Glencairn and Bathurst Community Coalition takes on not 1 but 2 developers

OMB approval of Greatwise project could be victory for 2nd project and possibly a 3rd 

Greatwise Developments has plans for the clutch of houses and property on Glencairn Avenue and Strathallan Wood on the east side of Bathurst Street. The developer wants to build a 12-storey, mixed use building containing 150 residential units and 149 underground parking spaces.

It unveiled its plans in the spring of 2014 with a fanfare.

“A unique integration of live-work-learn-shop-play is set to transform the face of this fast-changing location,” is what the developer calls it.

Alarmed residents like Nadia Vakharia agree the building would transform the neighbourhood, but not for the better.

“The massing and density of the proposed buildings are excessive. They are neither compatible nor appropriate for the sites,” Vakharia says. “They don’t respect the character of the neighbourhood, a residential neighbourhood consisting of single family dwellings, with front and back yards, mature trees and setbacks that provide for privacy.”

The residents promptly formed the Glencairn and Bathurst Community Coalition (GBCC) with Vakharia as president.

As word of the project spread, the 12-member coalition soon grew to 250.

To begin with, a plan like Greatwise’s has to be vetted at a community consultation meeting.

Not all of the process is adversarial

The 150 residents who attended the meeting in July 2014 raised concerns such as the impact the project would have on the neighbourhood when it comes to the shadow the development would cast on neighbouring homes and the growth of traffic in an already busy area.

As a result, the outgoing Ward 16 councillor, Karen Stintz, suggested that the new councillor, Christin Carmichael Greb, and members of the Planning Staff and residents, as well as Greatwise, form a working committee to resolve their differences.

Focusing on a specific concern at each meeting, the working committee met four times in 2015 to see if compromises could be made. The last meeting took place June 2015.

The attempt failed.

In its report dated May 27, 2016, Planning Staff noted “Residents clearly expressed to the applicant that they had issues with the proposed height, density and impact on the adjacent streets and neighbourhood.

“The Working Group was also vocal about traffic along Glencairn Avenue and Bathurst Street, which would become further congested by the overdevelopment of this site.”

But it wasn’t just residents who had concerns. Staff had some as well, noting that the developer had not made the necessary compromises.

“Staff and the residents continue to have issues with the proposal.”

Those concerns were based on the developer’s failure to make the proposed development fit within the Official Plan. As a result, Planning Staff withheld approval of the application and the developer appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

The Greatwise appeal brushes off past compromises

The plan the developer put before the OMB was the original one it tabled two years earlier. That earned the City Planning Division’s seal of disapproval: The Division urged City Council to authorise the City Solicitor and City Planning Staff to attend the hearing to oppose the proposal.

Should the OMB approve the application, the Division urged the OMB to make the approval conditional on the plan being in a “form satisfactory to the City.”

The Hearing

The GBCC raised enough money to hire a lawyer and planner to oppose the application or drastically trim its height and density. The City also opposed it.

Writing on the GBCC website, Vakharia was pleased with the way things had gone at the hearing, which took place Jan. 30 to Feb. 10, 2017.

“Glad that the OMB hearing is over!  Overall, the hearing went well.”

Vakharia says that even if the OMB were to approve the plan, the GBCC has won a consolation prize.

“While we are certainly hoping for the OMB to dismiss the appeal, we have made certain that the developer will not be able to proceed with the proposal even if the Board approves the development in its decision. The developer has agreed that if there is a decision from the OMB in favour of the proposal, the decision will be contingent upon the conclusion of a second phase of the hearing that will address traffic concerns related to the proposed development.”

It usually takes six months to a year before the OMB publishes a decision. But if the OMB were to approve the plan and order a second hearing to deal with traffic issues, the GBCC could be involved in another costly hearing. Another option is to let the City Solicitor and City Planning Staff represent the residents’ interests.

It could be another two years before the water-filled ditch on the south-east corner of Bathurst and Glencairn sees an excavator or, if the residents have their way, is turned into a parkette.

“But wait! There’s more!”

In the spring of 2015, Hunter & Associates filed its plan for the redevelopment of 2795 to 2799 and 2801 Bathurst St. right across the street from the Greatwise plan. Riverking Developments owns the property; Hunter is the applicant.

Hunter wants to build a 10-storey building, street level commercial and nine storeys of residential, on the Bathurst St. side with four storeys-worth of townhouses on the Glencairn side. That translates into 175 residential units and parking for 182 cars.

The project would occupy the parking lot behind the stores right up to the laneway on the Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue side of the property line.

If the applicant has its way, residents would say goodbye to the Shoppers Drug Mart store and the medical offices at 2795 and 2797 Bathurst respectively.

In due course, 150 residents attended a community consultation on Oct. 20, 2015.

Residents protested that the sheer size of the development would be incompatible with the neighbourhood’s 2.5 storey residences, overshadow them and limit their privacy.And then there were the traffic and safety concerns because of the proposed shared laneway off Glencairn Avenue, plus the cumulative impact of two developments in the area.

Added to that were protests from the congregants of the synagogue. They lamented that the project would severely limit the synagogue’s activities.

The GBCC also warned that should the Bathurst Street application succeed, residents on the west side of the intersection of Bathurst and Glencairn could expect a similar towering development, presumably on the Hillmount-Glencairn office block.

Still, nearly 19 months after the October meeting, the application seems to be in limbo, perhaps everyone, City planners and developer, is waiting for the OMB’s ruling on the Greatwise application.

City Planner Vanessa Covello told Village Stories that the “application was still under review by staff.”

Village Stories emailed information requests to Greatwise Developments, Hunter & Associates and Fasken Martineau, lawyers for the Shaarei Shomayim Synagogue, but received no replies.

For learn more about the Glencairn and Bathurst Community Coalition and to donate, please follow this link