Richmond Hill core plan dumped
Councillors at odds over effectiveness of downtown vision
Richmond Hill Town Council has voted to repeal the Downtown Local Centre Secondary Plan (DLCSP) after just two years.
The DLCSP was adopted by council on Feb. 27, 2017, and was meant to guide future development in the downtown area between Harding Boulevard and Levendale Road and applied to properties east and west of Yonge Street.
It provided another level of detail on top of the town’s official plan and contained area-specific policies on density distribution, open space and parking.
Council voted to repeal the plan at a meeting on Feb. 4.
The motion to repeal the plan was put forward by Ward 2 Richmond Hill councillor Tom Muench who cited numerous landowner objections with regard to height and density limits and the landowner requirement to provide a linked system of courtyards.
Muench said the linked system of courtyards is bad planning and that height restrictions have served to hinder development and “sterilize Yonge.”
“I think the evidence is you can’t build. I believe for that reason it was prudent for us to say, ‘I think we should rethink this,’ ” said Muench, who added that development is key to meeting intensification targets and addressing housing affordability.
Adam Seif wrote a letter to council supporting councillor Muench’s motion.
He is a real estate lawyer with an office in the downtown area who cites lack of development for a high turnover rate for businesses.
“I’ve been seeing it first-hand for the past 15 years. There has been no significant development, no development whatsoever for mid-rise even from Major Mac [Major Mackenzie Drive] all the way to Crosby, which is downtown core village,” said Seif.
“I’ve seen so many restaurants come in and close here, so many retail stores come and close because there is not enough traffic, walkable traffic.”
Ward 4 councillor David West voted against repealing the DLCSP.
“I actually thought the plan was quite good. I think the overall result of what we were trying to achieve was excellent,” said West.
Christine Lee, planning researcher at the Town of Richmond Hill, said that maximum heights and densities are laid out in the official plan, which will now be the policies used to judge development applications, which left West questioning the point of repealing the DLCSP.
“If five storeys was the height limit in the village core under the official plan, five storeys would be the height limit under the secondary plan. If you knock off the secondary plan, five storeys is still the height limit,” said West.
“If this is ultimately a way to increase height and densities and take away the connected laneways and so on that was in the secondary plan, if that’s what the end game is, then really what needs to happen here is an official plan review.”
Muench, who had official status to participate in a case brought to the Ontario Municipal Board and later the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal by developers appealing the secondary plan, said the official plan is a guiding document, not a line in the sand and that council can always override concepts in the official plan.
Muench also said that the official plan must be rewritten or reviewed every 10 years and is something that is due to be addressed this term.
He also noted a letter sent to municipalities from the province in February recommending a halt on big planning decisions in anticipation of the provincial government’s housing supply plan, expected to remove red tape in order to create more housing.
“In short: expect changes,” said Muench.
I’ve seen so many restaurants come in and close here, so many retails stores come and close.”
Adam Seif, a Richmond Hill lawyer who wrote a letter supporting a move to repeal the town’s downtown plan