DLCVA talks development with Councillor Pasternak
On a sunny September 3 afternoon, the DLCVA met with the Councillor under a gazebo in Maryport parkette
#1: Wm Baker (60 acres / 3550 condos)
[DLCVA] Any chance the city is going to change its mind on what it might like to see in this subdivision?
[Councillor] I doubt it strongly. The demand for housing in the City has been so strong for so long that it is unlikely to change.
This March, Canada Lands [CLC] did their second consultation on-line. How appropriate is this during a pandemic when everybody is housebound?
It is entirely appropriate, at least they are consulting. However general the discussion, they are about a year away from applying for a District Plan which is when things shift into first gear. Such an Application must specify zoning, proposed uses, densities, streetscape, etc.
Of the 3 options proposed, where do you think the Wm Baker city centre should be?
For now I think the best location is close to the Keele/Sheppard intersection as it makes the most sense commercially. I think the location near the new subway station is too remote for most pedestrians.
How realistic is the long-talked-about community centre?
A couple of things here: Downsview is in line for a community centre with about 5 other wards but the competition is fierce and the hard bargaining has yet to begin. I have asked planning to complete the design work so that it is at least shovel ready (the Honda Civic model comes in at $40M vs $60M for the Cadillac version). The real bargaining will only begin when CLC tables its application.
#2: Bombardier Airstrip Lands (520 acres, zoned employment lands)
Anybody else feel rushed by the two biggest landlords in the ward [Northcrest Developments & Canada Lands] joining forces to promote changes they want to the Downsview Secondary Plan?
It is rushed, and in a way it is ironic. CLC is a crown corporation created by the federal government and Northcrest acts for a civil servants' pension plan. Given such public credentials, you would think they would be all about the common good. Yet to judge by their actions, they are fixated on the bottom line, hiring big name experts and insiders to promote their specific agenda.
Should Downsview residents be defending a 10-year-old Secondary Plan which stipulates that the airstrip lands should stay employment-zoned?
Due to high demand and short supply, employment-zoned lands in the City are under enormous pressure. At the same time, the pressure is also on for additional residential lands. Given its favorable subway location and Toronto's dire need for housing, there is no doubt that some compromise must be reached on the airstrip lands. Generally speaking, I would say that in return for any residential concessions, the employment component should not only be retained but enlarged.
Northcrest/CLC supposedly wrapped up their first consultation with residents on-line. What is the best way for "amateur" citizens to interact with their long list of professionals (at last count there were 13 advisor corporations on their payroll).
The fact that they are consulting with residents is a plus and they are entitled to do it in any way they feel appropriate. In a year or two, they will be making an Application to amend the Secondary Plan which is when mandated public consultation will be required.
It seems to us that this development of 520 acres of (primarily) vacant land is the largest and most complex development in the country. For ordinary residents who are already busy and have a life, this process seems overwhelming.
This is where our office comes into play. Communicate all you want with the developers, but kindly forward a (written) record of your concerns to us. I meet all the time with resident associations and Business Improvement Areas and this is what I encourage them to do. Despite its deep pockets and expertise, the Northcrest/CLC team does not have deep roots in the community. We do. If we take the time to document and coordinate our efforts, that is the only way Downsview will get the quality development that it so desperately needs.
On Sept 1, federal liberal Michael Levitt stepped down as member of Parliament for York Centre to accept a leadership position with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre.
Very much a friend of Downsview Park as well as our association, he will be missed for his ready availability and enthusiasm.
The DLCVA wishes him all the best with his new responsibilities.
The Park's tallgrass project
CLC Program Officer Jonathan Deshman, the Park's go-to person on ecological matters, took the time to answer these questions from DLCVA
Visually, does the tallgrass tract look any different from its adjacent lands in this NE corner of the Park?
The 5-acre prairie is still establishing and during this time it will have shorter vegetation than the surrounding area and feature a different composition of plants. As the prairie becomes more established it will feature taller growth and a greater variety of blooms.
Are these lands expected to be treeless?
Prairie is defined as having 0-10% tree cover, trees and shrubs are not a usual occurrence on a healthy prairie.
On a couple of occasions when I participated in tree-planting in the Park, the soil was like cement. Extremely compacted. Does tallgrass ameliorate this condition?
The deep roots of prairie plants can create nutrient rich soil filled with organic material, this is one reason why prairie ecosystems can sequester so much carbon. This extensive root growth will over time improve soil health but it will take a couple of years to achieve this underground growth.
When it rains, is there any problem with water runoff?
The deep roots of prairie plants act like a sponge, filtering and absorbing water and slowing runoff. Prairies are often a solution to erosion or water run off problems.
Why bother recreating a prairie ecosystem?
The prairie is a beautiful ecological community made up of a wide variety of life. A healthy prairie sequesters carbon and cleans the air we breath and the water we drink. It is also an important part of Toronto’s natural heritage, a link to the past and treasure for the future.
Unusual Request of the birders
[Shael] "I think there would be more interesting birds at Downsview if the Park instituted simple conservation measures since the greatest danger to birds happens during migration. A couple of days ago I saw scarlet tanagers, ruby throated hummingbirds and flycatchers migrating through, and last week a Baird’s Sandpiper stopping for a rest on its way from the Arctic to South America. If a simple fence were built protecting the headlands at the big pond, birds would feel safer and the Park would be doing its part toward conservation. In addition during May and possibly September / October, pond levels should be lowered just a little leaving more shoreline. I am sure park visitors would not mind."
[Riley] "Seeing how many migrant shorebirds use the park ponds for foraging, I agree that reducing the water levels in migration season(s) would be very productive and we'd see an increase in resting migrants. Fencing off the two headlands and the space in between them would be the best areas to protect as most choose to land there, and it doesn't involve fencing off the entire pond. A sign on each end of the fence giving a brief overview of shorebird migration and why the fences and low water help so much would probably be the most effective way to keep people (and their dogs) out. It wouldn't stop everyone but most park goers would likely show some interest and respect toward the new changes with having some sort of understandable reasoning behind it all.
Keeping levels low from May 01 - June 10 in spring and August 15 - November 05 in fall should accommodate for most birds. Southbound migration is more drawn out because there are more birds, and the young-of-year and adults move at separate times. This would be a very easy and cheap (to my knowledge) project to complete in comparison to all of the other construction and 'park improvements' that have or have been taking place."