OMB ruling nixes stacked townhouse proposal in midtown Toronto

Local residents heaved a sigh of relief this week after the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) dismissed a developer’s appeal to build 70 townhouses near Keewatin Avenue and Mount Pleasant Road.

The OMB decision that was released yesterday grants approval for one row of townhouses so long as the developer eliminates the second row on the north side of the site and makes other necessary revisions.

Freed Developments and Trolleybus Urban Development proposed to replace eight detached houses with two four-storey stacked townhouse buildings at 200-214 Keewatin Ave. The initial proposal of 80 units was reduced to 70 to make room for a small parkette on the southwest corner.

Residents rallied in opposition, formed the Density Creep Neighbourhood Alliance (DCNA) and circulated a petition that garnered more than 250 signatures.

Vicki Fecteau, of the DCNA, was one of seven local residents to speak out against the development at the OMB hearing on Oct. 17, 2016.

“It’s a relief that the second building is not going to go up. We realize it’s not a total win, but for the most part, we’re fairly happy with the decision,” said Fecteau.

The project’s developer, Peter Freed, said he will review the OMB’s decision and consider his options.

“We were disappointed, we thought we were putting forward a well-thought-out and planned project, but at the same time we of course respect the decision. Now we’re taking some time to see how to go from here,” said Freed.

The ruling from OMB vice chair Susan de Avellar Schiller said the development was not appropriate for the site and did not confirm to the city’s Official Plan. It also cited the negative impact the development would have on the tree canopy in the area, shallow setbacks and a lack of privacy for neighbours on Sherwood Avenue as prevalent concerns that were taken into consideration.

“Where other lots may have the occasional shed in the rear yard near its rear lot line, such a structure in no way compares to the long, solid row of stacked townhouses,” she wrote.

Fecteau noted privacy was a big issue for residents living on the south side of Sherwood Avenue, especially as many of their backyards abut the site.

“So the north building, because of its height and proximity to the property line, people living in the stacked townhouses could peer right over into their yards,” she said.

According to Freed, purchasers will get their deposits back and their contracts will be over.

“All the agreements of purchase and sale are conditional upon us getting our approvals which we obviously didn’t get,” said Freed. “It’s unfortunate, because Toronto needs more opportunities for home ownership like this.”

“There’s an affordability crisis for home ownership in Toronto and this proposal was providing 80 individuals or families to afford and buy a low-rise home in a neighbourhood that’s very hard to get into if you’re not spending a million and a half or two million dollars,” he added.

The City of Toronto also sent representation to oppose the proposal at the hearing. However, John Andreevski, senior planner with the City of Toronto, said city staff are still digesting the decision and cannot provide a comment at this time.