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. He 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?