Dunlap Observatory & parklands preserved
Developer will reduce number of units and protect heritage lands
Karen Cilevitz celebrates her victory on Observatory Hill
The four-year battle to preserve the historic David Dunlap Observatory Lands (DDO) has ended in a victory for residents and 60 per cent of the property protected from development. Last month, Richmond Hill councillors unanimously approved the terms of the Ontario Municipal Board’s (OMB) settlement between the David Dunlap Observatory Defenders and the landowners, Corsica Developments Incorporated.
The agreement — which until now was kept under a strict gag order during the six-month OMB mediation process — revealed that more than half of what the town deems part of its cultural heritage landscape would be protected from development. As well, the heritage buildings, including the observatory dome, will likely be transferred over to the town.
“The past six months have been very emotional and exhausting,” said Karen Cilevitz, chair of the DDO Defenders. “The [DDO] is an incomparable site of cultural, historical and scientific significance, despite the egregious breach of trust by the University of Toronto against the Dunlap heirs.”
In 2008, the University of Toronto sold the land to Corsica, whose original application for Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments proposed more than 800 units on the site. Town of Richmond Hill Council members rejected the proposal, which Corsica appealed to the OMB. David Bronskill, counsel for Corsica, said the number of units will now be in the 500 range.
Despite the landmark victory, the DDO Defenders’ fight is not over. In their effort to further protect the lands, Defenders and Richmond Hill councillors approached the provincial and federal governments to solidify the deal. However, local MPP Reza Moridi said a provincial facilitator would not be appointed while the matter was at the OMB. Now that a settlement has been reached, Coun. Godwin Chan said he will put pressure on Moridi to follow through on his promise.
“To protect this iconic landmark … this is the best outcome we could have hoped for,” Cilevitz added.