Vaughan's Plan for Yonge and Steeles
June 21, 2022
Watching with horror the provincial governments plans for the new subway station just north of us, it is important to remember that our neighbourhood is vulnerable to similar plans.
Since we live on the western and southern edges of Markham, touching Toronto to the south and Vaughan to the west, whatever developments happen in those areas will have a significant impact on our neighbourhood.
On the Vaughan side, there have been numerous enormous projects proposed. (See below March 2021) None of them were in accordance with Vaughan's official plan for the area. Perhaps largely because they knew any local objections would be over-ridden by the provincial government, Vaughan Council has recently approved a new Yonge-Steeles Corridor Secondary Plan. It was adopted with no public input and essentially it permits everything the developers have wanted.
There are no specified requirements or locations for community facilities and amenities (such asschools, community centres, library branches, or recreational centres) other than the park areasThis plan’s 45,000 population target does not factor in the proposed 8,000 housing units initially proposed for the redevelopment of Centrepoint Mall on the south side of Steeles, nor the 8,000 units proposed by the City of Markham for the northeast corner of Yonge and Steeles. The combined effect (without the southeast corner), results in a population increase of at least 69,000 residents within 800 metres radius of the Yonge & Steeles intersection.There are higher minimum densities for development areas provided (FSI figures are shown in circles), but unlike the 2010 Plan (and all other Secondary Plans in the City); there are no maximum figures
Full details of the updated plan are available here
Transit Orientd Communities (TOC) Why We Care.
June 21, 2022
Over the years, we have talked about development plans which we knew would affect how we live in our neighbourhood. We previously let residents know about World on Yonge, Landmark and recently Zonix on Dudley Avenue. We understood and accepted that development was coming and advocated to ensure the minimum impact on the liveability of our neighbourhood. We have worked to provide constructive input into new developments and the upcoming secondary plan for Yonge Street.
Recently, however, we have become more and more concerned about decisions made by the current provincial government and its agencies. Checks and balances to protect the environment and ensure communities are consulted have been increasingly ignored or entirely curtailed. The decision to choose a subway route tunnelling under people’s homes in the Royal Orchard neighbourhood, opposed by both affected cities, was a taste of things to come.
The GARA Executive has joined with all the surrounding Residents Association to oppose the provincial proposals for the Bridge and High Tech Station areas.
This is the text of joint letter sent to Prime Minister Trudeau that summarizes many of our concerns.
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
May 14, 2022
Subject: Request that you pause federal funding for the YNSE until a deal is made public
Dear Prime Minister,
On behalf of the resident and ratepayer groups in York Region and elsewhere in the GTA, listed below, I respectfully request that your government pause payment to the Government of Ontario of your government’s 40% portion of funding for the Yonge North Subway Extension (YNSE) until such time that the Government of Ontario makes public the details of a financial deal it made sometime in 2021-2022 with the owner of lands on either side of Highway 407 at Yonge Street, and until such time that the Government of Ontario meets all conditions and guarantees for funding set forth by your government.
The specifics of the deal have been hidden from public view, possibly deliberately. They appear to involve the developer paying a significant amount of money to Ontario for Ontario’s portion of the YNSE. In exchange, the developer was given grossly excessive density rights that have dramatically increased the value of its landholding. The matter we take issue with is that the money from the developer for density of this magnitude would normally have gone to the cities of Markham and Richmond Hill to buy parkland. The deal suggests York Region taxpayers are paying, not only their 20% portion for the subway, but also a significant portion, if not all, of Ontario’s agreed 40% portion. In the process, we are being left with a development that will create significant problems for our community. Particularly problematic is that the developer, who appears to be receiving a massive financial gift, is a major donor to the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.
As the Government of Canada was a party to the funding agreement for the YNSE, if you are not fully aware of the deal that was made between the developer and the Government of Ontario, it may be that the conditions upon which you signed the agreement were not honoured. As such, we believe it is your responsibility to pause your payment – which belongs to the entire population of Canada -- until all the details of the deal are brought to light and released to the public.
