Progress on scaling 18 Brownlow development but the fight continues

South Eglinton Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association logoIn the SERRA area, “post Minto” development (our first tall towers at Yonge and Elginton ) has brought us more than 20 additional big development projects, including more than 25 towers, yielding in excess of 8,000 units with an estimated value of well over $3 billion. So far, new residents have moved in for only three of those 20-plus projects, so the full impact of the increased population has not yet been felt.

City planning stated that the Yonge and Eglinton, when the current developments have been built, will rank among the densest communities in Canada.

One such development project is 18 Brownlow Ave. on Soudan Avenue between Redpath and Brownlow avenues. This eastern section of the Soudan apartment neighbourhood till now has seen only limited new development activity. Brownlow is also the location of the Eglinton Junior Public School, which is facing significant enrolment pressures. This development will set the tone for future projects in this area.

Just in the last month a second development application was submitted for the adjacent Soudan block to the east. The retirement facility, Briton House (at Soudan and Mt. Pleasant Road), has applied for a huge addition to its facility, including a 25-storey tower.

The 18 Brownlow dervelopment has been in appeal at the provincial Ontario Municipal Board for more than two years now and we aren’t even at a stage yet of a full hearing, where both sides present their arguments about “good development.” (This full hearing is currently scheduled for May, 2018.) The pre-hearings so far have focused on procedural issues of the developer not complying with city planning regulations that are not appealable to the OMB, such as providing adequate, mandated on-site parkland dedication.

Originally, the development was planned as a twin tower project with 469 rental units. With all the procedural wrangling, it’s now been scaled back to one 24-storey tower with 176 units, but on about half the acquired properties. This new proposal seems on paper to represent a more realistic development, although it’s still much too tall for this location, and not in keeping with the decreasing transition of heights from Yonge St. to Mt. Pleasant.

However, our “win” might be short lived, since we are very concerned about future development plans for the remaining six semis that till now had been part of the development plans. We suspect that this “revision” is just a tactic in achieving the same result as original development, but in stages that also ensure the developer does not have to devote as much of his site to parkland dedication.

Another pre-hearing is scheduled for early December when we should receive further insight into the developer’s plans for the total site.

New planning blueprint for midtown

Help might be on the way in the form of a newly minted planning blueprint from city planning for the midtown area. The plan calls for 14-storey heights along Soudan, east of Redpath.

You may be aware that since 2015 city planning has been working on a revision of the Yonge-Eglinton Secondary Plan. It’s a major undertaking, but a comprehensive and detailed draft has now been completed. City planning has now assigned specific heights for all locations in the Y-E area, where towers are allowed.

On Soudan, east of Redpath, the permitted height will be 14 storeys and only one tower or block. That’s a tremendous boost for our cause, even though the report won’t be formally completed until the second quarter of 2018, and existing applications might be “grandfathered” by the OMB. City council has stated that since Nov. 15, all current and future applications are to be reviewed against this new Y-E planning blueprint. What will need to be determined is whether the OMB agrees with this city council position.

The new blueprint also recognizes the existence of the Eglinton Junior Public School and specified tower heights to be in the twenties range for new developments close to the school. There are also improved setbacks of 12.5 metres to keep towers away from the school property. If this setback requirement had been in place when the tower adjacent to John Fisher Public School was planned, that development likely would never have been approved. Something to think about!

Andy Gort is president of the South Eglinton Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, which covers the area bounded by Eglinton Avenue East, Bayview Avenue, Merton Road and Yonge Street.