The demolition of 81 Wellesley is one of the most unfortunate and avoidable circumstances…

February 8, 2012 · 0 comments

in City of Toronto Official Plan, Correspondence

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Dear Friends,

The demolition of 81 Wellesley is one of the most unfortunate and avoidable circumstances I have seen happen in the city of Toronto. There are no excuses to justify what happened, but there are a number of policy gaps that I have learned about and that I addressed immediately.

Despite writing to the Toronto and East York Community Council on November 2, 2011 to request that 81 Wellesley Street East be designated as a heritage property (which puts the property into a long queue with others waiting for heritage status by the City of Toronto), a demolition application submitted on December 1, 2011 was approved and issued fourteen days later.

Toronto’s Chief Building Official confirmed that unless a commercially-zoned property is designated as heritage, they are legally obligated to issue the demolition permit, as per Section 8 of the Ontario Building Code Act. Once a demolition application is approved, it cannot be revoked nor suspended. Toronto Building staff are also not required to notify or consult with the Ward Councillor or community for demolition applications for commercial properties under the minimal provincial requirements. Clearly Toronto needs a system that goes above and beyond minimum provincial statutory requirements to prevent situations like this in the future. These are very serious policy flaws.

Last week, I met with the Chief Building Official, city planning including Heritage Preservation staff and city legal to review how we can make improvements to the way the City of Toronto responds to commercial demolition applications. Specifically two steps in the right direction include mandating that Ward Councillors, planning and heritage staff are officially notified by Toronto Building of all demolition applications. Furthermore, the list of pending properties under review by Heritage Preservation Services be considered prior to issuing any demolition permits. This may prevent situations like the unsupported demolition of 81 Wellesley Street East and other such properties of interest from happening again.

We are launching a three month pilot project to better coordinate communication among city staff and hopefully close the provincial policy loopholes at the municipal level whereby commercial property demolition applications are circulated in notices from Toronto Building to City Planning through Heritage Preservation Services and to the Councillor’s office as they are received. Heritage Preservation Services will then evaluate and respond to applications as necessary.

Furthermore, I moved a motion at City Council yesterday that directs staff to report back with recommendations to permanently address the loopholes between the applicable laws that govern this jurisdiction. The motion reads “Improving demolition control policies to strengthen heritage protection” and was seconded by Councillor Peter Milczyn. More information is available here: Improving demolition control policies to strengthen heritage protection – by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, seconded by Councillor Peter Milczyn.

Many Ward 27 residents and heritage advocates who have followed this situation are aware of how this has personally impacted my office and I. As the Councillor who led advocacy for better policy reform to Toronto Building’s improved standards for glass balcony railings, I know the City can do better.

Let’s hope what we have learned from this experience can lead to the changes we need to make sure this never happens again.

Respectfully yours,
Kristyn
Councillor Krystin Wong Tam

The demolition of 81 Wellesley is one of the most unfortunate and avoidable circumstances…

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