New urban design guidelines are officially in place in Forest Hill Village, to the delight of local councillors Joe Mihevc and Josh Matlow.
City council approved the most recent version of the guidelines, recommended by city staff, on July 7.
Roughly situated along Spadina Road between Montclair Avenue in the south and Strathearn Boulevard in the north, the borders of Forest Hill Village were drawn in the 1920s, and most buildings in the area were constructed in the 1940s.
“Forest Hill Village has such a quaint feel when you walk through it,” said Mihevc, whose ward begins west of Spadina Road. “This study does a very good job of identifying how to preserve its historic character, and will serve as a guide to any future development.”
Matlow, whose ward begins east of Spadina Road, requested the new guidelines in 2014, independently of Mihevc or the Forest Hill Village BIA.
“I grew up in Forest Hill Village,” Matlow said. “And there have been recent developments that are completely out of whack with the character of the village.”
“Most poignantly the LCBO (on 420 Spadina Rd.), which I think is an eyesore,” he said. “It looks like a big metal box.”
Under the guidelines, certain parts of the neighbourhood’s northwest and southeast are designated “open space” and cannot be developed, while future developments are expected to rise no higher than four storeys, the height limit of the neighbourhood’s current buildings.
The guidelines also divide the neighbourhood into two “character zones”: Zone A, south of Thelma Avenue, includes commercial and mixed-use development, while Zone B, to the north, is characterized by a mix of walkup apartment buildings, single-detached houses and semis.
Other elements covered by the guidelines include building materials, setbacks (which must match adjacent buildings) and even signage and storefront width.
“Forest Hill Village is really one of only two or three unique enclaves of its type in the city,” said Matlow, “and if we lose the village it’s gone forever, so I’m resolute about protecting it.”
The Forest Hill Village BIA, which published its own Master Plan in 2012, declined to comment on the new guidelines.
Last year, coordinator Yvonne Bambrick told the Town Crier “the Forest Hill Village BIA is encouraged by Councillor Matlow’s announcement” and would “be supportive of the creation of development design guidelines for the village as long as they are determined through consultation with the BIA and other local stakeholders.”
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