I attended the Community Consultation on June 23rd to discuss Phase 3 of the IQ Condos project proposed between Kipling and Islington Avenues on the south side of The Queensway. Phase 1 is approaching completion and Phase 2, having already received its permit, is set to begin construction in 2015 and ready for occupancy in 2017. I’ve been to a few of these consultations in the past and they all tend to follow the same pattern. Essentially, there are four parties that are present. First, there is the developer – typically represented by a lawyer and one or more designers or architects. Second, there is representation from the City – always from City Planning and sometimes from Transportation or other departments. Third, the city councillor was at two of the three meetings I attended. And fourth, there are a few local residents.
Several impressions came to mind after attending each of these meetings – the strongest of which is that the odds are heavily stacked against the residents. But I have to give the residents credit for at least showing up and trying. The fundamental problem is that few of them (if any) are trained in architecture and design, urban and land use planning, public transportation, municipal infrastructure, the permitting and appeal process and so on. Additionally, they have no formal mechanism, time, resources, and leadership to meet in advance with subject matter experts to present a united, strategic and coordinated rebuttal. So the meeting tends to degenerate into emotional attacks and accusations against the developer and City Planning that are based on fear, anger, speculation, and a lack of information. But the residents who attend must be respected for caring about their community and doing the best they can. Meanwhile, the developers, the city and transportation planners, and the councillor have been through it all before so they go through the motions and play their respective parts as diplomatically as they can knowing it will all be over in less than a couple of hours. And when it is all over, they are able to claim that they executed their due diligence and consulted with local residents.
Not once have I been to one of these community meetings where the councillor begins the proceedings by providing the residents with some history, context, and more importantly, an opinion on the project. Ideally, it should be the councillor who meets in advance with the local residents or residents association to discuss the merits of the projects, get a sense of whether or not the project has broad public support, and then lead the charge one way or the other at the community consultation. I don’t recall that ever happening in our community. Appropriate and high quality community development is the biggest reason that I want to become councillor of Ward 5. If elected, you can expect me to take a much more activist role in development issues – active in discussions with City Planning, developers, other councillors, and more importantly, the local residents and business owners.
I’m just as appalled as everyone else at Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the IQ Condos on The Queensway. It’s too late to stop Phase 2 and it will take a lot of work and co-ordination to stop Phase 3. But I can’t do it alone. First, I need your support to get elected. Then, I’ll need your support, participation, and activism to fight it. If you read the Places to Grow, Etobicoke Centre, and The Queensway sections of my website, you’ll realize I’m not anti-development. In fact, it’s just the opposite. I’m very pro-urban development. But urban development at an appropriate scale and in the appropriate locations.