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Vaughan development battle comes down to decision day at council

Jaffari centre squabble with surrounding residents lasted 4 years, 28 meetings
April 5, 2018
Tim Kelly

City of Vaughan staff has suggested to city council that it approve a controversial Thornhill development for the Islamic Shia-Ithna-Ahseri-Jamaat (ISIJ) of Toronto strongly opposed by its neighbours.

Now it rests in council’s hands whether to give the go-ahead to the long-debated development at 9000 Bathurst St.

The development, which was debated by numerous delegations Wednesday afternoon in a long meeting at committee-of-the-whole that drew a packed chamber and overflow crowd, will come before City of Vaughan council on Wednesday, April 11, for a final decision.

The development was introduced at a raucous meeting back in February 2014 where more than 1,000 people showed up, many of whom were bused in to Vaughan City Hall. The meeting lasted more than four hours, involved dozens of deputations, and began a saga that has dragged on ever since and will go on to the Ontario Municipal Board. It will finally receive approval or rejection at the OMB with or without city approval.

The proposal now back before committee of the whole in Vaughan has been scaled down from the one that appeared four years ago. At that time, the Islamic Shia-Ithna-Asheri-Jamaat was asking for two 17-storey towers and 61 three-storey townhouses on its property at 9000 Bathurst St. in Thornhill.

Now, the proposal is for a six-storey and eight-storey tower which will have a total of 209 units, plus 42 street townhouse units in one block and 18 townhouse units in another block totalling less than 280 units, down from over 500 in the initial proposal.

Rom Koubi, chair of Preserve Thornhill Woods, which has opposed the development for a number of years, said many of the issues his group has with the proposal have been dealt with, though not all.

“A lot of things have been changed. The building’s height has gone down from 17 (storeys) to eight and six; they got a road through to alleviate traffic; there has been great outreach with regard to the parking, they are proposing to have a parking lot in the back …, it’s been moving forward,” conceded Koubi.

“There has been progress.”

Koubi said Preserve Thornhill Woods had 10 major topics at issue with the development and he said six have been addressed and dealt with. But he said additional parking is needed at the site, that there is not a sufficient supporting system for sewer and storm water management, and that there is concern about endangered species in the area should development proceed.

Shafiq Ebrahim, spokesperson for ISIJ of Toronto, said, “we’ve heard from the residents nearby, we’ve heard from Vaughan city staff and we’ve had over 28 meetings over the years in trying to get through this.”

Ebrahim believes “we’re at a point where we’ve compromised quite sufficiently. The application in the staff report said there is more than adequate parking allowed for on the site and that parking issues have been taken into consideration.”

He cited plans for a three-storey parkade, underground parking, York Regional Police and police monitoring of traffic and parking issues when Muslim high holy days take place during the calendar year as dealing with any issues nearby residents may have with parking problems.

“There is absolutely more than enough parking available,” Ebrahim said.