All stories relating to Ontario Municipal Board

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Quoted: David Mirvish can’t believe the city won’t embrace his Frank Gehry mega-development

(Image: George Pimentel/WireImage/Getty)

I’m bemused because I thought I would be welcome with open arms, and that there wasn’t a more appropriate place for this type of activity than this block on King Street.

David Mirvish, on the unproductive, year-long negotiations with city planners over his proposed condo mega-project designed by Frank Gehry. The city is balking at the King West development’s height and density, and the four heritage buildings that would have to come down to make way for it. Meanwhile, Mirvish says that downsizing the already tweaked designs would completely derail the architecturally ambitious project. Come January, Mirvish plans to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which, given its pro-development reputation, we’re betting will give the proposal the green light. [Toronto Star]

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Business

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The threat of a big-box development is still alive in Kensington Market—but so is Casa Acoreana

The proposed shopping centre on Bathurst and College (Image: Turner Fleischer Architects)

The developer hoping to build a big-box development on the western edge of Kensington Market isn’t giving up. After both the city’s committee of adjustment and the Ontario Municipal Board rejected its application for a 12,000-square-metre shopping centre on Bathurst just south of College, the RioCan-backed company has now applied for a zoning amendment, which must go through city council. That process also gives residents a chance to weigh in, which many will undoubtedly take given the community’s history of fighting against anything that could imperit the market’s character. To wit: recent rent hikes that threatened to displace longstanding café and food shop Casa Acoreana caused enough of a stir that the landlord reconsidered. [Urban Toronto]

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Features

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How a small group of farmers and wealthy weekenders made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

An unexpected casualty of Toronto’s building boom is the sleepy southern Ontario township of Melancthon, where an American hedge fund plans to excavate $6 billion worth of limestone.

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbre

Fight Club: The farmer-chef Michael Stadtländer helped organize Foodstock, a quarry protest attended by 28,000 people (Image: Jason Van Bruggen)

How a small group of farmers, and wealthy weekenders, made the Melancthon mega-quarry protest a cause célèbreMelancthon’s windswept highlands spread out like a grand table underneath the sky. At 1,700 feet above sea level, southern Ontario’s highest point, the air is different: cool and often foggy, it’s a world away from smog-suffocated Toronto, which lies 100 kilometres to the southeast. The climate is ideal for raising crops, and tens of millions of kilos of potatoes are grown each year in the township’s rich, silty loam. The karst, or fractured limestone, that lies beneath the soil delivers an almost perfect drainage system—no matter how much it rains, crops never flood.

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Real Estate

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Does one tall tower inevitably lead to more? Residents near U of T think so 

The University of Toronto created a stir earlier this year when news surfaced about an agreement with Knightstone Capital Management to build a 24-storey student residence south of College Street, between Spadina and Huron. Residents weren’t thrilled at the prospect of 800 (possibly) soused-up and raucous students living nearby, and worried that one high-rise in the low-lying neighbourhood could open the door to others. With the revelation this week that a different American company, Bailey and Company, has filed a rezoning application to build a 30-storey mixed-use structure right next to the proposed residence, the latter fear appears justified. The Ontario Municipal Board’s next pre-hearing on the Knightstone building isn’t until November—giving residents’ associations plenty of time to hone their “slippery slope” arguments. [Globe and Mail]

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Real Estate

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Mid-rise developments, not towers, are the new enemy in Toronto condo battles

The sales office for 109 Ossington, one of Toronto’s most contentious mid-rise proposals (Image: Cory Doctorow)

Now that condo towers have sprouted on most of the available tracts of land downtown, developers are opting for mid-rises in neighbourhoods known for their single-family homes. The two most high-profile battles against the builds are over the six-storey Lakehouse Beach Residence (it’s been called both a “monstrosity” and an “abortion”) and the six-storey 109 Ossington Avenue proposal (some claim it’ll “suck the life out of the strip.”) But there are many more mid-rises on the way: the Toronto Star reports that in the first four months of 2012, there were 106 “active” condo projects of five to 11 storeys, totaling over 13,000 units. “The rise of the mid-rise,” as the National Post calls it, has local residents worried about the arrival of transient condo-dwellers who don’t have strong ties to their neighbourhood, and potential negative effects on property values, neighbourhood character and traffic.

