Performers at the TPB: Rogue Developers Beware
TORONTO – The land development industry has come under severe scrutiny in recent months. Some of its practitioners have adopted an aggressive, and never endearing, demeanor in respect of their purchased rights. That often puts them in conflict with established or implied, community values [and rights].
The Toronto Preservation Board (TPB) functions as an “arbiter” of sorts for what may or may not be properties of significant social, cultural, historical or environmental/heritage interest and therefore worth preserving and “protecting” from development. The TPB maintains a list of such properties. Periodically it examines and assesses the completeness and complexity of the list, generally to inform the city planning boards when these are faced with applications for construction.
The TPB met Tuesday, October 10, 2023, to consider “amendments” (additions or perfections) to that list. The property at 3100 Weston Rd., comprising the Rivermede Mansion/Monastery, its gardens [Marian Shrine of Gratitude], the Chapel and former High School of St. Basil The Great, and abutting lands for the football fields, was on that proposed amended list.
The “amendments” to the eight properties under assessment were adopted individually. So was 3100 Weston Rd., after due considerations of fifty-three written submissions and eleven oral deputations. The question & answer session with the staff of the TPB was informative to say the least. (link: https://secure.toronto.ca/council/agenda-item.do?item=2023.PB10.8)
MPP Tom Rakocevic, Councillor Anthony Perruzza, Trustee Theresa Lubinski and Commercial Real Estate professional, Rose Savage made representations in favour of adopting the staff report. Only two individuals (both with AvranceCorp Developments), self described as “part owners” of the site, expressed contrary views.
They chose to use their time before the TPB to address the matter of the Shrine, protesting that it has nothing to do with the site (it has been a meeting place for devotees since 2005). They claimed that their property rights were being “threatened by these squatters” who are pursuing a “senseless cause” that is not even supported by their own Church.
In fact, they claimed, the Shrine had been cleared and its religious relics removed by the former owners prior the sale of the property. What seemed to be a polite attempt by the several members of the TPB staff to diplomatically end their rambling, the “part owners” were asked if they knew what the purpose of the meeting was.
Remarkably, their response affirmed that they had spent a million dollars in consulting with experts in Heritage properties (no names offered) and that now they, as owners, were preparing a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against each of the political personalities and others for “violating their [AvranceCorp’s] property rights.” On the transfer of title, their lawyers had confirmed that the Sellers and Buyers were both aware of the Planning By-Laws impacting on the site.
The explanations by the professional, informed, staff indicated that they were only updating a listing which already included the property as described. Further, they said, that dating from at least eighteen years ago, the site has included the development of a garden built into the “side of bank” on land likely under the jurisdiction of the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
That “side of bank” is immediately below the ‘top of bank’ where the Mansion, Monastery, is located. That ‘top of bank’ is already subject to development restrictions under the TRCA. The partners claim to have no interest in developing that property anyway… except to restore a swimming pool that was filled in at least forty-five years ago.
This saga in not over yet, but the momentum appears to have shifted legally to the side of the devotees. These appear to have acquired the backing of people who want to preserve the site for the community that supported 3100 Weston R. for its cultural, community, environmental and historical values that preceded AvranceCorps’ interest in the property. Some members of the public think they have cause to request a forensic audit of the process for the purchase.