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Character of Leaside at stake

The proposed redevelopment of the former post office site at Malcolm and Southvale (wonder why the street address is 2 Laird Dr.) would place an eight-storey condominium next to existing single family homes on the west and a row of town houses on the south.

The project has been discussed in Leaside Life several times and things are finally coming to a head. The owner has appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and the final report for the zoning by-law amendment application was before the North York Community Council on Sept. 10.

What has that got to do with this column which focusses on heritage?  But it IS about the built-form character of the Leaside residential community. It is also not about the post office; that is only from the 1950s.

There are simply no eight-storey buildings in South Leaside. Several land conversions to condominiums that occurred in the late 1980s on Millwood, close to the site, have a maximum height of five storeys. From the very beginning this proposal for an eight-storey condominium has misunderstood its context, at an important entry point to the Leaside community.

The Leaside Property Owners’ Association (full disclosure, I am a vice-president) together with the neighbours of the proposed development, in a letter to the committee dated Sept. 9 expressed their concerns about the tenor of the city planning staff report in indicating “support in principle” of the application, being conditional upon some matters being resolved to the satisfaction of the director, i.e. transition on the west and south sides of the building, the build-
ing element at the Malcolm/Laird corner.

The letter also pointed out that this project has been under consideration since the beginning of 2012, and the community has called repeatedly for consultation.  In the end there has been some consultation, but ultimately it had negligible effect in reducing the impact of the project.

The letter went on to say that given that the relief offered by the project proponent is so minor, it is utterly inappropriate for city staff to be “generally in support… the outstanding concerns are indeed major, and specific limits should be specified on density, height and setbacks at this time”.

The letter recommended that the report not be approved as submitted, but the matter be deferred to allow for further consultations with the councillor and residents.

At the North York Council meeting Councillor John Parker put forward a motion to reject the staff report and ask the city solicitor to retain an outside planner to handle this matter through to the end of the Ontario Municipal Board appeal process.

This motion was subsequently given unanimous approval. John Parker stated in discussion after-ward that he felt that this approach held the greatest chance of reducing the massing of the building. I can say on behalf of the LPOA that we agree.

So expect more on this. The battle has commenced. The strategy is risky. But the future of the built-form character of Leaside is at stake.

You may remember back in March we wrote about the “tower house” that appeared just north of McRae on Rumsey, the result of an appeal of a Committee of Adjustment decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.    The street has a house that towers above the general height line, and may represent an unfortunate precedent, potentially inviting more projects that do not “fit” the street.

However a surprising new development is that the newly completed house is now up for sale. The OMB decision states that the owner “proposed to construct a third-storey addition above the existing two-storey dwelling to accommodate his family which includes four children.”

Makes one wonder whether the OMB was hoodwinked? Not for the first time I am sure.

The Elgie family home, 262 Bessborough Dr., one of the three remaining Leaside settler homes, has been a quiet file for a while, but is set to spring into action soon.

The city staff’s heritage assessment to consider whether or not to designate the property under the Ontario Heritage Act is on the agenda of the Toronto Preservation Board for Oct. 3.

Assuming they recommend designation, the key issue will be which elements of the house they recommend be designated as this would affect what the developer could do with the property.

The date of the development application to go to the Committee of Adjustment had not been confirmed by the paper’s deadline but could have been as early as Sept. 25.

Stay tuned for further details.