Lowrise heights and “country character” appear to be the future Scarborough councillors want for Highland Creek Village.
For two years, planners, property owners and residents of surrounding neighbourhoods studied the 24-acre village, where vacant lands had drawn interest from developers.
The resulting Highland Creek Village Study proposed midrise mixed-use buildings, ranging up to 11 storeys on two corner parcels on Kingston Road, or Highway 2A.
After most residents rejected it in April, planners pared down maximums on the village main street to three storeys, eight storeys in the “south village” area to six and six-storey maximums to four.
They also lowered the parcels with 11-storey maximums to eight storeys.
It wasn’t enough at a second meeting last month to satisfy most village neighbours, who chanted in favour of a four-storey maximum anywhere in the village.
Scarborough East Councillor Ron Moeser agreed, and this week, a special evening session of Scarborough Community Council passed “what was wanted by the community” by amending the study to Moeser’s specifications.
“We’re there to listen to our community,” the councillor said later, adding he and his staff called 80 people who attended the April meeting to understand what they felt.
“Overwhelmingly, people said, ‘It’s a village. We want you to help maintain its character,’” he said.
Moeser said that though there was a range of opinion “90 per cent” said they wanted no buildings taller than four storeys.
Moeser included one exception, a parcel at Military Trail and Highway 2A the amended study says could be as tall as six storeys, “because it’s somewhat isolated from the village” and many local seniors believe condominium housing for seniors could be built there, the councillor said.
Planners who wrote the study had warned lower heights may not be defensible if developers appealed proposals to the Ontario Municipal Board, and benefits that could from development - a village park, for example, and new street signs and light standards - would be impossible without a certain level of density.
Moeser said he hopes most benefits foreseen in the study will come anyway.
Some residents and business owners had argued the village needs development to reverse years of decline.
A letter written last week by Stephen Miles, president of the Highland Creek Commuity Association, described the village’s main street as “pitiful” and urged councillors to pass the area study as it was, arguing “the lack of a clear document outlining the requirements for building in our area works to our disadvantage.”
While changes to the village may be scary to some residents, “I would argue that allowing our village to continue to stagnate and fall to pieces is equally as scary and detrimental for us all,” Miles said.
In contrast, a letter from Jeff Forsyth, president of the Centennial Community and Recreation Association south of the village objected to eight-storey maximums for buildings nearest his community as being contrary to Highland Creek’s “country feel.”
Because the village is close to the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, “the proposed plan could lead to an oversaturation of student housing,” Forsyth added.
The study will go to Toronto Council for approval later this month, and a transportation study will soon begin to examine possible changes in the village’s road network. It is expected to take more than a year to complete.