First the owners of Satin Finish proposed building 99 townhomes on their property at 8 Oak Street that runs along Knob Hill Drive. Then they ran into some opposition, had a re-think and came back with plans to build 509 units. An effort was made to save the original brick building that fronts the site on Oak but that has come to nothing. Council recently voted to allow demolition of the non-residential brick building, subject to a ‘beautification agreement’. Nobody yet knows what this means as it is subject to negotiations between the owners and council. It’s part of the Section 37 nonsense Ontario requires the city to use instead of council being able to direct developers in what they can and should do. Contrary to the site’s current industrial use zoning, the owners want the site to become an apartment and townhome development. Across the street is a set of townhomes that went through a similar process back in 2004. The OMB ruled in favour of the developer and the zoning was changed to residential.
John Tory and his council allies have a huge revenue shortfall. Instead of raising the lowest property taxes in all of Ontario, they are hoping to find efficiencies (a.k.a. gravy) elsewhere.
Apparently one tactic is keeping staff low at city hall. If heritage buildings can’t be designated thanks to staff shortages, developers can take advantage of the delay and demolish priceless properties. “We’re understaffed”, is the plea from the Planning Department. Unscrupulous developers don’t like to preserve heritage buildings. Therefore one can only assume that the Planning Department is woefully short of staff by design. Consider this recent Tweet to Councillor Joe Cressy from Chief Planner Jennifer Keesmaat:
As the Toronto Star points out, it’s harder to chop down a tree than demolish a 110 year-old Beaux Arts heritage building.
Maybe this particular building wasn’t worthy of protection but now we’ll never know.
Incidentally, Josh Matlow is a city councillor who proactively seeks out heritage buildings in his corner of Toronto. He has listed and mapped significant properties in Ward 22. Perhaps his example should be emulated by all councillors and maybe the city should make the process less cumbersome if we are to retain any of our rapidly disappearing heritage.