Tag Archives: ontario professional planners
Christopher Hume – Toronto Star
No matter how we long for change, Toronto is still a city that would rather just say no.
Consider the case of mid-rise development: In countless cities around the world, the streets are lined with four- to 10-storey buildings. They can be seen throughout Europe, where they virtually define the urban form.
Meanwhile, here in Toronto, we are only now beginning to figure out how to make mid-rise attractive to builders. Buyers, of course, love mid-rise. They are much less threatening to even the most diehard NIMBY than the high-rise towers that now form the skyline.
The problem is a tangle of regulations and planning rules that send builders running for cover behind the nearest skyscraper. Until recently, mid-rise hasn’t been worth the hassle. Jumping through regulatory hoops takes as long for a small apartment building as it does a 50-storey tower.
Then there are fire exit rules, parking standards and requirements and construction material rules. The consequences of these measures, unintended or not, is that Toronto has become a city of high-rise and low-rise, with little in between.
“Developers shy away from mid-rise,” planner Cal Brook explains, “because they have to go through zoning amendments that bring out the neighbours who oppose anything that’s higher than what’s already on the street. They’ll either do high-rise or low-rise.”
Brook, who helped prepare a recent study on mid-rise development in the city, also points out that the province has a role to play. The codes by which we live in Ontario are largely controlled by Queen’s Park. Toronto city hall merely makes a bad situation worse. Though city council adopted the report last year, it’s too early to tell how well they will work.
“The city has been positive about mid-rise,” admits Shane Fenton of Reserve Properties. “But it still takes as much time to do as high-rise.”
The report, which received an award from the Ontario Professional Planners Association this month, suggests developers should be allowed to build mid-rise as a right on Toronto’s designated “avenues.” Height would be equal to the width of the road on which they are located.
These avenues are identified in Toronto’s Official Plan as main streets where development should be concentrated in coming decades. But because the city’s zoning regulations are generally 30 years or more out of date, virtually all proposals must seek exemptions. That process takes time and money, but it also gives city councillors a larger say over the process.
“I think the resistance to rezoning — to having a uniform updating of zoning — is political,” Brook says. “Insisting that a property be rezoned is a way of having greater control over development.”
That would be fine if council’s motives were to ensure architectural and planning excellence in Toronto, but in reality it’s designed to give NIMBY neighbours the impression politicians are on their side.
That, combined with outdated restrictions against wood-frame construction and onerous fire and parking demands, has encouraged Toronto’s rush to the heights.
Civic flexibility, more important than ever to urban success, has been conspicuous in its absence. Other cities drool when they hear about the sheer amount of construction in Toronto; here we see it as a threat. But to understand the potential of mid-rise, take a walk along, say Danforth Ave., east of Broadview. Already mid-rise condos have brought stretches of King St. and Yonge south of St. Clair to life.
But as report co-author, Michael McClelland says, “Mid-rise fits in well with neighbourhoods, “but the big tower is where the money’s at — at least for now.”
Contact the Jeffrey Team for more information – 416-388-1960
Laurin & Natalie Jeffrey are Toronto Realtors with Century 21 Regal Realty.
They did not write these articles, they just reproduce them here for people
who are interested in Toronto real estate. They do not work for any builders.
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