Southminster Church, the Beer Store, and now Fifth Avenue Court—all contentious development proposals on Bank Street, and the outcomes will change the face of our neighbourhoods. Will this be for the good? Most people support some level of intensification—it’s important for promoting vibrant and walkable neighbourhoods in the urban core. But City Council seems intent on increasing density above all other considerations, even though there are no density targets in place for Bank Street.
The Glebe Community Association(GCA) was told some years ago that there were few opportunities for development and intensification on Bank Street. The City said there was no need to develop a Community Design Plan that would provide robust planning guidelines, develop a vision for the community and take the local context into account. But these recent development proposals show that this was wrong.
The flexibility that was intentionally built into the Official Plan has resulted in developers largely (and logically, from their perspective) trying to build according to the maximum interpretation allowed. For our communities, this means they are totally disregarding the current zoning on Bank Street in OOS and the Glebe of 15 m / 4 storeys.
There will be more development proposals—and that is a good thing. But each successive approval by Council of height above 4 storeys, let along 6 storeys, will make it easier to approve the next one. It’s important to get these right. We need a plan before, not after, any more development proposals above the 15m height limit are approved. The 15 m limit was put in place to reflect the character of the neighbourhood, the narrowness of our streets, etc. Is this still valid? In the absence of a plan that confirms or updates our zoning, we are experiencing what amounts to the wild west of spot rezoning. And that can't be a good thing.
The GCA is not opposed to Minto’s redevelopment of Fifth Avenue Court. But Minto’s proposal for an 8 storey condo development on this site is simply overdevelopment, given its location within a stable, low-rise community. We are asking the City to secure modifications to this proposal, including:
- Building height in keeping with current 15 m cap
- Significant building stepbacks above two storeys along the sidestreets to ensure greater compatibility with surroundings
- Exterior materials that more strongly reflect/align with the neighbourhood character
- Inclusion of ground floor commercial
The GCA has asked the City to make a firm commitment to undertaking a Secondary Plan or equivalent for Bank Street as soon as possible, so that both a vision and the rules around development can be clarified. In the interim, the City should withhold permission for additional height or massing above that found in the current TM zoning for Bank Street. The City can choose to interpret the Official Plan policy with a better balance of neighbourhood considerations if it chooses to do so.