Despite months of growing opposition to the six storey condo proposal for 1960-1962 Queen St. E. – currently the home of a Lick’s restaurant – Toronto and East York Community Council voted unanimously on May 15 to allow the project to go ahead. Dozens of Beach residents attended the Community Council meeting to voice their concerns about the project and the planning process itself (along with a small handful of supporters of the condo development), but at the end of a long day of presentations, the project was approved and sent to full city council for a final vote in early June.
Jason Self, a member of the Friends of Queen Street residents’ organization and one of the 30-plus deputants at the Community Council hearing, said many Beach residents are feeling ignored by council, and frustrated with inconsistencies in the whole planning process.
“We feel that we’ve been shut out of this process from the very beginning. This was pre-determined,” he said. “So many of the issues that we’ve raised still haven’t been addressed, and yet this has been rubber-stamped.”
Self and many other residents have been concerned about the precedent the new building will set, at four or more metres taller than the current tallest residential building along Queen Street. There were concerns raised in deputations about density; about traffic issues and resultant TTC problems; about the modern ‘downtown’ design of the building; about the lack of community consultation throughout the process; and about inconsistency in applying various zoning by-laws and planning tools.
Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said there’s no point to fighting the building that has been approved; to do so at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) could result in an even taller building being approved. She said Beach residents are understandably upset, and are passionate about retaining the small-town feel of the neighbourhood in a city seemingly overrun by condo development.
“We’re basically one of the only wards that’s been left untouched,” she said.
McMahon said she’s focusing her energy towards a ‘visioning’ study that will take place over the summer and early fall, with a goal of solidifying planning rules for Queen Street East.
“I think we all want to work together to create the best plan for Queen Street,” she said.
Self said the Friends of Queen Street, the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association and other local groups all plan to be heavily involved in the visioning study.
“All the residents groups that we work with are in agreement that we want to make damn sure that this isn’t just a lip-service process,” he said. “We definitely plan to hold the planning and city staff accountable to make sure that residents’ concerns are addressed.”
And although McMahon is ready to move on with plans for the future, Self said the story of 1960-1962 Queen St. E. is not over yet.
“Whether it’s Friends of Queen or one of the other organizations, we’re still deciding, but it’s probably inevitable that someone’s going to go to the OMB,” he said.