Is Leaside’s small-town charm under siege?
Residents gird for battle over big-box proposal on Wicksteed
Graham Shirley of Leaside Unite and Carol Burtin Fripp of the LPOA
The Leaside Property Owners Association (LPOA) and a newly-formed group of residents who live near Laird Drive, called Leaside Unite, have drawn a line in the proverbial sand over the latest big-box development proposal in their neighbourhood. They’ve hired a lawyer, and they’re prepared to enlist other experts to fight a SmartCentres application, currently under review by the city, for a 147,000-square-foot development on Wicksteed Avenue. Carol Burtin Fripp, vice-president of the LPOA, expressed concerns about the cumulative effect of large-scale retail moving into the area.
“It’s been said that, once you lose that small-town effect, you can’t get it back again,” Burtin Fripp said.
The Wicksteed proposal is particularly worrisome because it’s far more dense than the existing big-box plazas on Laird, she explained.
The official plan allows for large-scale retail on the edges of employment areas but only if sufficient transportation capacity is available to accommodate the extra traffic generated by the development and the economic health of nearby shopping districts is not adversely affected. The LPOA and Leaside Unite don’t believe the application meets these criteria.
Trae Zammit, owner of Bayview Avenue’s The Smokin’ Cigar, and a key player in the push for the creation of a local business improvement association, doesn’t believe the SmartCentres proposal should be permitted either. “I think it will affect all the small businesses, and I don’t think it’s healthy for the neighbourhood,” Zammit said.
The applicant’s retail and traffic impact studies are being peer reviewed at the request of Coun. John Parker.
“There’s the tactical question of how aggressively do you play your hand.” Parker said. “If you overplay your hand, then the developer has recourse to a level of appeal that takes the whole matter out of local control altogether.”