Despite pleas from several residents afraid the character of their neighbourhood will be destroyed, local councillors have approved a four-storey seniors’ building on the site of the former Bedford Park United Church.
“I’ve been dreading this day for two years,” Don Valley West Councillor Jaye Robinson said moments before councillors approved the building after more than three hours of presentations from residents and community agencies at the Tuesday Nov. 6 meeting of North York community council.
“This has been a very emotional issue.”
But York West Councillor Anthony Perruzza criticized opponents of the modestly sized building which will offer a home to seniors near the subway and other amenities.
“I look at this building and say why only a four-storey building? It should be a 20-storey building,” he said to gasps from some members of the audience.
Some people spoke in favour of the project, arguing it will provide much-needed housing and services for seniors.
“The interest and the need is strong,” the church’s Rev. Barbara White said.
Wendy Daniels said her mother would have loved to have moved into the building so she could have remained near her friends but she died shortly after moving into a seniors’ home far from home.
“I can tell you she was lonely, scared and missed her friends,” she said.
Councillors approved the building on the demolished church property at 100 Ranleigh Ave. north of Lawrence Avenue between Yonge Street and Mount Pleasant Road.
It will include 60 residential units for seniors and ground-floor space for worship and community programs.
Many residents said the building will increase traffic congestion and will be out of place on their residential street made up mostly of single-family homes.
They argue a city policy prohibits buildings in their mature, stable neighbourhood.
Allowing the building would be “an abomination” to the spirit of the planning policy, resident David Kelava said.
The site is mid-block on Ranleigh across the street from Bedford Park Junior Elementary School and the Bedford Park Community Centre.
While the neighbourhood is made up mostly of single-family homes, there are two older low-rise apartment buildings nearby.
Resident Peter Fillman said the seniors’ building will be a “four-storey box with little architectural merit.”
He also called it “an affront to our neighbourhood.”
Resident Candace Shaw said the building would have a “profound” impact on her property and complained residents of north Toronto are “under attack” because the city won’t stand up for them and preserve their neighbourhoods.
Some residents are upset the building’s balconies will overlook their backyards.
Having people watching her children playing in the yard from their balconies will be “a little bit creepy,” one woman said.
But Robinson said something will be built on the former church site, arguing the seniors’s home benefits the community.
“I would love (if) there would be a big green park there,” Robinson said.
“But that is not reality.”
Having the church develop the property is better than seeing a developer move in, Robinson said.
“I think we should count our blessings this is the church developing this property, not a developer,” she said.
If council had turned down the building, the church could have appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, which could approve a larger development on the site, Robinson said.
“Those are the kinds of things that put the fear of God in me,” she said.
The church scaled back its original plans for a five-storey building, Robinson said.
It also agreed to place the building further away from neighbours, inset the balconies and evict a nursery school to address residents’ concerns, she added.