The Slicing and Dicing of #LongBranchTo

A post I made here, and cross-posted over to Twitter prior to the municipal elections received some renewed play today and I thought I’d add a few additional thoughts.

First, since I posted those thoughts, Mark Grimes squeaked out a victory and retained his post as Councillor, so from a political perspective, we’re in for more of the same, as the current development trend happened and continues to happen under his watch.

So, why is it a bad thing? We have an Official plan that that calls for increases in density along the thoroughfares but not in the neighbourhoods – and which (if honoured) protects the character of neighbourhoods. South Long Branch is at a critical time in its history. Our population is aging. Just on our block alone, 3 seniors sold their homes in the past year – all to developers. There are many older homes that need work, and rebuilding is not an unreasonable option.  If we allow renewal to come in the form of blind development whose primary goal is mining gold from the properties, one day we’re all going to wake up and look around and say what happened? We used to have space and trees and birds and wildlife and now it’s gone. It won’t ever come back.

I think our character neighbourhoods are worth protecting. I want to live here for many years to come. I’m not so concerned with the value of our property as I am with the quality of our community. At an OMB hearing I participated in, I watched a developer team make the argument that severing a lot, cutting down several trees and cramming a pair 3-story homes on the property wouldn’t change the character of the neighbourhood, and at the same hearing I was told my concerns were emotional. It won’t be as bad as all that.

High housing prices and low interest rates have created a perfect environment for the type of slicing and dicing we’re seeing around here. Frankly, a significant hike in interest rates would be more effective than our current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure in curtailing the trend. With rates so low, it’s been a low risk game for developers.

Meanwhile, I think it’s important for residents to weigh in and talk about the kind of community we want for the future. If you care about how your community evolves, speak up. I recognize that South Long Branch is going to evolve as many of the older residents move on. All I ask is that residents of the community have some voice in what that looks like. I don’t think it’s right that the future of our community be driven solely by lust for gold.

 

Mr. Developer please

An individual who recently bought multiple properties on our street approached me as I emerged from my car this afternoon. He wanted to show me drawings, plans for development of the land.

I declined. As long as you’re not applying for variances and severances, I said, I don’t need to look at your drawings. Go to town. Oh, it turns out he is applying for severances and variances. He says he wants to build one large house on one of the lots (he says he and his family will live there) and sever the other and build two homes, suitable for young professionals, he said. I see.

I don’t much like the severing of properties in our neighbourhood. It isn’t about creating affordable housing. It’s about extracting the maximum amount of wealth possible from the property at the expense of the unique character of our lakeside community. A few developers have managed to convince the Committee of Adjustment or the Ontario Municipal Board to allow this activity and the result are pairs of homes – typically two stories above a garage, running 70 or 80 feet back, crammed together on the property, tree canopy and neighbourhood character be damned. It’s very unfortunate this overbuilding has been allowed.

We moved here because it is a character neighbourhood. It’s close to the lake, and it features mostly modest homes on larger lots with loads of mature trees. The City’s Official Plan makes sense to me. Increased density should occur along the thoroughfares, not in the neighbourhoods. Neighbourhood character should be respected. Some decisions of the Ontario Municipal Board in our neighbourhood betray an extremely loose interpretation of the Official Plan in my opinion. I’m of the view that the current Committee of Adjustment/OMB structure hasn’t been very successful. We need a made in Toronto solution without provincial involvement, which gives weight to the wishes of the community.

I expressed my opinion to this fellow at length. I went so far as to suggest that I hoped one morning he would awake with an epiphany, a realization that his mad plan to sever one of the lots is a bad idea for the community. Although I suspect that day will never come, I told him I will continue to try to convince him of the error of his ways. I felt a little like a tv preacher for a few minutes there.

