A Low-Rise Future For Ossington? Well, Maybe Not…

Ossington_Official_Plan_AmendmentOn Monday, it was announced that City Council had adopted on consent a plan to “…amend the Official Plan for the properties on Ossington Avenue between Queen Street West and Dundas Street West, substantially in accordance with the proposed Official Plan Amendment…”

That means that the City will be changing the existing Official Plan for Ossington, between Queen and Dundas, to include the recommendations listed in this October 31, 2013, report. While all of the specific recommendations can be found on pages 10 and 11, the opening page nicely sums the report up: “In summary, the proposed policy reinforces the existing permissions while providing more emphasis on streetscape, heritage, character of the street, and transition to adjacent residential uses. While this report recommends a four- storey height limit for the majority of the street,it also identifies opportunity for height up to five storeys on a section of the east side of Ossington Avenue.”

So does this amendment translate into a future of only low-rise buildings on Ossington (south of Dundas)? Not necessarily. I emailed local councillor Mike Layton for clarification and he quickly emailed me back, explaining that  developers can still submit proposals that don’t fit into the existing Official Plan for the street. Such a proposal would be reviewed according to the existing process but with “specific reference to the amendments the community and I worked hard on with City Planning Staff to implement as an amendment to the Official Plan.” So yes, the City would keep in mind the fact that Ossington should, ideally, only house buildings that are no more than four-storeys high (or five in the one case).

But that doesn’t mean that’s what the street will end up with because if a developer doesn’t like the City’s rejection of say, its seven-storey proposal, it can still go to the OMB, which can overrule the City’s decision. The OMB does not have to follow the any Official Plan for any Toronto street and because of that, Ossington could still end up with tall buildings.

If this makes you wonder what the point of the Official Plan is, keep in mind that it covers far more than just building size. It also provides a starting point for the City’s decisions. And while cases that go to the OMB are the ones that generally get all the fuss, most development proposals don’t follow that route. In my opinion, a smart developer would use a neighbourhood’s Official Plan as an outline for its proposal, in order to create a building that fits naturally into its surroundings, enhancing them instead of taking from them.

Overall, I think the amendment is good move, as it clarifies what the City thinks the street should look like. However, for those who want to prevent the “condo-fication” of the street,* it’s hardly the last chapter.

*Note I don’t completely include myself in this group. While I don’t want to see tall buildings on Ossington, I’m not anti-condo.

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