3. Next, let’s talk about what has effectively hijacked this Council’s initiative and has just about exhausted the stock of good will on the part of Concord West’s community. We’re referring to Schedules B and C:
The Preferred Solution embodied by the present Draft – in other words, the private planner and the City planners – elected to provide the highest possible densities of occupation to lands of practically all stakeholders that are eyeing the proposed development in the hope of making a buck. Despite the clear-cut suggestions of the residents at the January 30th meeting, once again planners “know” better.
Where the public overwhelmingly suggested that in the parcels to the west of the GO line the zoning should be residential and complementary to that of Concord West community, it became low-rise mixed use; where the public suggested the low-rise mixed use – on the parcels immediately to the east of the GO line – it became mid-rise mixed use; where the public suggested mid-rise but only on the border of Highway #7, not over the river valley, a whopping high-rise (22-storeys) mixed use is suggested instead on both sides of the highway; and whereas the public suggested a graded density for the Concord Floral lands, with low-rise adjoining the river valley and high-density only allowed on the north part of the development, a massive 6 blocks of high-rise mixed use are proposed!
Follow the money, or its anticipation – and you have the guiding criterion for the entirety of the proposed secondary plan. Shameful in our view! Little wonder that citizens all over this country, and in this City, increasingly feel that democratic government has been hijacked by developers, planners and bureaucrats.
In the same File 26.3, in the application of Liberty Development Corp. also before this Committee today, you can see what it is that Liberty plans for the Concord Floral – a belt of towers on the east side of the property, hugging the entire west side of the perimeter of the Bartley Smith Greenway. Some of these towers have 32, 33 and 38 storeys (see attachment 3 of their application before you)! The encroachment into public and natural spaces could not be more glaring. We understand that Big Politics wants the investments in public infrastructure to pay big time to big interests; what we do not understand, or rather accept, is that it be done at the cost of human communities and their natural environments, whether it be a river valley, a greenspace or a greenway – which, in the present case, is all three! Yet, amusingly enough, the same Design Review Panel of February 23, 2013, also states (p. 6) that the “master plan should provide substantially greater public access to the river valley to capitalize [poor choice of words!] on the natural asset of the West Don River (…) rather than blocking it off with high rise buildings” (our emphasis), which is what the Liberty proposal before you actually does with its belt of high-rises hugging the perimeter of the river lands.
One could almost say that all the real issues, in this and so many – too many – other instances, are regularly buried under thousands of pages of committee reports and useless, repetitive planning and analysis documents, just so that we can all make bad decisions under the guise of a general amnesia and incapacity to remember what went before or how it all started. But those who forget are condemned to have to repeat, so says Santayana, and above all to repeat the same mistakes.
A curious example of how matters buried under paper disappear is perhaps also provided by what happened to the recommendation of that same Design Review Panel: the Panel “encouraged the proposed plans [of the Concord Floral lands] for adaptive reuse of the decommissioned Power Plant as a community facility. (…) It was recognized that (…) the Power Plant has the potential to be an incredible asset for both the development and broader community”. Though apparently an Heritage site, this Power Plant with ‘incredible potential for community development’ is now demolished – making another mockery of protective classifications and Committee recommendations.