Last week I wrote a post about my concern about the idea of moving Toronto’s development planning/approval process to a development permit system (DPS), something that the City is seriously looking at doing. In that post, I tried to make it clear that while I can see some merit in including a DPS as part of the planning process, a few aspects of the DPS made me think that using just it to plan and approve future development would result in an ugly, messy city.
I also tried to make it clear that I had a few questions about Toronto’s version of a DPS and that I was having a hard time believing some of the stuff I was hearing. For example, I read that developers whose proposals fall outside of a DPS’ framework will have the option of offering section 37-style benefits to the city in exchange for an exception. If that’s true, what’s the point of creating a DPS? Why not just say, “Let the bidding begin!”
So I tweet at Toronto’s Chief Planner, Jennifer Keesmaat, and asked if there was some kind of “DPS for dummies” document I could look at. She got back to me fairly quickly and told me that while there was nothing currently available, her people were working on “a DPS toolkit.” I look forwarded to checking that out.
I also heard from the Ossington Community Association group, who pointed me to a document, posted in its Facebook group, that was recently released by the Confederation of Resident and Ratepayer Associations in Toronto (CORRA). It was a discussion paper that aimed to answer the questions “What is the Development Permit System?” and “Should Toronto aim to implement this system?” (Its answer to that last question is a clear “No.”)
I tried to read it last week, I really did, but it’s long (17 pages), dense and left me lost more than couple times. Thankfully, CORRA vice-president, and the author of the original report, posted a shorter, clearer document that sums “The three primary concerns with implementing the DPS in Toronto.”
These concerns are pretty much the same as mine as they touch on how the proposed DPS would essentially remove the community, as well as council, from the approval process for specific projects and how difficult it would be to apply a DPS to a mature and diverse neighbourhood like Ossington.
It also mentioned another aspect of a DPS that I’ve been thinking about since my post; that putting it in places involves “An unrealistic and burdensome planning process.” A DPS revolves around creating a clear and comprehensive “vision-based” plan for a specific area that, if done correctly, should result in all future development being area-appropriate. While this initially sounds great, the actual work that needs to go into creating a plan that will need to work for many different groups and goals is jaw-dropping. And since a DPS can’t be altered for five years, these plans will also need to basically predict the future.
One of the things that I’m really wondering about Toronto’s DPS is how these plans will be created. I worry that not enough time will be spent on them and that those creating the plans won’t be familiar enough with the communities they’re dealing with to put together something that really works. Yes, there will be a couple of community meetings but for certain areas, that’s not going to be enough.
All of this has led to me thinking about how I would set up a DPS in My Ideal Toronto. I’ve got some ideas and I think I’ll share them in a future post.