Dear Davisville Public School parents and local residential community,
Over two years ago, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) began a process to explore redeveloping the Davisville Public School property. At that time, serving as our local school trustee, I was able to obtain a written commitment from Dr. Chris Spence, the TDSB's Director of Education, that no redevelopment plan would be brought to the school board for consideration unless a Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the TDSB, the parent school council and the local residents' associations – the South Eglinton Residents and Ratepayers' Association and the Oriole Park Association.
I also made a request of the TDSB to be upfront with parents and residents as to their financial requirements for redevelopment of the Davisville site. I wanted to ensure that the funding envelope, and scope of what was possible, be established before the school community invested their time and energy into designing a new school. Unfortunately, the Board has taken the opposite approach and has wasted considerable time in the process.
As your City Councillor since December, 2010, I have been closely following the TDSB's work towards a development proposal that would ultimately come to City Hall. Soon after taking office, I met with Trustee Shelley Laskin and Board staff to discuss their options for redevelopment. I informed the TDSB representatives that Davisville PS is located in a Neighbourhood designated zone under Toronto's Official Plan. This designation allows for a maximum of 4 storeys, though there may be a little flexibility as the Salvation Army building just east of the site is 6 storeys.
Since that time, I have been made aware that the TDSB is exploring proposals that could see several condominiums on the Davisville site, with one of the buildings at 20 storeys.
The Official Plan was a compromise, of sorts, with the residents of Toronto. To accommodate the provincially-mandated growth targets, the City not only directed but confined growth to the downtown, major nodes and avenues. Despite significant intensification from condos, single-family home areas would be protected. Since the Official Plan was adopted in 2002, Neighbourhoods designated zones have not been compromised by the City and have been consistently upheld by the Ontario Municipal Board. I believe protecting the stability of Toronto’s neighbourhoods must be a priority for the City of Toronto.
As a former two-term Trustee I fully understand the very real financial pressures that the TDSB is facing to provide excellent programming in quality facilities that our children, parents and teachers deserve. That's why I've been working with Trustee Laskin, TDSB staff, and City Planners to find a solution that meets the Board's important needs while respecting Toronto’s Official Plan. Recently, there have been constructive conversations regarding the possibility of an institutional exemption from the Official Plan for the TDSB. While promising, this is an issue of city-wide significance that will need significant review by City staff and Council. In short, this is not an overnight solution and may not be supportable by Council even if considered.
The North Toronto Collegiate redevelopment near Yonge and Eglinton is a great success that I am proud to have played a role in. The students, staff and parents now have a state-of-the-art facility while the board received much-needed funds for the redevelopment of the deteriorating school building and field. The planning context, however, was very different for that site as North Toronto CI is located in an Apartments designated area of the Official Plan where residential buildings of significant heights are permitted.
I am committed to working with the TDSB, and my colleagues at City Hall, to support the Davisville school community along with students, parents and residents across Toronto. We will look at every possible avenue towards supporting a new facility for our children. However, I will not jeopardize the stability of our neighbourhoods or allow for new development precedents that could adversely affect the quality of life in our midtown community.
Please feel welcome to contact me if you wish to discuss this important issue further.
Toronto City Councillor