Recently there has been a lot of noise about the proposed development by Smart!Centres on Eastern Avenue – a development suspected to be a Big Box store, possibly a Wal Mart. The City has stated the development does not belong there – as have former mayor David Crombie and ROM architect Daniel Libeskind, among other high-profilers – but currently the Ontario Municipal Board has the final say. While debate rages on about whether this kind of Big Box development is good for the city or not (see blogTO for a spirited discussion), it has called into question the degree to which the City and the public are involved in developing their own communities.
To that end, the East Toronto Community Coalition has mobilized to bring the matter to wider public attention by asking citizens to sign a letter to Jim Watson, Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, asking him to declare Provincial Interest. Such a declaration would stop the matter from going before the OMB, which is understandable given the quasi-judicial body’s spotty record in supporting the City’s planning department. Here is an excerpt from the pre-written letter:
Your government’s policies have correctly identified the necessity of having sound planning which balances the need for strong communities, good jobs and environmental responsibility. The Places to Grow Plan gives municipalities greater control over the destiny of their employment lands. Policy 2.2.6 of the Places to Grow Plan specifically states that major retail uses are considered non-employment uses. It is in the best interest for the community and city that the employment be varied and not limited to essentially one skill set level, as the current appeal before the OMB dictates.
The proposed application seeks to rezone the last piece of employment district in the old City of Toronto. The City of Toronto has followed your policies and has listened to the community, refusing the application to rezone.
The decision on the future of this vital piece of property is now before the Ontario Municipal Board, a matter which concerns the community deeply. Due to legal reasons which we quite frankly do not understand, the applicant does not have to be consistent with neither the Provincial Policy Statement 2005, nor the Provincial Places to Grow Plan, nor Bill 51. If this application was made today, Smart Centres would have to comply with all of these Provincial policies.
The OMB hearing is scheduled to begin May 20. To read the full letter and / or to sign it, head over the the East Toronto Community Coalition’s website.
On a related topic, I ran across an interesting video detailing Wal Mart’s spread throughout the United States since 1962. It’s pretty impressive watching just how quickly and far its development has reached.
Image from the No Big Box in Leslieville website.