Church condo project has locals concerned over tree loss and traffic

A Hogg’s Hollow church’s proposal to redevelop its land into a condo tower and new place of worship is being appealed at the Ontario Land Tribunal as residents continue to express concerns about the project’s density and possible environmental impacts.

In July of 2022, the Goldberg Group, on behalf of the church, submitted a development application to the City of Toronto to demolish the existing religious facility, which dates back to the mid-’60s, and replace it with a 12-storey, 98-unit building. Then, this January, the church launched an appeal to the OLT, the independent provincial adjudicative tribunal that settles development disputes.

“The application was pushed to OLT because the city did not give a determination in a timely manner,” Pirjo Roininen, congregational chair of the Agricola Finnish Lutheran Church, told Post City in an email. Under Ontario’s Planning Act, property owners can appeal to the OLT if, for example, a municipality fails to make a decision about a rezoning application within 90 days. 

Roininen declined to comment further on the development proposal. However, last summer, the congregational chair told Post City that the project could create a new cultural hub for Toronto’s Finnish community and also provide amenities for the local community at large. In addition to dwellings, the application proposes 566 square metres of church and multifunctional space, 915 square metres of “commercial community space,” and a 409-square-metre daycare.

More than one member of the community, though, expressed concern to Post City about the proposed condo tower’s height of 12 storeys.

“It’s more than what we would’ve expected,” said Nick Dhillon, president of the York Mills Valley Association, a neighbourhood group that has been granted party status for the OLT hearing. “We thought it should be shorter, especially because it’s adjacent to residential homes,” he added.

Shannon Rancourt of the Hoggs Hollow Tree Watch, a local grassroots environmental group that she co-founded with neighbour Laura Lamarche, in 2020, agrees. “What I would be super happy with… is a lower-rise [building] that doesn’t encroach on the park and preserves the mature trees that are presently in place,” she said, suggesting six or seven storeys is more appropriate for the site, which neighbours Jolly Miller Park.

According to the arborist report included with the development application, 10 trees would be removed for construction, while another seven would be injured. Six would be relocated. “Our major concern is several mature, healthy trees will come down,” Rancourt told Post City. “What that causes is… there’s no roots to suck up water, there’s no buffer any longer between the Don River, which often floods,” she said. “It’s dangerous.”

Traffic is another worry. There are plans to place the entrance to the two levels of underground parking, which would include 86 spots, on Campbell Crescent, something Dhillon would like to see changed to Old York Mills Road. Also with traffic in mind, the YMVA opposes commercial space in general and retail in particular for the development site.

Rancourt acknowledges that the city needs more housing to address the affordability crisis but suggests there are other factors — such as the city’s tree canopy — to weigh when deciding how much density is appropriate for a site. “It’s on a subway line; it’s a great location,” she says, “but I also think there has to be some consideration for what we lose.” 

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