Neighbours are challenging plans to build a five-storey medical office beside a row of houses on Queen Street East.
If it goes ahead, the office will replace a two-storey house at 1895 Queen Street – the last in a row of seven older houses across from the Kew Beach fire hall.
Most of the houses have small shops or businesses inside, including the dental and dentures offices at 1897 Queen, next door.
Speaking for neighbours who oppose the office is lawyer Robert Holland, who argued before the Ontario Municipal Board last week.
“We’re making the case that the development at 1897 Queen Street East, which is next door, is illustrative of what needs to be preserved,” said Holland, speaking to Beach Metro News before the two-day hearing started.
A small, cream-coloured house with a front yard and bright blue and red awnings that advertise the dental and denture clinics, Holland said the building at 1897 illustrates “what is special about the Beach, and its village flavour.”
In June, C& Partners Architects gave city planners a site plan showing a contemporary-looking office with a first-floor pharmacy, three floors of medical offices, and an architecture office on the top floor.
The top two floors of the office would be stepped back to be less visible from the street. The first three floors would be clad in materials that resemble wood and limestone, with a copper canopy over the main entrance.
But Holland pointed out that the office would take up almost the entire lot at 1895 Queen, and also requires five minor variances to existing zoning bylaws – variances to allow more height, more density, less front-yard setback, and less parking supply.
The building would have two parking spaces, while the bylaw requires nine.
But city planners did not object to the variances, and they were approved in December by the city’s Committee of Adjustment.
Holland said he and his clients disagree that the variances are minor. Rather than going to the Committee of Adjustment for minor variances, Holland said the plans should have gone to city planners for a more in-depth report on a possible rezoning.
“We’re talking about what is literally the gateway to the Beach,” said Holland.
Local city councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said she supports the office proposal, and so do city planners.
“It’s the type of development that we crusaded for in our vision study,” said McMahon, referring to the series of public meetings in 2012 that led to a new set of urban design guidelines for the Beach stretch of Queen Street.
Among other things, the guidelines require buildings that appear no more than four storeys tall to someone standing across the street.
McMahon also said she likes the fact that the building is designed for a pharmacy and medical offices.
“I think that’s a positive addition to the neighbourhood,” she said.
The OMB decision on the proposed office building is expected later this year.