Our part of Twenty-Seventh street is a stone’s throw from the lake. The street which follows the waterfront, Lake Prominade, is part of the Waterfront Trail. Just two streets over is Colonel Sam Smith Park. Birders come from all over the continent to Sam Smith because it is what it known as a migration trap – birds stage there before of after their trip across the lake, and it is a birders paradise indeed. I’ve seen coyotes in the neighbourhood. Not far to the west, near Marie Curtis, I’ve seen deer. I’m heard of foxes too, but I haven’t seen any yet. The character of our community is worth preserving.

I call her #6

Nothing beats holiday cookie baking with your neighbour!
Nothing beats holiday cookie baking with your neighbour!

I knew her in her 80s…. she’s now renamed herself Amazing, and I buy that hook, line and sinker.  I also call her #6.

Here we are after the Long Branch Santa Claus Parade, baking Peanut butter chocolate cookies for Christmas. We have to take a break before baking the next batch (cappucino crinkles), while Amazing licks the spoons.   With Georgie, Memphis and Gracie keeping watch. Dec. 6, 2014.

Coyote

I took the dogs out for our after dinner walk this evening as usual. We headed over toward the water filtration plant on the other side of 23rd St. My plan was to walk over to the edge of the hill and see if there was anyone in the leash-free area. There are no lights there and no shelter from the cold winds and lately dog owners have been clearing out early.

The leash-free area was empty. I thought for a second I’d take the dogs down the hill and over to the path by the lake, when I saw a coyote out in the field. It was rooting around in the field and I’m guessing it was mousing. For a brief second, the coyote looked up at me, and then started moving slowly closer to the hill. I turned the dogs around and we jogged back toward the road. I’m happy to avoid any kind of encounters with our dogs and wildlife.

By the time we got to the road, the coyote had emerged at the top of the hill and was a third of the way across the field, coming toward us slowly but with some determination. We crossed 23rd and headed down Iris. Halfway to 25th, Memphis had to stop to pull out the little snowballs that build up between her paw pads. I looked back and the coyote was still in the field but only 15 or 20 feet away from the road.

The dogs were oblivious to this action. If they could smell the coyote, they showed no sign of it. Maybe the wind was in the wrong direction for that. They were only concerned that we were heading home so fast instead of completing our usual full walk. The coyote looked pretty scrawny except for its tail but it was hard to tell if it was healthy or not. This was not the first time I’ve seen coyotes in the park or the filtration plant lands – but it was the first time one followed me.

Of course there are different types of coyotes. Here is Guy Clark singing about the other kind…

Moving out the yachts

Here by the lake, it seems there are two seasons, marked by the days the yachts are hauled in from the harbour and after winter, hauled back in. I saw the cranes out there today while I was walking the dogs.

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The biggest issue in Long Branch

Yesterday a fellow came by canvassing for a candidate who hopes to knock incumbent Councillor Mark Grimes off his perch. I asked him, what’s the biggest issue in Long Branch. He started telling me some of his candidate’s ideas, but couldn’t guess what issue I thought was most important.

I pointed to a home just across the way, the one with the tree protection fencing and the sign saying the owner of the property wanted to take down several trees.  The severance for this property was successful, even though our community banded together to oppose it at the Ontario Municipal Board. The old house – in very bad shape – will be torn down and replaced with two long and tall structures squeezed onto this lot.

Across the street, three houses have sold recently, and neighbours have heard there are plans to develop two of them next year. Then there is the house next door. When it sold, the real estate agent proudly told us this time it was a family that bought the property, not a developer. He was wrong. The owner knocked on our door one evening to discuss our trees – three of them in particular – growing near the property line. He thought they should be taken down to support his development – but, he said, he would replace them with new trees later.  They’re spruces, desirable species – two Norway spruce and one white spruce. One in particular is a magnificent mature specimen.   However, we like our trees. They were one of the reasons we moved here. We like the birds they attract and the shade and privacy they give, and we think they ought to be protected.

