Bob Baron: June 2001
There are several different issues to talk about this month including the Yellow Moon site, the Village Common and the proposed microwave tower.
Proposed Microwave Tower
Most of you will not have heard of the microwave tower. Telus, wants to erect a 100 foot tower on the CN property at the foot of Port Union, bordering on the Port Union Village Common Park. This would be quite an intrusion into the aesthetics of the park as well as a potential safety hazard. The park will likely be a magnet for the young, some of whom may find the challenge of climbing up to a superior viewpoint, irresistible. We have written to Industry Canada, asking them to find another location. As telecommunications is a federal jurisdiction, we have asked John McKay to intercede on our behalf.
Village Common - choices
Many of you attended the April 19th meeting to discuss the make-up of the Port Union Village Common. Those who were there can attest to the fact that not only was nothing resolved but there was also extreme polarization of the community residents. For years, we lobbied for a village common that would offer a true village centre atmosphere with shops, offices and restaurants ¾ clean businesses to offer services and charm to the park vista ¾ and of course, access to the lake. For those of you who might be unaware of the history of this area, Port Union, was once a lake port and ship-building town. The community wanted any development to be reflective of this history and several years ago, this is what the city agreed to. Over the last seven years, private proposals have been made to develop the area with a nautical theme, with one of these even including the building of a spit out into the lake which would house shops, a marina and a fast ferry service across the lake. This was certainly interesting if a little ambitious. Back to our current situation. The official plan, approved in 1997, designates both sides of Port Union as mixed use. This leaves the developers the ability to opt for the less-expensive-to-develop choice, of making the main streets all-residential. The east side of Port Union, from Lawrence to Duthie is already being developed as town houses. If this trend continues, the Village Common will effectively be a private park for the few residents living immediately around it. This is not what the Village Common was meant to be. As I wrote a couple of months ago, the Village Common was to be a pedestrian-oriented gathering place and a terminus on the Waterfront Trail. The park was to be part of the Common, not the only part. Think of how many places there are between here and downtown where there is direct public access to the lakefront. Now think how many offer a retail and commercial aspect. What an opportunity we have here!
Personally, I feel the vision of the Port Union Village Common has been reduced enough but I am only one voice. In order to determine what the community wants the Village Common to be, we are asking you to take part in a mini-referendum. There is a ballot enclosed in this newsletter and I would encourage you to vote using it or the ballot on the web site. Each resident is allowed to vote only once. We've tried to keep the choices simple and there are only three of them as these seem to cover the alternatives that are realistically available to us. They are: 1) Allow the zoning to remain mixed use and development to continue to be all residential and risk making the Village common a neighbourhood park instead of a community park; 2) change the zoning south of Duthie, surrounding the park to allow for only retail or commercial and force the developer/s to develop it as originally promised; 3) abandon the park altogether and allow the area to be completely developed as residential.
What are the ramifications of these choices? The first choice will certainly favour those living immediately around the park. They will effectively have a private park because with limited parking and limited access, it will be somewhat difficult for people from elsewhere in the community to make use of it.
The second choice reflects the expectations of the residents who have lived here for some time. It is not what was originally promised but given where the development of this site is currently, it is as close to what was originally promised as can realistically be expected. This choice would ensure that there would be some shops, offices and restaurants and consequently light and activity around the park. These are important to prevent the park from becoming an unattended area where activities unbecoming a family venue could take place.
The third choice would not only eliminate the park all together but it represents the loss of an opportunity to have something special at our waterfront. As I said above, there are not very many places along Toronto's waterfront where residents have free access to the lake and the Waterfront Trail. Having said that, some people might prefer to avoid the influx of any visitors to the area by removing the reason for them to come. This choice certainly does that and it would enable the developers to add more dwellings to those they already offer for sale.
It is hard for me to be impartial with this referendum. This is a terrific area and it is always a concern that our choices might somehow jeopardize that. I believe we have an opportunity to make this Village Common special but it's not up to me, it's up to us.
The problems at the Yellow Moon property have not gone away. The Minister of the Environment responded to my letter and although her response appeared less than hoped for, we have since received a letter from the Ministry stating that they will be conducting a full audit of the Yellow Moon site before any approvals to proceed can be granted. This audit will entail the MOE doing its own testing and comparing the results to those reported by Yellow Moon. This is very good news, indeed.
One of the PUVHA residents witnessed a truly troubling episode in front of his home. Workers with a backhoe appeared to be about to remove some of the asbestos from one of the locations where it was found last month and this resident watched with interest. Instead of following the approved procedure for doing so, the workers merely spread the asbestos around and covered some of it up, creating another opportunity for the residents of this community to be at risk. After all the assurances we have received from all the different levels of government and their ministries and departments about legislation and monitoring and inspections, that this flagrant abuse of the law could be undertaken by these workers is unconscionable. Why were they allowed to be working on the asbestos without the right safeguards in place? Who are they working for? Will those responsible be dealt with appropriately?
This is not the first abuse at this site, of the legislation and the specific procedures in place for dealing with contaminated sites. Up until now, the people who had the authority to deal with these abuses have chosen to give the offenders the benefit of the doubt but this cannot be another abuse that is swept under the carpet.
In closing ...
Thank you to every one who contributed to making Earth Day such a success. Not only was it a lot of fun but all the hard work paid off by making the area cleaner and enriched. The water plants and soil retaining plants at Rouge Park will be beneficial for years and the trees planted will continue to add to the overall beauty of our community.
The permanent skateboarding facility by the Port Union Community Centre has been approved by the city. Construction will be underway by the time you receive this newsletter.
Keep those e-mails coming and remember to visit our website.
On behalf of the CCRA Executive, have a safe and happy summer, every one.