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The Beach Triangle Residents Association, Toronto, Ontario

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Ontario Municipal Board Hearings: Condominiums at Queen and Woodbine

By Hans Looije

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I have had some time now to digest what went on at the Ontario Municipal Board ("OMB") hearing regarding the former Shell service station site during ten days in October.

When the One Rainsford development was passed, the city removed Queen Street East from the mid-rise guidelines in the city's Official Plan, which then allowed six-storey, mixed-use buildings all the way along Queen. "Not good enough" say the developers, as Queen is still an "avenue" under the Official Plan, and the Ontario government requires intensification along such thoroughfares.

The old Queen Street Guidelines for east of Woodbine were outdated and could not be used to limit the height of the Licks development, so the Queen Street Visioning Study was initiated by Councillor McMahon to replace them, resulting in the new Urban Design Guidelines ("UDG") in 2012. The BTRA participated fully in community and City Planning approval of the UDG.

What the building would look like (as conceived by local artist, Jennifer Cline) if it were in compliance with the Urban Design Guidelines

At the OMB hearings, the UDG were opposed by the developers because, for one thing, they stated that city planning traditionally called for prominent buildings at the corners of major intersections, such as Queen and Woodbine and, for another, the old zoning of two times density at the corner was too restrictive - they wanted 4.39 times density.

Furthermore, the developer argued that the new UDG should not apply because their filing beat the passing of the UDG by a few weeks. The OMB member agreed and in his ruling stated that they carried no weight and the last minute addition of maintaining views from all four corners could not be applied either.

All is not lost. There were some wins by GBNA and the city. The OMB member ruled that the building design proposed was not in keeping with the neighbourhood, especially the 6 storey marble facade at the corner. Overhanging balconies would also not be allowed. The ground floor of the proposed design was set back 4.8 meters from the street as per by-laws but the rest of the building would overhang the sidewalk. The ruling states that the 'whole' building must meet this 4.8 meter setback, not just the ground floor. There must also be a 0.9 meter (3ft) step back of the 3rd floor so there will only be a perceived three storey facade at street level.

The OMB has given the city six months to come up with a new zoning by-law for the site which will allow a developer to build something similar to the Licks development. The Licks development was cited as a precedent and if the city allowed Licks and there were no changes in the bylaws when the developers proposed changes for the Queen and Woodbine corners, they should be allowed to build something similar.

Unless there is a settlement agreement, there may be another OMB hearing for the other corner of Queen and Woodbine.

Developer's proposal (prior to changes requested by OMB)

200 Woodbine (Rainsford 2) is seeking rezoning and site plan approval for a six storey condo on the north west corner. Many of you may have seen the drawings at the sales office. We can no longer rely on the Urban Design Guidelines to be upheld at the hearing. All we can push for is a design similar to Rainsford One as it is the precedent setter with stepbacks at the 3rd or 4th floor and 4.8 meter set back from the street with no overhangs.

The GBNA has been heartened by strong community support. Please contact me by email if you wish to put up a lawn sign, donate funds to compensate expert witnesses, or to express your views: