With municipal election day just weeks away, the one thing about which candidates and residents in Ward 22 can agree, is that the key issue is development.
A skyline dominated by high-rise apartment buildings has helped fuel the tensions surrounding development in the area. According to the City of Toronto website 57 per cent of dwellings are in high-rise apartments. According to Neil Siomra, chair of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area, it is not about halting development; it is about making it responsible.
“Make no mistake about it, I want more development because I want more customers in the neighborhood, but responsibly,” Siomra said. “Responsibly means taking into account all these other things such as green space and parking.”
Chris Sellors, a candidate for Ward 22 and past executive assistant to outgoing Coun. Michael Walker, blames Toronto City Council.
“They never saw a development that they didn’t like,” Sellors said. “Especially south of Bloor; it didn’t matter the density; it didn’t matter the ability of the infrastructure of the city services around it.”
William Molls, candidate for Ward 22, watched the Tridel condo development go up (in partnership with Ryerson University) and did not like what he saw.
“They claim to have … listened to the concerns of the residents, but at the end of the day the building stands out in the neighbourhood,” Molls said. “It doesn’t fit in with any of the architecture around it and it is still much taller than anyone had expected or wanted.”
According to Josh Matlow, candidate for Ward 22, the community too often gets lost in the shuffle.
“I hear from a lot of people that a developer will put in an application and work hard to ensure that it goes through with as little genuine consultation as possible,” Matlow said.
Matlow points out that areas such as Spadina Avenue still contain many two-story buildings while northern Toronto is inundated with high-rise apartments.
“If you build a street of consistently between six to eight stories, I think you arrive at a great balance,” Matlow said. “Where you allow for more density that supports… a successful transit system and retail.”
Matlow also wants a greater focus on beautifying the architectural look of the city.
For all the candidates, involving the people in the community is the most important step to finding balance.
“Community consultation should not be an after thought,” Molls said. “It should be at the forefront of every development in Ward 22 and that process should be open … Everyone should know about what developments are happening and everyone should be able to have a say.”
Sellors also said the community should control its own destiny.
“Always consult with the residents,” Sellors said. “They always have something they want you to fight for, and so you’ve got to listen to them.”
He feels that his work with Walker on setting sustainable precedents in development in Ward 22 will help to keep development under control.
“I am optimistic in the future that we should be able to sort of guide development a little better,” Sellors said.