Two important businesses in Thorncliffe Park have appealed a City decision to permit the construction of a Costco store on the former Coca Cola property at 42/46 Overlea Blvd. to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) One is Iqbal Halal Foods, often thought of as the largest Asian food retailer and wholesaler in Toronto and perhaps in Canada. It is located at 2 Thorncliffe Drive to the west of the proposed Costco site. This area contains a clutch of businesses serving the Muslim community and others. This is the stub end of Thorncliffe Park Drive on the south end of the Thorncliffe crescent. The other successful business is Heritage Funeral Home, which sits prominently at 50 Overlea to the east off the Coca Cola lands. There is a third petitioner to the OMB who is described as a nearby resident but whose name has not been released. Costco deal close to collapse as neighbors appeal to OMB
Councillor Jon Burnside says in his current newsletter that three individuals have appealed Council’s November approval of the construction of a Costco store at the former Coca Cola properties at 42/46 Overlea Blvd. The complainants are said to be one nearby resident and two nearby business owners. Burnside says the matter might take as long as 18 months. He also says that the agreement to delay the construction of a gas bar at the store, which had been accepted by Costco, has now been reneged on by the firm. Burnside writes: “Costco representatives recently contacted me to advise that they will now likely appeal the deferral of the gas bar (and associated conditions) arguing that to avoid further delays and expenses it makes more sense to do so.” He says that discussions “are ongoing and I am actively working to avoid this course of action”
A lightly-attended meeting in the William Lea Room Wednesday (January 13, 2016) heard concerns about a proposal to convert the land of the Add Ink firm at 36 Overlea Blvd to commercial and retail use. It is now zoned loosely as “employment land” and it sits next door the future site of the Costco store which will be built on the former Coca Cola lands at 42 Overlea. A representative of the owner explained that the intention is to build about 70,000 square feet of space much of which, it may be assumed, will be designed for retail tenants.
The meeting revealed long-established concerns by the Leaside Property Owners Association (LPOA) and others about the loss of employment lands. One speaker called it an effort to avoid becoming suburban. For many others, however, the concept of employment lands is elusive if not obscure. The planning act describes such usage as suitable for manufacturing, warehousing, office, retail as related to manufacturing or warehousing and “facilities that are ancillary to uses mentioned in the foregoing.”
The concern would seem to be that this part of East York might become something like the Golden Mile. Whether this is a realistic likelihood is an open question. Laird Drive has seen a lot of retail development but it continues to house businesses like Rack Attack, Leaside Plumbing, Laird Auto Body and other “employment” type enterprises. These types of workplaces are attractive as a source of variety and service for residents. Could Overlea develop more like Laird Drive? It might be difficult. Many Laird businesses are housed in buildings that seem ultimately destined for redevelopment. Many local figures were at the meeting: Councillor Jon Burnside was seen as were Carol Burton-Fripp and Geoff Kettel of the LPOA.
Toronto City Council has approved the zoning by-law amendment from Councillor Jon Burnside (right) to permit a Costco Warehouse on Overlea Blvd. Council voted 21 to 7 at its meeting Wednesday November 4, 2015. The Costco proposal was modified so that the gas bar is not approved and will require further traffic studies after the warehouse is built and has been in operation for at least 6 months. The City will select the firm to do the traffic study. The substantial support for the proposal at Council is of interest. The Leaside Property Owners Association was opposed to the development on many points. The Thorncliffe Park area is said to have poverty levels of 40 percent and support there is very high for the Costco.
BEST FOR THE COMMUNITY
Councillor Gord Perks (Ward 14) in Parkdale was a strong opponent during debate. In the video below, he makes an extended defense of what are known as employment lands. He cites lands in Liberty Village which sat vacant “for decades” now being employed for light industrial or office purposes. For his part, Councillor Burnside reflected on the poverty in Thorncliffe Park and ended by saying “What I have here in my heart is the best deal for the community.” Make sure you watch the exchanges between Mr. Perks and Mr. Burnside. Costco has agreed to incorporate the 1965 Coca Cola office into its new store, this saves certain architectural features that were valued by some. The Walter Yarwood sculpture which has stood on Overlea since that time will also be given a place of honour at the site.
WHO VOTED HOW
In October, North York Community Council was unable to decide on approval. It split 3 to 3 with many members absent. At that time. Councillor Burnside issued a statement suggesting that he would support the proposal if the gas bar were reduced to 12 pumps from 18, that Costco do traffic studies and that Thorncliffe residents be hired. The embedded YouTube video covers a critical period in debate, apparently toward the end of the day November 4, 2015. It was posted to Twitter by Mayor Tory. Those opposed to the Costco were: Davis, Filion, Fletcher, Fragedakis, Matlow, Perks, Robinson. Among local Councillors supporting the Costco proposal, apart from Mr. Burnside (Ward 26) was Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27). Christin Carmichael Greb (Ward 16) was absent Mayor Tory voted in favour. For now, one can only imagine the personal deliberation of members such as Josh Matlow (Ward 22) and Jaye Robinson (Ward 25). They found themselves opposed to the Costco.
Leaside Property Owners Association issues its objections to the Costco proposal for Overlea Blvd.
Those interested in knowing how Councillors voted at North York Community Council (NYCC) yesterday may be able to find out Friday when an official record is issued. In the meantime, there is no information available except from the members as to how the vote result was composed. The 3-3 split in which sent the matter automatically to City Council was unofficially unrecorded. Councillor Burnside moved the motion on a show of hands. Those present were Carmichael Greb, Minnan-Wong, Augimeri, Filion, Robinson and Burnside. The other five members of members of North York Community Council were not present for this item although we don’t know if this means they were absent or simply not in the chamber. .
Yesterday at North York Community Council the Costco application for 42-46 Overlea Blvd. was rejected on a tie vote (3-3). Although The City Planning Department had recommended its approval, the application will now go to the entire Toronto City Council for consideration “Without Recommendation” on November 10.
There were a number of deputations regarding the application and of those opposed, traffic was a major concern. I share this concern and have serious misgivings not only with the methodology and quality of the traffic report, but our own Transportation Department’s unreasonably high threshold for rejecting an application based on a projected increase in traffic volumes. This is somewhat of an unusual situation in that opinions were strongly divided with a majority of Thorncliffe residents in favour of the application.
As I have mentioned previously, I believe the perfect solution would be a Costco without the gas bar but City Staff did not make this recommendation and thus it was not something Costco would agree to. One of the biggest challenges we have in opposing developments based on traffic concerns is that the developer always has a favourable traffic study. While this situation has gone on for years, there seems to have been little effort to hold the traffic consultants accountable. This is exactly what I tried to do with one of the three amendments I proposed.
Recognizing that without our own City Staff’s support a fight at the OMB is extremely difficult to win, I recommend the following additions/changes to the report:
1) Reduce the number of gas pumps from 18 to 12.
2) Costco conduct a follow up traffic study one year after store opening and pay for any mitigation efforts if their study underestimated traffic volumes.
3) Specify number of Thorncliffe residents hired by Costco.
Additionally, Costco had agreed to a voluntary payment of $650,000 to be used for community benefits in Thorncliffe. I ultimately felt that this was the best deal possible under the circumstances and that the risk of losing these concessions by forcing the developer to the OMB was not the proper course of action — especially since Ward 26 residents’ opinions were mixed.
Please contact me if you have any questions or would like to voice your opinion.
John Burnside, Councillor, Ward 26
Looking for leadership in the oddest of places. NYCC members finally produce a 3-3 COSTCO tie at NYCC. What this seems to mean is that five members of the Council were absent or abstained. Odd leadership indeed. Story here (corrected)
The decision on whether there will be a COSTCO store on Overlea Blvd will be decided by City Council after North York Community Council voted in a 3-3 tie today (Tuesday, October 6, 2015) Council will meet November 3, 2015 The issue is the heritage status of a vacant former office building of the Coca Cola Company at 42 Overlea Blvd. Speakers opposing the store at community council today were particularly against the prospect of a service station on the site. The store, located at 42/46 Overlea would include 625 parking spaces and the gas bar. COSTCO also offered plans which retain the office building, designated as historic, as part of the new store.
THORNCLIFFE VOTERS WILL BE BITTER
The voting split by name will be available in due course but the shape of the dilemma for Councillors was the deep divide between old Leaside and the equally eligible voters in Thorncliffe Park. There are more of the former than the latter but the Thorncliffe residents will probably be deeply bitter over a rejection of the store. Many are counting on it to put more money in their personal bank accounts and their small businesses. COSTCO is known as a generous paymaster. Employees can earn as much as $15 an hour, an amount unheard of at Walmart and other big boxes. The presence of a COSTCO would help rejuvenate the East York Town Centre which is languishing with empty space including the former Target store. MORE
Council also had on its agenda a total ban on stopping on Fleming Crescent just off Bayview. This is a common practice for various reasons, some good and some terrible. But it looks like the practice is over. (Item NY9.28) NY Council Agenda
North York Community Council will meet Tuesday, October 6, 2015 to consider a report from the City Planning Department which recommends bylaw alterations necessary for the construction of a Costco store on 42/46 Overlea Blvd. The proposal from Coscto is to retain the former Coca Cola office building as part of a large new store on the west side of the property with parking to the east. The proposal also calls for the creation of a three-island 18-pump gas station something that is opposed by Councillor Jon Burnside. In his current newsletter Mr. Burnside says he wishes the number of pumps could be reduced. In fact,18 pumps seems like a.lot. The Esso station at Mt. Pleasant Rd. and Merton St has about this number. They are organized two pumps to an installations with a pump on each side in different lanes. The planning report calls for a cash payment of $650,000 be used towards the cost of capital improvements in Thorncliffe Park such as, parks, a community centre or recreational facility. There will also be the usual “Section 37” payments made by Costco, a standard requirement on developers who are given bylaw easement. It will cost $175,000 to install traffic lights at five intersections to be created for access to the new store and there will a special charge back to Costco for this purpose. City Planning Department report
Coca Cola Limited has moved the Walter Yarwood bronze statue from 42 Overlea Blvd to its bottling plant at 15 Westcreek Blvd in Brampton. The statue was part of the memorable approach to the former Coca Cola offices in Thorncliffe Park and is still owned by the soft drink company. Coke has however offered to donate the statue to the City but the circumstances of that possible arrangement seem unclear at this writing. According to a Coke source at the Brampton plant, the statue is on the property but is not accessible to the public. The statue was removed from its base and resting place of more than half a century on the Overlea property about two weeks ago. The late Walter Yarwood was one of the so-called Painters 11. These were Canadian artists who formed their relationship in Toronto in 1953. In the latest planning idea offered by Costco for their proposed store at the Overlea site, the statue would sit more or less where it had been for so many years but in a new ground-level square.
Costco Wholesale Corporation has changed it plans for a store at the site of the former Coca Cola bottling plant and office building at 42-46 Overlea Blvd. to include the main part of the 1965 office building in its new store. This is a change from plans published last year which called for the demolition of the old Coke headquarters. The City has placed the office on its heritage list but there was an open debate among architects as to its actual value in historic terms. But now Costco has proposed to retain it in the plans for a warehouse store. A small original addition to the office building will still be demolished under the plan.
In announcing this Monday night at the William Lea Room, Toronto chief planner Steve Forrester said there would be many people, including city employees, who did not know of this change. It had been made only within the last few days, he said. The meeting was held to hear public input on a request by Coscto to build what it calls ancillary parking to the north and west of the proposed store beside a little used portion of Thorncliffe Park Drive.
The land is owned mainly by Ontario Hydro, which is agreeable to leasing it as parking. A smaller parcel is owned by the City of Toronto. In total it would accommodate 124 cars and be used by employees only, the meeting was told. The need for more parking comes about as result of the decision to retain the old Coke office building, which would now form the portion of the Costco building which faces Overlea. The store and the parking in the original plan have been swapped so that parking is now at the northeast end of the property at 42-46 Overlea. The retention of the office building reduced planned parking from 655 spaces to 548. The additional 124 spaces across Thorncliffe Park are required to meet the expected demand. The new store will be 160,000 square feet with the main door on the east of the building facing the parking lot. The Walter Yarwood Coca Cola sculpture will be retained in its present position in a small square on Overlea. The square now sits below grade and Costco proposes to raise it and the sculpture to ground level for ease of access to the building .