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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Construction noise – repeal Ontario regulations overriding Toronto by-law

In April 2020, the City of Toronto’s bylaws limiting construction noise were suspended by Ontario provincial regulations 130/20 and 131/20 that permitted extended construction hours for a period of 18 months (till October 2021).

We recognize and understand the need for the Covid-19 related restrictions that were imposed on the various business sectors and social interactions over the last twelve months. All of Ontario is encouraged by the progress against Covid-19 through the aggressive and successful execution of the vaccination programs. As we look forward to the opportunity to return to some semblance of normal life, we believe now is the appropriate time to revisit the noise guidelines that extended construction hours on essential projects during the pandemic.

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Questions regarding implementation of Multi-Tenant Housing Report

  1. Enforcement problems/life-threatening situations are reported with non-compliant and unlicensed Rooming Houses in zoned areas. What will be done between now and Nov. 1, 2022 in terms of inspection/enforcement to improve the situation? How will MLS and Toronto Fire make progress with these houses, especially the high risk priority houses, if they did not seek Budget allocations in 2021 to hire additional enforcement officers and fire inspectors, and are not planning to in 2022?
  2. Within the City of Toronto, fraternity houses were deemed to be Rooming Houses and they were given 3 years to become licensed. This has not happened. How is the City going to deal with these houses between now and Nov. 1, 2022? Are additional inspection/enforcement officers required?
  3. How will the City deal with illegal Rooming Houses between now and Nov. 1, 2022?

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Garden Suites

Garden Suites – Proposals Report

This is to provide our comments on Expanding Housing Options in Neighbourhoods – Garden Suites – Proposals Report and its recommendations.

We note that the report is intended for public consultation not for decision on the proposals. While the types of proposals are generally OK, the details may need adjusting depending on the feedback, and also on the results of the laneway housing review. We are pleased that the report recognizes that neighbourhood character should be protected, and that consultation with the affected neighbourhoods is essential. While the learnings from the laneway housing experience will be useful, we continue to note the significant differences, particularly related to access, between laneway and garden suites.

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A New Regulatory Framework for Multi-Tenant Houses

This is to express our support in principle for the above noted report to create a new comprehensive regulatory and compliance framework (zoning bylaw amendments, licensing requirements), for Multi-Tenant Houses across Toronto.

We appreciate that this represents a cross-divisional multi-pronged initiative that has been a long time in development. We also note that City Planning delivered on our request made in connection with the earlier report (November 2020) to ensure that resident associations (including both tenants, homeowners) are given the opportunity to be engaged in the process of public and stakeholder engagement on the proposed zoning standards for city-wide permissions for multi-tenant housing.

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Environmental Assessment for Don Valley Train Facility

We request the Federal Government (which has the authority, the resources, and the mechanism – Federal Impact Assessment Study) to do a proper environmental assessment of Metrolinx’s proposed Don Valley Train Layover Facility.

The Project

The Don Valley Train Layover Facility is one of four new layover facilities proposed under Metrolinx’s New Tracks and Facilities TPAP. The facilities are apparently required in order to reduce the congestion currently experienced at Union Station, and provide a location for storage and light maintenance (including cleaning, garbage disposal, and sanitary sewage removal) for GO trains during off-peak periods. Whether the plan includes diesel fuel servicing/storage needs to be confirmed.

Metrolinx intends to situate the Don Valley Layover site on part of the Don Branch rail corridor (not operational for the past 22 years), that runs parallel to the Don Valley Parkway (See attached plan).

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Concept 2 Keys Development Application Review Program

This report brings forward updates on the work completed to date by the Concept 2 Keys team, highlighting preliminary results of Phase 1, updates on preparatory work for Phase 2, and additional City-wide development process improvements.

The Concept 2 Keys (C2K) program focusses on reducing costs, and increasing efficiency. This is laudable, except that for a government service this singular focus is fundamentally flawed – you are the City and you exist to serve the public, not just customers, i.e. development applicants. Nowhere is there any mention of residents, neighbours, or interests other than that of the applicant or undefined stakeholders.