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Real Estate

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Kensington Market staves off a potential Walmart—for now

(Image: Walmart)

Take heart, condo towers, you’re not the only vehemently opposed developments around town anymore—a proposed retail building on the fringes of Kensington Market has residents, local business owners and councillor Mike Layton all riled up. On Wednesday, the Toronto-East York Committee of Adjustment rejected a rezoning application from RioCan to demolish the old Kromer Radio site on Bathurst and Nassau and erect a 22 metre-tall building with 95,000 square feet of retail space. The community fears a one-stop-shop tenant like Walmart (notable RioCan tenants include the big box giant, as well as Home Depot and Canadian Tire), which could deal a deathblow to the market’s independent food shops. According to Layton, they also think the building will throw shade into neighbours’ backyards and cause major traffic snafus. The first battle lost, RioCan is expected to appeal the ruling with the Ontario Municipal Board. [Toronto Star]

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Politics

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Rob Ford has a very small…group of supporters on council

(Image: Christopher Drost)

Rob Ford championed a dry issue in yesterday’s council meeting, arguing that the city could save about $200,00 a year by no longer hiring outside planners to appear at the Ontario Municipal Board hearings. Uncharacteristically, the mayor got up to move motions and take questions—but his efforts to stop the hiring in three cases were voted down 34-4, 33-5 and 33-4 (and Josh Colle pushed the wrong button and accidentally sided with Ford on the first of those). As a councillor, Ford was a contrarian, moving motions that received little support and being the sole dissenter on others—and it looks, increasingly, like he’s reverting to that role. But, while being an outsider may be fine for a councillor, we’re not sure it works as well for the person leading the city. [Globe and Mail]

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Features

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The Anti-Ford: Kristyn Wong-Tam believes Toronto is in better shape than you’re being told

In her first year on city council, Kristyn Wong-Tam hogged the spotlight with proposals to ban shark fin soup, save bike lanes and found a municipal bank. She’s a charismatic lesbian immigrant art lover who once lived on the street—the exact opposite of our mayor in every way

Kristyn Wong-Tam | The Anti-Ford

(Image: Naomi Harris)

The first time Kristyn Wong-Tam clashed with Rob Ford, she lay down on the carpet outside his office in protest. It was March 2008, and Ford was a councillor from Etobicoke, an outspoken character on the fringes of city politics with a talent for alienating his colleagues. Earlier that month, Ford had famously delivered a rambling speech in support of the economic advantages of holiday shopping hours that could have been cribbed from a 19th-century pamphlet about the Yellow Peril. “Those Oriental people work like dogs. They work their hearts out. They are workers non-stop. They sleep beside their machines,” Ford said on the floor of council, punching the air with his fist for emphasis. “I’m telling you, the Oriental people, they’re slowly taking over.”

That last phrase rankled Wong-Tam. At the time, the 36-year-old Chinese-Canadian was a successful realtor with no ambitions to become a city councillor, a job she saw as demanding far too much time for too little compensation. She did, however, have a long history of rabble-rousing—for gay rights, for women’s equality, for immigrants’ rights—and she believed that Ford’s comment was a xenophobic stereotype that needed to be corrected. She decided to ask for an apology.

After her emails and phone calls went unanswered, Wong-Tam brought a group of around 20 Asian protesters down to city hall. Showing a talent for media-friendly political theatre, they walked down to the press gallery wearing white dress shirts and ties, what Wong-Tam called the “Asian office uniform,” and announced they were looking for Councillor Ford. “Essentially, we’re a group of people who are working very hard,” Wong-Tam quipped, walking to Ford’s office as members of the press trailed behind her. When they found that Ford wasn’t in the building, the group brought out various contraptions—blenders, sewing machines, toasters—and lay down to sleep beside them. Cameras flashed. The video ran on loop on CP24 all afternoon.

