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Richmond Hill mid-rises panned - Changed context

June 24, 2015
By Edward LaRusic

Arguing the context has changed considerably since its predecessor negotiated approval, Richmond Hill staff is asking a developer to replace two proposed six-storey apartment buildings with townhouses before an OMB hearing begins this fall.

Ward 3 councillor Castro Liu told NRU that the community has concerns with a development proposal for the southeast corner of Bayview Avenue and Elgin Mills Road East. CIM Development is proposing to build a pair of six-storey apartment buildings with 225 units and retail on the ground floor and 81 townhouses in eight blocks on the 3.73-ha. site. Separating the six-storey buildings and the townhouses is an environmental buffer to protect the Rogue River, which bisects the site. Liu said the two six-storey buildings are a concern.

“In terms of land use, townhouses on the east portion? Perfect... But on the west side, the two six-storey [buildings] are a little bit too much for that corner. What I’d like to see is hopefully the developer would do all townhouses,” he said. “I wouldn’t mind [the site having] a one-storey plaza to serve the neighbourhood, or townhouses. But two six-storeys, in terms of density and the look of that corner, it’s a little bit too much.”

To the east of the CIM site are single-detached homes and to the south is a townhouse development, known as Mission Hill on Bayview. On the vacant site across the street on the northeast corner of Bayview Avenue and Elgin Mills Road East the OMB approved two 10-storey residential buildings about a decade ago.

While official plan and zoning by-law amendments, submitted last year, were appealed to the OMB in April due Richmond Hill council’s failure to make a decision, the town held a public meeting June 17 to consider CIM’s plan of subdivision. At the time council requested the developer rethink its proposal.

Residents expressed concerns about traffic impacts and the site densities with the apartments. But CIM’s planner Tyler Grinyer (Bousfields Inc.) emphasized that this application is similar, and actually less intensive, than a previous one for the same site.

“There was official plan and rezoning applications submitted by a previous owner [Salfas Holdings Ltd.], which was conditionally approved by council in 2011. About a year after that approval, our client purchased the lands, and resubmitted the official plan and rezoning applications for a less intensive development on the subject lands.”

Through negotiations in 2011, the town granted Salfas conditional approval of its applications for official plan and zoning by-law amendments. In doing so council was permitting a mixed-use development with two six-storey apartment buildings with ground-floor commercial and a two-storey commercial building on the western portion of the site and a five-storey residential building and 17 townhouses on the eastern portion of the site. The conditions of approval were never fulfilled by Salfas and the lands were sold to CIM.

The CIM proposal reduces the number of residential units from 406 to 306, the commercial gross floor area from 4,974 m2 to 3,002.6 m2 and the density from 117 to 106 units per hectare.

However, Liu said the situation has changed since 2011.

“Back in 2011, the OMB [had previously] approved 10 storeys on the north side [of the site]. To the south, which is now Mission Hill, the developer asked for 23 storeys. [Salfas] filed for eight storeys. At that time, we thought that ‘okay, can we fight it to six storeys and then get section 37 [benefits]’.” said Liu.

Since then the 23-storey application has turned into the Mission Hill townhouses, and there has been no application made for the site to the north. This, Liu said, gives the town a stronger position today than it had in 2011 to argue for something less than six storeys.

“If the applicant proceeded in 2011, we couldn’t say no. But now [CIM is] revising the application. It’s something similar, but very different. Our planning staff is saying, things have changed after four or five years. It’s a new [submission]... we start from square one.”

At the public meeting, planning and regulatory services commissioner Ana Bassios said that the current official plan only permits ground-related housing up to a maximum of four storeys on the CIM site.