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.

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?

Happy Days in Long Branch Baby!

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Good Morning Long Branch Aug 24

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Chat! Cat! Katt! Kedi!  Kissa! Mao! Gati!

in any language, a cat at home is a ton of fun!

Good morning Long Branch Aug 12th 6:50 am walrus sighting

George the Walrus Aug 12
I am the walrus…
George playing Aug 12
In a nano second of time the walrus turns himself into this configuration of puppy-dom.

Good Morning Long Branch Aug 9th

Memphis Aug 9
Ace dog Memphis hatching a plan…

there was a little game she liked to play… alone… when no one suspected.. suddenly ace dog  would spring from statue mode  to save humans from wandering cats..

Moon Phase Waxing Gibbous Long Branch Aug 8

27th Street cutting down from Lakeshore
The Moon is in Zodiac Capricorn tonight (98%). Full Moon is on Sunday. It will then be 99% in Aquarius. Check it out: unaf.com/english/astrology/moon-in-zodiacal-sign/capricorn/
Racoon Longbranch Aug 8
Going Vertical. This is what happens to racoons that see Georgie and Memphis..
LongBranchnight1
Lakeshore, near Long Branch Animal Clinic
George Aug 8th Lakeshore
George. Lakeshore treat stop!
Membles Aug 8 on Lakeshore
just being a dog…Memphis on the Lakeshore
NightBuddies Aug 8
unison….lifemates….on our way back home… with George and Memphis.