Fighting Bad Development

The excessive amount of development allowed by the City’s planning rules is already jamming Willowdale roads, crowding subways and straining the capacity of local schools. With some developers and land speculators pushing to break the rules it could be even worse. In the first part of January alone, I held community meetings on three such applications which I will be opposing.

The largest project, the Sheppard Centre at Yonge and Sheppard, the developer wants to build a 39-storey condo out of density created with smoke and mirrors. The applicant has asked to exempt more than 500,000 sq ft from the normal calculations limiting the size and type of building.

On Sheppard East, someone else wants to ignore the city’s rule which controls the height of buildings. In Willowdale, this rule has never been broken. If it’s ignored at one location, you can bet that the same will happen elsewhere.

On Church Avenue, there is an attempt to shoehorn a 22-unit apartment in between some existing townhouses. The owner was attempting to get around the rules for apartments by calling the building a “retirement residence”, even though it lacked any of the features that would make it one.

Unfortunately, development proposals threatening planning rules are not a new Willowdale phenomenon and require constant attention.  While I fight these and other projects that threaten our community, efforts can still be derailed by local decisions being overturned by the Ontario Municipal Board, an unelected Provincial body that has the final say on local planning matters.

Last summer, I noted with great interest that the Provincial government had announced a “Land Use Planning & Appeal Systems Review.”  Unfortunately, it turned out that this review, which concluded a few weeks ago, was primarily conducted online with little public notice.  Once again, the likelihood of serious OMB reform remains slim. I hope this is something I am wrong about.