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Laneway Suite Monitoring Report and Action on Garden Suites

As you are aware the various Enhanced Housing Options in Neighbourhoods initiatives, especially laneway suites and garden suites, are of great interest, and raise some concerns for residents.

We are aware that the Garden Suites staff report is coming to PHC on June 28th.  However we are of the opinion that the Laneway Suites Monitoring Report – a review of Laneway Housing initiatives – needs to be available to inform the consideration of Garden Suites and other initiatives. We have requested this throughout the public consultations. We also expressed that there needed to be resident engagement in the review.

Garden suites, as an additional unit on a lot, have much in common with laneway suites, that come with additional challenges from a public safety and community impact perspective. We believe there is unassailable logic of the need for the availability of the results of the laneway suites to inform the development of a garden suites policy.

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Mandatory Pre-Application Consultation Amendments

Making pre-application consultation a mandatory, rather than a voluntary step in the development review process has been identified by internal and external stakeholders, and through jurisdictional review, as a first step in addressing inconsistencies that have implications for application quality, staff productivity, overall time to decision and city-building outcomes.

The report states that jurisdictional research indicates that improvements to the early stages of the development review process, including requiring pre-application consultation, results in the submission of higher-quality applications, increases the number of applications moving from pre-application consultation to actual submission, reduces the overall number of circulations, and helps to establish mutual accountability early on.

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City of Toronto Council Chamber

Municipal Conflict of Interest Act

In January, 2021, we provided information on the Public Inquiry which recommended a conflict-of-interest overhaul for municipal councillors referencing Frank Marrocco’s report – Report of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry, Transparency and the Public Trust. One of his recommendations is to broaden the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to expand the definition of the personal or family interest that can put a politician in a conflict of interest.

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TLAB – Chair’s Annual Report

Given the number of Committee of Adjustment applications in our members’ neighbourhoods, many residents and residents associations have been actively involved in TLAB appeals since its inception in 2017. The TLAB appeal process is important to residents as it greatly affects their homes and the character of their neighbourhoods,

We appreciate the comprehensive review and report by TLAB Chair, Dino Lombardi. However, it is apparent that while the report reports on various matters related to the ongoing operation of the TLAB, it fails to look deeper into some of the matters that concern residents. TLAB Public Business Meetings have been established, but these are largely ineffective as mechanisms to provide input from residents. Procedure and rules continue to be added to the processes without effective input from residents.

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Toronto Buildings Review

FoNTRA representatives were part of the consultation process leading up to this report, including a meeting with Will Johnston, Chief Building Official. Our focus in that meeting was on residents as “customers” as residents are impacted by various functions undertaken by Toronto Buildings.

Errors in the reports on variances required for Committee of Adjustment applications and the errors in the use of waivers by applicants cause confusion and delays at the Committee of Adjustment hearings as well as approval of incorrect variances. There is also confusion and concern about issues that are now covered by the Building Code, such as responsibility for safely and damages to neighbouring properties related to construction next door, whether  lot lines or party walls. Also variable and lack of enforcement can be an issue.

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Toronto Street Car

Moving Ontarians More Safely

The Act gives Toronto permission to install safety cameras on streetcars to find and fine drivers who speed by a streetcar at a transit stop, putting riders at risk.

The Act also includes Bill 148 The Doored But Not Ignored Bill to provide better protections for cyclists. Dooring is one of the most common causes of injury for cyclists, but it’s not considered a collision under the Highway Traffic Act.

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Provincial Transit-Oriented Communities Program

We join many community-based groups including resident, business, service, environmental and heritage organizations to express our support for the direction of the staff report, and our concern for the unilateral approach of the provincial government in its Transit-Oriented Communities Program.

