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Update on the Ontario Municipal Board hearing on Shoreline Towers’ appeal of the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan

From the Mimico Lakeshore Community Network:

The Ontario Municipal Board hearing of the appeal by Shoreline Towers against the Secondary Plan for Mimico-by-the-Lake concluded on Friday, February 12, 2016. In the last two days of the hearing, closing statements were presented by the City, by Shoreline Towers and by Mimico Lakeshore Community Network.

We now await a written decision by the Board on the appeal.

Posted below are the written statements submitted by the City and by Shoreline Towers, and the text of MLCN’s closing statement as presented verbally to the Board by Martin Gerwin.

Both the City and Shoreline Towers presented the Board with detailed lists of how they would like to see the issues in the appeal decided. We should be watching to see whether the developer’s wishes are granted, or whether the City’s plan, agreed to by the community, is upheld.

Ontario Municipal Board hearing on the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan (OPA 197)


City of Toronto’s Closing Statement [PDF]

Shoreline Towers’ Closing Statement [PDF]

MLCN Closing Statement

It has been the position of MLCN throughout this hearing that we support the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan as enacted by City Council, and are most reluctant to indulge site-specific amendments to it.

There has been a misapprehension in the minds of some about the process that led MLCN to this position, so if I may I would like to quote from the letter that our organization submitted to Etobicoke-York Community Council the day before the meeting at which the Secondary Plan was to be voted on. This letter of June 17, 2013, read in part:

“Our group submitted comments prior to the Statutory Public Meeting of April 9, 2013, and proposed amendments to the draft Secondary Plan being considered by Community Council at that time. . . We note that it was our desire to limit building heights and densities to “mid-rise” proportions in all of Mimico-by-the-Lake, and to require more units suitable for large households than will be called for in the Secondary Plan now being proposed. It appears that we were heard but not heeded, and it is with considerable disappointment that we anticipate the adoption of height limits ranging up to 25 storeys. Such a height is excessive in itself; but moreover, it is to be feared that individual developers will attempt to negotiate exceptions to this limitation, even when a Secondary Plan is in place.

“Our purpose now is to affirm that we nevertheless support the adoption of the Secondary Plan for Mimico-by-the-Lake. . .

“It is our view that the Secondary Plan for Mimico-by-the-Lake, in the form now being proposed, would be beneficial to our community, despite the fact that some of the major changes we advocated have not been included. We anticipate that when decisions have to be made about new development in Mimico, the City’s planning staff will be called upon to reconcile the needs and values of the current residents with the interests of landowners and developers. In such a context, a Secondary Plan will provide the planners with a set of tools with which to respond to applications for new development in a way that is more likely to lead to a satisfactory outcome. . . . Therefore we urge Community Council to adopt the Secondary Plan and recommend its enactment by City Council.”

The full text of that letter has been available on MLCN’s website for many months now.

The Mimico Residents’ Association, which had participant status in this hearing, has also concurred in supporting the Secondary Plan as a compromise that has the support of the community.

The evidence advanced during the present hearing does not incline us to change our position.

Policy 3.2.1 (b) of the Secondary Plan reads in part: “Precinct B is envisioned as a primarily stable residential Precinct with some potential for future infill development, primarily on the surface parking lots at the rear of existing buildings fronting Lake Shore Boulevard West.” We believe City Council got it right when it passed the Secondary Plan and included this policy.

The City’s witnesses have said that the City regards the Shoreline Towers site as a fully developed site. It follows that constructing another large building on the property would represent over-development of the site. The over-development would be even more egregious if Shoreline were to carry out its long-term plan and construct two 25-storey towers in the middle of the lands. The density would exceed that of the developments in Humber Bay Shores. It is a feature of the Mimico-by-the Lake Secondary Plan that it creates a neighbourhood in which developments of that order of density are limited and dispersed. Intensive development of the Shoreline site would insert an additional high-density development not contemplated in the Secondary Plan, and, we submit, not in accord with the intent of the Plan.

We have further taken the position that allowing a series of site-specific amendments to the Secondary Plan would set a precedent that would in all likelihood lead to a result very different from what the authors of the Plan, and City Council, intended. Evidence about the history of Humber Bay Shores, where the process of site-specific zoning amendments, appeals to the Ontario Municipal Board and minor zoning variances led to an end result very different from what was foreseen at the time when the Motel Strip Secondary Plan and the Humber Bay Shores Precinct Plan were enacted, support this position. Ms. Emilia Floro testified that on the basis of her experience as a member of the City’s planning staff, she thought it likely that granting site-specific exemptions from the provisions of the Secondary Plan would lead to just this kind of result.

As well as the City, all of the community groups who have made representations to this hearing, including the Mimico Residents’ Association and the Lakeshore Planning Council, have been unanimous in saying that we do NOT want to see a repetition of the sort of development that is occurring in Humber Bay Shores. Preventing such an outcome will require a Secondary Plan for Mimico-by-the-Lake that keeps its prescriptive character and is implemented without repeated compromise, particularly on the matter of heights of buildings (measured in metres) and other dimensions of built form that serve to limit the density of new developments.

Evidence presented at the hearing revealed that there has been no attempt to bring together those landowners who might have been expected to co-ordinate their development plans. Mr. Peter Swinton testified that Shoreline Towers made no more than a minimal effort to contact the owners of neighbouring properties before appealing for the opportunity to proceed independently with a development scheme, although the scheme they now propose will have an impact on possible future development of the property to the north. On the other hand, he told the hearing that he and other developers and planners involved in the developments at Humber Bay Shores are personally acquainted with one another. “It’s a small world,” I believe he said.

Late in the hearing several new proposals were put forward that had not been entertained earlier. During the testimony of Mr. Terry Wallace, it emerged that despite the initial claim by Shoreline Towers that the building of a waterfront road would preclude any development of the Shoreline site, this would be the case only if the waterfront road were built to the DIPS standard requiring a 13.5 m. right of way. An alternative would be to construct a road with a right of way of 11.5 m., and MLCN would be agreeable to this alternative.

The following day yet another new proposal was brought up: Emilia Floro testified that an infill structure of eight storeys attached to the rear of the existing buildings on the Shoreline Towers site could be designed in such a way that no site-specific amendments to the Secondary Plan would be required, and this development could proceed without having any impact on neighbouring properties. Peter Swinton, after studying the proposal for a day, testified that he found it “problematic”; yet it would be premature to conclude that an infill development of this kind must be ruled out. If such a solution could prove to be truly feasible, MLCN would say that this is the solution to be pursued.

This is perhaps the point to insert the observation that strict limitation on the choices presented to designers and developers is not the enemy of good design and economically viable solutions. The way Renzo Piano overcame the severe constraints of the Pathe studio site in Paris is an illustration of how imaginative design can produce a brilliant solution to the problems posed by an idiosyncratic and exceptionally difficult site. The limitations on built form inscribed in the policies of the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan are what is needed to prevent the emergence of another Humber Bay Shores. They will not rule out successful and attractive revitalization of Mimico.

Our conclusion from all this is in keeping with our overall desire to see the Secondary Plan implemented and enforced without being weakened by site-specific amendments. We would urge the Board to seek a solution of the problems connected with the Mimico-by-the-Lake Secondary Plan that respects both the intent and the details of the Plan, including the waterfront road and the building height restrictions specified in metres.

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