Quarry rezoning in works

Jan 25, 2013

Northwest corner of the Quarry Lands

By Hedy Korbee

Build Toronto has filed a rezoning application with the City of Toronto to pave the way for construction of a low-rise housing and retail development on the western portion of the Quarry lands.

The application pertains to a 19-acre irregularly shaped parcel of land that extends from Victoria Park along the CN Rail line eastwards to the midpoint of the Quarry, with the housing to be constructed opposite Blantyre Ave. and Coalport Dr.

Build Toronto has also filed a Site Plan Control Application, which allows the City to scrutinize the development to ensure it’s attractive and compatible with the rest of the neighbourhood.

Under this process, the city also has the right to review and approve (or not) Build Toronto’s plans for things such as roads, parking, sewage infrastructure and park space, which are issues of vital importance to the community.

CCQLD annual general meeting

The announcement was made by the advocacy group Concerned Citizens of Quarry lands Development (CCQLD) at its annual general meeting and represents a significant step forward in the decades-long battle over development of the Quarry.

Ward36 Councillor Gary Crawford

The 80 residents who turned out for the meeting at Birchcliff Bluffs United Church (on one of the coldest nights of the winter) were told by Ward 36 Councillor Gary Crawford that Build Toronto’s applications will now trigger an extensive process of community consultation.

“The opinion that the community has is crucial,” Crawford said. “I’m not pushing any kind of agenda myself.  I’ve had meetings with Build Toronto.  I’m not supportive, I’m not saying no.  I’m going to the community to have a consultation that will give me a direction on how I should be pushing.”

The specifics of Build Toronto’s applications will be made public at the end of February when the plans are sent to Scarborough Community Council.

Residents got a sneak preview, however, at a meeting last October and saw a plan  that called for approximately 200 low-rise housing units surrounding a 4.5-acre park.

The proposed land split was 50% residential, 25% park and 25% commercial.  It was the commercial component that attracted most attention at the October meeting, with many residents expressing their vocal opposition to the likely placement of big box retail on the Quarry.

Community public opinion survey

The CCQLD followed up with a public online survey and the interim results, released last night, appear to indicate the anti-big box sentiment has softened since the October meeting.

The survey laid out two different strategic options for the CCQLD to pursue and asked respondents to advise the organization by choosing between them. The results were as follows:

73.1%  – Work with Build Toronto and/or city planners to make the existing concept better, acknowledging the general plan represents something the community could live with if elements such as built form size of retail, density and visual appearance and park usage are all to the community’s liking.
26.9%  – Fight against and reject any plan outright that includes a big box eleement, with the realization that this represents a potentially high-risk approach if it is unsuccessful.

CCQLD President Mark Brender

CCQLD President Mark Brender said he’s not sure if public opinion appears to have changed because people had time to reflect on the proposal or because the survey was filled out by different people who attended the October meeting.

Brender candidly admitted that the CCQLD has received feedback from area residents that the survey was biased towards big box retail in the wording of the questions.  But he said that’s not the case:

“The survey allowed us to try to present that we feel is an accurate description of the situation,” Brender said.  “A lot of people in the community understand that there are economic realities (for Build Toronto) and that we need to deal with them in one way or another.  That’s certainly not a pro-big box stance.”

GCD towers still a big issue

Concern was also expressed at last night’s AGM that the Quarry is being developed piecemeal, with Build Toronto proceeding with its low-rise plan to the west while Gerrard Clonmore Developments, owned by The Conservatory Group, still plans to build controversial high-rise towers to the east.

Artist rendering of high-rise towers proposed by Conservatory Group

Crawford described Gerrard Clonmore Developments (GCD) as a “difficult developer”, indicating that efforts by the City to swap the Quarry lands for more suitable property near the Scarborough Town Centre were derailed last year when the developer valued its property at $20 million more than city experts thought it was worth.

“I absolutely will fight tooth and nail to ensure that no tall towers happen,” said Crawford.  “That’s one of the things I want to assure to everybody. I do not want them there.”

Crawford said he’s encouraged that many experts have told him there is no market for high-rise in this neighbourhood.  It is his hope that if Build Toronto constructs a profitable low-rise development that sells out on one side of the Quarry, it will encourage GCD to recognize the economic reality and do the same on the other side.

Why the optimism?

“If GCD had wanted to build it, they would have built it,” Crawford said.  If they thought there was a profit to build, they would have done it by now.”

Public meetings on Build Toronto’s rezoning and site plan applications are expected to begin in the spring.

If you’d like to participate in the CCQLD survey, click here.

 Hedy Korbee is a journalist who lives in Birch Cliff. In the interest of full disclosure, Hedy was a de facto member of the CCQLD executive from 2003-2012.


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