30 Storey tower concerns residents

There’s some good news and bad in the latest development proposal unveiled in last week’s information meeting hosted by Councillor Frances Nunziata. Well over 100 people packed the York West Active Living Centre where terms such as podium as it refers to the base of a tall tower and Woonerf were tossed around.

Since the move of Weston GO Station south of Lawrence, the parking lot has remained the home of Weston Farmers Market but is a bit of an eyesore and has lost its primary function. Over the last few years, residents have been involved in brainstorming the future of Weston and responding to subsequent ideas brought forward by developers and the city.

The Good

People power in Weston pushed the addition of a stop along the UP Express line. From that one act has come political respect for Weston residents, a commitment from politicians to spend money, quality planning for the future that involves residents and the unavoidable attention of developers who want a piece of the action. A business plan has been approved by the city for the development of land in the centre of Weston.

Lands to be developed not only include the old GO Station parking lot but the recently expropriated adjacent vacant land. Tied in with this will be an agreement with the owners of 35 King Street (late lamented home of Andrew McLean), Artscape and the City. The betting is that 26 subsidized living / work spaces plus creative programming and outdoor public space will encourage businesses and institutions to invest in Weston. Artscape will be given a lease to run the spaces for 50 years.

There will still be outdoor space for the Farmers Market which has been a diminished attraction in recent years, losing both customers and vendors. Hopefully the new digs will boost attendance.

A lot of ideas from the charette are still alive and the city feels that creating high quality public spaces is important as people walk through Weston to the UP Express. This pleasant environment will encourage them to linger and support local businesses.

place

The layout of the proposal – the footbridge and rail tracks are at the top right. Artists’ accommodations (brown) are along two sides of the existing building to the left. The original tower footprint is the dotted line.

 

place

The new tower footprint is the small blue square. The Farmers Market will be located near the footbridge ramp (stalls are dark red). Parking spaces for the Farmers Market will ease the parking on Weston Road at other times.

The Bad

Crowning the whole development like a single birthday candle will be a 30-storey residential rental tower. Apparently this kind of height is needed to make enough money for the developer the project worth while. Responding to a resident’s question, Rockport Group C.E.O. Jack Winberg, stated that a condominium development instead of a rental building would not sell in the current market. When asked if there is another tower of similar height in the locality, he mentioned the co-op building at 2100 Weston Road (it’s closer to 20 storeys).

The tower.

The tower.

As a sidenote, Mr Winberg’s company built Scarlett Heights retirement home along Lawrence and handily smacked down residents’ objections when the development was inevitably taken to the OMB.

The not so bad.

Chief City Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat mentioned that the original tower proposal was wider and had no podium. The latest version will have less of a shadow and a podium cuts down on the wind that tall buildings generate.

What Now?

There will be further opportunities to have input on this project and others but it is up to every Weston resident to get involved, attend consultation meetings and ask questions. Community input and the hard work of people and groups such as the Weston Village Residents’ Association have resulted in good things happening but vigilance will be needed to make sure that developers don’t cut corners or maximize their profits at the cost of a liveable community that we can all be proud of.

Sullivan’s Bill

mikesullivan

Politics is a bit of a balancing act between public service and loyalty to your party. The taxpayer subsidizes the public service part and the party is supposed to take care of things like canvassing, advertising and fundraising. On the one hand, MPs receive government money in order to hire assistants and run their offices. This money also includes provisions for communicating with constituents on the work that they are doing. On the other, MPs are supposed to draw a firm line between partisan spending on things like canvassing and advertising (which should be paid for by the party) and helping constituents who come to them with a problem.

Some aspects of political spending are easy to categorize. For example, election signage and campaign leaflets should always be paid for by the party. The line gets thin when a party uses tax money to promote itself. For example, MP’s newsletters not only report to constituents but often paint the member in an unduly flattering light. The recent string of federal government TV commercials seem to be telling Canadians that the Federal Government is working hard for you and, by the way, it’s led by a wonderful, God fearing, military-worshipping Prime Minister and his talented Cabinet. In fine Canadian tradition, the Liberals did exactly the same when they were in office – not to mention AdScam.

In this grey and murky world, the NDP has been found guilty of spending tax money on partisan activities by the seven-member Board of Internal Economy, a parliamentary committee (controlled by the Conservatives) that has deemed the pooling of MPs money allocations (sent to create satellite offices in Quebec City and Montreal) to be partisan spending. The committee has presented the NDP with a $2.7 million bill that needs to be paid. While the Party is appealing the order to the courts, the NDP Caucus must cough up the money a.s.a.p. Naturally, Quebec MPs will be paying the lion’s share while most outside Quebec, like our own Mike Sullivan are being billed $1288.

Sullivan claimed to WestonWeb that the BOIE is an, ‘Ever-secret kangaroo court’ and that the truth, ‘Will be brought out into the open when we are in government. We followed all the rules. No partisan work was done.’ Whether or not the NDP is guilty, it is a moral and financial blow in an election year, and an expensive one for some Quebec MPs

In the meantime, those thinly disguised Government of Canada / Conservative Party commercials continue to help us understand what the government is doing for us annoy – and all paid for by the taxpayer. But that’s ok because the government is in charge and they would never lie to us would they?

