Friends of Glen Davis lose development fight

The Friends of Glen Davis Ravine organized to fight a Kingston Road development in the spring of 2010.

They found expert testimony, one person published a book, they organized and fought the good fight, they even got naked to raise funds for their cause, but in the end, the Ontario Municipal Board’s Vice Chair Steven Stefanko ruled in favour of the Kingston Road Development Corporation, leaving the Friends of Glen Davis Ravine with nothing but bills to pay.

Friends of Glen Davis member Martin Gladstone said the group is disappointed with Stefanko’s ruling, which essentially ignores every issue raised by the group.

“This group really lost everything. They argued about loss of light, loss of privacy, loss of the ravine, noise, and every concern they advanced was fundamentally ignored, so we’re very disappointed,” he said.

The property in question includes 580, 590 and 592 Kingston Rd, several addresses west of the northwest corner of Kingston and Main Street. The six-storey development will sit at the top of a small section of ravine that leads to the backyards of several houses on Glen Davis Crescent, and is two storeys taller than zoning allows.

The case was sent to the OMB after numerous delays. The city originally recommended the development go ahead, after a slew of conditions and changes were attached to the original proposal, but the Friends, with the support first of then-councillor Sandra Bussin, followed by councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, believe the ravine should be protected.

In his decision, Stefanko wrote that four distinct areas were disputed by the Friends, including shadowing and light, stormwater and groundwater, compatibility with the area, and natural features.

In regards to shadowing and light, he wrote that “it is readily apparent that the proposed six storey building makes only an extremely modest impact on the rear yards of only a few homes along Glen Davis Crescent.” He also stated that setbacks on the top two storeys, opaque balcony materials and the retention of several key trees would minimize the impact on privacy.

Stefanko’s decision also states his satisfaction with the developer’s measures to deal with water runoff, and that the proposed project won’t exacerbate the existing situation. Regarding compatibility in the area, Stefanko cites neighbouring buildings ranging from three to eight storeys in height, as well as the fact Kingston Road is a major arterial road with a much different character than Glen Davis Crescent, and that the proposed building should be compared to Kingston Road rather than Glen Davis.

The issue of the ravine itself was the major issue, according to Gladstone. However, the city supported the development, with the blessing of a certified arborist as well as an urban forestry planner. A Ravine Stewardship Plan (RSP) would see 15 of the current 17 trees replaced with 27 new trees, as well as 2008 shrubs. Stefanko concluded that the proposed development conforms with the intent and purpose of the city’s Official Plan.

“This conclusion is further reinforced when I take into account the degree of scrutiny which has been and will be applied to the proposal,” he wrote. “The 43 conditions, the RSP, the MOE certificate required in relation to stormwater, the Ravine Bylaw and the site plan process yet to be finalized are all factors which safeguard the appropriate development of the site.”

Gladstone said the OMB decision has multiple consequences, not just for the Glen Davis residents, but for concerned citizens across Toronto.

“It does three things. First of all it throws the community under the bus, in terms of protecting the ravines. Number two, it just establishes that the OMB is just a clearing house for developers. And number three is that it sets the worst possible precedent for all ravines in the city of Toronto,” he said.

He said despite the ruling, the Friends are preparing to fight to have the city’s ravine bylaw strengthened. He believes this decision sets a precedent that will be cited from now on in any development that nears a ravine in Toronto.

“The protection should preclude development. There has to be a really high threshold to come in and truck a ravine away,” he said.

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8 comments

Housing developments abound, as do the rights of citizens to challenge such developments when they reasonably encroach upon those citizens’ rights to a reasonable enjoyment of life. This, of course, is to say nothing of the rights of nature, protected nature at that. Unfortunately, trees, groundhogs, birds and other plants and animals have no rights; nor can they voice an objection.

