Couldn’t hang around waiting for the item to come up, but I’m informed that a kind neighbour delivered this on my behalf.
June 18, 2013
Toronto / East York Community Council
Item TE 25.18
Request for Direction Report – 103, 109-111 Ossington Avenue – Zoning Amendment Application (Ward 19)
Deputation by Sol Chrom
in support of a motion to amend from Councillor Layton
Good morning councillors, neighbours, and fellow citizens, and thank you for the opportunity to address you today. My name is Sol Chrom and I live at 50 Brookfield Street, one block west of the site in question.
Local land-use disputes hit people right where they live, so it’s not surprising that they become emotional. And because of that, there’s a temptation to talk in broad terms and make sweeping generalizations. This makes it easy for media gatekeepers and those with a financial interest in the outcome to portray those disputes in generalized and simplistic terms. It makes for an easy, binary, and reductionist narrative — but it’s not accurate, it’s not fair, and it does a disservice to both the neighbourhood in particular and the discourse in general.
What I’d like to do, then, is to reintroduce a degree of nuance to this. Reading some of the accounts we’ve seen over the past twelve months, it would be easy to reduce the 109 Ossington dispute to a polarized struggle between two extreme caricatures.
As is often the case, however, the truth is less a choice between black and white than a mix of several shades of grey. Name-calling, accusations, code words and dog whistles aren’t going to help us build a liveable community, and I urge you to reject simplistic framing, misleading characterizations, and silly and useless memes.
My neighbours and colleagues will no doubt go into more detail about the Official Plan’s commitment to mid-rise intensification along designated Avenues, and the misguided impulse to characterize Ossington as such an Avenue. It is not. My purpose today, however, is to step back, take a bigger-picture view, and, I hope, help establish a context amenable to civil and rational discussion. We can, in the words of one tweeter, disagree without being disagreeable.
We all recognize the pressures that continued growth places on housing stock and infrastructure. We believe that a progressive and forward-looking plan can accommodate that growth and address societal needs for housing while also accounting for external pressures such as climate change, economic dislocation, and changing demographics.
Make no mistake: we want to see the site developed. We welcome intensification and its beneficial effects (foot traffic, greater demographic variety, economic activity, a healthy and diverse retail environment, population density that will support transit, biking and walking …). Where we and the proponent differ is that we think those benefits can be realized within the current regulatory environment. There is room, on Ossington, to triple or even quadruple existing density while remaining within the existing zoning. Ossington, in other words, can do its part to absorb the pressures of growth and accommodate the need for housing without disruption to its current built form or departure from the intent of the Official Plan.
What we’re asking for, then, isn’t unreasonable, really: a proposal that conforms to the existing planning, zoning and design guidelines.
But the proponent isn’t satisfied with that. Its representatives have made it clear in preliminary meetings, that an “as of right” building just doesn’t work for them. In other words, we don’t want to follow the rules. We want to be able to do whatever we want, and we want you to change the rules for us. Remind you of anyone?
Finally, in their presentations, I’m sure my neighbours will go into more detail about why the current proposal is inappropriate for the site. And it’s here that I speak for myself, and not necessarily the community. In what may be a naive commitment to civility and good will, I want to believe that should the proponent fail to get its way at the OMB, it will demonstrate its continued commitment to the neighbourhood by working with us to craft a proposal that the community can embrace.
In conclusion, I would encourage you all to support Councillor Layton’s motion to amend. His motion today is the culmination of months of broad-based community consultation, evening meetings with a working group of which I’m honoured to have been part, and a mind-boggling amount of work by the councillor and his staff. I’d be remiss if I failed to acknowledge and thank them for that.
Thank you and good day.