This same property has a massive silver maple on City property out front. The fellow who used to own the place used to tell us it was the “second biggest tree in Etobicoke.” I don’t know if that’s true but it sure is a big tree. IMG_2080He told me when he moved in, he could lock his arms around this tree. The developer who bought the place hired arborists to do testing to determine the health of this City tree. This fellow told us he is considering severing the property and building two homes, but might consider building a single home.

There are lots of people in our community who have lived here 40, 50, 60 years. This is an aging population and we’re seeing quite a lot of home sales in the past couple years. Happily for these folks, they’re doing quite well selling their homes as prices have gone up sharply.  However, it has also become a magnet for developers who see the wide, well treed lots as an opportunity to cash out.

It is not surprising our community will change. We need to plan this renewal and the community should have a say. Instead, the change is being defined one property at a time as developers buy up addresses and apply to the Committee of Adjustment, and if necessary to the Ontario Municipal Board to sever properties into two long narrow ones. This process is defining the architecture as well, and most of the resulting homes have two stories over a garage. They’re tall and narrow and in some cases they go back 60 or 70 feet.

Residents who don’t want to see the community over-developed this way are forced to fight one application at a time. Our community is getting better at this, but it is a tough fight. When our neighbourhood appealed to the OMB last year, the developer had a team of lawyers, planners, arborists and designers, all well versed in OMB procedures. I was criticized by the adjudicator because I was not as well versed in their procedure as the opposing team.  I can tell you that I did not feel that the concerns of the existing community were highly weighted at all.

Some increased density along the main artery in our community is, in my view, not a bad thing – and will help revitalize a long retail strip which would benefit from a bigger customer base. However, we should have some regulation in place to preserve the character of our residential neighbourhoods south and north of The Lakeshore. I think that is the direction and spirit of the Official Plan for the City.

I think our current system is broken and the Ontario Municipal Board is broken. It is enabling broad change in our community on an ad hoc basis driven by the mighty dollar. We can do better than that.  I’m looking candidates for Council in Ward 6 and for Mayor who are willing take action and actively advocate for our community.

So far I haven’t seen much of our candidates. A fellow came around yesterday representing Everett Sheppard, and he was happy to talk to me. I was sitting here at this computer one day a week or so ago. A fellow representing Mark Grimes came up to my door and left campaign literature but didn’t knock. He also thought it was a good idea to pin up campaign literature in our book box (not cool, buddy).  Russ Ford has had someone drop off a card.  So far, that’s it.  Is anybody out there campaigning?

I invite candidates for Council and Mayor to comment on this post. Who is willing to advocate for this community?

Beautiful day for a bike ride

IMG_1950What a beautiful day, sunny with a light cooling breeze. Perfect for a bike ride. The Waterfront Trail is a treasure that runs nearly past our door, as Lake Promenade at the bottom of 27th Street forms part of the trail. We headed west, through Marie Curtis Park, into Mississauga, and west still, through the Adamson Estate grounds and over to Port Credit. IMG_1931IMG_1944IMG_1954

Long Branch Good Morning from 27th Street Aug 5th

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Yabba Doo!  Happy Birthday Georgie!! Way to go!!! 139 lbs of love!

George on his 1st birthday Aug 5 2014
Wipeout! “G” – after chasing an ice cube around the floor this morning…

 

Window views from the road trip

Outsiders 7
Leaving Long Branch….cutting up Brown’s Line….
Towing
401 eastbound and Mr. Not For Hire 4×4
Outsiders 4
REXDALE BLVD!
Blue Guy Aug 2 2014
Mr. Nice Tie!
Mountain of Fire
they have a satellite……
Orange Classic 2
I WANT ONE!!!
Kleinburg
Kleinburg doin’s

6:55am Long Branch Ontario

Taken seconds after Jack Shadbolt chased a squirrel up the tree.  Good morning from Longbranch, Ontario!
Taken seconds after Jack Shadbolt (pictured here) chased a squirrel up the tree in the Hilton garden on 27th Street. (Sparrow on the teacup feeder grabbing some seeds.) Good morning from Longbranch, Ontario!