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NEWS: Dupont decision sets precedent (March 2018)

March 22nd, 2018 · No Comments

Ontario Municipal Board rules in favour of community

The rail Dupont rail corridor from the back of 328 Dupont St. The Ontario Municipal Board ruling on a proposed development for the site confirmed the city’s guidelines that new buildings must be built at least 20 metres from a rail line. BRIAN BURCHELL/GLEANER NEWS

By Geremy Bordonaro

The future of 328 Dupont Street is up in the air after an Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) decision placed strict limitations on a proposed development that would see three buildings rise on the site. The plan was to build a nine-storey building on the west end of the lot, which stretches to 358 Dupont Street, and two connected buildings of 19 and 17 storeys on the east side.

“It was a long fight and that all had to do with the Dupont Visioning Study and how that would work out,” said David Harrison, chair of the Annex Residents’ Association (ARA), one of many groups that opposed the development in its original form. “There was an over-enthusiasm of the desires of the planning applicant. It was a very long and complicated business but we came out on the right side.”

The Dupont Street Visioning Study was developed by the ARA, the Seaton Village Residents’ Association, and the offices of Mike Layton and Joe Cressy (Ward 19 and 20, Trinity-Spadina). The study limits the height of new buildings to nine storeys, and states that buildings must be at least 20 metres from the rail line, among other things. However the study’s planning guidelines only apply to the eastern side of the lot, and it was unclear whether the OMB would apply those guidelines to the western side.

Ultimately the OMB decided to limit the height and density according to the study.

The developer can only build two buildings on the site: the west building can remain as proposed, but must be set back per regulations governing rail lines. Only one building can rise on the east, and it must not exceed 12 storeys.

“The OMB decision speaks to the proactive and thoughtful way that [we] developed the Dupont Street Visioning Study. We developed a plan,” Cressy said. “We weren’t a community that said ‘no development.’ We were a community with residents in our two council offices that said ‘we want to see development as long as it is appropriate and safe.’”

Another major issue was that there would be only a metre of space between the buildings and the rail tracks, which cut through the Annex along Dupont Street.

National guidelines and the Dupont Street Study both say that there should be at least 20 metres between buildings and rail tracks.

“I think that it is significant that the major part of the OMB decision was to recognize the railway and to respect it,” Harrison said. “This will not just affect Dupont Street but will affect all along the railway lines.”

“The OMB decision…is a tremendous victory for the Annex community, for the city of Toronto, and for rail safety across the city,” said Cressy. “When the proposal was brought forward to build a 19- and nine-storey building, part of which is right beside the train tracks, we as a community stood up. Not just for appropriate development but for rail safety.”

The decision sets a precedent across the city that will likely carry across future OMB decisions regarding buildings next to rail lines.

“We just had a rail derailment [in this area] a year ago. The OMB’s decision to allow, instead of a 19- and a nine-storey, solely a 12-storey building, and to ensure that nothing could be built within the 20-metre rail corridor has set a citywide precedent that will ensure rail safety for our city,” Cressy said.

In the past the OMB had ruled that residential buildings could not be close to a rail corridor, but had not made a ruling on office buildings, which were included in the proposed development.

“The developer, in this case, argued that the residential units would be 20 metres back but the office units would be as close as a metre from the rail corridor,” said Cressy. “In other words their argument could be boiled down to ‘trains only crash at night.’

“Frankly, I’m glad to see that the OMB judge didn’t fall for that. Rail safety means just as much to those working there as it does to those living there.”

While this decision sets a new precedent for safety and height restrictions, it’s still unclear what will happen to the site. Only one of the proposed buildings meets the guidelines.

Freed Development, the development team behind the project, did not respond to requests for comment. Very little has been heard from either the Freed team or the owners of what happens next for the site, leaving the community to speculate on the future.

“It’s conceivable that the owner, Wynn, might just walk away from it. It remains to be seen,” Harrison said.

It’s the second time that the Wynn Group has had a development in the Annex neighbourhood overturned at the OMB. Its initial proposal to redevelop the Hotel Waverly into a private student residence was denied, although it has since gone ahead with substantial modifications.



NEWS: Mixed-use, mixed feelings: Proposed development largest since Loblaws (December 2010)

NEWS (NOVEMBER 2016): OMB opened

NEWS: Trains in the night (September 2016)

ON THE COVER: Dupont rail derailment (August 2016)

EDITORIAL (SEPTEMBER 2016): Train derailment changes the conversation

NEWS: Height, density still top concerns (July 2016)

EDITORIAL CARTOON: Planning! (July 2016)

CHATTER: Annex Residents’ Association app tracks developments (April 2016)

DEVELOPINGS: Annual review reflects tension between community activism and OMB (March 2016)

NEWS: Preserving a sense of community (March 2016)

NEWS: Rail safety focus of town hall (May 2016)

Where do your LPC, NDP, and GPC candidates stand? (September 2015)

Inaction frustrates residents (May 2015) By Arthur White

Risky Rails? (February 2015) by Madeline Smith

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