Sheppard West next to intensify
Community struggling with developments pushing plan limits
The Ontario Municipal Board’s (OMB) approval of a 15-storey condo tower and townhomes at 53-63 Sheppard Ave. W. has left residents concerned that the area’s infrastructure won’t be able to keep up with the intensification.
The plan includes an official plan amendment to redesignate the site lands from “neighbourhood” and “mixed use avenue,” which permits detached homes and office uses. This allows for a mid-rise building that will include retail and commercial units.
The initial proposal was submitted August 2015, coinciding with a council-directed review of the Sheppard West Secondary Plan already underway.
The plan aimed to provide a framework for future development applications that would protect the existing residential neighbourhood from intensification while offering a sensible transition from the towers along the North York City Centre.
However, after the developer appealed to the OMB and requested that the application be excluded from the study area, the OMB ultimately approved the height and density of the property, effectively pulling the development boundary of the city centre westward into the neighbourhood.
“The neighbourhood has been swamped with large-scale redevelopment applications, all of which are at the OMB or have gone to the OMB,” said Ward 23 councillor John Filion. He added, “Almost every development that’s been approved has been contrary to the city’s plans.”
Another application, for an 11storey mixed-use building at 245 Sheppard Ave. W., has also been rejected by council and is slated to be appealed at the OMB for a scheduled hearing in August 2018.
“What we’re really worried about is that this will be used as an opportunity to expand the development, to change the secondary plan boundary into the neighbourhood, and then there’ll be giant developments allowed there, and that will be a disaster,” said Paul Martin, vice-president of the West Lansing Homeowners Association ( WLHA). “We’ve already seen big developments going in the North York Centre area, and we’ve seen a lot of impacts to traffic, schools overcrowding and overloaded subways. We didn’t want to allow that to happen along Sheppard.”
The area has developed rapidly over the last few decades, and residents are already seeing the effects of population increase on the existing infrastructure.
Schools, for example, have been a hot button issue in the area. SHEPPARD AVE. W. Hollywood Public School, which services Sheppard Avenue East from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue is at 136 per cent capacity according to 2016 school data. Cameron Public School, servicing Sheppard West, is at 102 per cent capacity.
A meeting was held on Oct. 30 to address the issue of Willowdale schools’ overcrowding and yielded an attendance of almost 300 people, including councillor Filion, Education Minister Mitzie Hunter and Willowdale MPP David Zimmer along with local trustees from the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board. The purpose of the meeting was to inform residents about the possible solution of allowing the TDSB to charge a levy to the developers for each new unit to funnel back into local schools, according to TDSB Trustee Alexander Brown.
“We just are asking, if the developments are going to be part of the problem, can they also be part of the solution?” said Brown.
In the meantime, the WLHA doesn’t have much hope for preservation of its neighbourhood boundary.
“I can tell you what’s been done to date: Nothing,” said Martin. “Basically what’s happened is the city’s existing infrastructure has attempted to absorb the influx. And that’s what everybody, except the residents, want.”
Grmada Holdings, the developer for 53-63 Sheppard Ave. W., did not respond to a request for comment.
“If the developments are going to be part of the problem, can they also be part of the solution?”
Resident Paul Martin at the site of the approved 15-storey development