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A fear of townhouse creep

The William Lea Room was well-filled and everyone was well-behaved.  Quite a different atmosphere on Jan. 27 compared with the Jan. 8 public meeting about the proposed development for 220 McRae and 327-329 Sutherland Dr. that was cancelled amid allegations that the proposal had changed and was not the one described in the flyer.

This time audience comments were well-tempered but firm – while townhouses were allowed, the concern was that these did not look like townhouses – rather the eight-unit block looked more like a four-storey apartment building.

And approving this project would lead to “townhouse creep” along McRae.

Parking is a perennial concern. Here there was proposed only one space per townhouse, plus one visitor space for all eight units.

The semi-detached houses proposed for Sutherland were massive and did not fit the building setback or the roof line of existing homes on Sutherland.

In summary, concerns were expressed over excessive massing, height, density and inappropriate built form.  Peter Higgins, the development’s architect, got perhaps the largest reaction from the audience when he suggested that the zoning by-law needed to be amended because it was from the 1960s and therefore was outdated.  It was pointed out by a resident that in fact the by-law was updated and re-approved by city council as recently as in 2013.

The Leaside Property Owners’ Association, in a Feb. 4 letter to Councillor John Parker and Guy Matthew, the city’s planner (full disclosure, yours truly drafted the letter),  recommended that the city demand that the proposed development be substantially redesigned and downsized, and be brought into conformity with the Leaside Residential Character Preservation Guidelines, and with city planning guidelines for townhouses.

The letter also noted that any plans for this site need to take into account the historical context of the site in the heart of the Town of Leaside.

McRae Dr. was designed in 1912 by Frederick Todd, the town’s planner, as a curving cross-street linking the residential and industrial parts of the planned town. The site is diagonally across the road from the Red Mulberry health store, which was originally Perrem and Knight, the first grocery store in Leaside (322 Sutherland Dr.).

The former Leaside Town Hall (165 McRae) is diagonally across the road in the other direction.

322 Sutherland and 165 McRae set the tone for the area with the buildings set well back from the street and large treed boulevards in front.

Readers who wish to learn more about the proposal can go to the North York section of the City Planning web site.

Comments should be directed to Guy Matthew at 416 395-7102, or gmatthe2@toronto.ca.  There is no clue currently as to what will be the reaction of the developer (or the city) to the residents’ concerns.

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Not really a surprise but an appeal has been made to the Ontario Municipal Board of the Committee of Adjustment’s rejection of the severance of the property at 262 Bessborough into three lots, and the minor variances required for proposed development of the lots created.

The hearing dates have been set to start Monday, May 12 for three days.

The Thomas G. Elgie House is the oldest surviving house in Leaside and a designated heritage home.  The plan rejected by the Committee of Adjustment on Jan. 8 involved demolishing the later additions to the original house, moving the original structure forward to enable the severance of two new lots, and the construction of new houses on either side.

This runs counter to the heritage designation, which states that the heritage attributes include:  “the specific location, setback and orientation of the building on the west side of Bessborough Dr., north of Parkhurst, where the east side elevation of the house faces the street and is viewed across a landscaped setting from Bessborough.”