Ontario Construction News staff writer
An Ontario Divisional Court justice has temporarily stopped the province from demolishing a group of heritage buildings at the Dominion Foundry Complex in Toronto’s West Donlands pending an upcoming hearing.
In Friday’s decision, Justice David L. Corbett ruled that the demolition is “in contravention of the Heritage Act, and in breach of Ontario’s obligations under a subdivision agreement between Ontario and the City of Toronto.”
Friends of the Foundry are very relieved that today’s decision by J. Corbett of the Ontario Divisional Court will protect the Dominion Foundry buildings from further damage at least until a full hearing at the end of February,” community group Friends of the Foundry said in a statement Friday evening.
The application will be heard by a panel of three judges of the Divisional Court on Feb. 26. The hearing shall be streamed by Youtube.
The group that has been fighting the demolition since crews arrived at the site last week, arguing the province circumvented heritage laws and the local planning process with a Ministerial Zoning Order that allowed the buildings to be torn down.
Friends of the Foundry say the province needs to consult with the city and community about redeveloping the property without destroying heritage buildings. The city was an interested party to the application to the court by the St. Lawrence Community Association.
The buildings at 153-185 Eastern Avenue are on the former site of the Dominion Wheel and Foundries Company (known locally as the Foundry site).
“Infrastructure Ontario decided to demolish the heritage buildings without first providing a Heritage Assessment Report to Toronto in accordance with the subdivision agreement, did not disclose publicly its intention to demolish the buildings, did not disclose publicly the Heritage Assessment Report written by one of its employees, and did not undertake any public engagement respecting demolition of the buildings,” the judge wrote.
“At this stage it seems more likely to me that these events happened by mistake rather than by decision-makers deliberately flouting the Heritage Act and Ontario’s contractual obligations.
However, these matters have now come to light. I am satisfied that it would be to flout the law to carry on with the demolition of these buildings until the matter is laid before a panel of my colleagues in late February,” he wrote in his ruling.
Last week, Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark agreed to pause demolition as a “good faith” gesture pending the hearing.
The province plans to build affordable housing on the site, but Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam disputes the claim, saying there is about a third of one tower earmarked for affordable units
Clark said the province needs to tear down the building so that it can put up affordable housing on the site.
However, Toronto Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, who represents the area and is working with the community groups fighting to save the buildings, said she has recently learned from the city planning department that just 30 per cent of one of three planned towers for the site will be set aside for affordable housing and the rest are to be market-priced condominiums.
In a statement Friday, Clark ‘s office called the judge’s decision “disappointing.”
“As we’ve stated, a Heritage Impact Assessment was completed, which determined that the buildings require demolition to facilitate full environmental remediation of the site,” the statement read. “We had paused demolition as a good faith gesture towards the City. It is disappointing that the City of Toronto is slowing down environmental remediation, and the construction of new much-needed affordable housing and community space in the West Don Lands.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory says Friday’s decision could open the door for co-operation.
“It is my hope that we can use this time to resolve this situation with the Government of Ontario,” Tory said in a news release. “I believe a path forward can be found that gets more affordable housing built and at the same time addresses community concerns around heritage and public consultation.
“I want to thank the community for standing with the city to help protect this site.”