The city is tightening regulations on abandoned developments after one site left abandoned for more than a year turned into a lake.
Toronto city councillor Jaye Robinson put forward the motion and said it was inspired by the site that was dubbed “Lake Leaside.” The site, near the corner of Laird and Eglinton, was to be home to a new shopping centre. The shopping centre still hasn’t come, and instead, the massive hole filled with rainwater.
“There is so much development happening in the city,” she said. “When you have a developer that abandons their site and doesn’t do any restoration work following the excavation, that’s a problem. I’m looking for mechanisms to proactively monitor and investigate sites.”
Robinson said Lake Leaside presented a safety hazard to the Leaside community. It has since been drained into the city’s sewer system. But she wants to prevent similar situations from arising by changing regulations. She has proposed requirements for sites that are not being worked on: timelines for completion, regulations for safety and security, and penalties for non-compliance.
“These dormant sites are not safe, they attract rodents, and if there’s water involved they become a safety issue for young children,” she said. “It has gone on too long, it is unacceptable, it is irresponsible, not safe, residents are fed up.”
She said that the city could give fines as a consequence for leaving sites for too long, or the city could take the developer to court.
The motion was adopted by city council and a comprehensive report on how to proceed will be made by staff by early next year.
Robinson explained that the change will be part of a review of bylaws related to property standards and building maintenance.
Robinson said that developers are abandoning sites across the city, specifically for single-family home construction, and over time they become infested with raccoons, rats, mice.
Leaside resident Robyn Hochglaube said that she agrees that the city should take action to tackle abandoned sites. But she said “Lake Leaside” posed no more danger than Lake Ontario or the Don River after heavy rains.
Instead, she pointed to a site on Laird that is a huge building waiting for development for a “significant amount of time” that is of more concern if it catches fire or if someone “chooses to do something stupid.”
“Some [sites] I believe pose more danger than others,” she said.