Dear Friends and Neighbours,
I’m writing to provide you with an update on the development at 18-30 Erskine.
As you know, I’ve repeatedly stated my opposition to this development and my concerns about the impacts of this 35-storey building on John Fisher Public School. Over the past several weeks and months, I’ve been working closely and meeting with the Parent Council and the Parent Council’s Erskine Development Committee to discuss these concerns.
There are a number of updates on this development since my last communication with you:
- I’ve now met with MPP Kathleen Wynne a number of times to update her on this file and share the community’s concerns with the tall building and the OMB process.
- KG Group has responded to my letter requesting that they consider sale of the property at 18-30 Erskine to the City for use as a green space. The developer stated in their response that they are committed to building their development at 18-30 Erskine and will not sell the land to the City.
- At tomorrow’s North York Community Council meeting, I will be moving to defer NY21.37 – Final Report – Residential Rental Demolition Application Under Municipal Code 667 – 18-30 Erskine to allow the TDSB to complete the second phase of its independent risk assessment.
- At City Council last week, I moved a motion to publicly release a number of confidential attachments related to the City’s position on and the OMB’s approval of this application. These reports demonstrate the City’s opposition to this application as well as my efforts, alongside the community, to fight this development at the OMB. As these documents are extremely technical in nature, I’ve described the documents and how they relate to the process in detail below.
Again, I am happy to see such strong engagement from the school and neighbourhood communities, and I will continue to keep you informed of any updates on this file.
Confidential Attachments and the OMB
When an application is before the OMB, mediation proceedings and settlement offers are typically required to be kept confidential as they concern litigation between parties. I’ve repeatedly expressed my frustration with this process as it lacks transparency and disengages local communities from the planning process at the OMB.
Prior to the application for 18-30 Erskine entering mediation at the OMB in August 2015, there were a number of documents, including planning reports and settlement offers which were brought before City Council confidentially. Some of these confidential attachments outlined the steps that I took, as the local Councillor, to avoid an OMB hearing in August 2015.
At City Council last week, I requested Council to publicly release these documents so that this process and the City’s position can be completely transparent to the local community.
The OMB Appeal (Spring 2015)
Pemberton, the previous developer for this site, appealed the application for 18-30 Erskine in early April 2015. Based on wait times at the OMB, senior City staff estimated that a hearing wouldn’t be scheduled until the fall. To our surprise, we learned in early June 2015 that the hearing would be scheduled for August 11, 2015.
As the City cannot take a position at the OMB without direction from City Council, City staff and my office prioritized this file to develop a strategy prior to the July 7th meeting of City Council, which was the last meeting before the hearing.
City Planning’s Directions Report (June 2015)
On June 30, 2015, City Planning submitted a Directions Report to the July meeting of City Council, requesting permission to oppose this application at the OMB and explaining their objections to the height and massing of the building, the setbacks and the above-grade parking, among others. I was pleased to see staff’s strong opposition to this application. You can read City Planning’s Directions Report in full on pages 4-36 here.
The Developer’s Settlement Offer (July 2015)
Suddenly on July 3, 2015, just two business days before the City Council meeting, Pemberton brought forward a settlement offer.
Pemberton’s settlement offer proposed a height reduction from 35 storeys to 32 storeys, revised tower setbacks, reduced density, a small reduction in the podium height and a Section 37 contribution of $750,000, among other things. You can read the full settlement offer on pages 37-45 here.
City Planning and the City Solicitor’s Response to the Settlement Offer (July 2015)
In response to the applicant’s settlement offer, City Planning wrote a report stating that they opposed the settlement offer, but could support it with modifications. You can read this report on pages 46-48 here. I opposed this settlement offer, which you can read more about below.
On July 9, 2015, the last day of the Council meeting, the City Solicitor submitted a report recommending that Council accept the settlement offer with the adjustments recommended by City Planning. You can read the City Solicitor’s report on pages 1-3 here.
In his report, the City Solicitor explains his position:
“The current zoning would essentially permit only a mid-rise type of development on this site. However, it is my opinion that the OMB will determine that the site can be appropriately developed as a tall building site with an associated increase in density. There is therefore too much risk in attempting to persuade the OMB that the site should be restricted to mid-rise built form, as that approach would likely result in the OMB simply approving the original application.”
Upon learning of the developer’s settlement offer on July 3, 2015 I organized an emergency working group meeting with City staff and representatives of the Sherwood Park Residents’ Association, the West Keewatin Neighbourhood group, the Upper Canada Court Tenants’ Association and a representative of the John Fisher Parent Council Land Planning Committee on July 6, 2015.
The community and I remained opposed to a tall building on this site and developed a series of motions to outline how the City would fight the application at the OMB hearing scheduled for August 11, 2015. I brought these motions to the July 7-9, 2015 meeting of City Council, and Council voted to support them.
I’ve outlined my motions below, and you can also find them online here.
The ultimate goal of my motions was to avoid an OMB hearing. As you’ll read below, mediation at the OMB was a last resort. The City, community members and I exhausted every option available to us, including making a counter-offer to secure a significantly smaller building and attempting to postpone the August meeting due to its inappropriate scheduling during the summer holidays:
- The first request in my motion was to propose a counter-offer with the following requests:
- A reduction in the height to mid-rise.
- Increased setbacks along all property lines.
- No above-grade parking.
- The modifications requested by City Planning in their response to the settlement offer.
- If the counter-offer was refused by the developer, my motion then directed the City Solicitor to request a postponement of the August 11 hearing, as it was scheduled too quickly and at a time that was not appropriate for stakeholders of John Fisher Public School.
- If the request for a postponement was refused, my motion directed the City Solicitor to request that the hearing be turned into a pre-hearing and mediation session with the applicant, the school community and interested neighbourhood parties. This motion was worded to allow any parents or parent representatives who attended the OMB with participant status to have an equal voice in the mediation process, should it occur.
- If the OMB proceeded with mediation, my motion also authorized the City Solicitor to attempt to negotiate.
- If the counter-offer was not accepted, and the OMB did not grant adjournment or mediation, my motion would have directed the City Solicitor to oppose the project at the OMB hearing on August 11.
Unfortunately, the developer refused all of my requests, agreeing only to mediation.
Settlement and Parking Settlement Offer
The developer did not agree to my request to turn the August 11, 2015 hearing into a pre-hearing and, as a result, mediation began on that date.
The mediation process has been described as intimidating and overwhelming.
As a result of the mediation, a settlement was drafted between the parties. This settlement reduced the height of the building from 35 storeys to 32 storeys, integrated a stepped design on the north side of the building, revised the tower setbacks, reduced the podium height, removed the above-grade parking and reduced the overall density.
As you know, the current developer, KG Group, has reduced the floor-to-ceiling height of each floor, which has increased the number of storeys back to 35 but not increased the height of the building.
The drafted settlement also proposed a reduction in the amount of parking required on site, as well as additional bike parking and car-share spaces and Section 37 funds of $1,100,000 for community benefits in the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood. The reduction in parking was proposed as it would result in reduced traffic impacts, particularly in front of JFPS.
City Council was required to vote on the Parking Settlement Offer in December 2015. You can find that report here.
Final OMB Approval
The OMB approved the terms of settlement in a decision issued January 12, 2016. Although all parties had agreed to the settlement, the OMB had the final discretion to modify, refuse or adopt any settlement agreement. You can find the OMB’s decision here.