1. Welcome Letter from Councillor Wong-Tam
Councillors Wong-Tam and Matlow putting both hands towards OMB reform in 2012. Photo by Vince Talotta / Toronto Star
Last week at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, Bill 139, Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act, 2017, received royal assent. Behind the evocative name was something that I have been advocating for since my election in 2010, Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) reform.
I have long criticized the OMB for its many failings. In 2012, I successfully moved a motion with my colleague, Councillor Josh Matlow, requesting the Province remove Toronto from the OMB's purview. A single unelected board member should not override the decision of City Council, even when this position is backed by the City's accredited professional planners. OMB decisions that approve heights and densities well above the existing context drive up land costs, creates further speculation and sets new precedents leading to future fights at the OMB.
Contested hearings at the OMB have led to some heartbreaking losses in communities across the city. These OMB approvals had a ripple effect on other appeals that forced the city to settle or potentially face further losses. Planning battles are currently being fought in Ward 27 near Allan Gardens, where tall buildings threaten to cast significant shadow over one of the most important parks in the city.
With Bill 139, the province is renaming the OMB, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT), and making some big changes. Amongst them, more deference will be given to municipal decisions that are consistent with provincial policies and the Official Plan, a new Local Planning Appeal Support Centre will be created to give residents sound planning advice before the LPAT, and important planning decisions—those requiring Ministry approval—will be sheltered from appeal. These are all reforms that have the potential to transform a broken system under the OMB.
Unfortunately the new LPAT is not retroactively hearing cases that were appealed to the OMB prior to Bill 139 receiving royal assent. Furthermore, any zoning by-law application deemed "complete" by the city prior to royal assent will also be heard under the old rules. It will take years to truly rid the OMB of its influence on planning applications, and its legacies in neighbourhoods like the Church Wellesley Village will remain.
The LPAT is not perfect. I continue to argue that Toronto is sophisticated enough to operate without any quasi-judicial body undermining municipal planning decisions. As with any change, we will need to see how LPAT hearings actually function before declaring that previous OMB-related failings have been solved.
With these changes in mind, I am hopeful that the development industry will be more responsive and respectful to both City Planning and the local community when they are told, "No, this development does not work for our community. You must do better." I couldn't think of a better Christmas present for Toronto.
As a final note for 2017, I want to wish you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I'd like to thank our 13 resident associations, 5 Business Improvement Areas and our countless community organizations for the exceptional partnerships. For the past seven years, my team and I have worked with you to make Ward 27 a better place for all. Incredible change is on the horizon, and I hope to count on your support as we welcome the new year together.
I remain yours in service,
2. Council Highlights – December 5-8, 2017
Small Business Tax Reform
City Council supported a motion by Councillor Wong-Tam and Economic Development and Culture Committee Chair Michael Thompson to integrate small business tax reforms into the 2018 Budget planning process. Small businesses on Yonge Street and elsewhere have been suffering massive tax increases as a result of Provincial re-assessments that value modest properties as though they are large development sites. Staff will report back to a special committee meeting in February with recommendations for how Toronto can do more to save small businesses and character streets.
Closing the Service Gap in the Downtown East
City Council supported a motion by Councillors Wong-Tam and Troisi to identify the resources required to respond to the immediate opioid and health crisis in the Downtown East. Cross-divisional management teams were directed to consult with local stakeholders and devise holistic solutions to the area's challenges over the next 12 months and to develop a 5-year plan that will address these issues in the long-term. This will be directly integrated into the 2018 Budget process. We will need your advocacy and support to get these service enhancements successfully adopted.
Utility Locate Costs
City Council amended staff recommendation and will now consider paying the full cost of utility locates as part of the 2018 Budget. The original staff recommendations proposed downloading the cost of locating utilities to local Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) when new work, such as telecommunications or infrastructure installations was taking place. This would have resulted in some BIAs spending tens of thousands of dollars or dedicating limited staff time away from local improvement projects to coordinate local utilities on behalf of the City and large utility and telecommunication companies. Councillor Wong-Tam successfully advocated for this amendment, to prevent punishing BIAs already self-levying funds to beautify and support their local communities.
Establishment of an Indigenous Affairs Office
City Council voted in favour of establishing an Indigenous Affairs Office within the City Manager's Office. The new Office will be responsible for strengthening the City's relationship with Indigenous communities, supporting the development and implementation of reconciliation work and assisting with the administration of Indigenous related initiatives and cultural events.
Uber Data Breach
City Council demands that Uber provide information related to the recent data breach, as required under the conditions of their license agreement with the City of Toronto. Furthermore, Uber was asked to disclose how many people had their personal data accessed, what private information was compromised and when affected clients and drivers will be informed.
3. Sidewalks For All: the Journey Continues
As Chair of Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee, Councillor Wong-Tam led the charge as the political champion of Sidewalks For All, an independent coalition of accessibility and active transportation advocates working to create a more walkable Toronto.
After broad public consultation, City Staff proposed to harmonize and update the patio and marketing by-laws to standardize the city-wide minimum pedestrian clearway to 2.1 metres. People using mobility devices, wheelchairs, and walking with caregivers, guide dogs, shopping bags or children in large strollers deserve the right to move safely on city sidewalks. Council’s ultimate approval of Staff recommendations would have a big impact on the walkability and accessibility of Toronto’s city-streets.
The Licensing and Standards and Public Works and Infrastructure Committees met in December 2017 and referred the proposed changes back to staff for further study. Sadly, we will have to wait until next year before the item is debated at City Council.
