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.

Grackle mosaic – in progress

IMG_1532We’re working on a grackle mosaic – a commission. We’re having a lot of fun with this one. As I’m sure you’ve all seen, various blackbirds have a wonderful irridecence in their feathers. We’re trying various ways to catch this – including various irridecent glass tiles, a broken gold teacup and some translucent glass tiles as well. This material is so dependent on light and the viewer’s position in relation to the bird. It’s very difficult to photograph. I tried with some lower light, but you can’t really see the visual effects in the photo at all. The branches the bird is sitting on have everything but the kitchen sink glued in there. We hope to finish this one next week.

Bird is the word.

DSC04423Here’s the female cardinal. The large painting in the background, for those wondering, is by the late John Howlin.

The Cardinals step 2

DSC04378I cut out the shapes for the two cardinal mosaics this afternoon. That’s Shadow making sure he’s in the shot. We then paint the  back and sides of the wood with a good exterior latex. In the past we had been using spruce ply, but this time we’re testing out some birch plywood.


Cardinals – beginnings of a new mosaic pair

We have quite a few cardinals living in our neighbourhood. In fact we’re really enjoyed watching them out the window from right where I’m typing. They come to the tea cup bird feeders in the canoe garden for sunflower seeds.

For our next mosaics, we’ve decided to do a pair of cardinals.  The first step is to draw them out….

DSC04352Later today, I’ll cut out the shapes with a scroll saw. We have quite a selection of tiles and broken crockery but each mosaic has special colour demands and we’ve learned that having a good variety of colours and textures and thicknesses in the right colour ranges adds a lot of character to the mosaics. Today or tomorrow, we’ll visit thrift stores with our colour palette in mind and try to find a selection of inexpensive items to turn into tesserae. This will be our first attempt at a pair of birds, and cardinals will be a good choice for that since the males and females look very different.


An organization in Toronto called Citizens Concerned about the future of the Etobicoke Waterfront, or CCFEW for short(er), organizes regular birdwalks at Sam Smith Park and at Humber Bay.  There was one scheduled for this morning, so we trundled out in the rain to enjoy it.

wet bird walk
wet bird walk
Intrepid but hopeless birdwaters
Intrepid but hopeless birdwatchers

The rain kept some of the birds down, but still I think we saw 19 species:

American Goldfinch (lots of them, flying around and singing)
Magnolia Warbler (one, which could just be seen hiding in some bushes)
Song Sparrow (a few)
Cliff Swallow (they nest at the water filtration plant….these, like other swallows, have been in decline)
Eastern Kingbird
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Belted Kingfisher
Hooded Merganser
Mallards (lots of them)
American Black Duck (hanging out with the mallards)
Mute Swans (the bullies of the waterfront)
Black Crowned Night Heron
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebes
Muscovy (likely an escapee from a farm)

Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Duck
Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Red-necked Grebe
Red-necked Grebe

Sam Smith Park is a significant breeding area for Red-necked Grebes. We saw the female in the picture sitting on its nest while the male dove nearby for food (the male isn’t visible in the picture….the other bird in the picture behind the grebe is a cormorant). This is late for the birds to be on the nest. It could be the first attempt failed and this was a second try at raising a family. On another nest, we saw a mother grebe with two young ones. The babies have stripes on their heads.

In spite of unrelenting rain, we had fun on the bird walk. I’d like to go on the next one as well, in early October.