High Park Community Alliance AGM & my views on where we stand

The High Park Community Alliance’s AGM will be held virtually on WebEx at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, September 23.  Please click here just prior to the meeting to attend.  For additional IT support or to join by phone, see the bottom of this letter. 

Friends, 

For a number of years the High Park North community has been confronted with serious development pressure. Working together with the City, community members rallied to confront the development pressure and protect the things that make the neighbourhood great. 

Now, with most of the issues settled, it’s time to take stock and see how we did.

On Wednesday, September 23 at the High Park Community Alliance general meeting, the incredible leaders who emerged to work on this issue and I will be presenting a detailed review. For now, I have a quick summary of my thoughts on how our community did.

In December of 2016 the two largest property owners in the High Park North neighbourhood, Minto and Great West Life (GWL) submitted applications for additional towers.

In response, the community and City Planning worked to create the High Park Area Urban Design Guidelines (OPA 419), a blueprint for how the neighbourhood could grow while protecting the existing values of the community.

While we were working there was a bewildering series of changes in Provincial Planning law. First, in 2016, the Province improved the rights of municipalities by reforming the OMB. Then, the election of Premier Ford led to those improvements being overturned and planning law once again favouring developers. On top of that the Province stripped away some of the tools which gave the City and neighbourhoods a fighting chance. Of particular importance was the reduction of publicly administered mediation.

At every turn the developers took aggressive action.

Without any meaningful public consultation both developers filed appeals to the OMB. They did this days before the 2016 reforms came into effect. This strengthened their hand at the expense of the community.

Next, when the Design Guidelines were finalized both property owners went to the OMB to be exempted from those new rules.

Finally, as the deadline for the OMB hearings approached the developers would not participate in any further public meetings. In fact, GWL refused to make key concessions until the last day of the last Council meeting before the OMB hearing was due to start.

In those last minute negotiations City staff fought to get concessions that reflected the community concerns. We had mixed results.There are still more total units than we would have wanted. However, the number of buildings and the heights of buildings were reduced to be more in line with Design Guidelines. Finally, we were able to bring the proposals very close to Design Guidelines in terms how the ground level functions. The community mentioned again and again that the green space, and ecological function of the area was critical.

In specific terms the total number of units has been reduced by 315, with narrower buildings, all building came in lower, with one being removed altogether.  We dramatically increased the amount of Parkland (up to the level in our Guidelines) and the separation distances between all the buildings was increased.

All, in all, with the deck stacked against us we got to a much better place than where we started. The lesson is that we need a Provincial planning framework that creates incentives for developers to better respect the community. We also learned that the many hours put in by community leaders to work with the City to develop our own vision lead to significant improvements.

There are two outstanding development issues in the community. Another application came in after Minto and GWL. This proposal at 299 Glenlake meets all the requirements in our Design Guidelines. Finally, one property owner at Oakmount and Mountview has appealed the Design Guideline as it pertains to their property. There is no development application for this property. City staff are working to settle this matter. I will keep you informed. The Guidelines are now in force for the rest of the neighbourhood.

If you’re joining through a computer, just before 7pm on September 23rd:

1) Visit this link to access the meeting.
2) Click on ‘Join from your browser’.
3) You will be asked to enter your name and email, and then should gain access to the meeting room.

We’ve found this video to be helpful to guide us through the process of joining:
https://youtu.be/fE5FnEUKtaE

If you’re joining through a phone, just before 7:00 pm on September 23:

1) Dial 647-484-1598.
2) Enter 132 601 8267# when asked for the access code.
3) Enter 4722# as the password.
4) You should be able to hear the meeting progress through the phone.