Toronto’s planning committee seeks to clarify heritage rules for building applications

The Planning and Housing Committee adopted a motion to add a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report (CHER) requirement to Schedule 3 of Toronto's Official Plan at its meeting this week.

By AMARACHI AMADIKE, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Toronto’s Planning and Housing Committee adopted a motion that aims to add a Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report (CHER) requirement to Schedule 3 of the City’s Official Plan at its meeting on Thursday, May 9.

Discussions surrounding the Cultural Heritage Evaluation Report were part of the recommended Official Plan Amendment (OPA 720) which “clarifies and streamlines complete application requirements” in order to ensure a timely application review and approval process for building proposals.

“The Heritage Impact Assessment as it currently stands is required for properties that are on the Heritage Register,” said City of Toronto project manager Gary Miedema. “However, the CHER requirements, as it is proposed, is for properties that are not on the register.”

These properties have been identified as ones of cultural heritage through a planning study, or have been adopted by Toronto Council as having cultural heritage value.

“It’s a very discreet, very specific list of properties that the CHER will be required for,” said Miedema.

With the Province of Ontario putting a “heavy emphasis” on quickly identifying possible issues relating to planning applications in order to meet housing targets – a provincial target that has put Toronto’s heritage buildings under scrutiny – Miedema said that this is the city’s attempt to be “as proactive and early as possible in the identification of heritage resources.”

Although the CHER will be added to the checklist of possible requirements for an application, officials say it will not necessarily be demanded from every applicant considering some properties have no relation to conversations of heritage status.

“Effectively a report needs to be checked off in (the Planning and Housing Committee) if the city ever wants to ask for it on any application,” said Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford. “But that doesn’t mean it would be required on every application.”

During the discussions at the committee meeting, Bradford suggested that the city sets “clear criteria” that indicates exactly what could trigger certain requirements as he hopes to shrink the number of mandated reports for development applications.

City staff confirmed for Bradford that the criteria are already in place in the City’s Terms of Reference for development applications.

“Those are documents that are provided to the city’s website that provide detailed guidelines on how applicants can meet our application requirements,” said City Planning Project Director Michelle Drylie.

Drylie said, however, that the requirements stated in the Terms of Reference are sometimes in need of updates.

“Right now we are undertaking, as part of this work, a broad update on all of those terms of reference that we post on our website,” said Dyrlie.

Bradford moved a motion that aimed to ensure these applications and related Terms of Reference are updated “on a regular basis to ensure requirements are clearly defined and applied to each application type”.

The motion also directed the Chief Planner and Executive Director of City Planning to develop and post to the City’s Development Guide Standard Planning Application checklist for each application type.

“Just having crystal clarity on when these new studies and requirements are applicable I think is good sense for everybody,” said Bradford.

With his motion garnering the committee’s support, City Planning will now report back with a status update by the fourth quarter of 2024.

— Amarachi Amadike is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter for Beach Metro Community News. His reporting is funded by the Government of Canada through its Local Journalism Initiative.

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