TORONTO — Bathurst Manor residents expressed their obvious displeasure with revised plans for the redevelopment of Bathurst Manor Plaza at a community consultation meeting held last week at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue.
In the third community meeting on the matter since 2006, lawyer Adam Brown, who was presenting the revised plans on behalf of the site’s owners Kilbarry Holding Corp., had to speak over the shouts and rumblings of the more than 300 people who attended.
The revised application, which would shift the buildings away from single family homes located to the north of the site, includes 44 townhouse units, two condominium buildings with 350 residential units and retail space, all to be built in three phases. Parking would be available below and above ground.
He said the proposed plan includes living space for about 700 people, and the anticipated start date for Phase 1 is “unlikely before 2014.” Each phase should take about 2-1/2 years.
The plaza, on the northeast corner of Wilmington Avenue and Overbrook Place, has been in decline since its anchor supermarket closed in 2004.
Brown, who had to rush through his presentation because people were impatiently waiting to ask questions, said retail patterns are changing and people are no longer turning to neighbourhood stores for their shopping needs.
“Plazas are going into decline. Putting in residential [housing will make the plaza] more viable,” he said.
Despite Brown’s assurances that the area has the “capacity to accommodate the development,” residents said they worried about, among other things, increased traffic, drainage and sewage, overcrowding in local schools, and, as one resident expressed loudly, “turning our neighbourhood into a ghetto.”
Brown said school overcrowding is not an issue, because new students will be bused to outside schools, since local schools are full.
One resident replied that this would add new buses to an already high-traffic area, while another woman, who identified herself as a local teacher, said she doesn’t believe the Toronto District School Board has money for extra buses. “That means more children will be put into these schools. These are problems that are not being addressed.”
James Pasternak, city councillor for Ward 10, which encompasses Bathurst Manor, assured the crowd that the meeting was solely informational and that nothing has been decided yet.
“We have to make sure your voices are heard,” he said.
Cassidy Ritz, a senior planner for community planning with the city, said the municipality is taking this matter very seriously.
“Following this meeting, we will determine if the applicant should make further changes. The applicant will then make further changes, or proceed with the application.”
Mark Adler, the MP for York Centre who said he was at the meeting as a resident and not in an official capacity, received no response when he asked who among the crowd supported the development.
“I don’t know how it has gone this far. [Why] is city hall making the decisions instead of elected officials?” Adler asked during the question period.
“Tonight is a call to action, and we have to get [Mayor Rob Ford] involved. Let me know if you’re prepared to fight to defeat the current configuration.”
He invited residents to call him or drop into this office. “As a community, we will figure this out.”
Pasternak said that if the applicant brings in a dramatically different plan, there will be another community meeting to consider it.
“I have vigorously opposed this plan for many years and will continue to do so,” Pasternak told The CJN.
“The density and the unit configurations are totally inappropriate for this site. It does not reflect the character of the neighbourhood, the wishes of the community and the overall historical role of the plaza as a centre to the community. We want the site cleaned up but not at any cost. If this comes before North York Community Council and City Hall I will have the votes to defeat it.”
Pasternak, who as a school board trustee in the area also fought this plan, said local schools are at or near capacity, and mass busing is a “disastrous option and a total disruption to the community.”