A large umbrella group covering the Beach has formed to encompass seven different residents associations, as well as to cover the areas that currently fall in between existing groups’ coverage areas. The Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association will cover the area from Coxwell to Victoria Park, and from the lake up to the rail corridor.
Organizer Jan Hykamp, who joined the Friends of Queen Street (FoQS) last summer, said he had the idea for the larger group last fall shortly after his involvement with FoQS began.
“I realized that there was a much bigger thing needed in the neighbourhood in order to have any real impact on the kinds of issues that we’re dealing with,” he said.
Because most of the existing groups were formed to deal with specific developments, there are many areas throughout the Beach that aren’t covered by any neighbourhood groups.
“As these things pop up, there are too many wide spaces from a residents association coverage point of view in the Beach,” said Hykamp.
The GBNA is meant as a resource for local groups, and to be able to exert an influence on proposed developments so that neighbourhoods can offer input into new buildings.
“The focus is solely on development and land use planning topics,” said Hykamp. “The important thing here is not to say that this is against development – a lot of development is good development – but there are some that have a really concerning impact on the neighbourhood.”
Jason Self, also a member of FoQS, also emphasized that the GBNA’s purpose is not to hamper all development, but to push for enforced rules from the city, so that developments will match the “unique character” of the Beach.
“We want to work with developers. We are not anti-development, we just want to have clear rules of engagement that both sides can agree to, and that is not the case right now,” he said. “We know that it’s going to happen, but we want to ensure that the end result is something that the neighbourhood is comfortable with and can appreciate the benefit that it brings to the neighbourhood.”
Self said he’d like to see the rules clarified. He said confusion between whether the existing zoning still applies, or whether the city’s official plan, specifically the Avenues and Mid-rise Building Study, applies to Queen Street East. The differences are important, as previously developers were starting with a three-storey height restriction, while the Avenues and Mid-rise rules allow for six storeys.
Self worries that over time, the majority of Queen could be torn down for six storey modernistic glass boxes. A ‘visioning study’ to be completed at the request of Ward 32 Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon should help lay out a new set of rules for development along Queen Street East, and the GBNA plans to be involved in the process of that study.
“We want to ensure there’s clarity on what the end result of that visioning study’s going to be,” said Self, adding that he wants it to “have teeth.”
Hykamp said the GBNA will benefit with the expertise of some of its member groups, including the Friends of Queen, who have built up extensive knowledge on the issues specific to Queen. The Friends of Glen Davis Ravine are now somewhat expert in the rules and bylaws related to ravines, and have already been asked to consult with a group elsewhere in the city dealing with a development proposal impacting a west end ravine.
The GBNA has a written set of bylaws already, and is currently going through the incorporation process.
“It has the cooperation and support of all of the local residents associations,” said Hykamp.
The existing groups involved in the GBNA include FoQS, the Friends of Glen Davis Ravine, the Kew Beach Neighbourhood Association, the Toronto Beach East Residents Association, the Beach Triangle Residents Association, the Beach Lakefront Neighbourhood Association and the Norwood Park Residents Association.
Hykamp said the group should come as a relief to many Beach residents worried about the amount and size of developments in the East End.
“All it takes is to actually walk through the neighbourhood, and talk with people about what is happening in the neighbourhood and along Queen Street. There is lots and lots of concern about it,” he said.