The problem is not just limited to extending the up-to-12-storey zone to 400 metres from main streets.
It appears to be compounded by the introduction of the concept that where Secondary Plans were allowed to be more restrictive than the Official Plan, that when these amendments are passed, the Secondary Plan can be less restrictive than the Official Plan. In the context of the report, if the Official Plan limited the building heights to 12 storeys within 400 metres of a main street, the Secondary Plan could not allow greater than 12 storeys. Under the proposed changes, the Secondary Plan could say “notwithstanding” (see its not just Doug Ford who gets to use that word) the Official Plan, buildings greater than 12 storeys, including those that are greater than 30 storeys are permitted for this neighbourhood.
Today the development industry has to go through the difficult process of changing the Official Plan, a document that addresses the city as a whole. A process that draws far more attention from the public and needs to be approved by a majority of councillors across the city. Tomorrow, the development industry need only try to get a specific Secondary Plan amended to allow them build their 31+ storey buildings beside bungalows and two-storey homes in specific neighbourhoods. Once that occurs, then the need for individual rezoning applications goes down by a factor of 10, or more. Will the councillors for wards not affected by the specific Secondary Plan pay close attention to the changes being lobbied for? Based on the voting records for applications to rezone specific properties for higher buildings a serious reader would be challenged to think they would.
Divide and conquer is an age-old strategy. In this case, it appears that the city’s planning department has joined the development industry on the conquerors side of that equation. The only question is whether the councillors who sit on the planning committee are willing to fight to retain the authority that goes with their responsibilties, responsibilities that will not disappear with these proposed changes, or will they just capitulate again?
Bulldog columnist Ron Benn looks at the proposal from city staff to allow high-rises just less than half a kilometre from a main street: