The OMB will conduct a prehearing in November, and has scheduled dates in February to hear the developer`s appeal. The city planners’ request for direction is an agenda item for TEYCC`s regular monthly meeting this coming Wednesday (October 10). Depending upon what TEYCC decides, the matter could be considered by the full Toronto City Council on October 30.
A 5-storey office building with street-level retail stores currently occupies 40 Wellesley East. The property already has a high-rise neighbour on its west side, the 155-unit, 22-storey 22 Condominiums built in 2008. Another tower is expected to be built on 40 Wellesley`s east side, a vacant rectangular lot bearing the municipal address of 46 Wellesley, where development of an 88-meter, 29-storey condo highrise with 227 units was approved by the City in July 2005. In January, Plazacorp Urban Residential Communities erected a billboard on the empty lot to advertise that it is accepting registrations for a condo project named 50 Wellesley Residences. The sign is still there, and the Plazacorp website still has a registration page, but the company has not yet announced any construction plans or released further information about when the project might finally proceed.
44-storey condo + hotel originally proposed for site
Plans for a tower wedged between 22 Condominiums and 50 Wellesley Residences have a rather long and complicated history of revised development applications, legal proceedings, and a change in land ownership.
The 40 Wellesley story essentially started in December 2005 when a company called First Urban proposed building a 162-meter, 44-storey condo-hotel complex that would include 214 condo units and 126 hotel rooms.
The application proceeded through the usual city review processes, and was even presented to the public at a community consultation meeting in 2006. After city planners took the position that the proposed tower was far too tall for the site, First Urban appealed to the OMB, and a hearing was scheduled for October 2006. In July of that year, however, First Urban asked the OMB to delay the hearing so potential changes to the proposal could be discussed with the city planners. Meanwhile, First Urban launched a separate OMB appeal against the development that the city had approved for 46 Wellesley East, objecting to a side yard setback. First Urban then asked the OMB to consolidate the two appeals and hear the cases together. The OMB refused the consolidation request, and ultimately ruled in favour of the 46 Wellesley East development. Since First Urban`s proposal for 40 Wellesley was not a subject of that appeal, the board did not decide if the condo + hotel plan conformed with planning policies or should be approved.
On March 10 2008, First Urban submitted a revised planning application to the City, this time proposing a 29-storey, 163-unit condo for 40 Wellesley instead of a combined condo and hotel tower. City Council refused the application in July 2008.
New landowner submits revised development application
First Urban subsequently sold 40 Wellesley to 862015 Ontario Inc. On August 12 2012, the numbered company submitted a revised development application proposing to build a 37-storey condo with 265 condo units, two levels of retail space, and four floors of underground parking. The tower would be designed by Sweeney Sterling Finlayson & Co. Architects of Toronto. Meanwhile, since the First Urban appeal had never proceeded to a hearing at the OMB, 862015 Ontario Inc. sought to get that that proceeding resumed. Along with city planners, residents of 22 Condominiums and Terrace Court are opposing the appeal.
City planners have long been concerned that construction of three adjacent towers would effectively establish a tall wall of condos on the north side of Wellesley Street, resulting in what they described in a June 16 2005 planning report as “significant shadow impacts and reduction in sky view for residents to the north.” The planners’ most recent report shows they are standing firm in their position on this issue.
Site lacks tower development potential, planners argue
“Beginning with the original proposal in 2005,” their request for direction report observes, “City Planning staff has continuously conveyed to the original and current landowners the inherent development constraints that exist with respect to this site. The site is not a tall building site based on lot area and dimensions. The existing and approved development abutting the site further reduce the development potential of the property. In particular, concerns have been raised regarding the spatial separation of buildings and the anticipated negative impact of this on light, view and privacy. Likewise, concerns were expressed respecting impacts on the surrounding public realm, including shadow impacts.
“The applicant has made efforts to address some of these issues. However, a significant reduction in height and increase in the side and rear setbacks from what is currently proposed is required in order to provide for a building form that meets the planning objectives for the site and lessens impacts on the surrounding neighbourhood. The application in its current form is not supportable,” the report concludes. (Full details explaining the basis for the planners`position can be read in the 20-page report.)
See my July 16 2012 post for more information and photos about the 40 Wellesley site and its neighbours, as well as development projects in the works for other sites nearby.