The circumstances are as follows:
• For over 10 years, the York Region municipalities of Markham and Richmond Hill have been planning a regional economic centre for the lands on either side of Highway 407 from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue. This centre would have served multiple purposes. It would have provided housing (indeed, it was already slated to be the densest housing centre in the GTA). But with a ratio of residential to commercial of 2:1, it would have made it a desirable destination for both work and recreation. The commercial element would have allowed for more employment north of Toronto, thus taking pressure off Toronto’s overburdened roads which are congested with commuter traffic. It would have also balanced two-way traffic on the Yonge Subway, a line that is already at capacity south of Sheppard Ave. It would also have served as a destination anchor hub for the eventual 407 Transitway, which represents a significant housing growth opportunity to remove cars from the roads, help Canada reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and take pressure off urban sprawl in Ontario’s greenbelt.
• This regional plan has been undermined by the Government of Ontario’s issuance of two enhanced ministerial zoning orders (EMZOs) and the passing of Bill 109, which occurred on April 14, 2022, at 6:30 pm on the evening before Good Friday and Passover. The issuance of the EMZOs and the passing of Bill 109 on that specific date have beeninterpreted as a deliberate attempt to hide the news from the pubLeading up to these actions, in July 2021 -- after your government agreed to fund the YNSE -- the province made staff from the municipalities of York, Markham, and Richmond Hill sign non-disclosure agreements that forbade them to reveal the TOC plan to anyone, including their respective elected municipal councillors.
In December 2021, Ontario announced its TOC plans to the public. The two municipalities did not agree with the plans and responded formally in February 2022, asking for a delay in the province’s issuance of MZOs in the hope that they could get the province to change its plans to better align with their long-term visions.
In the period following, the cities pleaded with the province for changes, but their requests were largely ignored. And in April 2022, the province presented them with Intergovernmental Agreements in Principle (AIP) that the cities were expected to approve. The two cities did not approve. Nevertheless, the province went ahead and issued the two Enhanced MZOs. Bill 109 also received Royal Ascent the very same day.
It is important to note that Ontario’s use of the term “Transit Oriented Communities” is misleading. The term is normally used to describe “complete” mixed-use communities with transit at their centres. It’s an idea to which our community groups subscribe. It is also a definition which describes the original municipal plans for the Yonge-407. What the Ontario government has done is zone for the opposite. It doubled the housing density and reduced the commercial space. It took away the municipal mandate for 35% affordable housing. It dramatically reduced parkland, schools, and community centres. The two centres will now house 80,000 people (the equivalent of the population of Newmarket, Ontario) in 45.5 hectares (half the area of Exhibition Place in Toronto). At 175,000 people/km2, this new zoning will make it the densest housing centre in the Western Hemisphere and the second densest in the world, second only to the Dharavi slums of Mumbai. The zoning envisages 67 condo towers, 11 of which will be 80 storeys, taller than First Canadian Place’s 72 storeys. The setbacks for these towers have been set at only 1.5M from the road. Furthermore, by reducing employment, it will force more people onto roads or onto the already overburdened subway during rush hour. Urban planners across the GTA have concluded that these centres will be unlivable. The question is why would the government implement such an obviously flawed plan.
One potential answer is that the land defined for the TOCs is all owned by what appears to be one developer or developer family. Appraisers estimate that the land, purchased in 2000-2002 for between $34-$56 million, is now, as a result of not just land appreciation but also announcements of a subway and new zoning, worth approximately $3.9 billion with a commercial development value exceeding $100 billion. In a public meeting, the City of Markham stated that prior to the April 14, 2022 date, it would normally have received $2.1 billion in cash-in-lieu for parkland for land of this size zoned to this density. While Richmond Hill has not stated what money it would have been due, a conservative estimate puts it at over $1B. This puts the total money that would normally have been owed to the two municipalities at over $3.1 billion.
The funding arrangement for the $5.6B YNSE was supposed to be 40%/40%/20% allocated as $2.24B by the Government of Canada, $2.24B by the Government of Ontario, and $1.12B by the Regional Municipality of York. As the municipalities are no longer receiving the $3.1B cash-in-lieu they would have been due, it appears that Ontario may have taken money that should have gone to York Region municipalities to pay the province’s portion for the subway. In the process, it appears that a substantial gift may have been given to a political donor as a quid pro quo.
We understand that your government would have established guarantees in its funding agreement with the Government of Ontario. That agreement may have included conditions that pertain to community and environmental impacts, affordable housing near transit lines, and engagement with residents. If so, the Government of Ontario may not have met your conditions and guarantees. Under these circumstances, we believe that the federal government must pause its funding for the YNSE until such time that all the details of the financial agreement between Ontario and the landowner are made public and that all your funding conditions and guarantees are met. It is also noted that this developer is a substantial owner of the land around Highway 413 and may also be a beneficiary of the Ontario government’s recent decision to build that highway. We believe that an investigation into the relationship between the Ontario Government and the parties in question may be in order and that such an investigation is the democratic right of all residents of Ontario, if not the entire country.
