Request to pause federal funding for YNSE

Subject: Request that you pause federal funding for the YNSE until a deal is made public

Dear Prime Minister,

On behalf of the resident and ratepayer groups in York Region and elsewhere in the GTA, listed below, I respectfully request that your government pause payment to the Government of Ontario of your government’s 40% portion of funding for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE) until such time that the Government of Ontario makes public the details of a financial deal it made sometime in 2021-2022 with the owner of lands on either side of Highway 407 at Yonge Street, and until such time that the Government of Ontario meets all conditions and guarantees for funding set forth by your government.

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Ready, Set, Midtown: Zoning Review Status Report

FoNTRA is in general support of the recommendations for the Midtown Zoning Review and specifically, that:

  • the Chief Planner consider feedback obtained to-date from the public and key stakeholders in a preparation of the draft Zoning By-law and to undertake further consultation.
  • the City Planning Division to report back in the second quarter of 2022 with a recommended Zoning By-law.

We support the statement that “the Secondary Plan provides a framework for establishing a complete community in Midtown that supports overall quality of life for people of all ages, abilities, and incomes. This will be achieved through improved access to a range of mobility options, community service facilities, local stores, services and employment, housing including affordable housing, an attractive and vibrant public realm and publicly accessible parks, open spaces and recreational facilities.”

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Concorde Gate Zoning Amendment & Subdivision Applications

This is to provide our concerns about the above noted staff report and its recommendations.  FoNTRA would not generally get involved with “local” applications; however frankly this is an audacious application – out of scale, scope and context for the area.

The Rezoning Application and associated Plan of Subdivision application propose to demolish the existing office buildings on the lands at 1 to 3 Concorde Gate and 10 to 12 Concorde Place, and to redevelop the lands with five residential and mixed-use buildings consisting of nine towers ranging in height from 40 to 52 storeys. Overall, the application proposes a total of 4,086 dwelling units, 307,004 square metres of residential space, 841 square metres of retail space, and 437 square metres of community space. The overall gross floor area proposed is 308,284 square metres, which results in an overall density of 9.95 for the lands.

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Midtown Town Centre Vision

The Federation of North Toronto Residents Association (FoNTRA) strongly supports the motion, tabled by Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam at the PHC meeting of June 28, 2021 to request a review of all aspects of the vision presented in “Imagining a New Town Centre for Midtown Toronto” prepared by the Midtown Working Group.

The unique opportunities for the Canada Square site were recognized by designation as a Special Study area in the Midtown in Focus Plan, developed with community consultation to provide comprehensive planning direction for the Yonge and Eglinton area. Unfortunately, the City’s lease agreement with Oxford Properties Group was made before that study could be undertaken. The Midtown Town Centre vision begins to provide the way forward.

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Call to release lease agreement terms for Canada Square

Yonge and Eglinton is designated as a “Growth Centre” and has become an extremely “successful” one at that, i.e. it has far exceeded the population targets set. However this growth has occurred at the expense of quality of life, amid deficiencies in community services that are increasingly apparent to the residents and neighbours.

Most recently the City is reviewing an application for the Canada Square site, a lynchpin to the whole area, given its location at the crossing of the subway and soon to be completed LRT, and the fast developing residential neighbourhoods spreading out from all four corners. The application by Oxford Properties simply cannot be treated like a regular development application given the many factors to be addressed.

FoNTRA supports Councillors Colle and Robinson Motion MM32.5 and recommends that the relevant terms of the 2018 City/Oxford agreement be made public that could affect the appropriate and unfettered decision-making for the Canada Square site.

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Affordable Housing (The Foundry)

This is in response to your Ministry’s request for input from residents’ groups and the public “on how some elements of the existing structures could inform development” of the provincially owned property at 153-185 Eastern Avenue. The request indicates that the Province of Ontario intends to “create new affordable and market housing, and community space, in response to numerous requests from the City of Toronto for increased affordable housing”.

This request comes after the Province’s demolition of The Foundry has been temporarily stopped per an Interim Court Order. The court hearing has been adjourned to give all parties more time to come to a resolution.  However the Province’s initiation of a one-way process via submission of email comments and suggestions is insufficient and inadequate.  Instead a regular two-way dialogue with the community must take place.

The Court ordered the Province to continue the pause on demolition because there is compelling evidence that the Province has not met its own standards under the Ontario Heritage Act and has breached heritage-related commitments in a subdivision agreement.

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Minister’s Zoning Orders (MZOs) bypass city planning

Only about two weeks ago, FoNTRA expressed to you its serious concerns about the current use of Minister’s Zoning Orders (“MZOs”) but has received no response to its reasoned arguments. FoNTRA is, therefore, more than surprised and disappointed to learn that, in the meantime, you have issued new MZOs for three sites in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto – without any public consultation, without any involvement of the City Planning Department, without securing any community benefits to support an adequate infrastructure, and without even any notification of local politicians.

Notwithstanding some ingenuous views voiced in the local media – see, for example, Alex Bozikovic in The Globe and Mail of 28 October 2020 – that is no way to run a democratic and intelligent planning system. Just because a move is legal does not make it ethical or fair. In the earlier letter, FoNTRA has outlined in some detail the evolution of MZOs, as intended by successive governments of all political stripes on the advice of several expert panels.

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Falconer Hall heritage designation

At the September 29 meeting of the Toronto Preservation Board (Board), FoNTRA as well as many other organizations and individuals, objected to how Falconer Hall was proposed to be included in a proposed development, the subject of TE19.2. Our objections primarily related to the large scale of the proposal for the location on Queens Park The development as proposed has a significantly larger scale than other institutional buildings on Queen’s Park. In addition, it displays a profound lack of sensitivity to the significance of the site as a cultural heritage landscape.

The Board in its decision recommended that City Council state its intention to designate Falconer Hall and in addition recommended that: “City Council request the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning to defer action on the alterations proposed in the report until a comprehensive study of the Queen’s Park cultural heritage landscape is complete.” FoNTRA agrees with the Board that the proposed development should not be approved unless and until it is shown to be acceptable following the study.

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Midtown in Focus: Final Report Recommendations

As an organization that has participated actively in all stages of the Midtown in Focus (MiF) Planning process to date, as have a number of our member resident associations, we are unwilling to be drawn into recommending among a choice of options for part of the Plan area, viewed out of the context of consideration of the whole area, and at this late stage in a process that has been marked by strong public engagement efforts on the part of City Planning.

While MiF provides a planning framework for the future new development that results in significant residential intensification, it simply cannot proceed as provided for in the MiF plan without controls on the implementation. We offer a three part proposal to address this:

  1. permit employment generating developments and other non residential uses to proceed;
  2. restrict residential development to “small” projects (to be defined) and .
  3. develop a Phasing Plan for the MiF Plan that would be tied to transit and other missing infrastructure for the Yonge corridor actually coming on stream.

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