Judicial review to go ahead.

A piece of good news has emerged from the life that was going on before COVID 19 hit.

As a reminder, in 2018, St Helen’s Meat Packers somehow managed to buy an 8-acre parcel of contaminated flood-plain land from the city after the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, normally fiercely protective of flood plain land, gave permission for its sale and use as a meat packing plant.

TRCA says that the land doesn’t help protect adjacent locations from flooding. Community consultation meetings became raucous affairs with St Helen’s employees ‘packing’ the meeting in matching t-shirts.

The cost for 8 acres of land in our fair city? $3.19 million.

Incidentally, Robert Bielak, president of St Helens is a Ford family friend and his wife donated (legally) to Ward 5 Councillor Frances Nunziata’s 2018 election campaign.

The site borders Rockcliffe Boulevard, a street where homes are flooded in severe rain events. The last hope for residents to stop the plant’s construction is a judicial review in which a judge will check to see if all protocols have been followed. Reviews are expensive but the $25,000 cost has been raised through a combination of public fundraising and private donors. Landscape architect Devin Tepleski organized the successful fundraiser. Incidentally, and in keeping with the councillor’s style of appearing to support both sides; one of  the donors to the fundraiser was none other than Frances Nunziata.

Frances Nunziata protesting in an Acorn march in October 2018. From CTV.

Read more here, here and here.

Floodplain fundraiser almost there

Thanks to a private donor, the gofundme fundraiser to launch a judicial review of the floodplain lands purchased by St Helen’s Meatpackers and approved by the TRCA has received a boost thanks to a donation of legal services. St Helens intends to build on the land in the face of common sense and community opposition.

The floodplain land opposite Rockcliffe Court. File.

According to team fundraiser, Devin Tepleski, the fundraising target is less than $2500 and the deadline is March 23.

From the fundraiser webpage:

“Since the TRCA decision, two men nearly drowned footsteps away from the creek, and homes in the area  flooded twice in one year.  How can the TRCA  claim to have a mandate to protect communities from flooding and at the same time allow easement on to city land so it can be sold to a meat packing plant?  This is same land they TRCA recommended be used to mitigate flooding in one of their own Environmental Assessments (2014).”

To donate click here.

Guest editorial: infrastructure meeting was damp

A report from Robin Breon

Over 50 disgruntled Weston residents turned out to a meeting Tuesday, January 28th, held at the Weston Memorial Jr. Public School to voice their concerns regarding construction work being done on several streets to replace aged storm drainage pipes. The construction work currently taking place is part of the city’s Basement Flooding Protection Program.

The local city councillor’s office reported a high volume of complaints coming from residents who were either not informed of the construction project properly or misinformed by city staff or private contractors that the city had hired to do the work.

One resident reported that both his (underground) Bell cable and his Rogers cable had been severed by the all the digging around his driveway and when questioned about who was going to repair it was told by the contractor, “You have to go and ask Bell or Rogers about that.”

Other residents complained that they have yet to be told what the time-frame for completion of the project will be and when they will have access to their driveways and streets on which they live. There was a lot of head bobbing by the four city staff assembled by the councillor’s office to attend the meeting with many “we’ll have to get back to you on that one” kind of answers, but no real strategies put forward to lessen the impact of construction on the Weston streets that are affected. 

One resident asked how much of the drainage infrastructure is being replaced throughout Weston, in that there has been a marked increase in homeowners experiencing basement flooding and clogged drains. City staff indicated that “there just is not enough money in our budget to do all that needs to be done, but we are trying to designate those streets that need it the most.”

One resident suggested that if a community meeting had been called prior to the commencement of construction, people would have had a better understanding of the work that was to be done and the time-frame for completion. In response, our city councillor asked the resident: “Would you have even come to the meeting if I had called one?”

One wonders if a similar meeting in a Rosedale neighbourhood would have received such a high handed response from a city councillor.

 

Humber rises overnight

The Humber river is breaking its banks in several places this morning after a record rainfall for the 11th January. The previous highest rainfall, 22.6 mm fell in 1960. Yesterday’s rainfall for the day was 59.0 mm which for those who still think imperially is 2.3 inches. Unusually for January all the day’s precipitation was rainfall. Because the ground was frozen and unable to absorb the water, it was drained into the Humber, causing the current high levels. Incidentally, the water was still rising at 11:30 this morning. Let’s hope none of our readers were affected negatively by this rain.

Here are a few shots taken along the Humber this morning. I couldn’t venture far into Cruickshank Park as the path was completely flooded. As always, click to enlarge the images.

 

The power of the current is evident from this shot just north of the Lawrence Avenue bridge.

Looking from the Raymore Park footbridge, the old footbridge abutment (centre) is completely covered – a very rare event.
The Humber showing the old bridge abutment in September 2016.
The bike path near the York Weston Tennis Club.

 

The bike path near the York Weston Tennis Club.
Looking downriver from the tennis courts.
Alongside the tennis courts, the water has come quite close.

 

The bike path south of the Lawrence Avenue bridge.

 

North of the Lawrence Avenue Bridge, looking towards Cruickshank Park.

 

No access to Cruickshank Park from the southern end.

 

A closer view of the southern entrance to Cruickshank Park.

Update: Hans Havermann sent a link to his blog showing the high water in Raymore Park.

A failure of politics in Ward 5.

Just 8 days after NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited residents of Rockcliffe-Smythe, another heavy rainfall inundated the area and a nasty sewage mix flooded many homes. It must be the last straw for families who were flooded as recently as last year. Last week, resident Franco Ruffolo despaired that his house is uninsurable and unsellable because of the regular flooding. Franco, and many others in Toronto and particularly in Ward 5, York South-Weston, constantly dread that heavy rain will lead to the inundation of their homes.

