The October City Council meeting featured a lengthy agenda covering various issues across the city. I've included a few highlights below that I thought may be of interest to you. For the full agenda, please visit the link here.
Area-Specific Amendments to the City's Sign By-law - 2 Strachan Avenue
Cieslok Media submitted an application to install a new third-party electronic sign near Exhibition Place and Fort York, only 14 meters away from the Gardiner Expressway. The new sign would have featured two electronic sign faces, at triple the size and double the illumination of the existing sign, in an area where third-party signs are not permitted. It would have impacted nearby residents with its brightness during nighttime, been against the overall goal and principles of the City's sign bylaw, and set a precedent for digital signs outside of permitted sign districts. I spoke against this proposal at both Planning and Growth Management Committee and City Council, and the application was rejected by Council.
Affordable Housing Contributions for Build Toronto's 5131 Sheppard Avenue East
In my roles as Chair of Build Toronto (the City's land development corporation) and Chair of the Planning and Growth Management Committee, I have strongly advocated for more affordable housing across the city. By combining funds from the City's Home Ownership Assistance Program, Build Toronto and Federal/Provincial Social Infrastructure Fund, 102 homes at the 5131 Sheppard Avenue East development will be eligible for down payment assistance loans to help lower-income purchasers to own a home. Under the terms of the funding, loans will be repaid to the City with a share of the home's appreciated value should the original purchaser sell or refinance the home.
Rail Deck Park - Work Plan for Official Plan Amendments and an Implementation Strategy
Much has been reported about the Mayor's vision for a Rail Deck Park in the downtown area bordered by Front Street, Blue Jays Way, Fort York and Bathurst Street. Iterations for a large downtown park covering the rail lands have been discussed in the past, but never with this much attention. With new condos constantly springing up around the core and little new space for parkland, this bold initiative may be the only option to bring significant green space to a park-deficient area. Council voted to move forward with preliminary design and consultation for a Rail Deck Park.
Councillor Conduct in Relation to the Toronto Local Appeal Body
At its March 31, 2016 meeting, City Council authorized a number of steps required to establish a Toronto Local Appeal Body (TLAB). This new municipal tribunal would take over certain responsibilities from the provincially-appointed Ontario Municipal Board (OMB), including hearing appeals of Committee of Adjustment decisions. Council also requested the City's Integrity Commissioner to report on how members of Council should conduct themselves in relation to a TLAB. This includes interaction, or lack thereof, with the appointed TLAB members, and what is appropriate behaviour for Councillors representing constituent and community interests.
After some debate, the decision on this item was ultimately deferred to the November 8, 2016 meeting. In light of the ongoing provincial review of the OMB, including consideration of changes requested by the City, it may make sense to take a 'wait and see' approach. We don't know yet what the reformed OMB might look like, and having this information will allow for a more reasoned decision. The City does not want to be bound to the TLAB in the event that the changes make keeping the appeals process with the OMB more favourable.