By NATALIE CHU
From heritage buildings to highrises, Queen West residents were eager to share their thoughts and concerns on the developing strip.
Nearly 100 residents gathered at the first public consultation meeting Thursday, July 10 to discuss the new West Queen West planning study, affecting Queen Street West between Bathurst Street to the east and Roncesvalles Avenue to the west.
It was led by Toronto city planner Avery Carr, who called for feedback on preserving the heritage value and character of the strip and other recent development concerns.
“We’re experiencing some increasing development pressure and we want to develop a strong community vision,” Carr said in his presentation.
Developing a policy context, determining what heritage buildings need to be protected and deciding on further built form of new buildings were all on the future agenda.
One immediate point of contention for residents was the highrise “eyesore” at Dufferin Street and Queen Street West. How it was approved and whether it would set a precedent for the rest of West Queen West was heavily discussed. City staff later clarified the building had fallen between two zoning laws, allowing its height and density.
A few longtime residents went on to debate the purpose of this study, saying the “two-tiered” approval system between city council and the Ontario Municipal Board has, and would continue to, prevent any progress on the subsequent recommendations by the community.
“Skylines have been lost, transit has become impossible...all our work becomes compromised or the builder gets what they want,” one resident said.
Whether any of the future the plans would receive funding was also an issue.
“There are no guarantees of money, but we’re looking at what the community needs,” Carr said, adding exhaustive community consultation, along with unified city staff and council, would provide a strong argument toward implementing any recommendations.
“Is there a common character of Queen West? That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Carr said in an interview.
The study will continue in stages for another year before a final report is sent to council in late 2015. Due to scheduling conflicts, councillors Gord Perks, Ana Bailao and Mike Layton did not attend the meeting.
A separate meeting examining transit capacity in the area is slated for later in the season. Carr said she also hopes to begin walking tours in August to allow residents to continue to give options on the different spaces along Queen.
Interested residents should go online at toronto.ca/planning/westqueenweststudy for updates on meetings and more information.