Developer promises to avoid OMB, work with community

A lively conversation about the appropriate density of development in Leaside took a twist when the developer of a multi-building 1,500-unit proposal promised not to let the case go to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Stephen Diamond, president and CEO of developer Diamond Corp., made the comment during a community consultation regarding his company’s application to build four residential towers ranging from 19 to 34 storeys, as well as a six-storey commercial building and a public park, at 939 Eglinton Ave. East at Brentcliffe Road, a block and a half away from the future Laird Avenue LRT station.

Diamond, a former lawyer, told the audience of 150 at Leaside Memorial Gardens on Oct. 27 that he promised to avoid submitting the application to the OMB — something he said his company has never done in response to community concerns.

He said they will collaborate with the neighbourhood on a solution that if not ideal, everyone would be able to live with.

“I was standing in front of a community meeting like this many, many years ago when I was a lawyer, and someone asked me if this development was in my neighbourhood whether I’d oppose it… I said absolutely not, but that my wife would,” Diamond said, to laughter.

“What we propose seems to be something the community doesn’t want, but is there a way to roll up our sleeves and sit down and… make this work in a reasonable fashion?”

Ward 26 councillor Jon Burnside suggested forming a working group, including residents from the neighbourhood, as well as city planning, which has not approved or denied the proposal in its current form.

“My question to you,” Burnside said. “Will you actually do that, or is it just talk, like other developers?”

“Clearly just talk, like other developers,” Diamond joked, to more laughter. “Actually, no… we accept the challenge.”

Before the crucial promise was made, Leasiders in attendance were firm in their opposition to the application, with more than 20 residents speaking to concerns with height, density, and the impact the cars filling its 1,639 parking spaces will have on traffic.

Others took advantage of the opportunity to address a developer directly, asking how both developers and the city could address quality-of-life concerns such as the lack of new schools in Leaside for future residents, or the need for a development plan encompassing the entire neighbourhood.

“I don’t want my kids being bused out of the neighbourhood to go to school,” Leaside resident Angie Novachis said. “I don’t want them in portables, and in crowded classrooms.”

“These kinds of [developments] are going to drastically change the entire community,” resident John Gaitanakis said. “So why don’t we start adding together all of the buildings that are being considered on this stretch of Eglinton between Bayview and Brentcliffe, including this proposal?”

Diamond and his support staff explained that with the LRT coming, vehicle traffic was expected to fall by 25 percent in the area. With the additional parking spaces, the number of vehicles on Eglinton would rise by up to 100 per hour — a manageable number that breaks down to fewer than two cars per minute, Diamond Corp. traffic consultant Alun Lloyd explained. Diamond also said that as developers, they were meeting a demand created by outsiders wanting to live in the city.

Before closing the meeting, Burnside drew praise by opposing the application.

“I feel I have my orders tonight from the community, and that is that 1,500 units is absolutely, 100 percent, inappropriate,” he said.

But the main sticking point: whatever is approved will have a significant impact on other development proposals in the area.

“This is the big daddy,” Burnside said. “This is going to set the tone for development east of Brentcliffe and west of the site. So what happens here is crucial.”