Clarkson Village battle takes the stage at council

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(Screenshot: Google Maps)

BY KELLY ROCHE

The future of Clarkson Village is up for debate at city council tomorrow.
“I want to make sure that we get the best deal possible,” said Ward 2 Coun. Karen Ras, adding she’s not going to ask staff to “fight something that we don’t have a chance of winning at the Ontario Municipal Board.”
A number of deputants are expected as the intensification dispute over council’s 2014 decision to limit density continues.
The OMB conducts hearings and makes decisions on matters that have been appealed under specific provincial legislation — mostly planning.
Legal staff will be updating council – in camera – and say “you can either agree with us, disagree with us, or give us direction,” said Ras.
Two areas along Lakeshore Rd. are being contested: RioCan’s HomeSense plaza, west of Clarkson Rd.; and nearby properties on the south side of Lakeshore, west of Meadow Wood Rd.
“I’ve received a lot of e-mail, both supporting the revitalization and those who are very much not wanting any change in the neighbourhood,” Ras said.
The issues at hand are linked to recommendations from the 2010 Clarkson Village study, in which city planning staff recommended six storey buildings.
Council – with Pat Mullin representing Ward 2 – voted to cap the height of all buildings at four storeys, hence the re-examination.
“There’s a number of property owners in the area that are appealing based on various planning issues,” Ras said.
The province requires commitment from cities to intensify in specific areas, particularly near large transit stations.
The Clarkson GO station is a critical hub – with residents even driving from the north end of Mississauga to ride the Lakeshore West train to Union Station – and Clarkson was labeled a community node, capable of accepting greater density.
Independent legal counsel was retained by the city a few months ago to meet with the property owners and go to the bargaining table.
A draft settlement has been reached with RioCan and discussions of resolution have been formulated with other appellants.
Council will decide whether to accept its terms.
Ras said she has informed residents throughout the negotiations, “even though that isn’t part of the public process.”
Regardless of the proposed settlement, a hearing before the OMB is scheduled for Nov. 23.
The essence of the dispute is whether the OMB sides with council or rules in favour of city staff, who developed recommendations according to planning principles and their interpretation of the Provincial Planning Act, said Ras.
To complicate matters, the OMB issued a decision for the RioCan site in 2010, approving an eight storey retirement residence containing ground floor commercial space, an urban square and streetscaping.
Development didn’t proceed but from a legal perspective, it’s difficult for the city to now argue in favour of four storeys on the entire property when eight had already been approved, said Ras.
A compromise hasn’t been reached for the south side of Meadow Wood Rd., where appellants want up to six storeys.
It’s important to note “there are no specific developments on the table,” said Ras, adding the fight is for future building opportunities.
She said residents can decide to “take our chances in legal proceedings where the odds are stacked against us, or work with the property owners to find a common vision that achieves all of our goals.”
Ras said change is inevitable.
“If anyone has driven through Clarkson in the last little while … it’s in need of a revitalization,” she said.
“It’s just a matter of how much and how fast.”
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