Beaches-East York Mirror- OMB turns down SmartCentres plan

OMB turns down SmartCentres plan
By DAVID NICKLE – Beaches-East York Mirror
  
In a long-awaited decision, the Ontario Municipal Board has turned down a plan to build a giant retail complex on Eastern Avenue in Leslieville.

The proposal would have seen a 700,000 square foot retail complex, likely anchored by a Wal-Mart, put on lands currently occupied by Toronto Film Studios between Eastern and Lakeshore Boulevard to the west of Leslie Street.

Last year the developer, SmartCentres, squared off with the city and the community at the Ontario Municipal Board. The marathon hearing carried on through spring, summer and fall of 2008. The decision, originally expected before Christmas, arrived just Wednesday afternoon.

The 56-page decision lambasted city planners and local councillor Paula Fletcher for politically-motivated planning decisions. But in the end, board vice-chair James McKenzie ruled the retail complex would contaminate the east-end employment district, opening the door for other viable employment uses to convert their properties into retail, and that existing city plans for the area effectively blocked the redevelopment.

Fletcher was delighted with the decision and was unapologetic about her’s and council’s actions.

“We didn’t do anything the community didn’t ask for. The community came forward many times and asked us to pursue this in many different directions,” said Fletcher. “This basically reinforces the importance of the employment district. The incursion of big box retail would destabilize this very important employment area.”

Kelly Carmichael of the East Toronto Community Coalition was at the table during much of the hearing, fighting the proposed development. Reached at home with her one-month-old son Alex, the Leslieville resident admitted she was “in shock.”

“It means a new day for the community to decide what to do on those lands, and that’s what everybody has been saying since the beginning,” she said, admitting that the experience has been “crazy.”

“Based on all of the other decisions all around this continent (about big box retail) you’re pretty skeptical going into it, and you have to fight anyway. I guess in shock. But I would imagine it’s probably not over.”

SmartCentre representatives have not yet returned phone calls.

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