A letter and motion by Councillor Mark Grimes that Toronto council direct the city’s chief planner to incorporate development incentives into the draft Mimico-By-The-Lake Secondary Plan has shocked some in the community.
Etobicoke York Community Council passed Grimes’ motion at its Jan. 22 meeting. Toronto City Council will consider the matter at its Feb. 20 meeting.
City planners spent recent months researching and writing recommendations for the secondary plan, the emerging details of which planners presented to the community at a Dec. 6 open house. Residential building densities and height restrictions are among city planners’ recommendations.
Grimes argued the proposed secondary plan “does not achieve the goal of community improvement” and it “does not encourage investment in the community or revitalization of the neighbourhood.”
City planners’ decision to create a secondary plan for the area to establish consistent patterns of buildings, heights and densities, “does not provide sufficient flexibility to encourage investment in properties that need to deal with all the restrictions: heritage, waterfront and rental, in one application,” Grimes wrote in his Jan. 22 letter.
The Mimico-By-The-Lake Secondary Plan area is populated by decades-old midrise and lowrise apartment buildings, as well as a commercial retail strip along Lake Shore Boulevard West.
Residents largely support revitalization, but want to preserve the affordable apartment units that maintain Mimico’s un-gentrified, mixed-income population.
Grimes’ motion — and Etobicoke York Community Council’s endorsement of it — recommends Toronto City Council direct the city’s chief planner to comment on: ways to incent development through the development of “realistic site specific policies for the development of key sites,” as well as through mechanisms including tax incentives, waiving development fees, provision of grants, acquisition of lands and Section 37 or community benefits monies developers give the city.
Those comments would then form part of the draft secondary plan.
Grimes’ letter left some in the community dumbfounded.
“We cannot see the reason for haste. Mimico isn’t a slum. The sky isn’t falling,” said Judith Rutledge, who represents Miles Road Residents on the Mimico Lakeshore Network with her husband, Martin Gerwin.
“Who’s interest is this serving? Slow and steady is better in the long run. We’d like development to be community-driven. This is astounding to us. Everyone is so baffled.”
Mimico Lakeshore Network is a coalition of 10 member community organizations committed to maintaining Mimico-By-The-Lake’s rental housing stock, heritage and character as a family-centred village.
Gerwin lauded the efforts of city planners to consult the community, but argued developers have an edge.
“Planning staff has made some substantial effort in increasing the transparency of the process. They held open houses to share how their thinking is developing,” Gerwin said.
“But you still have a situation in which developers have a privilege that the community does not — developers get to negotiate with the city.”
Community concerns have centred around the future of one site owned by Longo Development Corp. Its six lowrise rentals near the lake are arranged around a historic early 20th century villa, which Longo told residents last fall it would preserve for its heritage significance.
Last year, Longo submitted an application to redevelop the site with two midrise buildings to replace the 396 rental units and controversially, six more towers ranging from 20 to 44 storeys.
Company principal Dino Longo told residents at a meeting last September his company was working to limit the additional buildings to three to four, and heights would not reach 40 storeys.
This week, Longo confirmed his firm has not yet filed amended Official Plan and rezoning applications with the city. City planners are in possession of Longo’s latest concept plans for the site, he said.
When asked, Longo would not comment on whether his property is one of the “key sites” Grimes referred to in his letter and motion. Longo would also not comment on the building heights his company is proposing.
Grimes’ comments were not available prior to Guardian deadline Wednesday.
However, Longo agreed with Grimes. Mimico-By-The-Lake revitalization will not occur unless developers receive incentives.
“The city needs to be sensitive to economic viability if any developers and landlords along the waterfront are going to be part of the transformation of this neighbourhood,” Longo said. “They need to be realistic in terms of regulations if they want to put a low cap on heights and densities, want rental replacement and preservation of heritage.
“Economic viability is the key motivation. If there is no benefit to do it, developers will not do it...There needs to be give and take to make that happen in terms of the give. Lowrise rental throughout the area is never going to happen.”
City planners’ emerging policy framework for the secondary plan calls for restrictions on buildings heights. Buildings built fronting Lake Shore Boulevard would be capped at 25 storeys; buildings built south of that would be midrise, with a maximum height of eight storeys, with lakefront tall buildings capped at 15 storeys.
City planners expect to bring forward the final report and secondary plan this winter or spring, with ample community notice provided, city planner Matthew Premru said.
The Mimico-By-The-Lake Secondary Plan is a response to the massive Mimico 20/20 revitalization plan Grimes launched in 2006.
Mimico 20/20 intends to guide revitalization toward an ideal vision of the Mimico-By-The-Lake area over the next 30 years.