Queen Street Heritage nomination raises questions
The application for a zoning by-law amendment at 1960-1962 Queen St. E. – generally known as the 'Lick's development' – will have been heard and voted on at Toronto and East York Community Council (TEYCC) on May 15 by the time this story reaches readers. In the meantime, a small group of local residents are meeting and planning an application to Heritage Toronto for a Heritage Conservation District (HCD) that would cover Queen Street East, from Woodbine to just east of Lee Avenue.
The goal of the HCD committee, according to their first meeting agenda, is “to have Queen Street East (Woodbine to Lee) designated an HCD, so an HSP (Heritage Preservation Services)-developed District Design Guideline is created with community input and approved by City Council to maintain 'in perpetuity' design attributes of historic value to the Beach residents and all Torontonians.”
HCD organizer Wayne Clutterbuck said the process is being initiated in reaction to the development proposal whose fate is currently in the hands of TEYCC.
“Everyone's got their head around the Lick's development. And they're saying, 'maybe we should designate the area HCD, just so that these random developments don't require constant resident challenges',” he said.
His small group has been looking at Queen Street with a critical eye, and have identified two dominant architectural forms: 'block' form, and 'house' form, which was a common Beach practice of adding a business onto the front of an existing house.
The HCD nomination form, while only a few pages long, allows for the submission of extensive support material, and the group is enlisting the help of several local historians, including Beach Metro News history columnist Gene Domagala. The main question asked is why the area should be considered; the form also asks for a general history of the area, and a description of the character of the area, which is the key argument for many opponents of developments over two or three storeys.
Clutterbuck – and many others – contend that Queen Street retains a small-town 'main street' feeling, which doesn't mesh with tall, glass-clad modern condo buildings.
“I do think people want to maintain the small-town character of the Beach. I think that's a major appeal. That's one of the reasons why people come down here,” he said.
At a packed public meeting in April, Toronto's Senior Preservation Coordinator Scott Barrett explained to the crowd the purpose of HCDs – which is to preserve the heritage aspects of a neighbourhood, not to stop new development in that neighbourhood. He also offered something of an opinion on the worthiness of Queen as one of many neighbourhoods that are, or could be, considered for an HCD in Toronto.
“If you ask me, I think this is a good area to do a study in, but we have a lot of priorities in the city,” he said at the time.
Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon is planning a 'visioning study' for Queen Street, with a purpose of producing a document that will guide city planners for development applications in the future; that process is set to get underway in the coming months, and be completed by late fall. She said any nomination for an HCD must be community-driven, and supported by the community as well.
“I will definitely support it, if people want it,” she said.
Clutterbuck said he is looking forward to the study, and is glad it includes Queen from Coxwell all the way to Neville Park.
“That really does represent the Beach 'main street', so to speak,” he said.
In the process of preparing the HCD nomination, the committee has started to ask some more fundamental questions about the process – namely, just where, exactly, does the Beach begin? If residents are polled on whether they support an HCD, which residents should be asked? Those that live south of Kingston Road, as the geography of the prehistoric Lake Iroquois would dictate? Or would anyone south of the rail line be included, as Clutterbuck feels should be the case?
It's a tough question when the HCD in question would cover what is mainly a shopping district. Questions were also raised about whether homeowners or renters would be polled, along with property owners who don't necessarily live in the area.
These questions, along with the original question of an HCD, were in turn raised in reaction to earlier questions brought up in reaction to recent development activity on Queen.
“I guess a good question is, does Toronto need more people? And does the Beach need more people? And I guess we could argue no, to maintain a quality of life that we've become used to,” said Clutterbuck.
The HCD committee is looking for input from the neighbourhood on the three most important queries posed on the nomination form: Should Queen Street be designated as an HCD, and why; describe the general history of Queen Street and the Beach; and describe the general character of Queen Street, or more directly, what makes the Beach, 'the Beach'?
Anyone with opinions to share with the nomination committee can email their opinions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For coverage of the TEYCC decision on 1960-1962 Queen St. E., visit www.beachmetro.com.
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