Leaside news: Laird development guidelines too little, too late?

Developers already determining what will happen ahead of study results


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Councillor Jon Burnside stands on the southeast corner of Eglinton Avenue East and Laird Drive

The Laird in Focus Planning Study, a framework intended to guide future development in the Laird Drive and Eglinton Avenue East area, seems to be too little, too late.

The Eglinton Crosstown station, currently under construction at the Leaside intersection, has been a signal to developers that the area is ripe for redevelopment with several new proposals submitted in recent years. 

Ward 26 councillor Jon Burnside said he had hoped the study would provide some planning context for two large-scale developments proposed for the southeast corner of the intersection. However, it took too long to initiate, and the proposal by DiamondCorp for 939 Eglinton Ave. E. was subsequently approved by Toronto City Council at the end of 2016 — just weeks after the study’s first public consultation was held on Nov. 30.

During the meeting, several residents expressed their concerns that the development would set a high-density precedent.

“The study should have commenced in early 2014. There is no question,” Burnside said. “It’s not ideal. But we were always going to get tall buildings at 939 Eglinton Ave. E., so I’m not sure the study would’ve had a huge impact.”

The proposal had originally called for four residential buildings ranging from 19 to 34 storeys in April 2016 and was reduced to three buildings, ranging from 15 to 28 storeys. The settlement includes a decrease in the number of units, from 1,500 to 985, and 1,104 parking spaces. The development will span two hectares, the two-storey office building currently on the site will remain and 11,718 square metres will be dedicated to park space.

Geoff Kettel, of the Leaside Property Owners’ Association (LPOA), noted the study is also too late to apply to two other developments on Laird Drive that were recently approved at the Ontario Municipal Board.

Toronto city planner John Andreevski admitted city staff will have to take those developments into consideration when they review the area and establish the guidelines. 

“You can’t ignore it if it’s there. It forms part of the context,” he said.

The RioCan proposal for 815 Eglinton Ave. E. is still in the early planning stages and the hope is the study will at least help guide the planning process for that corner site. However, Andreevski noted the study will take more than a year to complete before City Council can approve it.

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