2008 May 22: Status report from the East Toronto Community Coalition

Girl blowing bubblesPlease Join Us at the OMB, 655 Bay St., on Wednesday May 21st and Thursday May 22nd at 10:00am to show Smart!Centres and Vice Chair McKenzie that this community does not need or want a Mega-Shopping Centre.

OMB Smart!Centre Hearings
Wednesday & Thursday, 2008 May 21 & 22, 10 am
Ontario Municipal Board, 655 Bay St

Here is a brief outline, from the City’s lawyer, as to how the hearing will proceed….

May 21st is only for the lawyers and the Chair to work out the scheduling of witnesses and the order of witnesses etc. Anyone is welcome to attend but nothing much will happen.

The 22nd is the day for opening statements from all lawyers who want to make an opening statement. Once all statements have been completed we will recess until Monday the 26th at which point there will be an extended overview of the City’s case and of the Smart!Centre’s case from each of our respective planners. There will be no cross-examination of these witnesses at this time. Once that overview is complete we will go into the City’s full case, likely on the Tuesday the 27th. The City’s case will probably take at least 2 to 3 weeks. The full hearing has been scheduled for 12 weeks.

We look forward to seeing you at the hearing!
(please note the 22nd will be a very important day to attend)

NOTE: After the hearing starts, a meeting will be scheduled to take place in the community. This meeting will be designed for community members to voice their concerns. If you have not put your name on the Participants list to speak at this meeting, there may be an opportunity on the 21st to add your name to the list.

Recent Ruling/Board Member Rossi Removed from the Case

It’s true, things seem to be turning around for the Community!

Perhaps it was the City’s decision to appeal the CineSpace motion to Divisional Court combined with all of the recent media attention, that prompted the Chair of the OMB, Marie Hubbard, to re-open the City’s motion to have issue #46 expunged from the hearing. Issue #46 is the request from Cinespace to have the right to develop their land, the Canada Metal property next door to Smart!Centres, in the same Big Box manner.

In her letter to all Parties, Chair Hubbard stated “I have determined that the City has raised an arguable case that the Decision should be reviewed in accordance with the Rules. Board Member R. Rossi may have acted outside of his jurisdiction or erred in law such that the Board would have likely reached a different decision when he denied the City’s motion to expunge Issue 46 from the Consolidated Issues List.”

As a result, CineSpace have removed the issue from the list and Board Member Rossi has been removed from our hearing!!! He has been replaced by Vice Chair McKenzie, a newly appointed Board Member with a Planning background.

In other news from the OMB, the City has won its motion to consolidate all three hearings…

the BOARD ORDERS that the motion is granted; namely, that all appeals filed against Amendment No. 5 to the City of Toronto Official Plan (Board Case No. PL061112), against Amendment No. 23 to the City of Toronto Official Plan (Board File No. PL080335), against Amendment No. 379 to the former City of Toronto Official Plan (Board File No. PL080336), and against Zoning By-law No. 130- 2008 (Board File No. PL080337), are consolidated with the Site-specific Appeals assigned Board Case No. PL051314.

The City’s top litigator, Brendan O’Callaghan argued this motion with a great deal of clarity. What this means is that the OMB will have to look at the Smart!Centres development in a larger employment area/ community context and will not be site-specific. It will also be a more efficient and effective way for the City to present its case. In more good news, the City has finally realized what is at stake. Mr. O’Callahan has been added to the legal team and will be representing the City through the entire hearing.

Province turns down request for Declaration of Provincial Interest

We tried. Mayor Miller asked. The Film Board asked. Over 4500 residents, Film Workers and concerned Torontonians asked. The answer is No, the Province will not make a declaration of Provincial Interest in the Smart!Centres OMB hearing.

We pointed out how the Province’s Places to Grow policy, which protects employment lands and discourages auto-centric development, will not be a deciding factor as this application went in before the policy came into play. We pointed out that this development will impact the lands set aside for the film industry and there is still a need and a demand for smaller, lower-end sound stages. We told them that we already have enough retail with Queen St., the Beach, China Town, Gerrard Square, 4 large Grocers and the Eaton Centre. We couldn’t even move them with a letter about the health impact of 14,000,000 car trips a year in a community already suffering from some of the highest incidents of lung related infections and disease.

In the end, Butts told us that if they gave us the declaration, they would have to give it to the hundreds of other community groups fighting developers in Ontario. They also said they will be watching the OMB proceedings very closely. By the way, this bad news came with the first smog warning in Toronto.

Bike path protected

City Council on March 3, 4 and 5, 2008, adopted the following motions:

1. City Council permanently close the portion of the boulevard on the north side of Lake Shore Boulevard East, generally from Coxwell Avenue in the east to the Don Road Way in the west, the southern limit of the bicycle trail to the southern property line of the properties to the north.

