Excellent article on, of all things, front-yard parking

Regular readers will know that no news is too small to report for WestonWeb. This humble correspondent will cover leaves falling if it’s a slow day. He does so sure in the belief that small news matters to the people who make it.

However, it’s a little unusual to find a smart, sympathetic treatment of tiny issues in the major media. This week, though, Tim Foran, from InsideToronto, wrote an excellent article on front-yard parking in Weston. Foran takes a tiny topic to drill into the walls around City Hall. With the facade cracked, some of the absurdities poke through.

Front-yard parking can be hard on a neighbourhood, and so it must be approved by the city. City staff survey the neighbours, and if enough of them give their thumbs up, the parking spot can be approved.

But there’s a catch: more than half of the people surveyed need to respond, otherwise the application is rejected. And most of the time, people don’t respond.

City staff refused [a] Weston resident’s application for a front yard parking pad even though her Somerville Avenue property met the city’s restrictive criteria determining eligibility and she agreed to the landscaping requirements for permeable paving material and planting of a tree, said Nunziata.

The hangup preventing city staff from approving Catania’s application is that only 35 of 80 ballots sent by the city to her neighbours were returned, less than the minimum 50 per cent response rate required for a poll to be considered valid, states Nunziata’s letter. Of the 35 residents who voted, 91 per cent approved of Catania’s application. “If the rest of the people don’t care enough or have a vested interest in voting, then why does their voice speak so loudly?” questioned Catania, who intends to make a deputation to the public works committee Wednesday morning in support of Nunziata’s request. The councillor is asking staff for their recommended solution but she suggests the ballots could state clearly a non-vote will be assumed to mean there’s no objection. The required minimum response rate could then be abolished, she states.

We’ve seen this in Weston a number of times before. Speed humps on MacDonald and John were rejected by staff because too few residents responded. Community Council overruled the staff. King St will soon get the same kind of survey.

But residents cannot, as far as I know, make an appeal if council doesn’t want speed humps. In a wonderful twist, it turns out that $750 will buy you a front-yard parking spot if your neighbours couldn’t be bothered to say no:

Residents [can] pay a non-refundable fee of $748.03 to make these appeals.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” said Nunziata.

Catania isn’t too thrilled about that idea either.

“Basically we could pay for a yes,” she acknowledged. “That sort of irks me, the whole concept. It just doesn’t sound like the process is right when the people can pay another $750 and then it will go through.

 

Weston Treasures: Weston GO Station

Weston is lucky to have access to downtown in 17 minutes via the GO train. Just to put that in perspective, TTC subway from Royal York to Union involves a line change and takes 33 minutes on a good day. Property values around Royal York Station are astronomical in no small part because of the subway. Here in Weston, we can get downtown in half the time and don’t have to change trains. The only thing faster to downtown than the GO from Weston is a helicopter. Unfortunately GO’s service is a commuter run only with 7 Union Station bound trains in the morning and 6 Weston bound trains in the evening (go figure).

According to InsideToronto.com about 450 people get on or off at Weston each day. Assuming that most are on a return trip, that’s fewer than 250 actual people. The lack of parking at the station has long been cited as a problem. Weston’s GO station’s new location just south of Lawrence Avenue later this year may help. The relocation will almost double the number of parking spots to 200 and access will be from Weston Road. A temporary platform will be in place by November and a fully functioning station, platforms and even more parking will be ready for the opening of the Airport Rail Link in 2015. GO transit is anticipating an increase in ridership from Weston with the additional parking spots and a doubling of service levels in 2015 by which time the Airport Rail Link will be making stops here too. With electrification of the line, the service will be quieter and even faster.

The new Weston GO station should help revitalize the Village of Weston as 2015 approaches, if it’s constructed to reflect the wishes of the community. Congratulations and thanks should be extended to those fighting for a better implementation of the Airport Link stop as well as to those fighting for electrification.

Denison Rd houses demolished

The Georgetown GO line and the Air Rail Link have taken their first casualties. Nine houses along Denison Rd were demolished over the past two weeks to make way for the expanded train service.

Denison is being rerouted and lowered into an underpass; right now, the tracks are at a level crossing. Denison will be soon be closed and will remain so for about a year.

Sam Frustaglio Avenue, just east of the tracks, will be made into a cul-de-sac, and according to InsideToronto, other buildings will be demolished, including the newly-renovated offices of GO itself.

