Leaside’s streetscape and stock of character homes are under siege like never before.
Here’s what happened recently with a couple of properties which were the subject of Committee of Adjustment (CoA) applications. Both applications are to construct new two-storey dwellings with an integral garage, and the existing dwelling would be demolished. The applications are located in two of the few remaining vintage 1930-1940 era blocks untouched by new construction.
One is on Parkhurst Blvd., a street specifically approved for study as a Heritage Conservation District by City Council in 2014, following a drawn-out Committee of Adjustment process. The demolition of any one of the houses will greatly diminish the unique heritage streetscape and jeopardize the Leaside heritage conservation district study.
30 Parkhurst Blvd. is an original two-storey house in the Tudor Revival style and one of an ensemble of similar (but individually unique) homes, in an intact block on the north side of Parkhurst. The importance of this property to the maintenance of what may be referred to as “Leaside character” cannot be underestimated. The property was built in the 1930s by Arthur W. Brockington, a builder who, according to Linda Brockington McCarthy, his granddaughter, was responsible for the entire block and many other houses on Parkhurst (including his own home), and altogether for a total of more than 50 houses in Leaside.
Recognizing the threat to their street from the application, and in the absence of any apparent move by the City to move on the HCD study for their street, the neighbours submitted a heritage nomination for the property. At time of writing, the City had not responded. Meanwhile at the Committee of Adjustment the opposition arguments fell on deaf ears. The CoA approved the application but dismissed the height variance request. Before that they dismissed a request to defer the application pending the result of the heritage nomination. Since the hearing the LPOA, with the support of the neighbours have appealed the decision to the OMB.
9 MacNaughton Rd. is the only single storey home on a “remarkable street of intact Tudor and Georgian Revival-style homes, either originals or renovated homes with the original street façades” (Leaside Life, December 2016). (No one expected a single storey to be retained but it could have been “topped up”). A revised application came back to the Committee on February 9, 2017 following deferral in November 2016. There was a small reduction in floor space index (density), but the neighbours had not been consulted. In the meantime a heritage nomination had been submitted, but before the hearing heritage staff indicated they would not be supporting it. Despite the opposition of neighbours and the LPOA at the hearing, the CoA approved the application, except the height variance was refused. There are no plans for appeal to the OMB.
This cannot continue. The CoA process is badly flawed from the perspective of residents worried about maintaining their streetscape and character homes. And the heritage process has, so far, largely failed Leaside. The LPOA submitted an application for a potential HCD in 2014; it was prioritized with 15 others in February 2015, but was not in the eight districts mandated to proceed. Admittedly the proposed area for study was large, perhaps too large, but there was reluctance to play winners and losers on this. Better to have independent professionals study the values and make recommendations.
Now it seems this is resulting in delays to proceeding with a study. In the meantime…we lose our character homes and streetscape. We cannot continue to deal with this on an ad hoc basis, trying to prevent loss of individual houses; we need heritage conservation before we face more demolition-embracing applications where replacement homes disrespect the physical characteristics (height, massing, style, materials) of Leaside.
We are at a tipping point. There has to be action soon, before it’s too late. Residents must lobby our Councillor to get behind the heritage study. Demolition is forever!
Update: The other houses referenced recently in Leaside Life (Feb. 2017) – 4 Rolland and 510/512 Broadway – were both refused at the Committee of Adjustment. One of these (4 Rolland) has been appealed and is on its way to the OMB.