Roland Tanner: 'Developer's argument for a Brant Street development is very far from one that Council should endorse. And it went unchallenged.'

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

July 17,2018



Before I begin I just want to recognize the futility of the exercise we are engaged in tonight. I doubt very much that there is anybody in this room who has not made up their mind about this development.

Delegations will be read, and votes will be cast, but the former will have no impact on the latter. I honestly don’t say that as a criticism, I simply say it as a matter of fact. Whatever happens at the election this year, let’s all please commit, citizens, Council, City Staff, to find a better way of doing this in the future. A way that finally gets all sides talking and listening together. Win or lose, I promise I’ll be willing to help.

Moving on. Last week we heard the argument that it is the Province, and the new Provincial Growth Plan, that is forcing the city to accept 17 storeys or more, on this location.

There are two reasons why I believe that argument is incorrect.

First, the Special Planning Area in the Brant Street Precinct is zoned for 17 storeys by the new Official Plan for one reason and one reason only. By allowing greater height, the City is seeking to trade developers for an enhanced public space near City Hall to augment the current civic square. That objective has nothing to do with the Province, or with the Places to Grow Act, or the Growth Plan.

But for that objective, 409 Brant street and associated lots would be zoned for a maximum of 11 storeys with a 45 degree setback from Brant to John St, along with the rest of the Brant St precinct. That lower height, by the City’s own argument, not mine, is a defensible level of intensification under the Growth Plan.

I reiterate. That is the City’s position, and the City’s argument, not mine.

Second. The delegation on behalf of the developer last week by Mr Bronskill made a novel legal argument, and one which has yet to be tested at the LPAT. That legal argument was that the wording of Provincial Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe obliges cities to ‘optimize’ intensification on any lot. The developer is entitled to their opinion, but I will argue that Mr Bronskill’s argument is very far from one that Council should endorse. And yet his argument went unchallenged.

In fact the Provincial Growth Plan uses the word ‘Optimize’ exactly ONE TIME with regard to intensification. I will quote the sentence in full.

“It is important to optimize the use of the existing urban land supply as well as the existing building and housing stock to avoid further over designating land for future urban development.”

This sentence is almost identical to the 2006 Growth Plan. It differs only in the addition of nine words ‘as well as the existing building and housing stock’.

In other words there is clearly no intent whatsoever to cause a wholesale reinterpretation of what is permitted for intensification on any single assembly of land. Instead we still have only the standard requirement for Intensification which has been in place since the Places to Grow Act.

So, having dispensed with those two arguments that the height of 409 Brant Street is not in the City’s control, what are we left with?

We are left with an area which has been zoned by the City at 17 storeys, but could equally have been zoned for 3 to 11, with a 45 degree setback. The City’s own logic, not my logic, argues that a lower height is a defensible position to take to any future appeal at the LPAT. I am not cynically arguing what I think residents want to hear, I am arguing from the City’s own position used in the creation of the new Official Plan.

The City has the power. It should also have the will. I ask again: please reject the staff recommendation, and consider removing the lands under discussion from the Special Planning Area and zoning them according to remainder of the Brant Street Precinct.

Tanner cropped

Roland Tanner

Roland Tanner is a candidate for the ward 2 seat on city council.  He is a history scholar and one of the very few candidates for council seats to speak out and delegate.

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2 comments to Roland Tanner: ‘Developer’s argument for a Brant Street development is very far from one that Council should endorse. And it went unchallenged.’

  • Tom Muir

    Excellent read Roland. Where have you been?

    I disagree that the word optimize was not challenged. I could not make the Committee meeting, so I sent in a written delegation to Council, doing just that.

    You can find it in the meeting Minutes, and as well, in the Gazette comments on the story of the day, where I sent it first.

    I didn’t have the time to look at the Growth Plan, so I didn’t learn the word was used only ONCE, in the whole document.

    And it was used in an entirely different spatial context – the whole existing urban land supply, and existing standing housing and building stock – not just one land parcel.

    Talk about the saying; how you know a lawyer is telling a tall story? – their lips are moving. I refrain from the L word.

    Thanks for this piece of evidence showing how ridiculous was the exaggeration, but nobody picked up on it. The direction of the whole Growth Plan is supposed to spin around one wrod used once?

    Do the planners not know the wording of the Growth Plan?

    Was there no comment from them on this?

    Do Councilors not know, or are they not advised by staff?

    With this performance, and professionalism what kind of chance do residents have?

    I agree with your assessment of what was done, and what could have been done.

    • Thank you Tom. For the sake of complete accuracy, the word ‘optimize’ is used a few times in the Growth Plan, but only once with regard to intensification, and in a paragraph which is, to all intents and purposes, unchanged from the 2006 Growth Plan. The word ‘optimization’ is also used in the paragraph, but not in a way which adds any further meaning, or departs from the 2006 Plan.

      Also, so as to be completely fair, Councillor Taylor made it clear in a ‘comment-posed-as-a-question’ on my delegation that councillors had received advice from in-house counsel, and were therefore not entirely free to challenge the developers’ lawyer.

      I read your comment last week when you first posted it, and it makes many good points.

      As a side note, the ‘comment-posed-as-a-question’ aspect of delegating is forced on councillors by procedural bylaw. It has the unfortunate side-effect of making many questions appear more hostile than the councillors intend. There is plenty of genuine hostility at the present time, so it would be better if the bylaws were adjusted so that at least the ‘accidentally adversarial question’ could be abolished.