How has Councillor Shefman given citizens a voice in development, and made sure that new development in Thornhill is responsible?

A:

There is huge pressure from the province for local municipalities to rapidly provide more (and affordable) housing. While everyone recognizes the need, we cannot ignore the importance of allowing the existing residents to have their say in the process. Community consultation is central to my approach to responsible development in Ward 5 – Thornhill.

Development planning in Ontario is a complex, everchanging process. While changes do need to be made, we cannot cut the current residents out of the planning process.

We, the residents of Thornhill - Ward 5, are concerned about the type and quality of development that takes place in our community.  One of my fundamental commitments is that residents must have a voice in whatever development is being proposed.

As I considered what could be done I found that residents were having difficulty understanding how to get involved.  As your member of Council, I believe that it is my responsibility to bring you into the planning process at the earliest possible stage - your input is very important to me. 

A fundamental principle, whenever I meet with developers, is that prior to any formal submission to Council, a public meeting must be held. It has been my experience that there is a greater opportunity to influence change at this early stage. As well I encourage Ratepayer leadership to work closely with developers to provide direct input from the community.

One of the most successful examples of this initiative was the proposal to build a 20 plus storey residential building at the Spring Farm Marketplace (corner of Hilda and Clark).

After meeting with the developer during the early stage of planning their development, I had strong reservations. I asked them to hold a public meeting to get community feedback.  The community meeting was held, with one of the largest turnouts ever in Thornhill. The message from the community was loud and clear - the proposal was not acceptable to the residents of Ward 5. The proponent clearly heard the voice of the community.

Over a year later the developer submitted an updated plan to City Council. The SpringFarm Ratepayers took a leading role and organized more than 11 deputations against the plan resulting in Council telling the developer to sit down with the Ratepayers to negotiate a more acceptable plan.

After the Council meeting, I encouraged ongoing discussions between the SFRA and the developer. 

Ultimately the plan was withdrawn – a victory for cooperative action and community consultation.

A similar situation is unfolding in the Glen Shields neighbourhood. The owner of Glen Shields Plaza has proposed to replace the existing plaza with two towers. At the community meeting vigorous opposition was voiced by virtually everyone in attendance.

At the City’s Public Hearing held a week later the community came out once again in opposition.

The power of this form of community input was revealed once again as the proponent has agreed to work closely with the Ratepayers to consider a new iteration of the plan.

It is important for me, as your Councillor, to ensure that the voices of residents are heard. In the next term, I will continue to insist that every developer hold community meetings at the planning stages, so that residents can have a say in development happening in our community.