We are concerned that what is happening now at the First Parliament site is a preview of what communities may expect anywhere that the province has a planned transit station, and where there is an opportunity to hand land to the private sector to raise revenues!

Based on our experience to date with the Eglinton Crosstown and the Ontario Lines, especially the lack of transparency in decision-making, we fear that the rush to accelerate planning and maximize provincial revenues will compromise long-term community building, heritage conservation, and complete communities, including affordable housing, community space, and public open space on these sites.

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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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E-scooters – Accessibility and Insurance Issues

We appreciate the extensive research and stakeholder consultations now being reported on by Transportation Services Division staff, including the learning from other jurisdictions with more experience on the matter. Experiments in large cities such as Chicago, New York, London, and Amsterdam, which have comparable population size and density to Toronto, point to many unresolved issues associated with the use of e-scooters. The experience of e-scooter-associated issues in those cities are more likely to be similar and relevant, than that of smaller cities like Ottawa and Calgary. However, we note that even Ottawa, one of those smaller cities, has banned e-scooters from its most popular destination, the Byward Market, and from National Capital Commission walkways and paths.

The staff report outlines in detail the unique risk factors associated with Toronto’s existing public infrastructure – both road and sidewalk design – that did not contemplate the addition of e-scooters. These include:

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Update on Committee of Adjustment Virtual Public Hearings

FoNTRA has been active in bringing forward the concerns of residents across the area about the Committee of Adjustment, and interrelated processes in residential infill, such as neighbourhood planning guidelines, zoning review, TLAB appeals, and construction issues.

The Report responds to City Council direction and requests related to the COVID related measures taken by City Planning in the past year, which focus on four operational matters: application volume; staffing and panel member capacity; public notification improvements; and participation at virtual public hearings. The Report’s basic message is all about efficiency in handling volume, not about making decisions that are fair, that are based on input from neighbours, and that respect and maintain neighbourhood character. 

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Open Data Requirement

This is to express the strong support of the Federation of North Toronto Residents Associations (FoNTRA) for the Motion put forward by Councillor Paul Ainslie, Chair, General Government and Licensing Committee, and recommended by Executive Committee, as follows:

  1. City Council direct the City Manager to implement mandatory open data requirements in all reports submitted to standing committees for the purposes of ensuring the City can continue to build its open data platform, and City Council request Standing Committee Chairs to monitor their agendas for compliance with this requirement.

We appreciate the Motion’s reinforcement of the City’s commitment to Open Government and taking practical steps to ensure that the Open Data policy is implemented. 

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Review of Codes of Conduct for Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards

There is unquestionably a need for the City to review and update its Codes of Conduct for elected and appointed officials, especially in light of the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry which recommended in November 2020 that municipal codes of conduct across Ontario, and related provincial legislation, be updated to improve transparency in local government. And the Government of Ontario has recently announced consultations, and a private members bill amending the City of Toronto Act, 2006 has been introduced, to specifically address workplace harassment and discrimination committed by members of Council. While the Motion header indicates the Review will cover Members of Council, Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards, the report appears to have a strong focus on Members of Council. We would recommend that equal attention should be focussed on Codes of Conduct application to Members of Local Boards and Adjudicative Boards also.

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Improving Virtual Community Consultation Meetings

This is to express FoNTRA’s strong support for Councillor Robinson’s Motion to be considered by City Council at its meeting of April 7, 2021:

City Council direct the Chief Planner and Executive Director, City Planning, to review virtual planning consultation meetings, in consultation with members of the public, and report back to Planning and Housing Committee in the second quarter of 2021 with recommendations for improvement, including:

  1. guidelines and practices to ensure that virtual community consultation meetings are consistent and effective;
  2. strategies to improve opportunities for members of the public to participate in virtual community consultation meetings;
  3. best practices related to virtual consultation in other jurisdictions; and
  4. opportunities to improve accessibility for members of the public and, in particular, members of the public participating by phone.

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