Support Natalie, support great writing

Have I got a deal for you. You can

  • support great writing (i.e. not mine) and
  • feel great about yourself and
  • advertise on the only best blog about Weston

And you can do it for $30. What a steal, right?

You’ve met Natalie. She’s fantastic. She has been pouring hours and hours of writing into WestonWeb. She takes great pictures. She writes great stories. And, most importantly, she brings us a voice we don’t often see around here: young, vibrant, optimistic, smart, and awesome.

And she gets paid. By readers like you.

Natalie has a big heart, but I wouldn’t ask her to write for nothing. (Roy? He works for beer.) And that’s where you come in. Here’s the deal:

You give me $30. I’ll give every cent to Natalie, who will write a post about a topic she chooses. (Sorry–you can’t choose the topic.)

You get a link and a sweet little blurb saying something like this:

P&M’s is the best restaurant in town, and we’re moving to a new location. Eventually.”

 

And you get to feel awesome for giving just about the finest young person in town a good job contributing back to her community.

If you want to give more or less than $30, let me know. We can work something out.

Let’s do this.

I take Paypal, cash, cheques, and beer.

Already decided? Go for it. Click through. Or email, call, or text: adam (at) adamnorman.com, (647) 470-9229.



But wait. There’s more.

For $90, I’ll make you a great deal. I’ll put your ad over there on the left-hand side (rotating with the ads of other contributors so that people will pay attention to it) and you can sponsor three posts. I’ll run your ad for six months. And Natalie will get every cent.

That’s it!

$30—you are awesome. I love you. Your community will love you. You will put your name and/or establishment in front of thousands of monthly viewers.

$90—bulk deal. Three text ads, a graphic ad, and a huge “Thank you” from me and the community.

There’s some fine print.

The fine print.

  • If you decide to advertise, your ad has to be no less classy than the rest of the site (that’s not too classy, in case you haven’t noticed. But, you know, I’m not going to take advertisements from ‘massage’ parlours or whatnot.) I’ll refund your money if we can’t work something out.
  • The text ads can be, say, 40-or-so words long.
  • The graphic ads must be 160 pixels wide and 600 long. You can get them built on Fiverr.com for $5, or we can figure something out.
  • Your money does not buy you any editorial control. This part is important: You can’t choose the topic of your post.
  • This too is important, don’t do this if you’re counting on making a million bucks from new visitors. Only do it if it makes you feel good helping a local young person.

 

 

 

Pan Am Path extension officially opens

Urban Arts entertains the crowd.

Urban Arts entertains the crowd.

Another link officially opened today in a major step towards completion of the much anticipated Pan Am Path. This 84km path is being created by linking existing shorter trails and will eventually allow pedestrians and cyclists to move from Brampton to Pickering without encountering motor vehicles. After the ceremony, a Jane’s Walk took pedestrians along the path and a group of cyclists followed later. Bike Share Toronto (formerly Bixi) had bikes for those wishing to try the new link. Dynamic youth support organization UrbanArts provided music and an art activity for the celebration.

Urban Arts art activity.

Urban Arts art activity.

One of the more distasteful aspects of these events is the unseemly scramble for credit. Political representatives from all three levels of government were jockeying for position. Freshly re-elected MPP Laura Albanese announced a $400,000 grant from the Trillium Foundation to be spent on projects covering the length of the trail (strangely the Trillium Foundation site has no trace of this in their list of grants). Councillor Frances Nunziata announced (again) the $48,000 worth of exercise equipment to be installed in Cruickshank Park (well before the Council election in October no doubt). This money was extracted from several developers in exchange for Council concessions. Another guest speaker, Etobicoke Centre Tory MP Ted Opitz prattled on about his support for the path despite the Federal Government contribution of precisely zero to this project. It takes some nerve to remove protection from the Humber River (as the Tories have done) and then bask in the glory of others’ work. Then again, there will be a federal election by October 2015 at the latest. Right leaning mayoral hopeful Karen Stintz was in attendance but mercifully kept a low profile (until the ribbon cutting). Incredibly, our own MP Mike Sullivan told me he was not invited and therefore didn’t get to speak. Organizers from Friends of the Pan Am Path claimed there had been an oversight.

Brent Chamberlain and Frances Nunziata cut the ribbon.

Brent Chamberlain (Friends of the Pan Am Path) and Frances Nunziata (with scissors) cut the ribbon.

Sullivan: Harper government ignoring Weston flood damage.

York South-Weston MP Mike Sullivan spoke in Parliament today about the flooding in York South-Weston and revealed that despite the damage caused on July 8th, the Federal government has failed to offer any meaningful assistance.

Mr. Speaker, this past summer, the City of Toronto suffered what is described as a once-in-a-hundred-years storm. Thousands of homes were flooded, families lost cherished possessions and spent millions rebuilding. Neighbourhoods in my riding of York South—Weston were among the hardest hit.

