A large number of neighbours filled the Conservatory of Casa Loma to be updated on several matters of importance to our community. In addition to our city counsellor, Joe Mihevc, Shaun Cameron from Minister Carolyn Bennett’s office, Mike Ferguson from Minister Eric Hoskins office and Nick Di Donato, CEO of Liberty Entertainment attended.
CLRA President, Robert Levy, opened the meeting and explained the Association’s role is to advocate the neighbourhood’s interests by finding a sense of balance and accord by respecting and listening to all sides of an issue. This approach has been successful in reaching acceptable compromises in the past. The objective for the evening was to present information so that neighbours would have a better understanding of the issues impacting our neighbourhood and get involved so they may contribute to successful outcomes.
Joe Mihevc updated the meeting on 5 matters.
- The Heritage District Study
The city chose to study the Casa Loma neighbourhood as a potential heritage district as the neighbourhood has been defined by historical properties such as Casa Loma, Spadina House, the Wychwood Library, a number of homes that date from that era and our precious tree canopy. Heritage district designations help define what neighbourhood attributes are worth preserving and by defining the rules beforehand can avoid some acrimony over what’s worth protecting and what’s not.
- Wychwood Library
The Library is a Heritage Property and needs to be expanded to meet the needs of a growing population. Joe passed out drawings of the new library expansion which will be a modern, largely glass design, that will be a visual compliment to the original structure. The new addition will also incorporate the Lawn Bowling clubhouse which will be demolished as its structure was not deemed to be historical. Construction will start in the spring of 2018 and will be financed in part by a $1.5 million contribution from the new condominium nearing completion on the south east corner of Bathurst and St. Clair. Any construction road encroachment will be on Melgund, not Bathurst.
- Petro Canada site at the North East corner of Bathurst and St. Clair.
The site has been sold to pension fund investors who want to build 3 high end rental towers on the property which is about 3 times the area of the Rise Condominium nearing completion. Joe referenced the height of the three towers already at that intersection for comparison. The review process will look at any proposed heights, the social impact that the number of new residents will have on the neighbourhood and what new public facilities may be needed to accommodate them. There will be no encroachment on to Bathurst during the construction phase as the property is large enough to accommodate the staging areas for the construction. Related, Joe told us that the encroachment on Bathurst by the Rise Condominium construction will be removed by the end of January or earlier if weather permits.
- Noise & Traffic from Casa Loma
The city entered into an operating contract with the Liberty Entertainment Group for the operation of Casa Loma after many years of under management by the Kiwanis Club. The castle is owned by the city and is paying for the much needed outside structural renovation from income earned from the lease to Liberty Entertainment. There are 4 years of renovation work ahead starting with the cement and stone perimeter walls and then the renovation of the structures north of Austin Terrace. The city is engaged in discussions with Liberty Entertainment to address neighbourhood concerns about noise, traffic and parking. Essentially, we now have a very successful entertainment complex operating in a residential neighbourhood. The city and Liberty Entertainment are interested in working towards an accommodation that will recognize the interests of both the rejuvenated Casa Loma and the residential characteristics of the neighbourhood, through professional studies and some trial and error steps.
- Public construction in our area
- We’re about half way through the 4 year process to build two elevators into the Dupont Subway station. Work is largely finished at the North West corner and will now begin at the South East corner.
- The Spadina bridge construction is complete including the underpinning damage caused by a broken water pipe.
- Work will start on the Spadina Railway bridge reconstruction in 2021 which will affect traffic patterns in the area.
Robert Levy then spoke about the success the Association has had in reaching compromise with the development proposals for 7 Austin Terrace (McLean House), 72 Wells Hill (maintaining the façade) and 18 Wells Hill (maintaining the set back). He also thanked Paul Morrison and his firm McCarthy Tetrault for the huge amount of legal work for the CLRA which was required to represent our interests on the three heritage properties and which McCarthy Tetrault provided on a pro bono basis.
He also applauded the owner of 35 Wells Hill who decided not to demolish their house and instead came up with a plan which fits nicely into the streetscape. Related to this, the city determined that the large tree in front of 35 Wells Hill was diseased and could not be preserved.
A developer’s plan for the property at 350 Walmer Rd. will be reviewed by the Toronto Local Appeal Board at an appeal meeting March 1st . The plan calls for demolishing the existing house, subdividing the 50 foot lot into 2 – 25 foot lots and constructing 2 single family homes with added coverage and only 1.5 feet of setback to the property line. The sub division is not inconsistent with other lots on the street but the size and character of the proposed houses is out of place. The CLRA has sent a letter of objection to the TLAB stating that this development “is not consistent with Toronto’s Official Plan that directs new development in Neighbourhoods (Casa Loma is designated as a Neighbourhood) to respect and reinforce the existing physical character of the area, including the pattern of streetscapes and open spaces.”
