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Engaged audience for chief planner

A standing room only crowd of 200 neighbours packed the William Lea room in the Leaside arena to learn how Toronto’s planners intend to face the future, straight from the official entrusted to lead the way.

Jennifer Keesmaat, Toronto’s chief city planner, took an excited and engaged audience through a tour of the workings of city planning, including planning for Leaside.

It was the “reset” this year of the planning process for neighbourhoods, under the name ResetTO, that struck a cord with Hugh Grant, president of Bennington Heights Property Owners Association.

“ResetTO is designed to establish rules that developers must live by, rules that will reflect local character and distinctiveness. 

“As it has long been my concern that developers frequently hijack neighbourhoods in their search for the dollar, and that the system (Committee of Adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board) has historically enabled this abuse rather than prevented it, this message was both valuable and very welcome.”

ResetTO was one of what Keesmaat identified as Five Priorities for the next Five Years: great streets, the role of transit, diverse communities, ResetTO (subtitled Towards Neighbourhood Planning), and Own Your City.

“Keesmat outlined the limitations of what I expect to be a very complex portfolio in developing plans to meet the diverse needs and wants from the constituents of Leaside and the surrounding neighbourhoods of Ward 26,” said Phillip Francis, president of Leaside’s Lawn Bowling Association.

“It is clear that the visions expressed through Eglinton Connects will require goodwill and compromise by all in order to enhance the livability of our communities to be implemented effectively.”

Lorna Krawchuk, Leaside Life publisher, said the vision for Eglinton Ave. across Leaside where the LRT is underground is for most of the single-family homes to be safe.

She said pilot projects for Reset TO, with a Development Permit System (DPS), “that allows an area-based approach to the assessment of development applications,” are to be considered soon, “but we don’t appear to be in line for a pilot”.

“In an ideal world,” she said, “the DPS, after community consultation, would put all the various municipal approvals into one document, ‘creating efficiencies and more clarity for both residents and developers alike’.  Needs to be seen to be believed, I think. Lots of questions still needing answers.”

Keesmaat fielded questions from the audience, which, according to Grant, would have gone on another hour if she hadn’t had to leave.