Letter to His Worship Mayor-Elect Rob Ford

November 1, 2010

in Correspondence

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City Hall, 2nd Floor
100 Queen St. West
Toronto, ON M5H 2N2

Dear Mayor-Elect Ford,

Congratulations on your successful election to the position of Mayor of Toronto! We are looking forward to working with you on planning and development issues along with other issues that are of concern to FoNTRA. We also recognize the importance of the Official Plan review next year and advocate that some of our planning reform ideas as outlined below be strongly considered during that process.

Planning Reform: FoNTRA believes that long-term planning can be improved through stabilizing Toronto’s Official Plan. Accordingly, we encourage rules-based planning and discourage site-specific Official Plan amendments. To enhance the Official Plan as a planning instrument, FoNTRA advocates two small but significant Planning Act changes: 1) The Official Plan should be required to provide population densities and land-use intensities which would provide guidance for site-specific re-zonings; and 2) Site-specific amendments should be eliminated to maintain the validity of public policy in between the mandatory comprehensive Official Plan updates every five years. We urge the City of Toronto to actively support these changes that require action by the Province.

Local Appeal Body and Committee of Adjustment Processes: The City of Toronto Act provides Toronto with the ability to implement a Local Appeal Board (LAB) to adjudicate appeals arising from Committee of Adjustment (CoA) decisions. FoNTRA believes that the current appeal fee of $125 should be maintained since a full cost recovery model with an estimated appeal fee of $6,200 would be counterproductive. FoNTRA recommends that the implementation of a LAB be combined with improvement in the Committee of Adjustment procedures in the following three problem areas: 1) inadequate/deficient notices to the public, 2) unequal procedures at the CoA hearings, and 3) proper defense of CoA refusals by the City at appeal hearings.

Protection of Neighbourhoods and Community Involvement: Much concern has been expressed for the need to protect local neighbourhoods from the destabilizing effects of undesirable types of development that require Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments. FoNTRA promotes community involvement in planning so that local neighbourhoods are protected and local-area Secondary Plans are re-instituted wherever change occurs. Many residents feel that the City of Toronto does a less than adequate job when it comes to defending the policies of the Official Plan and upholding the provisions of the Zoning By-laws, which are aimed at protecting neighbourhoods from the negative impacts of intrusive, excessive, and undesirable development applications as well as directing growth to areas designated by the Official Plan. A stable Official Plan, as outlined above, would permit the approval of all Zoning By-law amendments by Community Councils.

Responsible Development: Currently, developers do not pay the full costs of the expenses incurred by the municipality related to development, including the costs to Toronto to process applications. As a result, local taxpayers are subsidizing developers. As well, the Development Charges Act does not distinguish between developments designed to maximize energy efficiency and environmental sustainability and those which do not. A suggestion for amending the provincial Development Charges Act is to encourage “positive” developments such as “LEED” (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified buildings in which energy efficiency and environmental sustainability are enhanced. FoNTRA recommends that development application fees be at a level that provide for full-cost recovery and that a standard, such as the LEED standard, be implemented for all new development in Toronto. We urge the City of Toronto to actively support these changes that again require action by the province.

Section 37 Benefits: The use of Section 37 of the Planning Act by the City of Toronto is inconsistent and ineffective. FoNTRA recommends a three-fold policy: 1) Section 37 benefits should not be negotiated by individual Councillors but by staff; 2) Section 37 benefits should have a clear planning relationship to the increased height and/or density granted; and 3) Section 37 benefits should have a direct and consistent relationship to the economic benefits inherent in the density and/or height increase, as spelled out in a written policy.

If possible, we would like to meet with you in the near future. Realizing that such a meeting may not be possible in the short term, we would appreciate a written response to FoNTRA’s position on these important planning and development issues.

Yours truly,
Peter Baker
Co-Chair, FoNTRA
124 Sherwood Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M4P2A7
peterwbaker@rogers.com

Geoff Kettel
Co-Chair, FoNTRA
129 Hanna Road
Toronto, Ontario
M4G 3N6
gkettel@gmail.com

cc: Gary Wright, Chief Planner
City Councillors
FoNTRA Representatives and Others

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