Mayor Rob Ford ally Councillor John Parker backs Waterfront Toronto
In an e-newsletter to residents sent Friday, Councillor John Parker, deputy speaker and an ally of Mayor Rob Ford, strongly rejects the mayor's push to seize control of the Port Lands from Waterfront Toronto and replace its mixed-use neighbourhood plan with a shopping centre, attractions and more.
Here's his message:
From: John Parker
Toronto City Councillor
Ward 26 - Don Valley West
Ward 26 residents have asked me to comment on where I stand with respect to the recent proposals considered at Executive Committee with respect to the development of the portion of Toronto's waterfront area known as the "portlands".
Many Ward 26 residents will remember that I hosted a public meeting on the subject of Toronto's waterfront plan about two years ago. At that meeting residents were made aware of the tripartite federal/provincial/municipal commission established some years ago under the name "WaterfronToronto" with responsibility for environmental remediation and urban development initiatives in this long neglected part of the city.
Those seeking further detail as to the recommendations of WaterfronToronto would do well to visit their website at www.waterfrontoronto.ca.
The recommendations that recently came before the city's Executive Committee can be reviewed at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2011.EX9.6
The recent recommendations to the Executive Committee include removing a portion of the waterfront lands (the "portlands") from the remit of WaterfronToronto and having the city manage them according to a revised set of development criteria.
My thoughts on the matter can be summarized thus:
1. I have always favoured having the present tripartite commission (WaterfronToronto) take the lead in matters relating to the development of Toronto's vast waterfront lands. I do not favour giving over a portion of the land to another party – even if it is the City of Toronto or one of its corporations – to develop independently. I have the concern that removal of any significant component of the whole will interfere with the execution of the overall vision for development and lead to the possible unravelling of the tripartite approach generally.
2. I favour the environmental goals and remediation plan set out by WaterfronToronto. This includes the creation of a naturalized Don River mouth as developed by WaterfronToronto in collaboration with the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), of which I am a member. I do not favour abandoning this approach for any alternative that I have yet seen, and I do not see good reason for doing so.
Further on that point: The current plan for the mouth of the Don is the product of years of collaborative work. It takes into account the needs of flood protection across the waterfront lands and upstream under extreme weather conditions, as well as lake water quality and water turbulence criteria under normal circumstances. Before I can support any alternative proposal I need to be convinced that it addresses these priorities satisfactorily.
Apart from the foregoing, the current plan is advancing toward regulatory approval. Changing the environmental plan risks upsetting the existing timelines.
3. As for the development proposal itself, I am inclined to favour the original approach - mixed use - over the new proposal, which relies heavily on large scale commercial development. I believe that redevelopment of the vacant waterfront lands gives us a chance to build a community comprised of all the ideal elements – our chance to build the city that we wish we always had. To my mind this is what the original development model aims at. I have not been convinced that new commercial development in this area is needed or that its merits outweigh those of mixed use development. I also have questions concerning its likely effect of attracting the infiltration of cars from other regions and also its potential impact on the city's existing commercial areas, including the downtown commercial zone.
4. I am uncomfortable with the transit system that is proposed in the recent recommendations. Whatever its value to the portlands, I have the concern that it may not be well suited to serve any of the other waterfront development areas. Transit systems are enormously expensive to build and operate (I am a TTC commissioner so I am confronted by these realities regularly); they must therefore be developed with considerable attention to cost, value, and impact on city building goals. (Make this one of the reasons why I favour making all waterfront lands subject to a consolidated, coordinated development plan under a single authority rather than severing one component for independent development.)
The new proposal has some exciting elements: adaptive reuse of the enormous former Hearn station for recreational purposes, a yacht club in the harbour area, attractive roadways, streetscapes, etc. These are all worth looking at closely and adopting as part of the overall plan if practical. To my mind these elements can be considered within the context of the existing proposals and possibly introduced by way of amendment. I do not see a need to reject the current plan altogether in order to include certain good new ideas.
In short, I support taking a good look at the new proposal and determining the practical impact of its recommendations. I see a number of hurdles to overcome in advancing its recommendations. On the key features I am going to need a lot of convincing before I can be persuaded to change course. In general approach I do not support abandoning the present tripartite commission as lead player.
I am hopeful that, if everyone just takes a deep breath, the best ideas in the new proposal – if they test out after due analysis – can be adopted by way of amendment without jeopardizing the development plan and approach currently in place. My efforts as a member of council will be applied towards that end.
Parker E-News is circulated every now and then to email addresses on my e-News subscription list. It is intended to keep Ward 26 residents and other interested persons updated on matters of possible interest.
facebook: Councillor John Parker