OMB revamp will affect Weston and Mount Dennis

The remaking of the Ontario Municipal Board may have profound effects in Weston and Mount Dennis. Under proposed rules, community members will be unable to challenge high-density buildings built within 500 meters of a transit station—such as the Eglinton Crosstown stop in Mount Dennis and the GO Transit stop in Weston.

The 500 meter radius would encompass much of the village of Weston and some of the developed parts of Mount Dennis.

The CEO of the Ontario Homebuilders’ Association told the Globe and Mail,

“I would imagine that ratepayer groups would be up in arms,” Mr. Vaccaro said. “It is almost like trying to find a way to shield the municipalities … by saying to them: ‘If you make that tough decision, you don’t have to worry about the OMB appeal. We’re going to shield you from your angry residents.’”

Map of Weston
500 meter radius in Weston–see update below
Map of transit 500m radius
500 meter radius in Mount Dennis

Weston had the controversial Weston Common project approved despite considerable community opposition, including by us at WestonWeb. The 30-storey building was mandated by Toronto planners adhering to tall building guidelines meant for downtown.

Under the new guidelines, similar buildings could be put up without appeal to the OMB  if they are first approved by City Council.

Update: Chris sent in a much better map based on the fact that the station is linear. 500m covers much more of Weston.

UP Express nearing completion.

The UP Express is close to becoming a reality. Beginning today, Monday, March 30, Metrolinx will be testing its service at 15 minute intervals between 8:00 pm and 3:00 am, moving to daytime towards the end of April.

In early April, a footbridge across Lawrence just east of Weston Road will be installed to steer passengers safely to the train platform for UP Express and GO Train users. The big lift into place will occur on Saturday, April 11th and should be worth watching.

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.
The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

 

The North ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.
The South ramp of the Lawrence footbridge.

As for the John Street footbridge, this will be installed in the summer.

John Street looking towards Rosemount March 2015
John Street (and its unattractive overhead wiring) looking towards Rosemount. March 2015
The John Street bridge deck - artist's impression.
The John Street bridge deck – artist’s impression – looking towards Weston Road.
The John Street Bridge.
The John Street Bridge – artist’s impression – looking towards Rosemount Avenue.

The UP Express and GO stations are almost complete and are next to each other.

Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.
Note the higher platforms for the UP Express.
The new GO platforms and waiting areas.
The new GO platforms and waiting areas.
Artist's impression of the new Weston GO Station.
Artist’s impression of the new Weston GO Station.

It has been a long haul since the airport link was first proposed. The UP Express is seen by many to be an elitist project for the rich while the transportation needs of the many are unchanged. The trains will be diesel which is a disappointment as it was hoped that the new train would provide an opportunity to electrify the line. Sadly, the much hoped for all-day electrified GO service is still a far off dream.

What’s good about the changes that the UP Express is bringing?

First, the good citizens of Weston showed their political muscle by arguing for and receiving one of only two stations along the route. The fight galvanized the community and has ensured that Weston has a voice and can no longer be relied upon to meekly accept whatever planners and politicians decide is best for us.

Second, although the GO station moved further away from many people in Weston, its replacement is modern, visible (unlike the old station) right on Main Street (Weston Road) and is a visual reminder of access to an incredibly quick ride downtown (and frequent once all day GO service is launched). As has been pointed out before, even on the currently limited GO Train service, Westonians can glide downtown in comfort in 21 or 23 minutes while commuters from the much coveted Royal York subway area have a 34-minute journey and have to change trains, battling the crowds at St George.

Third, the old station was hidden and the new visual reminder and the upgrading of transportation infrastructure has begun to revive interest in Weston as a place to live. Real estate prices, once depressed are starting to recover and businesses are investing in our commercial areas. While the old GO station occupied virtually no real estate, its parking lot that doubles as the home of the Weston Farmers Market (and surrounding property) will be developed to be the focal point of an exciting ‘Community Hub‘.

The lesson we have all learned is that a community has to be vigilant and fight for good infrastructure. It won’t arrive by itself. In addition, developers want to make money regardless of the social cost to the community. We need continued citizen involvement and active and responsive politicians who will represent us regardless of the cost to their career ambitions or political beliefs. We also need to believe in our own community by patronizing local business. Only then will Weston achieve its awesome potential.