This week at Planning and Housing Committee, Committee supported the report staff brought forward for 1047 Richmond Road, which is currently scheduled for an Ontario Land Tribunal hearing in December.
The report recommended Planning and Housing Committee recommend Council:
1) endorse a position before the Ontario Land Tribunal to support an amendment to the Official Plan in respect of 1047 Richmond Road.
2) endorse the Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Amendment be conditional upon the applicant executing an agreement, to the satisfaction of the City Solicitor that provides for 15 affordable housing units in each tower for 15 years as described in this report.
Note, while the City’s Official Plan targets the provision of affordable housing in a variety of forms, there is no requirement for the provision of below market rate affordable housing to be provided within a development at this time. As such we cannot force any certain number of units be added to any development, but we can ask and advocate for them.
This report was brought forward quickly, and timing is swift due to the impending OLT date.
I would like to thank residents who wrote my office regarding this report, the delegate who came forward to Committee to discuss the report recommendations as well as the quick procedure, and lack of consultation with the community. I know the community put a lot of time and energy into the New Orchard Secondary Plan, and I understand the frustration that is caused by having the Secondary Plan having been completed prior to the City’s Official Plan. The discrepancies regarding heights are a source of ongoing frustration for residents. The City’s Official Plan designates 40 storey maximums on Mainstreet Corridors, which in the Official Plan, includes Richmond Road.
Other concerns raised by the community included parking. No reduction to required vehicle or bicycle parking was requested. No resident parking is required (visitor is required at a rate of 0.1 spaces/unit) as such a total of 68 spaces are required however, 612 parking spaces are proposed. Bicycle parking is required at a rate of 0.5 spaces/unit. 503 spaces are required and 612 spaces are proposed.
The new plan includes Parkland dedication as land 1012 sqm (the full dedication requirement) at the corner of Richmond Road and New Orchard). Parks is satisfied with the dedication provided.
A hold is recommended to ensure that wind impacts on the public realm can be reviewed and mitigated through building design measures implemented through Site Plan Control.
The elimination of one tower and lowering of the podiums has greatly reduced shadowing impacts on the public realm and surrounding properties. Shadowing was of concern in the original proposal.
Highlights of the changes to the original application are as follows:
• Removal of one of three proposed buildings, resulting in;
• two towers of 40 storeys (closest to the New Orchard LRT Station) and 38 storeys (in the eastern part of the site).
• Reduction in tower floorplate from approximately 800 square metres to 750 square metres
• Reduction in podium height from six storeys to three storeys plus mezzanine.
• Increase in setback to Richmond Road from 1.5 metres to 5 metres.
• Increase in setback to New Orchard Street from 3.2 metres to 5 metres.
• The provision of a publicly accessible private open space fronting Richmond Road.
• Elimination of direct vehicular access to Richmond Road.
• Owner has agreed to provided 15 units per building defined as affordable for a 15-year term. The affordability definition agreed to is, “A dwelling unit for which a household at or below the 60th percentile of household income pays 30 per cent or less of its gross income towards shelter cost.”
Committee approved the report to allow legal staff to make the settlement with the applicant for regarding their proposal to modify the original application. But this is not a City process any longer, this is a essentially a judicial matter.
Originally staff and Council rejected the application. But it was the applicants right to appeal at the OLT. Which is what they’ve done.
Legal staff have negotiated as much time as they could (the original hearing date was set for the beginning of October) and have managed to negotiate a few changes. Planning staff support the changes based on the location on a Mainstreet and near a transit hub, all of which are in line with the Official Plan.
For those questioning the process- Planning and Housing Committee could have chosen to direct legal staff NOT to purse the suggested agreement and do a settlement. In which case the hearing would proceed. But in either case more consultation or studies would not occur, the hearing would only go ahead as planned.
It was the decision by Committee to allow for the settlement, as it was seen as the best outcome over the hearing, where it is largely believed the City would lose.
If Committee did not support this report and legal staff went to the OLT hearing with no endorsed position it is highly likely the applicant would win their position regardless. We know the province has a mandate to build more housing, and we are seeing any challenges at OLT resulting in applicants being successful. In the negotiated change here we end up with more parkland and greenspace, reduced shadows, and affordable units on site.
I regret the speed in which everything took place, but with the deadline for the OLT staff needed the Committee and Council to examine the report quickly.
One small but important win we had came during the meeting, where the applicant also agreed to engage in community consultation regarding site plan control, and I will look forward to these discussions.
I supported this report for legal staff to go forward because I do believe we need to continue to build more housing and while I know the development remains unpopular with many, building more housing within the greenbelt near future transit stations is in line with the Official Plan for the city. Intensification in already existing areas helps reduce our footprint, and also costs the city less money over time to maintain. Bay ward is seeing a lot of intensification due to the seven LRT stations what will span the ward. With this will come changes to communities, new neighbours, and over time, more 15 minute neighbourhoods.
I look forward to smart intensification that includes responding to the need for amenities in our neighbourhoods, including greenspace and safe active transportation routes.
With the creation of this development, we will see greenspace added, and with the Stage 2 LRT we will see Richmond Road become a complete street with cycle tracks, as well as wide sidewalks, and better crossings to the Byron Linear Pathway. New Orchard is also slated for sidewalk renewal, which I hope can be timed with the new LRT Stage 2 opening.