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House down

There’s a house coming down on Lake Promenade, just west of 27th Street. I wonder what’s going to go up in its place? Will it be a giant monster home – there are some – or perhaps they’ll try to cram a couple tall skinny houses there, dividing the property and squeezing every last greasy buck they can from the land.

Here in Long Branch we’re witnessing a lot of change right now. Lots of homeowners who have been here for 40, 50, 60 years are moving to condos or retirement homes, or for some it is the last stop. Land values have been rising quickly – we couldn’t afford to buy our house if we were looking for a place to live today, that’s for sure.

In quite a few cases, developers are grabbing up the properties, severing the lots, trashing the old and building two houses on a lot that previously held one. Ours is an eclectic neighbourhood with big and small homes. Some are original cottages from the days when Long Branch was cottage country to Torontonians.  There are other homes that are tremendously opulent.

No doubt plenty of older homes around here need to be refreshed somehow or another. No doubt also the neighbourhood is changing. How should it change? How should that be decided. What’s happening in many cases is developers are deciding. I see quite a number of examples now where they have bought the land and applied to the Committee of Adjustment to sever it. If they fail there, they go to the Ontario Municipal Board and try again there. I think our community should have more say in the future of our neighbourhood. The Committee of Adjustment/OMB process is simply no way to plan the future of a community.

I became involved in an argument in front of the OMB last year. We appealed a Committee of Adjustment decision to allow a severance on our street to the Board. I led the charge representing a loosely knit group of folks living in the immediate area. Our argument was that any change should respect the character of the neighbourhood – that’s in the official plan. So what does that mean? Around here it seems there is not one neighbourhood but a dozen or more micro-neighbourhoods. The character changes from street to street and different parts of the streets around here all have their own character. I think if you’re going to measure character, the benchmark should be everything within sight of the property in question. In this case, the developer’s experts argued that South Long Branch is the neighbourhood so all use within that broader definition is OK anywhere in the area. I think that’s just wrong, but the adjudicator with the Board ruled in favour of the developer.

I sought advice and help from my Councillor, who was unresponsive. I even emailed the mayor, expecting he would come down here like the cavalry to assist, but no. His office sent a form response and that was the last I heard. For sure in the upcoming municipal and provincial elections I will be supporting candidates who care about how our community is redeveloped and are willing to do something about it – if I can find some. The OMB liaison officer told me they encouraged lay people to get involved, but it soon became clear that it is the land of lawyers, and I was made to feel foolish and inadequate because I did not know the procedural ins and outs. I left feeling like I would never participate in that process again.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what is going to replace the house that just got ripped down. Time will tell.

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