After a lot of hard work, we are close to having stronger planning rules in the Beach! It has been an exciting journey for the past five months, hearing local residents’ hopes and visions for our main street. This spring I asked the city’s planning department to conduct a Visioning Study so that you, the residents of Ward 32, could help create guidelines to protect Queen Street from overdevelopment. We know that large buildings towering over the street aren’t appropriate here, and that we can’t stop all development forever. This Visioning Study has allowed us to find a place of compromise.
And as a result, we now have the Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines which will control the height and size of new buildings in our community. Many other councillors would love to have similar rules in place for their Wards, but I fought hard to ensure that the Beach came first!
Supportive City Staff
The hard work of dozens of City of Toronto staff who came out to our neighbourhood to listen to your views was tremendous. I want to thank managers and staff from Toronto Water, Technical Services, Urban Design, TTC, Transportation Services, Heritage Toronto and Parking, just to name a few! They have invested much time, energy, and passion into a future plan for Queen Street.
You created new rules to protect the Beach!
I insisted that the Visioning Study be incredibly transparent and inclusive. Stories about the study appeared in Beach Metro News, as well as other local and Toronto-wide papers. And we spread the word through our community centres and service groups’ list-serves.
And it worked! We had great turnout at the six meetings which were held. In total, more than 250 people came in person and there were hundreds of emails, phone messages and written submissions. Your comments became the basis for new Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines, an updated set of rules reflecting your vision of what the neighbourhood is, and could be.
It was because of your input that the Beach will be protected from the types of construction that would endanger it.
What do the Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines Do?
The new guidelines will help control development so that buildings don’t loom over the street. One of the key items is mandatory step-backs for new buildings, meaning floors above four storeys will be hidden. The guidelines will ensure that we are in a much better position if the community needs to fight against an inappropriately large or ugly development.
Please take a look at the new guidelines, which can be found on my website, councillormcmahon.com.
Support and Next Steps
We have received enormous support for the Visioning Study and the new Queen Street East Urban Design Guidelines. The Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association (an umbrella group for residents’ associations in the Beach), the Beach BIA and community groups, service clubs and many individual residents have expressed their support for this important and exciting step forward.
I have heard from many residents that there are deep concerns about the impacts new buildings may have on our infrastructure, transit system, traffic flow, parking, etc. These are important and pressing issues and so we plan to host a series of community meetings on each one of these topics starting this November.
Beachers want to have more of a say about individual developments that are proposed here, which is why I have committed to hosting meetings with developers and residents. Both the GBNA and Beach BIA have expressed their interest in participating in this type of meeting.
THANKS to everyone who offered their time, energy, and ideas during this exciting process!
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Yes the Guidelines contain many specific recommendations for appropriate development to attempt to maintain the “small-scale character” of Queen Street as James Parakh, Chief City Designer, worded by listening and including ideas from his experience and feeling for the Beach.
Unfortunately, we have been told that OMB judges believe them to be ONLY guidelines for City Planning Staff and do not hold any legislative or legal clout or status as an Official Plan Amendment does as a Secondary Plan – which an ICBL instituted to study an important infrastructure issue like: Stormwater and Sewage Flooding; Parking; Transportation to name three. An ICBL would freeze development until the City Study is completed. OMB Appeal decisions would be deferred until the ICBL is rescinded; at which time, the legally-binding Secondary Plan governs Planning decisions as a firm and binding directive (as created between 1988 and 2000 when the Secondary Plan was removed during Councillor Bussin’s tenure).
Now is the time to institue a Secondary Plan of these new Design Guidelines so it acquires much-needed legal enforceability.
Unfortunately, buildings of 15.5m and 18.5m are doable on 35m and 45m lots; whereas, a 12.5m “Queen Street limit” was impossible anywhere in Toronto, said Councillor Perks, Chair of TEYCC, so accept what’s been developed by the Visioning Study was his advice.
I assume that ignoring a public presentation of these Guidelines was an unfortunate mistake that Councillor McMahon and her Staff regret.
I guess Ashton Kushner, writer of new film Lincoln, is right when he commented on the art of political compromise in America: “Exercising power in a democracy is a series of bone-bending, soul-tormenting compromises of the most horrendous kind. And swallowing stuff that nobody would ever really want to swallow. There is nothing pure about it.”
Well, maybe again, we, the public must swallow a result that represents the power of the bureaucracy over the difficulty of obtaining authentic consensus of our representatives. Maybe City Managers are more powerful than City Councillors.