North St. James Town OMB Proceedings Settled With Improved Design
The involvement and efforts of the SRRA to mitigate the impact of the development proposal for four (4) new condominium towers on Howard Street in North St. James Town have been detailed in numerous previous Newsletter articles.
Over the past 3 years, the SRRA consistently advocated that redevelopment of this part of North St. James Town was welcome, but that the scale of the proposal for four (4), 50-storey towers was excessive and overwhelming. These concerns were shared by Community Matters, a not-for-profit organization with a long history of community involvement in St. James Town area.
This was a long battle, which culminated in litigation before the Ontario Municipal Board (“OMB”).
The SRRA and Community Matters sought and obtained full party status in the OMB proceedings. We retained the law firm of WeirFolds to represent the SRRA and Community Matters. In addition, we engaged three separate experts in the areas of design, urban planning, and transportation analysis to prepare reports and to be available to testify at the OMB on our behalf. Members of SRRA Board also spent many hours attending working groups and other public meetings, interacting with our local councilor, Ms. Kristyn Wong-Tam and extensively researching the legal and planning history relevant to the development issues.
In December 2014, the OMB directed that a two (2) day mediation be scheduled for January 22 and 23, 2015, to determine whether the issues which the SRRA and Community Matters had raised could be narrowed down or even settled with the developer.
In that mediation, the developers presented a revised proposal based upon a new configuration of three (3) condominium towers. This eliminated one (1) of the towers previously proposed.
The SRRA discussed the proposal with Community Matters and our legal counsel. The advice we received was that it was impossible to predict the outcome of the OMB Hearing with any certainty. While there were legitimate planning issues which we could raise at the OMB, given the fact that the current four (4) tower proposal had the support of the City Planning Department, had been vetted and accepted by numerous other city agencies (Heritage, Public Works, Transportation, etc.) and had been overwhelmingly approved by City Council, it was unlikely the OMB Hearing would result in major changes to the proposal.
The SRRA then engaged in further negotiations with a Lanterra Developments. As a result, a tentative settlement was reached, based on the new design for 3 towers—one at the corner of Howard and Sherbourne (50 stories) and two (instead of 3) buildings on the eastern portion of Howard Street (capped at 37 and 45 stories respectively). This revised design provides for a substantially enlarged and usable park, increased retail space, as well as an open space area on the eastern tip of Howard and Parliament Street. In addition, through these negotiations an additional $150,000 will be paid by the Lanterra Developments for both park and public space improvements in North St. James Town, as well as a financial contribution towards the out-of-pocket costs incurred by the SRRA and Community Matters for legal/professional and other similar expenses.
In arriving at this settlement result, the SRRA engaged in discussions with our counsel, internally amongst the full SRRA Board, and with Community Matters, who were all supportive of the tentative settlement. Given the uncertainties and prospective costs of the OMB Hearing, the difficulties resulting from the support for the development by City Planning and City Council, both the SRRA and Community Matters concluded that in all the circumstances the settlement should be accepted and supported by the SRRA. As a result, a Hearing will be held by the OMB on May 12, 2015 to consider whether the settlement should be approved. This replaces the ten (10) day contested Hearing which had been otherwise scheduled .
While this outcome is not perfect, it represents a significant improvement in the original proposal.
The SRRA benefited from the involvement of several interested homeowners on Maple Avenue, some of whom made financial contributions to assist with the OMB proceedings. A sincere thank you is due to them and to all of the other interested residents in South Rosedale and North St. James Town who gave generously of their time and supported the efforts of the SRRA and Community Matters over the past three (3) years.
The details of the settlement, which will be considered by the OMB on Tuesday, May 12, 2015, can be accessed through the links below: