169 The Donway

Update: Summer 2018 by Erik Kalm, President, DMRI

Before going into details of where we finished, I’ll first recap where this development started. In 2015, Cadillac Fairview proposed a new development for the former post office site at 169 The Donway. This would be made up of two massive condo towers, one of 39 stories and the other of 34, with an FSI of 7.2 (FSI = the square footage of the building compared to the site. Therefore an FSI of 7 is roughly equivalent of putting a 7 storey building on ever inch of the site.). This was dramatically bigger than the neighbouring midrise buildings, and went against the spirit of the agreement reached between Cadillac Fairview, the City of Toronto and the DMRI when the redevelopment of the old Don Mills Centre was agreed to. Among other concessions that the City and the DMRI originally won from Cadillac Fairview, was that the high-rise buildings would be in the middle of the development, with the buildings along the Donway being midrise (+/- 12 stories in height). When Cadillac Fairview announced the new development, the community and the DMRI were shocked at the size and scale of it. Even more concerning was that it was totally not in keeping with the spirit of the agreement for the redevelopment. How did this happen?

Cadillac Fairview had found two loopholes. Firstly, since they did not own the post office site at the time of the original agreement, they did not feel that they were bound by it in regards this site. Secondly, unlike the other buildings along The Donway, the post office site sits almost wholly opposite commercial properties, and thus was not restricted in height.

The DMRI immediately started organizing against the project, working with community members, our Councillors Jaye Robinson and Denzil Minan-Wong, and city staff. Cadillac Fairview brought a new partner in to help with the project, Lantera Developments, and the DMRI began meeting with them, to express our concerns about the new project, and to endeavour to keep Cadillac Fairview to the spirit of the original agreement.

From this, Lanterra submitted a revised proposal to the OMB, having cut the height of the original higher tower from 39 to 34 stories, while changing the second to 16 stories in a more horizontal arrangement. The FSI for this project was reduced to 5.9.

The community and the DMRI still felt that this project was way too massive, and this is what we went before the OMB to fight. As a full OMB hearing can cost $60,000-$100,000 in legal and planning fees for a party to fight a development, when the offer of mediation was made, with far less onerous costs, the DMRI gladly accepted. The DMRI with the assistance of a lawyer, the City Lawyer and Planning staff and Lanterra and their planners and lawyer met with an OMB mediator for two days in mid December. The OMB is not interested in the feelings of the community. It is a legal body that only looks at evidence based on legalities and planning issues. That is, does the project break any laws or go against any planning standards set by the Province or the City. Our only leverage was that Lanterra would prefer a quick settlement, and not drag this out into a full OMB hearing. While City staff was very supportive, they again were constrained in what they could do by the rules of the OMB.

What we ended up with was the following:
Height Tower 1 – 25 stories (Originally 39) Height Tower 2 – 12 stories (Originally 34) FSI – 4.75 (Originally 7.2)
On top of that, we ended up with a $3 million dollar section 37 payment from Lanterra towards community improvements. This is likely at least a third more then we would have otherwise gotten.

So while this is not the victory we would have wanted, neither is it truly a pyrrhic one. The community and the DMRI rallied and fought hard, and we ended up in a dramatically better position then we would have had we allowed the developer to do what they wanted.

My thanks to all of you who helped, contributed and supported us in this battle. I’d also like to thank DMRI executive members Brian Story, Terry West and Tom Yarmon who took time from their busy schedules to attend the OMB hearings. We have learned a lot and we are preparing even now for the next battle, whatever it may be. We have also shown the development industry that the people of Don Mills will not just roll over and allow them to build what they want. The community will always have a say.

Finally, I’d like to specially acknowledge city councillor Jaye Robinson who fought tirelessly at our side. A tough opponent to any development that is too large, or inappropriate, for the community it is planned for, she did all she could to help us and support us. In particular, Councillor Robinson was instrumental in gaining us the increased Section 37 funds. Thank you, Councillor Robinson, for all you did.

 


Looking northeast at the 34 storey tower, image via submission to the City of Toronto.

 

We have discussed this development for many months in our newsletter and our monthly eBlasts. The site in question is at 169 The Donway West. This property was originally owned by the Government of Canada and was the site of the Don Mills Post Office. At the time The Shops at Don Mills were under discussion this was still the case. It was only after The Shops were approved that this property came up for sale and Cadillac Fairview purchased it, therefore, this development is not explicitly included in the agreement among the City, Cadillac Fairview and DMRI.

Cadillac Fairview proposed to build 2 towers on the site, one 34 storeys and one 39 storeys. The City held a Community Consultation meeting on May 31, 2016. This provided an opportunity for Cadillac Fairview to describe its proposal and for the community to react to the proposal. The reaction was overwhelmingly negative mostly because of the height and density of the proposed development.

