Toronto should fight Markham deal

Councillor David Shiner says city needs to keep up its opposition to plan that could see over 2,000 units built on Shops on Steeles site

Willowdale councillor David Shiner says he isn’t wavering on his opposition to the proposed Shops on Steeles redevelopment project, even if the Town of Markham and ratepayers groups have reached an understanding with the developer.

“My community said, ‘I don’t want high rises and I don’t want high densities,’” Shiner told a packed audience of around 250 residents who gathered at Shaar Shalom Synagogue March 2 to hear details of an eleventh-hour deal struck between Markham councillors, ratepayers groups and the developer, Bayview Summit Development.

The deal is the latest development in a long fight going back to 2007, when Bayview Summit first proposed a plan that would see 2,057 residential units in towers as tall as 32 storeys looming over Highway 404. A shopping mall and other freestanding shops and restaurants currently stand on the proposed site.

Area residents were outraged about what they said would be unmanageable amounts of traffic that would consume the area.

Markham council unanimously rejected that proposal and has continued to negotiate with the developer in the lead-up to the seven-week hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board, scheduled to have started March 7.

The latest counter-offer proposed by the German Mills Ratepayers Association calls for 1,235 condo units over the proposed five towers, but details of the heights and densities of the towers had still not been hammered out by press time.

Shiner, who represents Willowdale residents just south of the redevelopment site said he wasn’t invited to the discussions with the developer and wouldn’t support a plan where the details weren’t clear. Although the proposed project on the north side of Steeles Avenue East deals with lands in Markham, the City of Toronto has the right to be consulted on issues close to its territory and Toronto staff have independently reviewed the proposal, and had concerns regarding its height and density.

“Until we find we have something that’s acceptable to our community, we’re not changing our position,” Shiner said.

However, Markham councillor Howard Shore said the deal represented the best offer the community could get and allowed the community to avoid the roulette table of the Ontario Municipal Board, a provincial adjudicator who routinely overrules municipalities and communities in favour of developers.

That idea was echoed by David Slotnick, president of the Willowdale North East Neighbourhood Association, an unofficial residents group that has also been fighting the size of the development.

“I’m satisfied,” Slotnick said. “1,200 (units) isn’t too bad.

“We all knew development was coming and we couldn’t stop it.”

Others disagreed.

“To be honest, I don’t think this is the best deal,” said Janet Chu, a Markham resident. “If it was up to me, I would go to the OMB. At least we would know we fought it as far as we could.”

Shiner said Toronto city staff would review the deal struck by Markham council once details became available and would then make a recommendation to city council about whether to continue opposing the development at the OMB.

He conceded a challenge to the project was much less likely to succeed now that Markham and the ratepayers groups had drafted a letter of understanding with the developer.

About this article:

By: Joshua Freeman
Posted: Mar 7 2011 1:46 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto