‘Insulting’ high-rise proposal portends Mississauga’s struggle with Doug Ford’s turbo-charged housing push
It was deja vu for Council members on Mississauga’s planning and development committee who were left puzzled after a development proposal at 88 Park Street East—one they had previously labelled as “insulting”—came before them again. Instead of the changes they expected, developer Edenshaw submitted the same plan, despite the expectation to see significant alterations, and assurances from the builder that revisions would be made.
It’s an example of what municipalities across Ontario could routinely face, now that the PC government’s controversial Bill 23 is in effect. It allows developers to submit applications without fear of being challenged at the Ontario Land Tribunal, because the new legislation limits the ability of a municipality to appeal such proposals.
With Doug Ford and his PC colleagues demanding 1.5 million new homes across Ontario by 2031 (120,000 for Mississauga) the hyper-ambitious targets are a justification for developers looking to maximize their profits, which is often done by adding more floors to high-rise proposals.
During a March 6 planning and development committee meeting staff revisited the development application that former councillor Pat Mullin previously called a “slap in the face” to the Port Credit community (the retired long-time councillor who used to represent the Lorne Park area had been appointed to the role last year after former councilllor Karen Ras stepped down from the job).
Edenshaw Queen Developments Ltd. (a partnership between two companies) is making a second attempt to push its development of two high-rise towers — at 40 and 42 storeys the buildings would be double the height restrictions for the area— after being denied last year when the proposal first came forward. The land is the former south parking lot for the Port Credit GO station, located at 30 Queen Street East (the developers are now calling it 88 Park Street East).
The City of Mississauga sets height restrictions for different neighbourhoods by consulting with the public and considering a number of locational factors, including the historical character of an area and the need for human scale design to shape welcoming communities.
When the proposed tower-development was first revealed in July 2022, City officials were shocked. Located steps from Lakeshore Road and in a major transit station area (MTSA) officials were expecting density, but the proposed high-rise towers which would dwarf the surrounding streetscape—twice the height of the next tallest building in the area—and without any affordable housing, were not well received.
“It's anticipated that our highest heights and densities are to be within the downtown, and then our lowest heights and lowest densities are to be within neighborhoods,” David Ferro, a development planner with the City, told the committee on Monday. “Allowing a 42-storey building on the subject site, given the policy context as per our city structure, would destabilize the intent of the city structure and what's anticipated in terms of building heights.”
In December 2021 the 1.48-acre lot was sold by Metrolinx, Ontario’s regional transit agency, after neither the Region of Peel or the City of Mississauga made efforts to buy the land despite having the first right of refusal. When questioned why the prime parcel of property was not purchased by a public institution to be used for much-needed affordable housing, City officials claimed they were unaware the land was for sale.
The proposed development is planned for the former south parking lot of the Port Credit GO station.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
The current design for the two towers would provide 1,139 units with ground and second-floor space for commercial uses. The building proposal estimates it could house about 2,520 people in mostly one-bedroom units (41 percent) and one-bedroom-plus-a-den units (31 percent); the rest are two-bedroom and two-bedroom-plus-a-den homes.
In July, after council members rejected the excessive height, the committee ordered the developer to go back to the drawing board so Edenshaw could revise the application to significantly reduce the proposed building heights. The applicant’s consultants suggested the property owner would file a resubmission that would include changes to the development proposal.
However, staff confirmed on Monday that no revisions had been made to the original proposal. Instead, the applications were appealed by Edenshaw in November to the Ontario Land Tribunal — a reaction councillors were fearful would happen should they continue to push back against the original proposal. A pre-hearing conference or hearing date has not been scheduled yet.
The recommendation presented on Monday requested that “City Council provide the Planning and Building Department with the authority to instruct Legal Services on modifications to the position deemed necessary during or before the Ontario Land Tribunal hearing process,” noting that, “if there is a potential for settlement then a report shall be brought back to Council by Legal Services.”
“It really is too bad that this applicant has chosen not to… play along and negotiate with staff to find a settlement and an agreement because it is a phenomenal property,” Ward 2 Councillor Alvin Tedjo said. “It should be a homerun and an example of how we should be building within mass transit station areas and connecting our nodes… and it's really unfortunate that they did not take that opportunity and they've come back with the exact same plan without any amendments.”
With Edenshaw refusing to budge on its initial proposal, City staff have suggested an alternative building height. At Monday’s planning and development meeting, staff proposed a maximum height of 29 storeys for the site, which the report notes would allow for additional housing to be constructed within close proximity to higher order transit, while maintaining the underlying principles of the City’s Official Plan.
The 2014 Port Credit Local Area Plan sets out specific parameters for building heights to ensure a “village feel” is still maintained while encouraging density and not blocking access to Lake Ontario. Heights differ based on streets and amenities nearby. The proposed development is located in an area where density is encouraged, but at a maximum of 22 storeys. It remains unclear why developers, knowing full well the parameters of the area’s plan, would propose a project twice the desired height.
Residents in attendance at Monday’s meeting expressed their frustration. When the proposal was first presented in July, residents questioned why developers continue to ignore local plans and expressed concern over the lack of direction by officials to ensure builders conform to policies based on community expectations and Council-approved planning.
While height is a major reason for the frustration, other issues have also been identified with the current development proposal. Insufficient retail, commercial and office space has been proposed, impacts to parking and the absence of any proposals to address the City’s housing strategy also remain unaddressed.
The lack of parking has been heavily criticized by councillors and members of the public. Edenshaw is proposing four levels of underground parking with 474 spaces for residents and 114 spots for visitors. The property is less than 125 metres from the Port Credit GO station and will have direct access to the future Hurontario light rail transit system, now known as the Hazel McCallion line, but even with the access to LRT and GO trains, council members are skeptical people will solely rely on transit. Metrolinx previously told The Pointer 426 current parking spots at the site will be impacted by the development.
The proposed 40 and 42 storey towers would loom over the surrounding buildings in Port Credit.
(Alexis Wright/The Pointer)
Ward 1 Councillor Stephen Dasko, who has voiced his opposition to the development, said the current application is “completely unacceptable.” He previously “pleaded” with Metrolinx to not sell the land, hoping some parameters could have been negotiated ensuring parking and height restrictions were worked into the transaction.
“I can't even begin to say how abysmal this is,” he said about the lack of parking considerations. “Sure, it is across the street from a GO train station, but we're also losing over 200 parking spaces at the GO train because of this building. Something needs to be done here. There's some really great opportunity to make this world class and I think a pause should be taken here.”
Despite being located in a Major Transit Station Area (MTSA), there is no mention of affordable housing units proposed in the Edenshaw plan – another shortcoming heavily criticized by Council (MTSAs are designated for affordable housing). The proposed amount of non-residential space is also insufficient, Ferro told the committee on Monday. When the land was sold to Edenshaw it was a missed opportunity for the municipality. The sale of the property by the Province to Mississauga or the Region of Peel could have ensured that requirements for the creation of affordable housing would have been met.
During Monday’s meeting, Tedjo criticized the Province for allowing Metrolinx to sell the land for development without including any conditions to ensure affordable housing units, parking for the GO Station, or adherence to the City’s Official Plan.
“That's just shameful that we have a provincial agency selling land to a developer and not including any caveats whatsoever to include affordable housing units, or purpose built rental or subsidized housing and working with the Region or working with the municipality to get that done when they have that opportunity,” he explained. “They can be part of the solution and yet all they're doing is contributing to the problem and escalating the costs of the property, which are pushing developers like this, to find the most dollars they can possibly find to make up for their investment and that's what they're driven by. They're not driven by adding more housing units to this area and creating community.
“Unfortunately, this phenomenal opportunity has to be corrected and steered in the right direction after the Province’s failure.”
Metrolinx previously told The Pointer that because the responsibility for affordable housing falls to municipalities, there was no reason for the agency to include any provision for affordable units as part of the sale to Edenshaw. A Metrolinx spokesperson explained that, “As stated in Ontario Government’s Growth Plan, affordable housing policies and mandates fall within the scope of municipalities. Therefore, affordable housing provisions were not included in the sale.”
The Pointer confirmed both the Region and the City were aware of the land, but neither stepped up to buy it as the timing was tight. Andrew Whittemore, the City’s commissioner of planning and building, told The Pointer that formal notification of the land sale was only given to the City in early April 2021, shortly before the land was sold. Typically, anytime land owned by a public institution is put up for sale, other public institutions, including other levels of government, are informed and given the first right of refusal, before the property is put on the open market.
The Region is in dire need of more affordable units. The Region of Peel’s centralized waitlist grew 88 percent in two years, reaching 28,227 households who need affordable places to live at the end of 2021. Mississauga has the most households on the waitlist with 11,457 families in need of homes or rental places that are not more than 30 percent of their income.
Dasko also noted on Monday that, in an area that is considered more “family friendly,” Council should be looking at the application as an opportunity to have some more meaningful housing. An abundance of schools and amenities nearby are perfect for families, with more being planned, but many families need more than one bedroom.
“There's just such a huge disparity for what are the small one-bedroom units to what we really should have for more two- and three-bedroom units for any application that's coming forward,” he said. “I ask, instead of going to the OLT, (the tribunal that rules on planning disputes) which is the trajectory that this is on right now, that some calm comes in here and we come back to the table to come out with something that I think is going to be good for our community because this is most certainly not it as its proposed.”
The committee moved a motion to deny the project as presented and refer it back to Edenshaw so the plans can be altered. Just like it did last year.
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