OMB says no to highrise in North Toronto

Area residents celebrate after appeal of Montgomery Ave. development turned down
By Kris Scheuer
(Originally written Sept. 18 for Town Crier.)

Residents Jordan Applebaum, Naomi St. John and Helen Oakes tear at signs informing public of application to build a 25-storey highrise. Photo by Francis Crescia/Town Crier.

The Ontario Municipal Board rejected an application for a 25-storey highrise on a residential street in North Toronto much to the joy of the residents who fought against it.
“I’m delighted,” said 83-year-old Helen Oakes, who lives on Helendale Ave. one block from the proposed highrise. “We are delighted. We defeated the developer.”
Top of the Tree Developments Inc. had planned to build the highrise at 34–70 Montgomery Ave. It also applied to redesignate sections of Roselawn, Duplex, Montgomery and Helendale Aves. as apartment neighbourhoods paving the way for future intensification over several blocks.Top of the Tree doesn’t own all the properties on the site it wanted to redevelop. It had made conditional offers to purchase a number of homes on Montgomery Ave., several residents told the Town Crier.
If the site is redeveloped in the future, Oakes would like to see two or three-storey townhouses but no towers. 
The OMB’s 25-page decision notes the residents’ case had an impact. 
“Evidence presented by residents is that this is a mixed but stable neighbourhood,” stated the Sept. 14 OMB decision. “The neighbourhood designation in this community is achieving its planned function.”
Jordan Applebaum, chair of the Eglinton Park Residents’ Association, said the fact they won at the OMB should inspire other neighbourhood groups.
“Residents can come together to have a voice for what they believe is worth saving,” he said. 
They did not hire a lawyer to represent their interests at the hearing, but residents volunteered thousands of hours to prepare for the OMB case.
“What began as anger in the community was (transformed into) a well-reasoned and genuine set of arguments,” Applebaum said. “And our delivery of that message clearly struck a cord on many levels, including with the chair of the OMB.”
The city also presented a case against the proposed development and was pleased with the outcome.
“I felt the city had a very strong case,” said Councillor Karen Stintz. “We were supported unanimously by city council and residents.
“It’s a victory for neighbourhoods.”
Not everyone was happy with the OMB’s decision.
“Certainly this was not the result we were hoping for,” said Mark Flowers, lawyer for the developer. “We thought the lands were well suited for intensification.” 
He said his client is reviewing what to do next.
“All options are available,” said Flowers. “There is a right to appeal any OMB decision, so that’s one of the options we are considering.”

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