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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Build Toronto's new approach

Hi everyone, 

Apologies for the considerable amount of time that has gone by since our last update. Needless to say, there has been a lot going on. 

First off, many of you were caught off guard, as we were, by a surprise motion from Gerrard Clonmore Developments (GCD) at the Scarborough Committee of Adjustment in March. The application was to seek approval to sever a portion of GCD's property on the Quarry Lands site. Thanks to those who were able to make it out to the meeting and others who complained of improper notice, as CCQLD did, the hearing was deferred. GCD has since appealed the matter to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and a hearing is expected in late summer. CCQLD executive met last month with Councillor Gary Crawford and city planning and legal staff to discuss the case and ensure all parties are prepared. We have been assured that notice for all future hearings related to the Quarry Lands will be widely circulated. 

There have also been developments on the Build Toronto front. As you know, Build Toronto is the arms-length city development agency that has been assigned responsibility for the city-owned section of the Quarry Lands site -- roughly the land now occupied by the driving range. At various times since Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development came together nearly ten years ago, it has appeared that we were fighting for responsible development not just on one front -- in other words, with private landowner GCD -- but on two, also against Build Toronto. Those of you who attended the public rally organized by CCQLD in April 2010 may remember this was the case. 

CCQLD has been in frequent communication with Build Toronto and its predecessor, TEDCO, for many years, but until now never brought specific plans from Build Toronto or TEDCO to the community, either because only vague ideas were shared with us or because discussions were so diametrically opposed to sound planning principles and common sense that it wouldn't have been worth anyone's time. 

Recently, that has changed. 

Over the past 18 months or so, undoubtedly in part due to the engagement of our community, Build Toronto has changed course. They are now talking about concepts and a design plan over the city-owned lands that we believe merits presentation to the community. Build Toronto's ideas are outlined in the letter directly below this note. As you can see, Build is considering a low-density development with single-family homes, a large park space and a retail development at the northwest corner of the site. Build has responded favorably to CCQLD's request that they share ideas at full community meeting organized by CCQLD, and have said they would be ready to do so in September. We will get back to everyone on date and location in coming months. 

We understand that the Build Toronto ideas may not be to everyone's liking. Those who would prefer the entire space be dedicated to parkland will be disappointed, as will those who feel the driving range should stay on the site indefinitely. We also need to hear more about what Build Toronto is envisioning for the retail area, and to of course be diligent regarding environmental concerns. potential traffic impacts, and areas services. All that said, CCQLD realizes that the city needs to achieve some economic value out of the site, and that this parcel of land, from a planning perspective, can be used constructively provided it fits with the existing community. We also need to consider how Build Toronto's plans might impact what happens on GCD's land. Clearly, there is a lot to consider.  

It is the opinion of the CCQLD executive that in the context of what has been considered by TEDCO / Build Toronto in the past, even as recently as two years ago, the ideas now on the table represent a major improvement and deserve a full community forum. It will be important for all of us to engage with Build Toronto officials and our elected representatives, to both listen and be heard. 

While we can't promise to get back to everyone directly, we certainly welcome your thoughts. Most of all, we hope you will stay informed, make it out to the meeting in September, and get involved. Putting aside the Build Toronto front for the moment, there remains plenty of work to do to ensure that sound planning principles and a progressive vision for what our city can be triumph over archaic zoning from the 1960s. 

Thanks for your ongoing support, and we'll be in touch soon. 

Warmest regards,
Board of Directors, Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development

Mark Brender
President, CCQLD
June 15, 2012

Dear Mark,
We are writing further to your request to provide some additional information on Build Toronto’s development plans to the Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development (CCQLD) Membership. Our last update to your Membership was prepared for the CCQLD 2012 Annual General Meeting.
Build Toronto continues to work on designing a mixed-use community that would fit within the existing ‘fabric’ of the neighbourhood. In doing so, we have referenced past community charettes, and collaborated with CCQLD executive, Councillor Crawford, and City staff including Planning, Transportation, Technical Services, Urban Design, and Parks.
Our intention is to implement best practices of responsible and balanced development where communities can live and play. In keeping with the character of the local neighbourhood, we are planning for a low-rise residential development, with a usable park space, and well-designed urban retail. We have been working with market consultants to complete a study for the retail, and better understand market demand. We anticipate obtaining feedback from the community on the ‘look and feel’ of the low-rise development, and the best programming options for the park.
As you are aware, the property was historically used as a quarry, and was subsequently backfilled with earth ‘fill’ and construction materials like wood and concrete and debris. Given that land context, Build Toronto’s key focus and investment over the last year has been in the area of environmental sustainability. In accordance with the Ministry of the Environment, Build Toronto has completed a Phase I Environmental Site Assessment and is further investing in a Phase II Site Assessment, Risk Evaluation, and if necessary, Risk Mitigation Programs. This thorough remediation strategy is needed to evaluate the nature and extent of possible contamination to determine the measures that might be necessary for mitigation. Our final development concepts will incorporate all risk mitigation plans.
We also have been working with traffic consultants to understand the existing traffic conditions, and to design a plan that will allow for better traffic flow while accommodating development plans. We anticipate creating a new road network that may extend into the lands owned by the Conservatory Group. However, we must underscore that we have no ability to formally change the Conservatory Group’s plans, or require any road connection to be constructed on their lands.
In addition to traffic consultants, we have also engaged other consultants to better understand the site conditions and requirements for a successful redevelopment, including building and landscape architects, archeologists, environmental consultants, structural and civil engineers. All finalized and full reports will be circulated as part of the planning process and discussed with the community.
We thank you for your request to hold a meeting with the community, organized by CCQLD and in consultation with the Councillor’s Office, prior to the statutory meetings that are part of the Official Plan and Zoning amendment process. We anticipate being sufficiently advanced to attend such a meeting by September of this year.
Working with the community is part of Build Toronto’s mandate and a key component of our public policy principles and City-Building interests. We are pleased with the collaboration that has taken place so far, and we are committed to keeping CCQLD informed with as much clarity and information as possible as we work to finalize the details.
Bruce Logan
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
c.c. Councillor Gary Crawford, Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest
Prakash David, Senior Vice President, Residential & Retail Development
Salima Rawji, Senior Manager, Development