Richard Macklin then updated the meeting on the CLRA’s intervention with NAV Canada and the Minister’s staff due to NAV Canada’s decision in 2011 to move and concentrate the flight patterns to Pearson Airport which has resulted in 40% of all arrival flights flying directly over our neighbourhood. The CLRA has formed an association with three other residents groups on this matter – Hillcrest Residents Association, South Hill Residents Association and Ardwold Gate Residents group. The group has retained the services of a former Air Canada pilot familiar with Nav Canada to help us.
Jonathan Spencer reported that we were not able to save the Wells Hill Lawn Bowling clubhouse from demolition as it was deemed not to be of historical character. We were able to secure the Club’s future which will operate out of new premises to be incorporated into the expansion of the Wychwood library. The club will continue to operate during construction. (www.wellshilllawnbowling.com)
Laura William informed the meeting of the formation of the Sir Winston Churchill Park Association which will be organizing community input into what goes back into the park once construction of the reservoir is finished in late 2019 and what steps can be taken to rejuvenate the adjacent Nordheimer ravine and Roycroft park lands. (www.swcpark.org)
Annabel Weinstein spoke of our wonderful tree canopy which is such an integral part of our life here in Casa Loma. Over the past several years we have lost many trees to the ice storm, water storm damage and aging. She reminded us that we are the family for our trees and we should be diligent in caring for the trees on our properties and contacting the city when trees within their setback need pruning or treatment for pest infestation.
We were also informed that the City will not be removing the leaves from our streets again this year and the pile up in front of many homes will be dangerous when winter storms arrive. However, following the meeting, Robert Levy met with Joe Mihevc and his office was subsequently successful in having our streets cleaned of leaves one more time. This was an exceptional case to ensure our neighbourhood would be safer and not inconvenienced by leaves left on the street. It is the responsibility of every homeowner to now bag their leaves for the last pickup day December 5th.
Tamara Anson-Cartwright of the Toronto Planning Department spoke to the Heritage Conservation District (HCD) Study underway by the Toronto Planning Department. HCD’s are there to ensure that the significance and character of areas with cultural heritage value are protected and conserved in the long term. There have been more than 20 HCD’s designated in Toronto and ours is one of eleven neighbourhoods being studied for potential designation. An Open House for community input was held on September 28th at Toronto Archives on Spadina Road (https://hcdtoronto.wordpress.com/2017/10/04/casa-loma-hcd-study-open-house} and another is planned for February/March. Results of the Study and recommendation on whether our neighbourhood warrants a heritage designation is expected in late Spring or early Summer. Dyan Kirshenbaum is leading the CLRA’s participation in the Study. Of importance to us is how the designation will affect our property values and our ability to renovate our homes. We were told that the designation affects only what is visible from the street and not what is inside our homes or our backyards. Further, neighbourhoods with heritage designations have seen an increase in their property values relative to other neighbourhoods as people want to live in them.
Joann Breitman spoke to the discussions underway with Casa Loma, Joe Mihevc’s office, Josh Matlow’s office and the City about noise, traffic and parking issues related to events such as Legends of Horror at Casa Loma. We learned that Casa Loma has been granted exemptions to the noise bylaws in the past without the opportunity for neighbourhood input. Joe Mihevc interjected that there was no malice of intent by Casa Loma and likely the City just didn’t appreciate what they were approving given the 70 years of previous under management. We also learned that the area behind the Stables will be used as a construction holding area for the 4 years of renovation planned for Casa Loma. This area was chosen by Casa Loma instead of a portion of their parking lot and will have a greater impact on residents of Walmer Rd. and those on Lyndhurst Ave. backing on to the stables.
The CLRA now has the attention of Casa Loma and the various city departments involved, like our Councillors (the property is split between wards 21 and 22), Economic Development, Culture, and Tourism. We can expect better communications and hope for better relations now that all parties are in the tent together.
The CLRA is looking for members and volunteers. The CLRA is a volunteer run association and requires funding to support its various projects. The web site will now be updated by Ed Collins and residents will be able to buy memberships and make other contributions through the web site in the near future. Many people who attended the meeting joined the Association and made contributions. www.CLRAtoronto.com.
All those who attended the meeting received 2 admission tickets to Casa Loma Winterland Nights courtesy of the Liberty Entertainment Group. The program details and schedule of performances for this event which runs from December 18th to January 7th will soon be posted on the Casa Loma web site. www.casaloma.ca.