Resident, Richmond Hill, Ontario
(on behalf of the following resident and taxpayer groups)
LIST OF RESIDENT GROUPS and THEIR REPRESENTATIVES
• Alena Gotz, Aileen-Willowbrook Residents Association (AWRA)
• Alex Wong, BayMills Ratepayers Association
• Pat Pollock, Mayvern Area Residents Association (MARA)
• Rhonda Duma, Grandview Area Resident Association (GARA)
• Sue Shanly, Meadow Wood Rattray Ratepayers Association (MWRRA)
• Elisabeth Tan, Milne Dam Conservation Park Ratepayers Association (MDCPRA)
• Petra Scheller, Charlene Haupt, Trevor Isaac, Athina Tagidou, Sue Shanly, Mississauga
Residents’ Association Network (MIRANET)
• Allan Glube, Ridgegate Ratepayers Association (RRA)
• Mia Poscente, Royal Orchard Ratepayers’ Association (RORA)
• Anet Mor, Flamingo Ratepayers Association (FRO)
• Arnold Korne, Gazebo Ratepayers Association
• Jordan Max, Springfarm Ratepayers Association (SFRA)
• Tony Faccia, Village Core Residents Association
• Evelin Ellison, Ward One (South) Thornhill Residents Inc (WOSTRI)
• Gary Zikovitz, North Richvale Community
• Margaret Martins, York Regional Standard Condominium Corporation (YRSCC) No 1109
• Beverley Belfer, York Regional Standard Condominium Corporation (YRSCC) No 1176
• Geoff Kettel and Cathie Macdonald, The Federation of North Toronto Residents
• Lisa Sherin, Keep the Subway on Yonge Steering Committee,
• John Hartley, SOS Save Our City Association (SSOCA)
• Geoff Kettel, Federation of Urban Neighbourhoods
What's Happening to our Neighbourhood?
Our neighbourhood will be almost unrecognizable within ten years. Work is moving ahead to build the North Yonge subway extension with a target completion date of 2029-30. Although plans are not yet finalized, it will consist of approximately 7.5 km of track from Finch to Langstaff Rd with likely four stations located at Steeles, Clark, Royal Orchard and Langstaff.
Already, numerous large developers are rushing to cash in on the opportunities created. At present, within the Yonge-Steeles Area, there are at least six major projects in various development stages. Because of our unusual location on the borders of Markham, Vaughan and Toronto, all three cities are engaged in considering the multiple projects. Those close by will have the most significant impact on our neighbourhood. However, others further north are also likely to impact our daily lives.
|Number of buildings
|Proposed Height (storeys)
|Proposed # of residential units
|Proposed Additional Population
|100 Steeles W (Salz)
|18, 18, 49, 54
|180 Steeles W (Mizrahi)
|16, 16, 25, 29, 39, 45
|2 Steeles W/ 7028 Yonge (Gupta)
|50, 56, 65
|36-60 Steeles E /37-63 Highland Pk (Zonix)
|72 Steeles W/ 7040 Yonge (Humbold)
|38, 44, 56, 60
|7080 Yonge (Chestnut Hill)
What is Our Response?
Representing the residents of our area, GARA is extremely concerned about the scope of the proposed developments and the apparent lack of planning to provide the necessary community infrastructure to support the added population. Considering estimates suggest an additional 60,00 people will be living in the Yonge-Steeles area, the following issues need to be addressed:
- lack of public park space
- traffic grid-lock on main roads
- traffic infiltration into residential neighbourhoods
- the failure to provide additional capacity in community services such as libraries, community centres, schools and daycares.
GARA is working with neighbouring residents associations looking for ways to ensure these issues are addressed. We would welcome hearing your questions and concerns and will continue to update the community as more information becomes available.
UPDATE DECEMBER 2021 Zonix development proposal for Steeles and Highland Park Avenues
It is GARA's understanding that plans for the area between Steeles Avenue and Highland Park Ave, Dudley to Woodward have been put on hold by the developer while they follow the city's Planning staff recommendation that the Yonge Street Secondary Plan be completed first.