Playground Sold for Housing – For many people, their first experience with local politics is when someone on their street wants to make a change to their house, or even knock it down and rebuild and so they need a zoning change which is called a minor variance.
They may want to build two semi-detached homes or a triplex where the law only allows single family homes. It is important to understand what is involved, whether you are making the application or trying to stop one.
The Toronto District School Board recently applied to sell off the sports field of the Cummer LINC School, on Cummer Ave. in North York. The school was last used by primary students about 15 years ago and is now used as an English as a second language school for immigrants.
I was at the Committee of Adjustment hearing at North York City Hall on November 17 and some of the neighbours showed up. They had similar questions: Who was buying the land? What was planned? Would it be a condominium, bringing hundreds more cars to a neighbourhood with congestion and parking problems? What about my view? I don’t want to look out my kitchen window a concrete wall? The biggest concern was what it might mean to house prices.
The school board showed that the developers would likely stick to single family dwellings and there was no plan to change the zoning in any other way. This meant no condos which seemed to satisfy the folks who attended, although they commented that even with single family homes replacing the sports field, it would mean more cars.
The lesson is that whenever you are considering a minor variance, first consult with a private planner. Many planners once worked for municipal zoning departments and have an excellent perspective on how things work at City Hall. You can find a planner by going to www.ontarioplanners.on.ca or by calling an architect who works in your area and asking them who they use.
The planner should be able to tell you your chances of success, but more importantly, will help in preparing your story for the committee and prepare you for a discussion with your neighbours. People do not like change, and it will be important for you to demonstrate to the neighbours that what you are doing will not take away their view, or bring more cars into the area, but should increase the value of the rest of the homes. Your goal should be to satisfy your neighbours before the meeting, so that they do not come to complain.
What You Can Do – Playground Sold
1. Show that you have consulted with your neighbours;
2. Be brief and to the point (in Toronto you are given only 5 minutes to make your case);
3. Make sure you demonstrate that what you are asking for is in fact minor in nature and goes along with the intent of the zoning by-law.
If on the other hand, you want to fight the application because you fear for the value or view of your own home, then you need to get organized. Coming alone to the hearing and complaining by yourself will usually not sway the Committee. You need to have a petition signed by many of the affected neighbours, and you should also consider approaching your local City councillor for assistance if it is fact a major change that is occurring.
By being properly prepared, you can win.
By Mark Weisleder | Fri Dec 30 2011