Cadillac Fairview has partnered with a firm called Lanterra on this project (as well at the Rodeo Drive development). We have been working with Cadillac Fairview and Lanterra in an effort to see the project modified. There are numerous issues with the proposal. These include the height of the buildings, the density of the development, the layout of the development (i.e. building entrance off a narrow lane rather than from The Donway), and the requirement to build a park on the site.

During our discussions with Lanterra, it altered its proposal by replacing the smaller tower with a midrise building and they reduced the 39 storey building to 34 stories. However, that revised proposal essentially maintained the density. While this was a step in the right direction, it was insufficient in our view.

The height of the building is out of line with the current by-laws and with our understanding with Cadillac Fairview. The word “understanding” is being used here since, as noted above, this property was not part of our original agreement with the City and Cadillac Fairview. That agreement had midrise buildings along The Donway West and the taller buildings toward the centre of the site. While Cadillac Fairview did not own this property at the time, we see no reason why the spirit of that agreement should not be honoured.

Our discussions with Lanterra started in late 2016 and continued into 2017. There was an OMB pre-hearing scheduled for February 2017. That date was moved to July to allow for further talks. DMRI wrote to Lanterra and expressed our concerns regarding the development.

Current 12 storey low rise towers

“…the DMRI is expecting that any proposal for the siteat 169 will be mid-rise and medium density. We have set out the adjacent Flaire building as a guide to what is acceptable to the Don Mills community (Flaire being 12 storeys / 36m in height) and similar density. This ‘outer ring’ area was planned to be mid-rise and that plan was agreed to by Cadillac Fairview, DMRI and the City. The development at 169 should be consistent with that.”

Lanterra has not been available to meet since receiving our letter and Lanterra has now requested formal mediation under the auspices of the OMB. The mediation will likely begin in November of this year. It will involve the City as well as any other ‘parties’ which currently includes the Rockport Group which owns the strip mall across The Donway from this site. The City and DMRI are aligned in our concerns regarding this proposal.

We are hopeful, but not optimistic, that this mediation process will lead to an acceptable outcome, but we need to prepare for a formal OMB hearing. That will require the DMRI to hire a Planner and a Lawyer to assist us with the process. Past experience has shown that this could cost in the neighbourhood of $100,000. We need help from the community to fund this endeavour.

(Click photos to enlarge)

169 The Donway West 14 169 The Donway West 15

 

A message from Councillor Jaye Robinson

Dear Friends and Neighbours,

Many thanks to those who reached out to my office and attended City Planning’s community consultation this week for the proposed development at 169 The Donway West. You can find more information about the application here.

At North York Community Council, I extended the notice for the meeting to ensure that a much larger part of the neighbourhood received advance written notice. As a result, over 7,000 notices were sent out and we had a phenomenal turnout.

My job is to represent you and make sure your voice is heard in the City’s planning process, and I heard you loud and clear at the meeting.

Over the past several weeks, I’ve heard a number of significant concerns from you, including:

  • The proposed height and density;
  • The proposal’s proximity to stable residential neighbourhoods;
  • The proposal’s compliance with the Central Don Mills Secondary Plan;
  • The potential traffic safety and congestion impacts of this application;
  • The potential infrastructure impacts of this proposal;
  • The shadow and wind impacts of the proposed development; and,
  • The proposal’s impact on the character and quality of life in Don Mills.

I share these concerns.

I am strongly opposed to this application. The proposed height and density are simply too much for this neighbourhood. As Canada’s first planned community, Don Mills is unique and historic and this application does not respect the character or identity of the community. 

As you know, this application has already been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) by the applicant. That said, I will be requesting that City Planning and the City Solicitor attend the OMB to oppose this application.

Alex Teixeira is the City Planner with carriage of this application. If you haven’t already, I’d encourage you to write to Alex and let him know what you think about the proposal. Alex is also available to answer any and all questions about the planning process and the application. You can reach Alex at ateixei@toronto.ca or 416-395-7110.

I also encourage you to contact the Don Mills Residents’ Inc. (DMRI), your local ratepayers’ association. The DMRI is very experienced in planning applications and OMB appeals and will be organizing the neighbourhood’s response to this proposal. You can reach the DMRI at dmriCommunications@dmri.ca.

Finally, I’d urge you to write to your local MPP to express your concerns with the OMB and request that Toronto be removed from the OMB’s jurisdiction. You can find your local MPP here.

If your neighbours were unable to attend the meeting, please share this email with them and encourage them to write the Planner atateixei@toronto.ca and my office at Councillor_Robinson@toronto.ca to express their concerns with this application.

Thank you again for your community engagement. I’ll continue to keep you informed of any updates on this application.

Warm regards,
Jaye

Jaye Robinson
City Councillor | Ward 25-Don Valley West
Chair, Public Works & Infrastructure Committee
Toronto City Hall | 100 Queen Street, A12 | Toronto, ON M5H 2N2
416-395-6408 | councillor_robinson@toronto.ca | www.jayerobinson.ca
Facebook: facebook.com/robinsonward25 | Twitter: @jayerobinson