London neighbours slam more infill developments
While Londoners have generally united behind The London Plan’s philosophy that the city must slow sprawl through intensification, delivering on that promise is fueling division.
On Monday, a pair of higher-density developments became the latest test of council’s commitment to intensification.
Dozens of frustrated neighbours attended a meeting of the Planning and Environment Committee to oppose a rezoning request to permit two five-unit townhouse buildings at 489 Upper Queens St. after a large single family home was demolished.
Virtually every speaker expressed an acceptance to infill development in principle, but the design, scale and density of the 10, two-storey townhouses was too much.
Among the arguments made by neighbours against the proposed development:
“If you say yes to this, then you’re going to have a very difficult time saying no to the next developer who buys one of our lots.”
“People will be buying [the townhouses] for capital gain, and rent them out to who knows who, then you start to get a deterioration of the area.”
“I was outside the other day looking at that area thinking of the box that is going to be staring down at me in my backyard.”
“All the homes are million-dollar homes with large lots. There are no townhouses.”
Townhouse development proposed on Upper Queens Street (Source: City of London)
A single neighbour spoke in favour of adding more affordably priced housing to the stretch of high-end single-family homes, “[I’m] pushing to make sure London stays a place where lots of people can live and help grow a thriving community.”
Despite the public pressure, most members of the planning committee echoed the need for intensification as it’s spelled out in The London Plan.
“With 47,000 units of housing needed in this city, I think 10 is a pretty gentle intensification in this area,” explained Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis.
“We’re at the point where all neighbourhoods have a role to play in this housing crisis, and that includes accepting, welcoming, and celebrating infill,” added Coun. Skylar Franke.
The planning committee voted 4-1 in favour of the proposal, Coun. Steve Lehman opposed.
Infill developments have increasingly fuelled contentious public meetings at city hall as the community struggles to achieve The London Plan’s intensification targets in existing neighbourhoods.
The next item on the planning committee agenda saw a similar debate unfold.
Residential building proposed at 608 Commissioners Road W. (Source: City of London)
Residents expressed concern about the scale of a six-storey, 95-unit building proposed at the corner of Commissioners Road west and Westmount Crescent.
Their ward councillor saying that many infill decisions fly in the face of the existing neighbourhood’s wishes.
“We shove a new development down their throats without taking their very well-based concerns into account,” argued Coun. Paul Van Meerbergen.
“We have to ask ourselves, where are we going to do intensification?” Lewis asked his colleagues. “To me, the answer is that it’s got to be shared around the city.”
Van Meerbergen suggested that the challenge stems from building designs brought forward by developers, not resistance from neighbours with not-in-my-back-yard (NIMBY) attitudes.
“It’s not about NIMBY-ism. It’s about the size, scope, and degree of the intensification,” he said.
After another lengthy debate, the Planning and Environment Committee recommended the six-storey building at 608 Commissioners Rd. W. be approved.
Council makes a final decision on both rezoning requests on Feb.14.
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