By Kathy McGrath
When Rob Elbertsen took over the planning portfolio for the CCRA executive two years ago, he had no prior experience with planning issues.
“I just had an interest in it, and I was willing to talk to people,” he explains. “One of the first things I did was go to the councillor’s office and introduce myself.”
Recently retired from an IT job, Rob is proof that community volunteers can learn on the job. He says he realized the importance of advocacy several years ago when the CCRA acted on behalf of residents regarding waste disposal at the Highland Creek Treatment Plant. The CCRA supported incineration, the preferred alternative in an environmental assessment, rather than transporting sludge in trucks. In the end, a decision was made to upgrade the incinerators.
Rob, a long-time Centennial resident, says his first chance to get involved came when he helped concerned residents get fencing erected around an unsafe construction site on Clemes Drive. Similarly, he has advocated on behalf of residents of the “apple orchard” development (beside St. Brendan Catholic School) to ensure builders follow safety rules. In both cases, Rob spoke to the local councillor about community concerns.
Rob says he accepted his planning role after several major local development decisions were already made. One of those projects is the relocation of the Rouge Hills GO station kiosk to accommodate a third rail for the regional rail system. In addition to the major construction that will take place, 170 parking spots will be lost. Rob says the local community associations have asked Metrolinx to design the station as a gateway to the waterfront and the Rouge National Park.
Another development Rob has his eye on is the widening of Port Union Road and the addition of dedicated turn lanes.
Both these projects are expected to take place in the next few years. “If they happen at the same time, it’s going to be a mess. But it’s short-term pain for long-term gain,” says Rob, who hopes to advocate for residents during the chaos.
One of the projects that Rob reported on in the March issue of this paper is the plan to redevelop and expand the University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) campus and reroute Military Trail to accommodate a pedestrian-friendly inner core.
“Even though this is a little out of our community, I’m excited that UTSC and Centennial College have a vision to make the campus a central hub for East Scarborough,” he says. “We can benefit from that.”