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Politics

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Toronto city council asks to leave the OMB; developers aren’t into it 

Buried under the talk of the city’s transit battle is news that city councillors asked the province to exempt Toronto from the Ontario Municipal Board’s jurisdiction (in case you aren’t familiar with the OMB, the Toronto Star describes it thusly: “a quasi-judicial board, which hears appeals of zoning decisions and frequently overturns council”). Because its members are appointed by the Ontario cabinet rather than elected by the people, criticism of the OMB often revolves around accusations that it’s anti-democratic and that its rulings typically favour large developers. Case in point: yesterday at council, Josh Matlow called the OMB “unaccountable” and Mary-Margaret McMahon said it “skewed toward the developer.” Naturally, the Building Industry and Land Development Association thinks otherwise. Read the entire story [National Post] »

The Dish

Restaurants

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Taking a cue from developers, Parts and Labour goes to the OMB to plead their patio case

(Image: Jon Sufrin)

Two weeks ago, Jesse Girard and Richard Lambert, the pair behind Parkdale’s Parts and Labour, went before the Ontario Municipal Board for the last stage of their protracted fight for a 180-person rooftop patio. We caught up Girard to find out how the hearing went and catch up on Toronto’s ongoing war on fun.

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The Informer

Real Estate

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Danforth condo development sparks controversy—but this time the building’s height isn’t the problem (hint: there’s arson involved)

The alleged arsonists of a Danforth store and the new condo developers are one and the same (Image: Harsha K R)

If you follow Toronto’s real estate beat, you’re probably familiar with the basic life cycle of condo development in the city, so please excuse us if we’re a little unfair to all sides for brevity’s sake. First, a developer proposes constructing something higher than a two-storey home. Then, the community objects to the preposterous height and the city intervenes, proposing a settlement that makes exactly nobody happy. The developer responds by going to the Ontario Municipal Board, which, in turn, gives that same developer everything it wanted in the first place. And—voila—a new condo is born. Given that twisted process, we think it’s safe to say the city’s relationship with tall buildings is pretty darn dysfunctional. But for once there’s a condo tower set to go up that blows all that out of the water. Unfortunately, not exactly in a good way.

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Real Estate

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Ontario continues not to care about how Toronto looks

Soon the Pink Palace’s vista may not be so pretty (Image: Sam)

One of the sleepiest of sleepy controversies in this city surrounds (almost literally) the legislature at Queen’s Park. The issue at hand is the north-facing vista of the parliament buildings, and the problem is that the more condo towers are erected along Bloor Street, the more the Ontario legislature’s scenic backdrop looks cluttered and unsightly. Local activists—namely, the Ontario Capital Precinct Working Group (OCPWG)—have been trying to bring the matter to the province’s attention ever since the Ontario Municipal Board permitted another set of vista-sullying high-rises at 21 Avenue Road, but so far their efforts have yielded basically bupkis.

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Politics

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Reaction roundup: Ford’s private subway financing faces its first critics

Mayor Rob Ford’s plan to finance an extension of the Sheppard subway line with private money and higher taxes along the Sheppard corridor is a big change from the way the city has done things in the past, so it’s no surprise that the idea is meeting some skepticism. Here’s a short roundup of what people are saying about the still-vague Ford plan.

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Real Estate

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Vista-marring condos to go up behind Queen’s Park

Toronto’s thirst for condos proves unquenchable (Image: Ronnie Yip)

The pink palace that houses the Ontario Legislature is about to lose a bit of its charm. Yesterday, Dalton McGuinty said the construction of two high-rise condo towers behind the provincial legislature wouldn’t meet any further opposition from the provincial government, much to the dismay of legislative Speaker Steve Peters. The crusading Peters has been fighting the 44- and 48-storey towers tooth and nail recently, complaining the buildings would diminish the “grandeur and importance” of Queen’s Park by adding an unattractive touch to the otherwise regal view up University Avenue.

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The Dish

Openings

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Salt Wine Bar is back in business; war on fun faces temporary setback

Break out the champagne: the famous Ossington booze ban has finally been lifted. And that means that Salt Wine Bar, closed down in September for violating the ban, can reopen its doors. Indeed, the spot was bustling with dinner guests last night. Post City Magazine got the story yesterday that apparently the war against liquor licences is over:

Salt manager and co-owner William Tavares tells us that he got a call from Councillor Joe Pantalone’s office saying the moratorium was over and Salt was free to open.

Originally, the May 2009 moratorium was supposed to only last one year. However, it was held in place because of a challenge to a zoning bylaw that limited the size of new restaurants and bars to 2,400 square feet.

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