Community group frustrated with development process

By Alyson Queen – 

After a year and a half of attending meetings and providing feedback, the Carlingwood Community Association (CCA) is back to square one with the City over height and zoning guidelines for the neighbourhood – and isn’t happy about it.

With LRT well on its way, the Cleary and New Orchard Planning Study is still being revised to provide a plan for the future of the area. The deadline for public comments was June 30.Impacted community groups, including Carlingwood, have been participating in a specific working group that feeds into the City’s planning unit.

Their key recommendations focused on height sensitivities and active frontage, which is how far a building is pushed back from the street, providing some open space.

One of the key developments impacted by the study and its guidelines will be the proposed condo complex at 809 Richmond Rd. – a project undertaken because LRT will run through the existing Kristy’s restaurant location.

On May 23, the day of a scheduled public meeting, the working group learned in an email that the maximum height restrictions for Cleary had suddenly been expanded from the recommended 16 storeys, to a “range of 16 to 24 storeys.”

The revised application for the proposed twin tower complex was also presented that night, indicating a change to 24 storeys.

Alecia O’Brien is past-president of the CCA and chair of the development committee. She says the changes were not a coincidence and made to accommodate the development application.

“The move was underhanded, lacked transparency and reinforced that the City works with developers and not community groups. Our feedback around height sensitivity and the active frontage was ignored or disregarded,” says Alecia.

From his perspective, Jamie Boyce, speaking on behalf of his father and Kristy’s owner Walter Boyce, contests that. He says “[t]he current design is in direct response to the information received from our consultation with the community, neighbours and
the City.”

He notes that the new application includes 6.5m of active frontage and reduced shadowing.

Chad Humeniuk is the current president of the CCA. “We supported the working group to ensure that our voice would be heard. That was always the intention.” Chad wants to see all parties work together for a solution that benefits the community as a whole.

“The City needs intensification so we’re willing to account for that. We would be willing to have it at 19, but maintaining the same floor space area.”

The association is voicing opposition to the two Councillors responsible for the territory, Jeff Leiper and Mark Taylor. The group has also submitted an official letter to the City requesting a reversal of the height allowance back to 16 storeys, enforcing active frontage and as such, declining the current Kristy’s application.

Deputy Mayor and Bay Ward Councillor Mark Taylor says the planning department prefers a 24-storey design but that “the study is not yet final so it’s not certain where it will land.”

He adds that the current application has to be evaluated against the height limit in place right now, which is about six storeys.

With regards to the heights in question, Councillor Taylor says he is flexible.

“I am supportive of either height: both I feel would be in keeping with the evolution of this corridor both in height and ground scale.”

On the point of height, when asked, Jamie Boyce was quite clear: “we are satisfied with our application for 24 storeys.”

Although hopeful for change, Chad indicates their community is frustrated with how the process has unfolded.

“In seeing what’s happening around the City with community associations, it feels like developers have the upper hand. I’m not sure why, but it feels like a David versus Goliath battle,” says Chad.

Recommendations on the planning study are due to Council by the end of the year. There is no current deadline for a decision for 809 Richmond.

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