Court rejects appeal to block Willowdale housing project
It’s yet another twist in Toronto’s proposal to build 59 supportive housing units in Willowdale, as the Ontario Lands Tribunal rejected an appeal from a neighborhood group that sought to block development – stating that he had missed the required deadline by a single day.
In a letter dated September 8 – although the neighborhood group and city hall say they only found out on Thursday, with a lawyer for the appellants accusing an email error – the court said the deadline for making appeal of a rezoning by the city of 175 Cummer Av. had been set for August 17, 2022. The appeal was received by the city, the letter said, the next day.
“Therefore, the Tribunal lacks jurisdiction to accept this appeal,” he said.
It’s a timeline that the Bayview Cummer Neighborhood Association says it will now try to dispute, with its lawyer saying the appeal was actually filed on August 17 – shortly after 2:30 p.m. in person at City Hall. « As a result, we are contacting the OLT as it is clear that there has been an administrative misunderstanding, » attorney Eric Gillespie wrote in an email Thursday.
« Our clients are confident this will be resolved quickly and the matter will proceed to a hearing. »
City Hall also appeared to be seeking clarification, with a spokesperson saying it was following the court after learning of the ruling. « At this point, we are unable to answer any further questions about the future of the development, » the city wrote in an emailed statement.
This is just the latest twist in the story of 175 Cummer Ave., a property in Willowdale where the city has been working to build 59 studio apartments with integrated services such as mental and physical health care since the start of the l ‘last year. It’s the kind of new housing that city officials say is especially needed to help people out of its limited-capacity homeless shelters.
For years, the supply of supportive housing in Toronto – which provides integrated services for people with mental illnesses or addictions – has fallen short of demand. Last spring, nearly 21,000 people were on a waiting list for supportive housing in Toronto. Over the whole of 2020, that list grew by 2,793 people, while only 185 applicants were moved to supportive homes.
Meanwhile, urban shelters have faced increasing demand. On the night of October 25 at 4 a.m., there was only one emergency bed left in shelters for men, one emergency bed for women, two for mixed adults and six for young people – while the emergency system was globally reaching 99.5% of its capacity. .
But as the provincial government issued minister’s zoning orders that accelerated other supportive housing sites in Toronto, the Willowdale site has been a sticking point. Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark did not grant an MZO request made by City Hall last spring, with the Star previously reporting that Clark had expressed dissatisfaction with the local consultation process. Area MPP PC Stan Cho opposed the proposed development at the proposed location — on a green space across from a community housing complex for seniors.
Although the province denied its fast-track request, City Hall went ahead with the project, this year continuing a more traditional rezoning process while the building’s modular construction elements lay idle in a Toronto transit lot. In May, the city council approved new zoning rules required for the development, with a directive calling for an expedited hearing in the event of an appeal.
When contacted by the Star about the decision, newly elected Willowdale councilor Lily Cheng said she had been in touch with the chairman of the ward group and reiterated their stance that an appeal was submitted by the August 17 deadline. Her legal team, she wrote, was working to resolve the issue – although it would likely cause “a delay in the process”.
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