By Rob Elbertsen

When community residents become aware of impending neighbourhood development approvals that they feel negatively impact them and the community, they may not know what options are available for appeal.

In March, approval was given to an applicant by the Scarborough Committee of Adjustment to sever property on Brumwell St. in the Centennial community to create two building lots. Further approval was given to demolish an existing home in order to construct two new homes, and for several bylaw variances. These bylaw variances requested that the two homes be slightly larger than normally permitted, their side setbacks be slightly less than bylaw allowances, and the front setbacks be much less than bylaw allowances.

A resident became aware of these bylaw variance approvals and was concerned. The resident felt that the net effect of the approvals would allow for the construction of two new noticeably larger homes, and the front setbacks were a huge deviation from the homes on the street. This would significantly alter the characteristics of the neighbourhood and set an alarming precedent.

The resident filed an appeal with the new Toronto Local Appeal Body. TLAB was established by City Council last year to assume the powers and authority of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) for hearing appeals for minor variance and consent applications. To conduct a capable appeal, the resident contracted a lawyer and a planner with expertise in the areas of urban planning and the complicated world of building codes and bylaws. The resident also contacted the CCRA for support.

The TLAB hearing in early September was conducted in a formal, quasi-judicial setting. The builder applicant and the resident appealing the bylaw variances were supported by their teams of lawyers/planners. I was also in attendance representing the CCRA. For this particular appeal, it was fortunate that the two sides had been negotiating a settlement in advance of the hearing. Following the TLAB Chair’s opening remarks, the lawyer for the builder advised the Chair that a settlement negotiation was underway, and requested that the hearing be deferred so that negotiations could continue.

The TLAB Chair expressed a preference for settlement, and granted a recess. For the next few hours the two teams met among themselves and with each other, trying to come to an acceptable agreement. Finally, they were able to craft a settlement proposal that was to be presented to the TLAB Chair. The settlement proposal presentation was carefully scrutinized by the Chair, as any settlement needs to be ultimately approved by TLAB.

At the end of a long day, we (the resident appealing the variances and the CCRA) considered the appeal to have been successful. The settlement (still to be formally approved by TLAB) provided for slightly smaller homes with front setbacks further back from the street, protection of a large front yard tree, and the addition of further trees, as well as a modified home design/cladding. The combined effect will be to downsize the perceived bulk of the new homes and to reduce the deviation of front setbacks from other homes in the neighbourhood. The negative effect on the characteristic of the neighbourhood will be minimized.