Trial by fire approaching for Queen Street guidelines

As the clock ticks at the Kew Beach fire hall, time is winding down for two developers and a group of Beach residents. They’re gearing up for a hearing that will shape two condos planned for a nearby stretch of Queen Street East, and possibly the future of development in the heart of the Beach.

About 100 people met in the Kew Beach School gym on Wednesday night to hear how the Greater Beach Neighbourhood Association plans to make its case at the first of two Ontario Municipal Board hearings about the separate condos, which starts on Oct. 7.

Supporters also came to write cheques, buy benefit concert tickets and local art to raise the $30,000 the GBNA will need to bring expert witnesses on heritage and urban design to both hearings.

GBNA president Jan Hykamp said the umbrella group of seven residents’ associations has raised $10,000 already. Hykamp noted that the remaining gap is much smaller than it would be without pro-bono representation from Wood Bull LLP, a land development law firm whose founding partners live in the Beach.

“The reason why these two developments are so incredibly important is that they are almost like a test case for the urban design guidelines,” Hykamp told the crowd. “We cannot let this slip us by.”

The guidelines Hykamp referred to were approved by city council last November and created following a $200,000 study that asked Beach residents, developers and city planners to balance Toronto’s need to densify with the historic, “small town” character of Queen Street East.

Championed by Ward 32 councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon, the guide requires wider sidewalks, open views of the historic Kew Beach fire hall and a three- or four-storey look for the street-facing wall of any new buildings from Coxwell Avenue to Nursewood Road.

“Other councillors are jealous of our ‘Beach Bible’,” said McMahon. Just west of the Beach, she added, Ward 31 councillor Paula Fletcher has commissioned a similar study she is calling “the New Testament.”

Besides the GBNA, lawyers for the City of Toronto will defend the application of those guidelines to the two condo proposals for Queen and Woodbine at the OMB hearings.

But not everyone is a believer.

At the northeast corner of Queen and Woodbine, Queen EMPC Six Limited proposes to build a six-storey, 70-unit building with ground floor retail on what was once the site of a Shell gas station.

The developer appealed to the OMB in February because the city had missed a deadline to approve that plan. At the same time, Queen EMPC asked city planners to scale back the directive to keep the clock tower of the Kew Beach fire hall visible from all four corners of Queen and Woodbine.

No empirical study of that view was done, said lawyers for the company, and the view would be partly blocked by the street trees and hanging baskets called for in the guidelines. Requiring such a wide-open view of the Kew Beach fire hall also put it on equal footing with bigger Toronto landmarks, they said, such as City Hall and St. James Cathedral.

On Wednesday, Neil Sinclair, a lawyer and GBNA member, said that along with such heritage issues, both OMB hearings will examine whether Queen Street’s new urban design guidelines can apply at all to the two condo projects because they were drafted at the same time the developers made their proposals.

For Jason Self, another GBNA member, if the guidelines are not upheld during the first OMB hearing in October, the next hearing, set for February, may not matter.

“In my view, and some folks might disagree, if the first one is lost, the second one is lost.”

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I love how the GBNA is adamant that the “Beach Bible” must be adhered to, regardless of its flaws, but they are advocating the breach of the City’s sign by-laws by encouraging folks to put temporary plastic signs on their lawns with their moronic message pf “Stop Big Box” condos. I object strenuously to this group apointing themselves the sole arbiters of what is or is not out of character on Queen Street. I take comfort in the fact that the OMB will save us from this nonsense.

Mr. McNulty,

why the continual venomous attitude towards your fellow Beachers ? Remember the city planning dept and our councillor are the ones leading the OMB opposition on both these condominiums, not the GBNA who are simply supporting the fight.

You always seem to be so quick to mix the facts rather than site down with the vast majority of Beachers and discuss this issue. Certainly we aren’t the only voice, but continually we hear residents agree with our cause. What is stopping you from starting your own group ?

That said, rather than find what both sides can’t agree on, I challenge you to sit down with us and instead first find what we can agree on and then have a mature discussion on how to find a common solution on what we currently don’t agree.

As for the signs, I will assume you won’t be putting up a sign during the next mayoral election ?

As I’ve stated before in response to your comments, let’s have a coffee and discuss.


Jason Self

Jason, no venom here at all, unlike with the myopic approach of the GBNA.

The only reason that the local councillor and the planning department are taking this to the OMB is that they are bending to the will of vocal special interest groups, in this case, the NIMBY anti-condo crowd in the Beach. That is precisely why the OMB is there – to ensure that our planning decisions aren’t driven by politicians concerned solely about the next election.

And if it’s the City taking the lead at the OMB, what are the funds being raised by the GBNA going to be used for? Why does the GBNA need counsel?

As for the signs, you really should read the by-law – there is a specific exemption for election signs. I have never had an election sign on my lawn though, and that isn’t likely to change any time soon.

Mr McNulty,

If you took the time to read the views of all the residents groups involved in this case you’d see that no one is anti-development, infact we welcome it provided it enhances the quality of life in the Beach. We’re concerned about parking, transit and traffic as a start. Do you know the Woodbine/Queen intersection is 100% beyond capacity as of 2009 ( according to the Kippendavie traffice report ), parking is 50 to 100% oversubscribed from Woodbine to Lee and Queen to Kingston and the TTC is on record stating they want to remove parking on Queen until ideally 8pm to improve transit. Until all those issues are resolved all we’ve ever asked for is a complete plan to address them. The Urban Design Guidelines address some indirectly in terms of height and thus density, but they also address what the vast majority of residents are concerned about in terms of built form and heritage. Finally as for lawn signs, yes I am aware of the polical exemption, however we are a country of free-speach and speaking with those who have the signs, they’re happy to pay the $50 penalty to exercise the right – along the same lines of you voicing your comments on this forum.

Jason, the rhetoric of the GBNA and its supporters (“big box”, “un-Beach like”, “cold”, “glass condos” belie the position you are asserting here.

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