I visited the flooded streets to offer comfort and assistance. I saw tremendous resilience from the very young to the very old. I also saw the aftermath of the current Conservative government’s neglect of our city and its critical infrastructure needs, such as improved sewer systems, some of which are over 100 years old.

With climate change, severe storms like the one that hit Toronto on July 8 will become more frequent. The Conservative government needs to get off the sidelines and start investing to prevent widespread flooding from happening with each big storm.

I have written on these matters to the Minister of the Environment and Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs, but the response did not offer any assistance.

This is a prime example of the climate change adaptation the government talks about. The time to help is now. My constituents not only expect it, they demand it.

Sullivan is organizing a petition to the Federal government requesting infrastructure funding for our inadequate and outdated sewer systems. Once printed off and signed, petitions can be folded, stapled closed and mailed for free to:

Mike Sullivan MP
House of Commons
Ottawa
ON
K1A 0A6

The medium is the message.

The flood information meeting held on Wednesday July 31st at Archbishop Romero High School was a follow-up to the one held on July 19th at York Council Chambers. Again, almost 200 residents filled the gym. It was immediately apparent that steps had been taken to control their response. For whatever reason, a uniformed police officer was posted at the back of the room. If Ms. Nunziata felt threatened by this crowd of grandparents, parents, and children, she must lead a very sheltered life.

The meeting format was organized by Ward 11 resident, Sean McConnell. He began the proceedings by restricting questions to ‘only those who live in the area and whose homes have been flooded’.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Organizer Sean McConnell sets the ground rules.

Once the introductions were over, the meeting began with a series of anonymous softball questions allegedly emailed from residents. Whether the authors of these questions were in the audience or not seemed irrelevant. A phalanx of City of Toronto and TRCA officials was on hand to provide responses. After these had been answered, Councillor Nunziata talked about what the city was doing  to address residents’ concerns. Residents were then permitted to come to the microphone to seek answers.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Representatives from the city, TRCA and Granite Claims listen to residents.

Some interesting points were raised during the audience questions.

One resident’s basement flooded on the 7th July, the day before the storm and he was told by a city representative that the sewer was blocked. The resident showed proof that a city employee had reported the matter in spite of statements to the contrary from the official at the meeting.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

A resident shows proof that sewers were blocked the day before the flood.

City Council has passed a motion to ‘look at opportunities to advance’ a ‘sewer overflow control’ public meeting scheduled for the fall of 2013.

Until the assessment is done it will take 3-5 years to get a solution implemented.

Quick fixes such as a berm along Black Creek might provide a temporary solution.

The city has ended its special garbage collection ( information to the contrary was given during the meeting).

Some residents reported that Backflow prevention valves had failed. Apparently they require a homeowner inspection every three months and flushing out twice annually otherwise they are liable to fail.  There is a proposal to increase funding to allow a greater subsidy but the process is complicated, expensive and probably beyond the reach of many. As one resident pointed out, the unpleasant task of inspection and flushing will likely be neglected too.

Another council motion has requested consideration of an increase in backflow valve subsidies.

If your backflow valve failed, the city says your contractor is responsible, not the city.

If residents think that city negligence caused damage to their properties, they should make a claim.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

Backflow valves and a sump pump on display.

The bridge on Humber Boulevard that crosses the Black Creek concrete trench is irreparably damaged and will be replaced.

The City had an opportunity to apply to the province for state of emergency funding but unlike neighbouring Mississauga, failed to do so before the deadline.

Here is a list of basement flooding protection projects taking place in Toronto from 2013-2016. Nothing is planned for Ward 11.

Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

MPP Laura Albanese confirms that unlike Mississauga, Toronto failed to act before the deadline.

Towards the end of the meeting I was challenged by Sean, one of MPP Laura Albanese’s staffers, stating that I would need signed releases for the photographs I was taking. Luckily, not having been born recently (or even yesterday) I was able to help the young man with this particular gap in his education.

Albanese staffer Sean possibly obtaining legal advice on photography.

Laura Albanese staffer Sean possibly listening to legal advice on photography in public meetings.

No doubt Ms. Nunziata considers the meeting a success. Nobody shouted at her and her message was heard clearly. The message was, ‘we’re doing all we can to help’. If only that was true.

The fact is that residents have been let down by a lack of action. The flooding of basements in certain areas of the city has been public knowledge for years – for example this map from 2005 clearly shows chronic flooding areas (Ward 11, areas 6 and 4) in Weston and around Cordella Avenue. If planning had started in 2005, the problem would have been solved by now.

Politicians have focussed on more glamorous projects and on keeping property taxes low. If anyone needs evidence of the neglect of sewers, all they have to do is walk through Lions Park where a large sewer runs alongside the Humber. On most days the park smells like, …well, a flooded basement.

UrbanArts is moving.

Acclaimed young people’s arts provider, UrbanArts, has outgrown its storefront premises at 19 John Street so they are moving in early July to a new location on Bartonville (off Weston, east of Jane). This is a move of more than 2km. Marlene McKintosh told WestonWeb that she has no idea who will move into the space as, “it’s up to the landlord”.

Unfortunately this will add to the ample supply of empty storefronts in Weston.