Some things change and some do …

November 7, 2012

It was a Fall day over 20 years ago when a friend stopped me on my way to the Beaches     library. The conversation was not long just a pat on the back and good luck wish for the meeting that she heard I was attending that night.

I had no idea how much I would need those good wishes as I hurried to one of the hardest public meetings I had ever attended in my own neighbourhood. The people were angry, frustrated and fed up with what they saw as a lack of action to protect Queen Street from over development.

The beating I took that night was well deserved. As their Councillor it was my job to stay on top of the issue, to have done my homework, and to have rallied the residents to support a unified and effective defence of our Community.

The next morning I licked my wounds and begin acting as the leader they wanted. Within weeks I lobbied successfully for the passing of the Queen Street Interim Control By-Law. The “Holding” by-law would stop all development along the 3km street for up to 2 years.

At the same time I also had City Council hire an independent, outside planning and design team to do a guideline study of the street, as a justification for the by-law. I knew then that the City  planning staff, as good as they might be, did not have the commitment, time or   expertise to do what people wanted.

I am proud to say that when the guidelines and new by-laws were ready the public meeting was very different than that one I attended in the Fall. With the exception of a few Queen Street property owners there was unanimous support for the new rules especially the 12   meter or 4 storey height restrictions.

That was twenty years ago, a lot has changed or has it?

That legislation has served us well. On a 3km long road it has only been violated 4 times. Two identical applications in the last few months of my term and two during the watch of others. In each case the planning department chose not to listen to local residents, City Council or the by-law. Interestingly enough, one of the last motions I made as an elected representative was to have City Council order the Planning Department not to consider any heights over 12 meters on Queen Street East, that was in 2000.

The two other violations, 2010 Queen Street East (Walking on a Cloud) and 1 Rainsford Road were both supported by Planning.

I understand that we now have three other applications, which want to circumvent the 12 meter height by–law that’s three applications for 6     storey high buildings.

What I do not understand is why we are rushing to raise the current height restriction to 15.5-20 meters instead of just keeping it at 12 metres. Why we would not defend the street rather than justify its destruction?

We as residents have been led to believe that this crisis is all because of the looming Ontario Municipal Board who developers can run to and get what they want?

But is that really true? The properties along Queen Street that disregarded our Community-inspired controls were all supported by the City    Planning Department and in some cases our own City Councillor!

There is no reason why we could not have or should not still pass a new Interim Control By-law. There is NO reason why we could have not hired another outside expert to review our existing laws and recommend changes that would better preserve what we have here while maintaining the 12 meter restriction or in some places reducing it to 10 meters!

I have always reminded City Councillors that they need to remember that the City planners, many of which live in the 905 area are not the people who voted for them or who they need to please.

The recent planning process or Visioning Study as they call it was flawed from the beginning. It started with a Planning Department bias for higher and bigger. It utilized a facilitator who job it was to get people to buy into it. Good, well intentioned residents found themselves engaged in a process that did not allow them to stand back and ask themselves “Do I really want taller buildings in my neighbourhood?”

This community is unique. It is more like Niagara on the Lake or Quebec City and not at all like Queen West or King Street West.

Sadly there is an Interim Control By-law passed by Council for Queen Street west as well as Ossington Ave. There have been others recently in other municipalities including Markham.

But not here!

Perhaps it is time that we residents stop people from treating us differently.

If people are mad, upset, fed up, and disillusioned then they need to direct their attention it to those responsible, Our City Councillor, and Our planners who are here to serve us not to simply dictate what THEY think is best.

Tom Jakobek


Tom Jakobek was a former School Trustee, Senior City Councilor for THIS Neighborhood as well as the former        Deputy Mayor and Budget Chief who delivered an unprecedented nine consecutive zero tax increase budgets in a row. While we have disagreed with Mr. Jakobek on some of his past positions we have never questioned his local            commitment and support for those most in need. He is NOT a candidate for political office.


One Response to “Some things change and some do …”

  1. Davis G. Says:

    I wuz rather surprised 2c jakboeks smiling mug on yer paper. Figured he wuz out of the game. Good to know he was @ the meeting the other week, and unlike some other local rags he wants to publish w/ you guys. He was the only political runner with the guts to stop the tax grabs and end the bleeding of his constitutes wallets. Am I correct in assuming from his article that he will not be campaigning again.

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