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Council to vote on official plan changes

The Planning and Growth Management Committee has adopted policy changes to Toronto’s official five-year plan for City Council vote next month.
The amendments to the Healthy Neighbourhoods, Neighbourhoods and Apartment Neighbourhoods Policies aim to “clarify, strengthen and refine the existing policies as they apply to residential lands,” which came into effect in June 2015. The amendments implement the Tower Renewal Program “by promoting the renewal and retrofitting of older residential apartment buildings,” states the staff backgrounder. “The revised policies encourage small scale retail, institutional uses and community facilities at grade in apartment buildings to better serve area residents, particularly on sites that are not within walking distance of such facilities. Community gardens are also encouraged on apartment sites that are distant from shopping facilities offering fresh produce.”
“When you are looking at pedestrian realm, traffic flow, site lines, skylines, things are very different when you take it from an individual site to a complete neighbourhood,” Sarah Doucette, councillor for Ward 13, told the committee at its meeting this week.
Some of the changes are subtle, like adding the words “promoting walking and cycling by” prior to the words “improving streets” in one non-binding section, or better defining the phrase “geographical area.”
Other proposed amendments will have more tangible effects. Developers in mixed-use areas adjacent or close to residential areas would be required to “orient and screen lighting and amenity areas so as to minimize impacts on adjacent properties in those Neighbourhoods” and “locate, enclose and screen service areas, access to underground parking, and locate and screen any surface parking so as to minimize impacts on adjacent properties in those Neighbourhoods.” This possibility attracted the attention of Loblaw Properties Limited and Choice Properties Ontario Properties Limited (CP REIT), which suggested in a letter from their lawyer to the committee that “in order to maintain flexibility for adjacent developments… a range of strategies should be contemplated as opposed to requiring enclosed service areas, which is not always desirable or needed.”
The plan would encourage owners of existing apartment buildings to achieve greater conservation of energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, achieve greater conservation of water resources, improve waste diversion practices, improve safety and security, improve building operations, improve indoor and outdoor facilities for social, educational and recreational activities and improve pedestrian access to buildings. Apartment owners will also be encouraged to create “small-scale commercial, community and institutional uses” at street level on major streets and gardens for growing food on “underutilized portions of open space.”
City council is slated to consider the review amendments on December 9.
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Sarah Doucette, Planning and Growth Management Committee
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