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Controversial 30-storey Church Street condo gets go-ahead


Controversial 30-storey Church Street condo gets go-ahead

Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam says the OMB ruling is the worst she's seen since she was elected to Toronto council. IMAGE 1 OF 1
OMB decision 'could've been written by the developer': Wong-Tam
A controversial 30-storey condo tower that was rejected by the city has won approval from the Ontario Municipal Board, which overruled the city’s decision in a judgment handed down Oct 12. The developer, Menkes, now has the go-ahead to build the 100-metre-tall building on land that is currently a parking lot on the east side of Church Street between McGill and Granby.

The decision could set a precedent to eliminate the city’s prohibition on tall buildings in the Church-Wellesley Village. 
The OMB decision, delivered by Reid Rossi, rejects every single argument the city had put forward against the project. It also denies the city Section 37 community benefit funds that are typically negotiated from a developer in exchange for the city's allowing new buildings to exceed designated height and density maximums set out in the city’s official plan.
The city and members of the McGill Granby Village Residents' Association had argued that the building was out of proportion with the adjacent low-rise McGill-Granby neighbourhood, that it would cast shadows on houses and park areas, and that balconies overlooking the low-rise houses would infringe on neighbours’ privacy. 
There was initially some fear that the new condo residents would create conflict with The Barn nightclub across the street, but since the club closed in August that concern has disappeared.
The OMB decision says the city erred by considering the neighbourhood context to be just the predominantly low-rise area bound by Carlton, Gerrard, Yonge and Jarvis.
“One must consider the broader downtown context of tall buildings and similar development as well as the existence of tall buildings to the north and south along Church Street if a full and fair understanding of the application is to be achieved,” the decision reads.
The decision also asserts that because the proposed building doesn’t physically remove any of the adjacent low-rise houses, it meets the city’s stated goal of maintaining the integrity of the low-rise neighbourhood.
The ruling does not sit well with Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who had fought hard to have the developer make concessions on the building’s height.
“This is the worst OMB ruling I have read in my two years as a city councillor,” Wong-Tam says. “He essentially said the neighbourhood was downtown, already grossly impacted by all these tall buildings, so what’s another one?”
The greater worry is the precedent the ruling sets for future development proposals in Church-Wellesley Village, she says.
“I think in some ways Mr Rossi has given developers a carte blanche into this neighbourhood. Build whatever you like; if the city doesn’t give you what you want, bring it here -- we’ll approve it for you,” she says.
Wong-Tam says that the language used in the decision betrays bias on the part of the adjudicator toward the developer. In one section, the decision states that evidence given by the city planner was “overkill.”
In another section, the decision seems to confirm that the adjudicator was not interested in hearing evidence against the proposal: “If anything, [the proposal] appears to contribute to [the neighbourhood’s] dynamic growth and revitalization and no opposing opinion or submission could or did counter this assumption.”
“The language he used against our planner and solicitor was so outrageous that even third parties were shocked,” Wong-Tam says. “I think there was a lot of bias on behalf of the OMB member Reid Rossi. As I read his ruling I thought it could have been written by the developer for the developer.”
Wong-Tam says she is investigating the options the city has to appeal this ruling and seeking legal advice on whether the city would win on an appeal to the courts. If the city loses an appeal, it would also be liable for the developer’s legal costs.
“I wouldn’t want to subject the city to that unless I know we can win,” she says. “In no way is this ruling sitting well with the city staff.”
The new building will house 358 residential units with 161 underground parking spots, plus 177 square metres of ground-level retail space. It will be set back from Church Street, allowing a 4.5-metre-wide sidewalk.
There is also a proposal to replace the Family Service Toronto building on the southeast corner of Church and McGill streets with a 34-storey building.
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Whiney baby Wong Tam
Oh stop your whining Wong Tam! This is a growing city, deal with it or move to Bolton!
Development, okay
But not bad development. The city was right to oppose this type of density on this site. It is a massive tower bisecting a low-rise street (Granby). It will destroy the character of the street, impose upon the houses that are next to it, and set a dangerous precedent for the rest of Church Street. Do we want Church to become Bay Street in 20 years? If enough of these towers go up, what's to stop developers from arguing at the OMB that the village stretch between Alexander and Wellesley no longer 'fits' the rest of the neighbourhood? Bye-bye main street, hello faceless condos. A 10-storey condo with a nice setback would have been much more appropriate.
A welcome development
This development is completely in line with the city's urban planning goals of intensifying development along major thoroughfares. I think this building will help clean up that area and add value to existing properties. NIMBYism is not doing Toronto any favors. The city should be able to make developers contribute money toward transit and other improvements that these new developments make necessary. In that regard this is a short-sighted ruling. In London, England, developers have to contribute money toward building new subway stops.
Great news
This is exactly why the OMB is needed in Toronto.
good news
Very happy to see this go through, will help to add density and clean up the area. Hopefully the parking lot just north of carlton on church and that run down zipper plaza will be next to go in favor or large class condo's. Given that there is a 43 and 32 story building half a block away (25 Carlton St) its not surprising that this was approved, but NIMBY's will always complain
This decision MUST be appealed!
Condo Boom in Toronto?
More like a MONEY LAUNDERING BOOM. It couldn't be clearer. Perhaps Wong-Tam should insist on FULL DETAILED financial disclosure of all the "developers" wanting to hide their money, I mean build in Toronto? That'll put things right in a hurry. But no, she's not going to do that is she?
This is what we get for letting foreign
investors and greedy corporation to take over.More condos more more more I say,the church street that once was will be no more give it 20 yrs and all the gay village will be gone and the gay people as well.But at least there will be the government still there to protect the interest of the people,oh wait ya thats right way to go omb
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