Report from the CLRA
The demolition and new build at 136 Lyndhurst Ave is an example of manipulating the City of Toronto’s heritage and planning process where an owner deceives to get exactly what they want, thus helping to destroy a unique heritage neighbourhood.
This is a continuation of the problematic development process that has occurred with this property. The first chapter has been detailed on the CLRA web site. In a nutshell, the owner of 136 Lyndhurst purchased a home that had been identified as a heritage home of interest within the Casa Loma Heritage Conservation District study along with a number of adjoining homes including a remarkable home at 134 Lyndhurst designed by Eden Smith, the famous Arts & Crafts architect active in Toronto at the turn of the last century. This grouping of heritage homes formed the entrance to Lyndhurst Avenue adjacent to Lyndhurst Lodge on the way to Casa Loma itself. However because the HCD study was not completed it left this home vulnerable to demolition. The owner was aware of the significance of this home when he purchased the home and during meetings hosted by Councillor Matlow that included the owner, his architect and the President of the CLRA, they made it very clear they were aware of the inclusion within the HCD study but had absolutely no interest in preserving the home or even the front façade even though we shared with them an assessment by heritage architect Joan Burt identifying the unique heritage aspects of the home including its special brick design over the windows. 136 Lyndhurst had an appropriate connection to the neighbouring properties to the south and north and all maintained similar setbacks and also protected privacy with respect to each other.
During the meetings with Councillor Matlow the owner asserted that they had come up with a planned modest contemporary home that would fit into the context of the street and neighbourhood and that further absolutely NO variances were being sought for the planned new home. Accordingly upon presentation of their building permit plans seeking no variances they were granted a demolition permit on March 16, 2020. The home was subsequently demolished and then the owner quickly submitted new building plans to modify the original plans that had been submitted in order to get the demolition permit.
On July 14, 2020 Jamie Atkinson, Zoning examiner for the City of Toronto issued a letter outlining 3 major deficiencies from the new plans that would require variance permission under the Committee of Adjustment.
The owner’s architect submitted plans in October 2020 to support the request for these three variances while building of the new home continued during this time without ANY notices to the community that variances were being requested so that the owner could obtain what he wanted and planned all along
For some reason, ONLY on April 30th was notice of the Committee of Adjustment meeting sent out to the neighbours for a COA hearing on May 11 – a full 10 months after the initial deficiency notice issued by the City’s zoning examiner! The CLRA felt that the variances that were being sought would set a terrible precedent not only for the neighbours but the whole neighbourhood and also felt that this non transparent building process needed to be exposed – especially as the owner continued to build his building where he did not have the proper permissions.
The CLRA retained Alex Lusty from Davies Howe to act on our behalf and evaluate what principles should be presented to the COA and what processes were apparently being circumvented. The CLRA submitted a letter to the Committee of Adjustment on May 4th, 2021 and together with our counsel tried to fully understand why it had taken 10 months for this to get to the Committee of Adjustment and exactly what were the nature of the variances being sought.
Only upon exhaustive investigations with numerous building officials were we told that a modified building permit had been recently granted on March 15th to permit the increase in the wall heights to the south and north thus permitting the high flat roof and floor to ceiling windows peering down on the adjoining property to the south and dramatically changing the character of this home in contrast to the neighbourhood. After a full year and half of this project even the neighbours weren’t aware of what the owner was planning!
Eventually we found out just before the COA hearing that there was an obscure election zoning by law exemption available to the owner – either get the height of the side walls increased or the rear walls – but NOT both – it’s an election. The owner elected to have the exemption apply to the side walls and then went to the COA to get the exemption for the rear walls – thus asking for both when this was clearly not the intention of the bylaw.
During the COA hearing the architect for the owner only talked to the rear variance and the additional variance to build an underground storage room for which the CLRA had no issues. He did not even address the third variance that was officially part of the COA notice and stemmed from the July 14th 2020 zoning deficiency notice and simply said that both of these variances identified on the notice applied to the rear walls – which was completely false and inaccurate. Our counsel tried to point out that the process was unfair and should require rejection of the application since there was a clear inconsistency between what the applicant was asking for and submitting and what the official notice described. Unfortunately the COA simply ignored any of the points submitted by our counsel and also by Kerry Wood, a resident across the street who pointed out that this home was being constructed against the zoning processes and policies established that others have diligently followed.
This whole file is problematic on so many levels and sets a terrible precedent that heritage and zoning by laws don’t matter if you have enough money and can hire professionals who will simply figure out how to circumvent the process.
Accordingly it’s really important that the CLRA step in to supervise these kinds of applications that threaten to destroy the unique character of our neighbourhood and also allow neighbours to seriously infringe on the property rights and enjoyment of their properties.
Everyone should know and be aware that the CLRA will vigorously protect the heritage of the Casa Loma area, one of the City’s very few acknowledged heritage districts as well as the spirit and letter of the zoning by laws designed to create a level playing field that balance owners’ rights with the rights of neighbours and the whole community.
The CLRA has filed an appeal of the COA decision to TLAB.