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25-storey tower coming to rapid transit village without rapid transit

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London council cleared the path Tuesday for a 25-storey residential tower in a commercial plaza in northwest London despite calls for more study and warnings the area lacks rapid transit.

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London council cleared the path Tuesday for a 25-storey residential tower in a commercial plaza in northwest London despite calls for more study and warnings the area lacks rapid transit.

Councillors voted 12-2 to approve a 219-unit tower York Developments plans to build at 735 Wonderland Rd., where a Swiss Chalet restaurant now stands. Councillors Sam Trosow and David Ferreira voted against the development, while Hadleigh McAlister was absent.

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Several neighbours who spoke about the project at a meeting of city council’s planning and environment committee on April 9 said the tower would be too tall for the street where the highest buildings are three storeys. Neighbours also said the project would add to the heavy traffic in the area that contains a busy Costco, mid-rise apartments, plazas and strip malls.

The same concerns were brought up again at the council meeting, mainly about the traffic pressures and how they would affect a Middlesex-London Paramedic depot on Horizon Drive that would be overshadowed by the highrise.

“We can’t make these cumulative traffic, transit issues go away,” Trosow said, referencing the transit village land designation that remains despite the cancellation of the west bus rapid transit (BRT) route. “The question the public keeps asking … is, ‘Where’s the transit village?’

“What I’m hearing is, we want to put blinders on, just like (a) horse.”

The area is designated as an urban transit village under the London Plan, the city’s blueprint for growth, even though city council decided in 2019 not to fund bus rapid transit service along Oxford Street between downtown and Wonderland Road.

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York Developments plans to tear down the Swiss Chalet, but it will keep the rest of the plaza on the 1.45-hectare site bounded by Wonderland, Beaverbrook Avenue and Horizon Drive.

Ward 6 councillor Sam Trosow
Ward 6 Coun. Sam Trosow speaks about a proposed 25-storey apartment building near the intersection of Wonderland Road North and Beaverbrook Avenue at a meeting of city council’s planning and environment committee at city hall on Tuesday, April 9, 2024. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

Trosow, the ward councillor, fiercely opposed the tower, saying neighbours, including the paramedic depot, were not aware of the proposed development.

Citing the lack of rapid transit, Trosow argued the development was too intense, adding the building exceeded the height limit for the area.

“In my view, it is not a good development,” he said. “Yes, we want infill, but the infill has to be appropriate.”

Trosow put forward several motions, including to consult with Middlesex-London Paramedic Service about traffic mitigation, and to have staff study how extending Beaverbrook Avenue and Westfield Drive would affect traffic.

Though consultations with the paramedic service passed unanimously, politicians struck down efforts to study traffic not directly related to the tower and Trosow’s attempt to remove city staff’s rationale for approving the development, arguing it was not accurate.

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“Every single time I have attempted to bring something up that will ameliorate the harshness to the people on the ground from this application, (it) has been shot down,” he said. “We are sticking our heads in the proverbial sand by narrowing our focus to just this application.”

The last remark drew the ire of Coun. Elizabeth Peloza, who said she had done her due diligence and asked Trosow to retract. He promised to rephrase, which drew another interruption from Coun. Skylar Franke pointing out Trosow did not say he would retract and apologize.

“By reframing it, I’m retracting it, and I’m going to say it a different way,” he said to Franke. “I don’t understand what your problem is.”

Mayor Josh Morgan cut Trosow off, scolding him for speaking to Franke in a disrespectful way and not addressing him as meeting chair.

Deputy mayor Shawn Lewis said the commander of Middlesex-London Paramedic Service and neighbouring property owners had been notified of the development, and said it is not the city’s problem if the property owners do not notify their commercial tenants.

Ward 4 Coun. Susan Stevenson, who like Trosow represents an area of London experiencing residential growth tied to the city’s bus rapid transit system, said one of the top issues for constituents during the 2022 election was adding housing.

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“People need housing, they need access … for them, for the people that they love … and it affects the affordability” she said. “I have voted to support developments in my ward despite certain concerns, and there always are concerns.”

Development will not stop council from being able to address transportation concerns, Stevenson said.

Morgan also weighed in, saying the transit village designation for Wonderland and Oxford Street is still valid given they are high growth areas heavily served by transit, but said the city’s master mobility plan could bring improvements.

“The official plan says, ‘Lots of density here, and this is a transit village’, and so I don’t see anything that doesn’t align with that decision making,” he said. “There are challenges in this area, and every other area of the city that is growing.”

Morgan was one of the city politicians who voted in 2019 against spending tens of millions of dollars from Ottawa and Queen’s Park to build a $72-million bus rapid transit line between downtown and the Oxford-Wonderland intersection.

jmoulton@postmedia.com
@jackmoulton65

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