Community still motivated as dispute over quarry lands wears on

The Observer
Jaclyn Dunham
First Posted on March 23, 2012

The residents of Scarborough’s Birch Cliff community will not give up the fight over the planned development of high-rise towers on the quarry lands, according to the president of the Concerned Citizens of Quarry Land Development (CCQLD).

Since the not-for-profit group’s inception in 2003, president Mark Brender and fellow residents in the Birch Cliff neighbourhood have fought for a more responsible building plan for the quarry lands.

“It’s not an appropriate development for this community. It’s based on planning principles that were in place 40 some years ago, as opposed to planning principles from today,” Brender said. “Is it going to be pedestrian friendly? Is the lighting going to be good? Traffic is huge, schools are huge and social services are huge concerns.”

The quarry lands, located northwest of Gerrard Street and Clonmore Avenue, are divided and owned by the city of Toronto’s Build Toronto agency and a private developer, the Conservatory Group.

The Conservatory Group owns the east portion of the lands and intends to build seven high-rise residential towers with a total of 1,455 individual units. The proposed plans were approved by the former City of Scarborough in 1968.

Councillor Gary Crawford of Scarborough-Southwest ran for election a year-and-a-half ago, promising to make the future of the quarry lands his number one priority.

“I’m trying in many ways to facilitate a resolution for the community. I represent the community,” Crawford said. “I’m working on their behalf and trying to figure out how we can resolve this issue that benefits all the proponents, which includes Build Toronto, the private developer and the community.”

In August 2010, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved the zoning application put forth by the Conservatory Group. The OMB’s decision upheld the planning principles developed in the 1960s.

“The parties are reminded that the board through this decision has reaffirmed the existing zoning for the property and the permissions provided therein,” the OMB said in its August 2010 decision.

Brender says residents’ opinions were essentially ignored by the OMB. If the Conservatory Group takes steps to begin construction on the site, Brender says the CCQLD will be prepared to take action.

“I think what’s important for the community is to keep everybody aware that this is ongoing,” he said. “As of now, there’s no urgent news that tells us to have a rally tomorrow. If we need to, the community will come out in force.”

Crawford says keeping residents informed and motivated will also help him negotiate with the developers.

“If the community was silent and they didn’t really care then a different outcome could potentially happen. The fact that they’re very well organized and they have a very strong message and voice is crucial,” Crawford said. “It gives me the ability to bring that voice to the table to deal with the developers.”