To learn more and join the campaign for walkable, accessible sidewalks, please visit www.sidewalksforall.ca.
4. City of Toronto's Holiday Activities and Services
The City of Toronto encourages residents and visitors to take advantage of City programs and attractions offered during the year-end holiday period. Most City of Toronto operations and all municipal offices will be closed on Monday, December 25 and Tuesday December 26 as well as Monday, January 1st. City services that regularly operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week such as 311 Toronto and emergency services will be available. Information about curbside waste collection is also provided below. The following is a sample of activities available this winter!
Winter outdoor activities: Winter has arrived at Toronto’s parks, community centres and natural environments. More information about winter activities is available at www.toronto.ca/winter
Fitness, camps and recreation programs: The City offers fitness classes, weight rooms, camps and more, offering something for everyone. Some facilities may be closed during the holiday period for annual maintenance. More information and schedules are available at www.toronto.ca/rec or by calling 311.
Swimming: Drop-in swim programs at pools across the city make it convenient to "make a splash" this holiday season. Schedules vary by location and are available at www.toronto.ca/swim.
Skating: The City offers a variety of free, leisure ice-skating programs for all ages and abilities at indoor arenas and outdoor rinks. Outdoor rinks that are open may be unsupervised. Schedules vary by location. More information is available at www.toronto.ca/skate.
Skiing/snowboarding: The City operates two ski/snowboard centres. Earl Bales Ski and Snowboard Centre and Centennial Park Ski and Snowboard Centre will open January 1. For updates and schedules, please visit www.toronto.ca/ski.
Flower shows: Christmas flower shows at the City's Allan Gardens and Centennial Park conservatories are a tradition during the holiday season. The flower shows are open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. until January 7 and admission is free. More information is available at www.toronto.ca/conservatories/.
New Year's Eve at Nathan Phillips Square: Toronto will ring in the New Year at Nathan Phillips Square on December 31, simultaneously a final send-off to the Toronto celebration of Canada's 150th birthday known as TO Canada with Love. The countdown to 2017 will feature live musical performances, site animations, a skating party and midnight fireworks. For details, please visit: www.toronto.ca/canada150.
Winterlicious culinary event: Advance tickets are now on sale for the culinary event series that will be part of Winterlicious 2017 starting on January 26 through February 8. Enjoy a delicious three-course prix fixe lunch and dinner menus at more than 200 top restaurants! The culinary series will feature seven one-of-a-kind cooking and dining experiences hosted by some of Toronto's finest venues and chefs. Details and ticket orders are available at www.toronto.ca/winterlicious.
5. TOcore: Last Chances to Get Involved!
Work on new policies to guide growth and infrastructure in the downtown is coming to a close. Staff are still collecting feedback until January 19, 2018. You can get involved in one of the following ways:
Please tell the City what you think with our proposed Downtown Plan survey.
Separate surveys are available for each of our five Infrastructure Strategies:
The TOCore Social Pinpoint page is a digital engagement tool that allows you to provide feedback, ideas or concerns on specific policies within the proposed Downtown Plan that have a spatial dimension. In other words, those policies associated with a map. Please review the policy text associated with maps, then drop a pin and leave a comment for staff.
The TOcore team will have the open house display boards on display in City Hall. Come see what is being proposed and leave comments on sticky notes!
What: TOCore Display Boards
When: January 8-9, 2018
Where: City Hall Rotunda, 100 Queen Street West
City staff will be on hand from 5:00 pm - 7:30 pm on January 9th at City Hall to answer questions and to hear your feedback about the proposed Downtown Plan and the Infrastructure Strategy summaries. You can also leave your comments on sticky notes on the boards themselves. Come down and tell us what you think!
Contacts and Social Media
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @CityPlanTO (use the hashtag #TOcore to spread the word!)
You can also learn more about TOCore by visiting: www.toronto.ca/tocore
6. Learn about Ward 27 Development
Councillor Wong-Tam wants you to learn about current and upcoming development in your neighbourhood. The Ward 27 Development Map lists every application for a zoning by-law and/or official plan amendment received within the last 5 years. You can view the status of the application, learn briefly what it's about and find links to staff reports, applicant reports and more. The map also includes information about local neighbourhoods, including who is your Ward 27 staff contact and how to contact your local residents' association.
The development map will be regularly updated, with new applications and information when applicable. The map does not include Committee of Adjustment applications. If you see anything that you feel should be on the map, please contact [email protected]
For more information and to view the map, please visit http://www.ward27news.ca/development
7. Got a Question? Consult the Ward 27 Constituency FAQ!
Do you want to report discarded needles but don't know how? Are you interested in implementing permit parking on your street but don't know where to start? Have you received a notice for a zoning by-law amendment in your area and want to know what comes next?
You can visit the Ward 27 Constituency Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page to learn the answers to the above questions and many more common questions the office receives. The FAQ will be periodically updated with new questions.
If you have any feedback or suggestions for the FAQ, please contact [email protected]
To visit the Ward 27 Constituency FAQ, please visit: http://www.ward27news.ca/faq
8. Winter Readiness
It’s that time of the year again – winter! If you need more information about the city's plans for snow clearing, please visit www.toronto.ca/transportation.
To learn more about sidewalk snow clearing in Toronto and to view a map of the areas where the service is provided, please visit www.toronto.ca/transportation/snow/sidewalks.
The City of Toronto has created a webpage that enables residents to see the location of city plows, sidewalk plows and salt trucks and when their street was serviced by the city's winter operations crews. The webpage can be accessed at www.toronto.ca/plowTO.