What this means is that should the development go ahead, they will not be able to build road access to Lake Shore Blvd. They will have to route all traffic through Eastern Avenue. The OMB will have to take this into consideration in their decision making process.

Background FAQ

1. Question: Is there a Wal-Mart going up on the old Toronto Film Studios site?

Answer: There is no retail or residential application that has received approval for this site. There is currently an application to rezone the lands at 629, 633 and 675 Eastern from an Employment District to mixed use. The plan recently submitted by Smart!Centres (part owner with TFS) contains plans for a large retail centre with some residential units. Smart!Centres is Canada’s largest retail developer and Wal Mart is one of its main clients.

2. Question: How big is this proposal?

Answer: The plans submitted by Smart!Centres include almost 700 000 sq ft of retail and almost 1900 parking spots.

3. Question: Is the City supporting this?

Answer: The lands are currently zoned as an Employment District, which means that land use applications have to have employment uses to obtain City approvals. City Council has refused the application submitted by the Toronto film Studios (and now carried by Smart!Centres) to rezone 629, 633 and 675 Eastern Avenue.

4. Question: I’ve heard this is at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). How did it get there and what does that mean?

Answer: The Ontario Municipal Board is a provincially mandated body where development applications (those either approved or refused by Municipalities) can be appealed. The owner of the land (Toronto Film Studios and Smart!Centres) has filed an appeal with the OMB. The OMB will hear this appeal, and has the authority to either overturn or uphold the City’s refusal of the application to rezone.

5. Question: The employment lands don’t provide jobs, isn’t it better is they get converted to something else?

Answer: According to a recent Economic Development report commissioned by the City, 93% of the land in the City’s Employment Districts are in use providing over 370 000 jobs in value added industries. The report also notes that in just over 20 years, the City will have to increase the amount of Employment Districts in order to meet the population increase with good paying jobs.

6. Question: Is this changing from a film studio because there are too many in the City?

Answer: Film workers and their representatives know that the more studios, the more work there will be. This in turns means more money into Toronto’s economy as well as more, better paying jobs. Film industry workers say Toronto needs more studios.

7. Question: Our say doesn’t matter, does it?

Answer: The community’s voice does matter. While the Ontario Municipal Board is a provincially mandated body with authority to impose decisions on the City, there are a number of rulings in the past where the decision has made specific mention of the community opinion on a particular development proposal.

8. Question: What can I do about this?

Answer: Show up at the OMB on May 22nd (and May 21st if you can); register that day as a Participant so you can personally tell he board how you feel and sign the petition at www.nobigbox.ca.

Overall IMPACT on our community.

Smart!Centres has everyone convinced this is not a Big Box development. It doesn’t matter what you call it, our opposition has nothing to do with the design. We are opposed to 18 acres of Large Volume Retail and the IMPACT this will have on our community.

IMPACT from A 1900 CAR PARKING LOT turning over every 1.25 hours –

Will translate into 7,000,000 – 14,000,000 trips a year on a Community who already suffer from the highest incidents of Lung Disease in Toronto.
Here are a few statistics from Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health that make a case

440 premature deaths and 1,700 hospitalization a year in Toronto.

Mortality-related costs associated with traffic in Toronto are 2.2 billion dollars each year.

A 30% reduction in motor vehicle emissions in Toronto could save nearly 200 lives and result in 900 million dollars in health benefits annually.

Screening cars in a parking lot will not negate these health Impacts. It’s time to stop car-dependent development.

IMPACT on our existing Retail Sector

The most serious economic consequence will include closures of the traditional retailers, pharmacies, hardware, paint and grocery stores, when they can’t compete. This “drain-away” effect is a story told all around North America. It’s naive to think Leslieville can overcome this pressure. Do the 2100 jobs that Smart!Centres has offered the community take into consideration that loss of jobs on Queen St?

This week we figured out that 700,000 square feet of retail would equal 5kms of Queen St. I found that number shocking.

IMPACT on the Waterfront

For decades this community has been striving to transform our toxic legacy into a picture of sustainable living. Our Waterfront should not be the dumping ground for Retail Power Centres. Wherever you travel in the world the most memorable moments never come from the shopping malls. Lake Ontario Park is scheduled to begin this fall. This development is at the Gateway to the Waterfront and should be respected as such. A opportunity to get it right!

IMPACT on a Community Reinventing Itself

Leslieville has a green sustainable Vision for itself. According the Stats Canada, we cycle and walk more than most communities. We shop local. We no longer describe ourselves as “home to Jillys”. Achievements like the Martin Goodman trail, dismantling the Gardner, shutting down the incinerator and the naturalization of the Don will become inert in the shadow of this Power Centre.

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