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Beach Residents Face Off Against Condo Developers

Residents of the genteel east-end nabe are bitterly divided over a proposed six-storey condo development.

The proposed development site. Photo by {a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/lxdesign/5630160488/t}lxdesign{/a}, from the {a href=http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist/}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

The Beach is known for its unique small-town vibe, but a possibly precedent-setting new six-story condo planned for the area has residents fiercely divided over the evolution of their neighbourhood.

The community, the developer, City planning staff, and Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon (Ward 32 Beaches-East-York) have been in heated discussion for the past year over the condo development, which is proposed for 1960-62 Queen Street East, currently a Lick’s. On May 15, the Toronto and East York Community Council voted to allow the rezoning necessary for the project to go ahead, and it’s almost certain that city council will finalize that zoning approval in early June.

Brian Graff, a leading member of Friends of Queen Street, a group which has been actively campaigning for changes to the 1960-62 Queen Street East condo plan, says he isn’t against condo development in the Beach, but that he prefers three- or four-storey buildings that emulate existing development the area.

“Most people…don’t have any problem with the condos that were built under the guidelines in the ’90s, and so that is what people, and myself included, generally want,” said Graff. “Buildings that fit in, that are not modern, that attempt to somehow respond to the context like the old ones did.” Graff added that he believes most Beach residents are opposed to development.

McMahon, who voted in favour of the rezoning at last Tuesday’s community council meeting, insisted that local sentiment is much more nuanced. After all, she said, around 80 per cent of the people buying condos at the controversial development are Beachers looking to downsize. “Every business owner I speak to wants development. You have to progress for the economic viability of this street,” McMahon said. “We have 148 condo [buildings] going up in downtown Toronto, so we need to get ahead ahead of it and have our plan.”

If anything’s certain, it’s that change is hard. Still, major changes to the Beach’s streetscape will likely be limited. Only four sites in the area have been identified as fit for future development, according to a study commissioned by McMahon. Of those, only one appears primed for imminent construction–the site of the former Shell station at Queen and Woodbine (a soil remediation company has purchased the lot).

McMahon is now looking to push forward a study that will engage the community in workshops to design a community wishlist and discuss issues like architectural design and height. Set for completion in November, the study’s findings will have to be balanced against the City’s Official Plan, which supports increased development along avenues, like Queen Street.

While McMahon managed to finagle design concessions from the 1960-62 Queen Street East developer to keep the project more in line with its surroundings (its brick exterior will now extend to the main floor, it will be set back at the third story), Graff still wonders if there aren’t more appropriate places for development in Toronto, such as Eglinton or Lawrence Avenues.

Even so, now that Beach homes often go for a million or more, perhaps it’s time to extend the opportunity to live in the neighbourhood to those who can’t afford such an overwhelming price tag.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    “Brian Graff, a leading member of Friends of Queen Street”

    that seems to be a matter of dispute:

    http://friendsofqueenstreet.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/there-is-still-time-to-be-heard-at-teycc-may-15th-10-am/
    “please note, as we have posted before on this site: This is the official website for Friends of Queen Street. You can reach us at friendsofqueenst@gmail.com. A previous website we had used which used our acronym is no longer affiliated in any way with Friends of Queen Street.”

    • btg

      the trademark for “friends of queen street” is mine – by virtue of owning websites with that name and because they have never claimed to own the trademark

      the others are using it despite the fact that i have requested that they stop using it and turn over all information related to the use of the name.

      brian

      http://www.foqs.ca
      http://www.beachresidents.ca

      • Anonymous

        Bit of a “Life of Brian” feel to it all I’m afraid.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb_qHP7VaZE

        • BTG

          oddly enough, i sent out a different clip from Life Of Brian last summer to members of the group – the scene where Brian is in need of help and the same group of people (in the clip you posted) are busy crafting resolutions and such instead of actually going and doing something to help him!

          see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55fqjw2J1vI

          Friends of Queen Street had no meetings with the community between July and March, did not do any posters or flyers, and did not go and lobby the Councillors directly, while the developers lobbyists and lawyers were meeting with every Counncillor on more than one occasion.

          The group and GBNA also continued to rely on the hope that Councillor McMahon would deliver in the end, despite constant let-downs (a promised peer review was a whitewash paid for by the developer, an interactive walk was just the developers consultant giving his views, etc.) and the fact that she wrote a piece in the Beach Metro saying that the precedent was already set, blaming her predecessors, and calling her constituents “misinformed”.

  • Canadianskeezix

    This is a perfect example of why we have the OMB. Community Council (and ultimately, presumably, Council) did the right thing in approving this project, yet many of them still played politics, couching their support votes with words like “reluctantly”, making clear that their votes were predicated on the risk of losing at the OMB, blah blah blah. Even when they do the right thing, too many Councillors still choose good politics over good planning, and they will pander to the NIMBYs (“Graff still wonders if there aren’t more appropriate places for development in Toronto, such as Eglinton or Lawrence Avenues”) to whatever extent they think they can get away with.

    At the Community Council meeting, one community resident actually called the project “an abortion”. A six storey building (six!!), on a busy “Avenue” (thoroughfares identified for intensification in the Official Plan), in front of higher-order transit, with provincial policies *requiring* municipalities to seize opportunities such as these for intensification. Unbelievable lack of perspective and proportion.

    Kudos to McMahon for her handling of this one.

    • btg

      i was there and have a copy of the dvd – i do not recall anyone calling it an abortion – and in any case, that is one person’s choice of words. most people have said it isn’t a bad looking building, but just wrong for this site and for the Beach.

      The Official Plan makes it quite clear that each Avenue is different, there is no need for there to be growth on all of them, and an Avenue study is supposed to be done – should a developer apply before that, they need to prove that there will be “no adverse impacts”.

      It is a busy, congested street, and that is the problem – it is the only main street, and one which is essentially a dead end, and where streetcar service is terrible because of short turns.

      There are also provincial policies calling for the preservation of “cultural heritage landscapes”, which includes mainstreets.

      Given how poorly an inefficiently land is used in most of Scarborough, North York and Etobicoke, there is no need to intensify healthy already vibrant areas. I will gladly argue this with anyone – while the avenues are , in general, to experience growth – nothing requires that Queen in the Beach become a midrise Avenue.