extent of my concerns with this proposal.)
    ~Thank you for the opportunity to comment.~

      1. The two points being illustrated were:
        1. whether Hogle’s has 40 or 80 parking spots is irrelevant because the parking lot does not belong to WMUC.
        2. WMUC contradicts themselves in their arguments made June 2012 and then March 2013 as written in the post above

  5. Although I live in Long Branch, I’ve been following the Wesley Mimico redevelopment ever since I learned about it in February 2012.

    The redevelopment is part of a wider story, involving church redevelopments in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada.

    For your interest, here’s a July 8, 2013 post from my Preserved Stories website regarding this topic:

  6. as an underdeveloped area mimico really has the potential to be a great neighbourhood. unfortunately this will have nothing to do with days of yore. there are many new ideas and technologies in architecture, building and planning urban areas that, if sought after and embraced, could lead to this really great place to live.

    “we must do all we can to preserve what’s left of our community’s unique cultural history.” really? why? what cultural history? it’s a suburban area of york . . . so what? the ferris wheels are gone. just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile. we have computers now and people who know how to use them to optimize population densities and traffic plans and public transportation systems all integrating green technologies to save money and limit environmental impact.

    perhaps if we focused on processes to get productive, future oriented technologies implemented in new developments and plans instead of holding on to every last breath of nostalgia mimico would realize its true potential.

    1. Mimico does have a rich history that is worth remembering. Perhaps you need to do a little historical research before you claim it is just a “suburban area of York”. Here’s a primer for you:

      There is a long list of important local figures who lived and summered here, and who were members of this church. The church itself was designed by one of the most prominent Canadian architects of the early 20th Century, JCB Horwood, who not only lived in Mimico, but also designed many other landmark heritage buildings across Canada. Here’s some more info on the history of this building:

      I’m all for green technologies, new buildings and better planning – and those will hopefully be coming to our area as well. But they do not need to come at the expense of one of our last historic buildings. There is a lot of room for improvements and new development along Lake Shore, and on Royal York Road, which would not threaten any existing heritage buildings.

      Good planning enriches neighborhoods by preserving important historic buildings like this one alongside the new. That is not clinging to the past or being nostalgic, it is thinking forward another 100 years and hoping that buildings like this will remain an integral part of our landscape.

  7. I do not agree with the position of the MRA. Unless the Mimico Residents Association is willing to assume the costs of maintaining the building, there is no call to block the growth of the ministry of the United Church in Mimico, called to served this very specific group of persons in our community.
    I am very disappointed by this narrow view of the Residents Association and will consider carefully my membership in the future.

    1. I respectfully suggest, Ms. Watt, that your current job as Communications Coordinator for the United Church of Canada’s human resource function makes your views on this subject rather biased.

      No one is interested in “blocking the growth of the ministry of the United Church in Mimico”. This fallacious argument is used to demonize those in this community who have taken a principled stand in favour of preserving and protecting what little is left of Mimico’s built heritage.

      No one wants to lose the Wesley Mimico United Church congregation and no one is opposed to the idea of “seniors housing” on the site.

      The unfortunate truth is that the church’s redevelopment team has seriously underestimated the important heritage value of their church building, and their current proposal does not satisfy established municipal, provincial and federal heritage preservation guidelines. It is very likely that further revisions will be necessary if their plan is to be approved.

  8. I support Martha Watt’s comment.

    It is very disappointing that the MRA has chosen to reject WMUC’s proposal.

    Wesley Mimico United Church is a church first. The building is in dire need of repairs that they cannot afford. Their proposal will allow for the church to remain in service while preserving as much of the original building as possible while adding greatly needed community space and affordable housing options for seniors and people with disabilities. This is a win-win.

    The alternative to this carefully explored and investigated proposal is that WMUC will have no choice but to abandon the building. This would be a disaster. Not only would the church community be displaced, it would no longer able to continue their greatly needed and appreciated community outreach programs (community supper, food bank, holiday food hampers to name a few). And let’s not forget…the building would be left to fall apart on it’s own. Why? Because no one is willing and able to put the money forward to support a preservation project. (WMUC has explored this option extensively!)

    WMUC would love to preserve the building as is, but they have explored this option numerous times and in numerous ways. WMUC has been in the process of exploring options for over 5 years! If the MRA believes that WMUC has not turned over every possible stone to find alternate options, then they really do not understand the purpose and passion that WMUC congregants have in this community.

    Open your eyes and explore the positive possibilities that will come from this project – WMUC and many supporters have!

  9. The City of Toronto’s Preservation Board voted on Thursday, October 3rd to support the designation of Wesley Mimico United Church under Part IV, Section 29 of the Ontario Heritage Act.

    At this meeting an amendment was passed which removes the interior sanctuary from the list of “protected heritage attributes”. This is a significant concession by the Preservation Board and should be welcome news for the church – as it leaves the door open for revisions to their plan.

    The city’s Heritage Preservation Services staff have also indicated a willingness to work with the church to ensure their plan for housing respects and protects the other key heritage features of the building – yet another positive step by the city.

    No one in this community wants to lose the Wesley Mimico congregation, nor are we opposed to the idea of housing for seniors, but it’s becoming clear that the church’s redevelopment team has seriously underestimated the heritage value of their building, and if their redevelopment plan fails, the fault will lie squarely on the shoulders of the church’s Faith & Hope Team who stubbornly refuse to work with the city’s heritage experts on a revised, heritage-friendly plan we can all support.

  10. It is very curious that the United Church’s “Wesley Mimico Place” development blog deleted their entry after my posting.

    I noted they contradicted themselves because in 2012 they outlined their justifications for redevelopment; one being a lack of parking. They said they couldn’t rely on the kindness of Hogle’s for their parking needs.

    Interestingly, in their current proposal, which dramatically raises the need for even more parking, they argue their lack of parking is ameliorated by “verbal agreement” with Hogle’s. Which in itself is absurd, anyways, even without my noted contradiction.

    The old entry is still cached and easy to find.

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