Toronto council has quashed a plan by Etobicoke-Lakeshore Councillor Mark Grimes to provide dramatic incentives for developers to build housing on the Mimico shoreline.
Council voted to eliminate a set of recommendations put forward by Grimes at Etobicoke York Community Council’s last meeting, that could have given developers a break on a range of responsibilities – including development charges, heritage considerations or requirements to replace rental housing already in place.
Grimes argued that the incentives are necessary to persuade the owners of the low-rise rental buildings that extend south from Lake Shore Boulevard to the lake, to assemble the lands and redevelop them.
He argued that while the waterfront address might be desirable, the land there isn’t going to be redeveloped without help.
“It’s not going to change until we come up with some unique policies on how to fix it,” said Grimes. “The owners have sat on these properties forever and ever... We have to encourage assembly to make something happen.”
City staff have been working since last fall on a secondary plan for the Mimico-By-The-Lake neighbourhoods. Toronto’s chief planner Jennifer Keesmaat told council that in her view, incentives to develop beyond the obvious benefits of the lakefront lands would be “unwarranted.”
“There really isn’t any reason to incent residential development in the city – particularly not on the waterfront,” said Keesmaat. “The issue when development isn’t taking place in a neighbourhood, is speculation or built form. Exploring tax incentives or waiving development fees would in fact be an unusual or unwarranted incentive.”
Grimes’ letter requested staff to simply explore those incentives. But councillors said even doing that would be a step toward creating a precedent that could be damaging in neighbourhoods across the city.
Scarborough-Agincourt Councillor Mike Del Grande held down the item and moved the motion to strike Grimes’ recommendations.
“If we have to incent people on the waterfront then you know what? We’re not getting enough in development charges in the city,” said Del Grande.
Scarborough Centre Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker called Grimes’ plan “a dangerous, foolish path.”
“We can all help Councillor Grimes do spectacular things on his waterfront – but we shouldn’t commit hari-kari on the waterfront to do it,” he said.
Council supported Del Grande’s motion with a vote of 28-7.