GO plans to demolish a few more buildings to accommodate the underpass. It expects to tear down its own community office and an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location, both on the east side of Weston Rd. and Dennison [sic], but not before next March. More immediately, it estimates it will acquire the Ebenezer Gospel Tabernacle this April. The church has identified a property for relocation, said GO.

UrbanArts moving out, up

UrbanArts, the youth arts organization that has helped kids in Weston for years, is moving to a bigger, better place in Mount Dennis.

The new location is at 5 Bartonville Ave E, in the old City of Toronto sign building. It will be north of Eglinton on Weston Rd, but south of the intersection of Jane and Weston. 

Marlene McKintosh, Executive Director said, “we’ve outgrown the space in terms of the staff and the young people we serve. We’re lacking in a lot of things, and more importantly, it’s what young people said they needed.”

The new facility will have a ProTech media centre—computer facilities to get youth involved in media production, graphic design, website design, film and video. “It’s one of four media centres that Microsoft, the city, Humber College, and Renewed Computer Technology are partnering in to support people in priority neighbourhoods,”  said McKintosh.

McKintosh says that UrbanArts will still be there for Weston kids: “We may not physically be in this area, but we’ll be maintaining a presence. The need is still there. We’re not in any way leaving the community.” All the current programs will also continue in the new space. UrbanArts hoping to move into their new space by the end of the year.

More models in Weston

Yes, Weston could use a decent coffee shop. And yes, Weston could use a few more good jobs.

But you simply can’t say that Weston doesn’t have enough supermodels. We have plenty of supermodels. We have more supermodels per coffee shop than just about anywhere else in the world. Our supermodel-to-good-job ratio is just nuts. Through the roof.

This week, actress and former model Amy Smart is shooting a movie in Weston, on Church St. Last week, actress and former model Maggie Q kicked butt on William.

Smart is shooting a ‘telefilm’ (I believe we once called these made-for-TV movies) called “The 12 Dates of Christmas”. It is, if I understand the nuances of the plot correctly, Groundhog Day meets Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Amy Smart

The Rich Get Richer…

Have you ever wondered how Canada has managed to lose most of its manufacturing jobs that paid a good wage? Weston could well be the poster child for this scenario. A feature documentary, ‘Poor No More‘ hosted by Mary Walsh, attempts to answer that question. It explores the reasons why there is such a huge disparity between rich and poor in Canada and why the disparity is growing.

Following the movie, attendees are invited to participate in a discussion of the issues with the executive producer, producer and director as well as Paul Ferreira and Mike Sullivan, respective York South Weston provincial and federal NDP candidates in the upcoming elections.

Place: York Civic Centre, 2700 Eglinton Avenue W.

Time: Saturday March 19, 2:00 – 4:00pm

Cost: Free.

Nunziata proposes zero charges on developments in Weston

Frances Nunziata, with her colleague Michael Thompson, is asking the city to waive development charges in Weston and the other 12 priority neighbourhoods.

Development charges are fees charged on new residential and commercial spaces. The charge is $5–$15,000 for a residence, and about $35,000 for a 2000 square-foot commercial space. (Industrial spaces are exempt). Nunziata’s proposal to council says,

With many of these neighborhoods having their main streets lined with vacant storefronts, empty apartments and/or dilapidated buildings, there is little appeal for people to shop at the few stores on th e commercial strips and even less appeal for new businesses to locate there.  Less business in the community results in fewer jobs in the community, reinforcing the disparity that already exists in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods between population and the availability of local employment….

By waiving development charges in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods for a fixed period of time, the City would aid in the revitalization of the Priority Neighborhoods, with the anticipated result of increased interest in development opportunities in those neighborhoods.

The Globe and Mail has a nice article discussing this. Not everyone agrees with Nunziata;

“It’s not going to work instantly,” predicts Stephen Dupuis, who heads the Building Industry and Land Development Association. “I doubt there’s a whole lot of land holdings sitting [in those areas] waiting for an incentive.”

“The problem in those neighbourhoods is lack of demand, not lack of supply,” adds planner Joe Berridge, noting that development-charge holidays or other measures, such as tax increment financing, won’t create local economic activity.

Your humble correspondent also wonders whether Westonians would even want this plan to succeed. It seems to him that Weston has plenty of high-rise housing and likely already has low retail rents.

Even Nunziata agrees in part; in what is surely an off-the-cuff comment in the Globe, she says, “Ninety per cent of the stores on Weston Road are vacant”.