The problem stems from  the fact that as more of the city becomes paved over, runoff from roofs, driveways and streets is dumped directly into channels, rivers and storm sewers which in many parts of the city are combined with the sanitary sewers. This means that rainfall overloads the combined sewers leading to raw sewage being dumped into rivers and eventually into homes – City News.

From Bergen Counties Utility Authority.

In the Rockcliffe-Smythe area, the creek that used to flow naturally through the area (Black Creek) was channelled into a concrete straight jacket. Thanks to heavier rains and more buildings, the channel overflows occasionally with horrible yet predictable results. In other areas, the extra pressure on a combined sewer forces sewage up into homes through basement drains.

What can be done? We need to plant more trees, put up green roofs, divert downspouts so that runoff from roofs drains onto ground where it will be absorbed rather than piped directly into sewers. We also need to separate storm and sanitary sewers so that raw sewage stays out of people’s homes and our rivers and creeks. A few years ago, Toronto instituted a mandatory program to disconnect downspouts where possible. Most of all, we need politicians and agencies to actually do their job and work for the people.

Councillor Nunziata in the City News clip blames the TRCA for dragging its feet. The horrible flooding of six years ago should have propelled all actors in this tragedy to get their act together and do something. Sadly, the councillor even voted against an innovative hard surface charge that would have made homeowners pay for the hard surfaces covering their property. This revenue would have been directed towards flood relief but Giorgio Mammoliti framed it as a roof tax and Council (including Mayor Tory and Ms Nunziata) voted against it.

Perhaps it’s time for politicians and agencies to stop the blame game and actually do something. We can start by accelerating the separation of storm and sanitary sewers in priority areas. Holding tanks can reduce the flow in the meantime and planting trees would help. We also need Council to take this issue seriously.

That’s without even considering the bizarre and troubling sale of 8 acres of Rockcliffe-Smythe flood plain land to St Helen’s Meat Packers Limited for less than $4 million – with the support of Councillor Nunziata.

Incidentally, St Helen’s President Robert Bielak donated (the maximum allowed) $1200 to Ms Nunziata’s 2018 campaign.

As Brian Mulroney used to say, “You dance with those who brung you”.

Jagmeet Singh promises flood relief

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh visited York South-Weston today and heard from local residents about flooding issues in the riding. Accompanying Mr. Singh were many well known NDP faces in the area including MPP, Faisal Hassan, upcoming federal election candidate Yafet Tewelde and local organizer Chiara Padovani who conducted the tour. Mr Singh, an affable and attentive man spent a couple of hours in the area.

The leader walked from Rockcliffe Court to Hilldale Road to hear some of the issues that have not been dealt with despite years of local flooding. The recent sale of 8 acres of city owned flood plain land at 200 Rockcliffe Court exposed some of the less savoury aspects of decision making in our fair city.

The contentious land at 200 Rockcliffe.

The land was sold off to a meat packing plant in spite of residents’ objections. This is an area that routinely floods after a storm and where nearby, in a recent event, two men almost drowned in an elevator as water flooded the building they were in. Read more in this excellent article here.

Chiara Padovani talks about the controversial city decision to sell flood plain land to a meat packer.
Faisal Hassan, Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde listen to the 200 Rockcliffe story.
Jagmeet Singh and Yafet Tewelde greet Hilldale Road residents.

At Hilldale Road, local resident Franco Ruffolo opened his home to show the extent of flooding he and his neighbours have faced in the past few years. Franco showed some video of the water levels and damage that his property sustained and outlined the inadequate settlements from insurance companies. Residents in the area worry that insurance companies will no longer issue policies on their homes.

Franco Ruffolo shows Jagmeet Singh video of his home flooding.

Jagmeet Sing is proposing that instead of matching funds with the city and province, an NDP government would pay the whole cost of flood remediation work so that homeowners in flood prone areas are better protected and don’t need to wait for all three levels of government to agree. He is promising $2.5 billion to respond to disasters and support communities like York South – Weston to adapt their infrastructure to withstand floods and other extreme weather events.

The tour went off well and made some strong points. Mr. Singh delivered some concluding remarks at the end of his visit and then spoke live to the media.

Local candidate Yafet Tewelde added some remarks.

Flooding an election issue

The recent flooding in Mount Dennis and Weston is becoming an election issue. In  2017, Frances Nunziata voted against a hard-surface charge that would have paid to fix flooding infrastructure; now Chiara Padovani, one of her competitors, is taking the lead, holding a meeting with homeowners and advocating for a bridge on Janerecommended at least as far back as 2014—to mitigate flooding.
From Chiara Padovani
 
Sophie Van Waeyenberghe, via The Star
A maddening article in The Star describes the lost opportunities, and the serious costs to Mount Dennis homeowners:
An earlier study by the Toronto Region and Conservation Authority identified some possible solutions, such as building a Jane St. bridge over the Humber River, but the cost is estimated in the tens of millions of dollars. “We should be the priority when we’re in a high-risk area,” Padovani said. “Make no mistake — other parts of the city are getting funded.” Even though flooding has been a prevalent issue in the area for decades, fixing the problem needs political will, Padovani said. She referred to the sale of the flood plain-adjacent land at 200 Rockcliffe Ct. to a meat packing plant, lands that could have helped mitigate the problem. “We had land that should have been seen as valuable, to protect our homes,” she said. “This is the biggest example of neglect.”
Frances Nunziata, while recently softening, has long been a fiscal conservative (except on the wasteful Scarborough Subway).