Is this what’s right for Leaside?

Plan to add to SmartCentre on Laird Drive has many residents vowing to fight the expansion

Leaside groups opposed to a planned big box retail centre are putting pressure on city staff and the local councillor to reject the plan outright.

The Leaside Property Owners Association[/url] and Leaside Unite[/url], a group formed in protest to SmartCentres’ application to build a 14,000-square-metre retail centre at Wicksteed Avenue and Laird Drive, say the proposal is too large and dense for the area. The centre is proposed for the site of the former Colgate-Palmolive Canada facility.

“Leaside residents are now starting to get quite fed up with all the big box retail stores,” says Leaside Unite spokesperson Graham Shirley. “We’ve got four city blocks of retail malls.”

On its website, Leaside Unite calls on Councillor John Parker to advocate a reduction in size and density, including for the anchor tenant store, proposed at 7,500 square metres. Leaside Unite has also created an online petition that urges the city to reject the planning application outright. So far, it’s collected over 300 signatures.

Parker says he is still in the process of reviewing technical reports on economic and traffic impacts. Full-out opposition to the plan won’t be in the best interests of the community, he says.

“If we can work things out with the developer around a table rather than go through the agonies and delays of an [Ontario Municipal Board] process, then we can take all of the resources that the developer has in the bank to support an OMB application and put those resources to work.”

But concerns over the development are numerous, says Carol Fripp, vice-president of the Leaside Property Owners Association.

The proposed underground parking area is a safety concern.

“If it’s retail, anybody can drive in, anybody can hang about in there,” she says. ‘We already have problems near Leaside High School, some crime and muggings, so this would be like an invitation.”

They also cannot tolerate any more traffic, Fripp says. “We already have more traffic than we can cope with on the residential streets. This would be again, an open invitation to turn Leaside into a shopping thoroughfare.”

As for the anchor tenant, there are rumours a Wal-Mart will occupy that building, but SmartCentres officials say it is too early in the process to be working on leasing arrangements.

“We do not have a deal with Wal-Mart whatsoever for this site,” says Paula Bustard, SmartCentre’s senior director of development. “We don’t have an anchor at all at this point.”

However, Bustard deosn’t rule out any retailer as a possible anchor tenant.

She also notes SmartCentres has offered to attend local meetings to address concerns and answer questions, but the community has yet to take them up on their offer.

Meanwhile, community stakeholders have struck an informal working group with Parker to analyze the application further. They were set to meet in late June.

About this article:

By: Karolyn Coorsh
Posted: Jul 20 2012 1:36 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto