Do we want investment downtown?
Tom Muench Richmond Hill Ward 2 Councillor
The Town of Richmond Hill is at odds with property owners on and surrounding Yonge Street including its historic village core north of Major Mackenzie within its new downtown local centre secondary plan (DLCSP), a largescale plan to redevelop and guide the future of Richmond Hill’s downtown core, introduced in February 2017.
Property owners were stunned, shocked and concerned about the loss of property rights, increased liability, height limits on development and density restrictions under the DLCSP.
In addition, property owners are quite agitated by the town requiring them to give a portion of their land without any compensation for the sake of a new policy to encourage vehicular and pedestrian access to shared public spaces. This is a requirement if they want to redevelop their land. Landowners will have the added responsibility of creating, designing and engineering a mews and courtyard system somehow linking neighbouring properties often at the rear of their lots. Many property owners feel the concept and plan are draconian and represents a poor planning initiative.
Upon learning of the new requirements of the DLCSP, many property owners questioned staff and council on the validity and viability of such a concept. They have been forced to challenge the planning rationale to the Ontario Municipal Board ( OMB), in an attempt to protect their property rights, at a substantial cost. As a result of the town’s new plan, property owners affected have become discouraged from investing further in the community, which will reduce revitalization efforts that many in the community believe is needed.
In a separate challenge at the April 17 OMB hearing, the Town of Richmond Hill advised the pedestrian-oriented linked system of courtyards is to be six metres wide and shared with cars, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians, adding safety concerns.
With the inconsistent height and density restrictions of the plan, such as the five-storey height restriction in the village core, when combined with the requirement to provide a linked system of courtyards, investment is discouraged, which will likely reduce property values and stop any downtown revitalization efforts. It therefore comes as no surprise that many property owners believe the DLCSP is a very poor plan. The next hearing date is in August.
“Property owners were stunned, shocked and concerned over loss of rights.”
Councillor Tom Muench in Richmond Hill’s downtown core