The development of a 35-storey condominium project near John Fisher Public School on Erskine Avenue continues to draw the ire of nearby Yonge and Eglinton residents. Members of the school community recently learned students could potentially be relocated during the work.
“Parents are outraged,” says area councillor Jaye Robinson, who says angry emails and phone calls have been flooding into her Ward 25 office. “We actually can’t respond quickly because we can’t keep up with it. I’ve never seen in all my years of being at City Hall a response like this one. It’s unprecedented.”
The project, which will be developed right next door to the public school, is slated to begin soon. The building of the tower was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board, despite strong opposition from the City of Toronto, area residents and parents.
In a statement, the Ontario Municipal Board wrote, “Evidence presented at hearings, provincial laws and planning policies all guide the decisions made by the OMB.”
But Robinson is critical of the very process by which this tower’s development, and others, are decided.
“The OMB is defining our neighbourhoods in Toronto,” she says. “We don’t need it. We have a sophisticated planning division that works hard to develop in a responsible way that fits with the context of the neighbourhood and maintains the streetscape.”
Robinson says in her ward alone, 80 per cent of the last 32 development proposals have been rejected by the City of Toronto, but ultimately won approval by the OMB. Robinson notes Ontario is the only province that has an appeals body like the OMB, and suggests it be abolished altogether.
But Premier Kathleen Wynne, who admits change is needed, stops short of making the same suggestion.
“We’re bringing forward more changes to the OMB that will put more decision-making power in the hands of municipal councils,” she said Monday morning.
“But having said that there will still be official plans in place that will have density provisions in them and there will still be building that will happen in communities across the province. There will still be situations no matter what changes we bring to the OMB where we have to make sure that we have the right protections in place for communities.”
Between 2015 and 2016, cases from Toronto accounted for 43 per cent of the 2,437 appeals the Ontario Municipal Board received.