Now that the OMB has ruled, the real shame, I believe, is less that the ruling didn’t favour the FGDR, as much as how the ruling was handed down. While the plight of the FGDR was, indeed, ignored, the OMB lacked even the decency to empathize with those people who own property on Glen Davis Crescent. Nothing. Not a word of understanding from the OMB. Simply a clear desire to do anything necessary to ensure that building continues regardless of venue or impact, so that, it would seem, city coffers may be broadened through permits and taxes. Really? Is this the Toronto we wish to live in and call home?

An appeals process is significant only when that process truly takes into account arguments by both parties. This feels like a fait accompli well prior to any hearing that took place.

As others have previously suggested, perhaps the time has indeed come to re-examine the usefulness, if not the integrity, of the OMB.

David

As President of Kingston Road Development Corp. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce our firm and the project recently approved by the Ontario Municipal Board. We will be developing the ramshackle property between 580 and 592 Kingston Road into a beautiful six story, 47 unit condominium residence. We will fully respect all of the conditions imposed by the City of Toronto including the ravine stewardship program.

This is our first foray into development but not our first involvement in property ownership in the Beach.

In our opinion, our project will potentially provide homes for up to 47 new families in an underdeveloped stretch of a major road that accomodates single family homes to over 30 storey plus high rises along its vast expanse across Ontario.

Our immediate neighbor to the east rises 8 stories. You will find many buildings as high or higher within a few kilometres of our site.

Being a novice Developer, we were very sensitive to the concerns of the local community as well as the City of Toronto and of course, the environment.

To this extent, we went to major extent to hire the best in planners, arborists, soil testing experts, etc. at considerable expense.

We were never combattive, nor did we ignore any queries presented to us. We made sure we were known to past and present Councillors via face to face meetings.

Our application was approved not only at Community Council, but also at City of Toronto Council. The community group “The Friends of the Glen Davis Ravine” decided to oppose our development plans and forced us to attend the Ontario Municipal Board at significant cost to our Company.

Ultimately, our application was again successful.

To recap. Community Council , Toronto City Council and Ontario Municipal Board have all approved our development.

Toronto Life questioned why we were being opposed in an article last year called “Is six stories too many?”

I would put this question to the Friends of the Glen Davis Ravine. How many of your own residences abut the Glen Davis ravine and why do you have the right to co-exist with the ravine and we don’t?

is there such a word as NIMBYism?

Thank you for your time

James Greig

Mr. Sehmrau has edited his comment to correct some factual errors.
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A Penalty for Taunting

If Land Use Planning were a sport, James Greig’s comment regarding his condo development at 580-592 Kingston Road would draw a penalty for taunting. It is unprofessional and inflamatory.

The Toronto-Beach East Residents’ Association (T-BERA) feels that Mr. Greig’s letter was not only uncalled for, but also misrepresents the facts surrounding the approval of his project.

Our own observations are as follows:
1. The ramshackle property he claims to rescue, is of his own making. It is a well known practice for developers to assemble properties and purposely allow them to deteriorate in order to be seen as good citizens by bringing new life to a neighbourhood. It is not unusual for City officials to find it necessary to place work orders against such properties for reasons of public safety.
2. We truly don’t understand the rationale of introducing the existence of over 30 story high rises somewhere along the Kingston Road corridor across Ontario, when the issue was about a protected ravine in the Beach.
3. No one can be forced to go to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Parties choose to go there either because they wish to get approval for a project that does not meet local planning criteria, or they wish to challenge a request for approval of such a project. Mr. Greig would not need to go to the OMB if he were to build within existing planning criteria.
4. There is no reason to boast about the City’s approval as if it was an absolute victory. At the Toronto East York Community Council (TEYCC), the project passed on a 6 for and 5 against vote, conditional on 43 items to be met, which were outstanding at the time of the vote.
5. Actually, it might be wise to keep silent so as not to divulge the fact that while individual homeowners are required to disconnect their downspouts from the combined storm sewers under threat of fines, Mr. Greig’s building has permission to feed a large portion of storm water into the combined sewer system to satisfy the proposed water management plan for his building, still pending a permit from the Province.
6. Yes, there is such a notion as “NIMBYism”. It can be applied to situations where a group organizes to stop a project outright because they feel there is a better spot for it elsewhere. It doesn’t apply to situations where a group organizes to request that a project respect existing planning criteria.

There is nothing to gloat about when a developer gets approval from the OMB which has a track record of approving site specific rezoning with little concern for local plannning and the incremental damage these decisions have on neighbourhoods.

Uwe Sehmrau,
President, T-BERA

Thanks for the timely article, but community voices besides those in the NIMBY group would have made for a more informative read. What do people on the Kingston Rd street car think when they pass the dilapidated eye-sore on their way to work? What do condo dwellers on the south side of Kingston think about a similar-sized building going up across the street? What about local business owners? Do Beach real estate agents think there is a strong market for 47 new units? Maybe you could address some of these questions in a future article…. if you do, you could also mention that public enjoyment of the Glen Davis ravine ended decades ago when it was developed and sold off to private home owners – something I was surprised to learn when I first heard about the fight to “save” it.

Mr.. Greig is wrong when he says:

“To recap. Community Council , Toronto City Council and Ontario Municipal Board have all approved our development.”

What happened was that the developer had the ability to go straight to the OMB when council failed to vote within the allotted time on the application – but this is typical that most applications can take up to 15 months to make it through the system, whereas after 6 months the developer can short circuit the system.

What council did was pass 43 conditions which were supposed to be met, that were not part of the application.

This is not the normal procedure for “approving” development, merely that Council only agree to go along with the development at the OMB rather than to outright fight it.

In regard to Mr. Uwe Sehmrau’s response to my comments made on the OMB decision I would respond as follows:

Mr. Sehmrau, my letter was neither taunting nor inflammatory. I just didn’t think it fair that the side of the Developer has not been heard. Unprofessional, maybe, but as I had indicated, we are a novice Developer and are learning every day.

We are not here to pick fights, but to be good neighbours.

I notice that you picked and chose which items in my letter to respond to. I must take this opportunity to respond to the inaccuracies in your comments.

You accuse me of assembling properties and allowing them to deteriorate? This is an extremely unfair comment, and it is also completely untrue. We purchased the property in its present condition and immediately took steps to seal off the buildings. I am sure you did not see the condition of the interior of these buildings before we closed them. I can assure you they were disastrous. Have you ever been to the property? Did you see the condition of the ravine?

Kingston Road is a vibrant part of a very historical highway and my point is that there is a wide variety of zoning over it’s many miles. As far as the ravine goes, we are aware of all the environmental studies and intend to implement a ravine stewardship plan. Do any of the other residences that back on to Glen Davis Ravine participate in a ravine stewardship plan? I would think its time for these people to step up and participate. You also forgot to mention the issues the friends had about the shadows…much more than the ravine.

When a group digs in their heels, you are forced, Mr. Sehmrau, to the OMB. Our application wasn’t that far out of the existing zoning. We requested the addition of two stories, but agreed to a step back, moving the building forward and keeping the top two floors exclusively glass. There was no need for it to go that far.

There was also no boasting about our victories at Community and City Councils, but I notice you only mentioned our slim victory of 6-5 at Community Council, but neglected to mention our 31 -2 victory at Toronto City Council. All 43 conditions have been met.

We have a storm water management plan in place and will always work with Province in that regard.

You may disagree, but NIMBYism clouded the real facts of our application, which is to bring an appropriate development to this area. The OMB should not be criticized for its track record but applauded for its thorough review of the facts on both sides of the table.

I would only like to see more stringent conditions on forcing Developers to the OMB, NIMBYism aside.

Jim Greig

Mr. Greig

As someone who lives very close to the property in question, I have been keenly awaiting the conclusion of this matter between the developer and Friends of Glen Davis Ravine.

In light of that, could you give an indication as to when development might begin?

RP

Mr. Pearson,

We are in the process of applying for demolition and building permits and hope to be in the ground this spring.

thanks

Jim

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