1100 Briar Hill Avenue

As you know, the results of the first stages of the archeological review confirmed that the buried foundation remains of Fairbanks School built in 1863, as well as portions of the 1908 addition. Based on these findings, my motions that were passed required additional "Stage 4" work be conducted to completely expose, document and excavate the foundation trench of the 1863-1927 one room schoolhouse.

The Ministry has now completed their "Stage 4" review and has unfortunately stated that the Fairbanks School site and the 1100 Briar Hill Avenue property is considered to be free of further archaeological concern and no further assessment is required. The City's Heritage Services Department agrees with this recommendation.

I am disappointed with these assessments from both the Provincial Ministry and Heritage Services and will continue to look for ways to preserve the heritage on this site and in our community.

Park Update

As you know, Toronto Council supported my push for the City to purchase the former Briar Hill School playground from the School Board in order to turn it into a City park. Work has been conducted on the grounds and the current City budget that will soon be before City Council for approval includes funds to continue to convert this green-space to a fully functioning City park.

My hope is that the City budget will pass with this item included and work on the park will resume in the spring. I will keep residents posted on any anticipated work.

Thank you to all community members who continue to work with me on all of the issues related to this site.

Published September 2, 2014 - The applicant for 1100 Briar Hill made and appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) with respects to their zoning application for the proposed development at 1100 Briar Hill (former school site).

At the August meeting of Community Council, I moved a motion fully supported by the local residents association, the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Association that would:

  • Ensure the community's interests are represented at any legal proceedings on this matter by hiring external consultants to defend the current zoning uses permitted on the site and removing City Planning Staff as the primary City agent on the file
  • Prevent the City, applicant or any parties from negotiating a settlement prior to the OMB proceedings
  • Directs City Staff to look at re-orientating the site to protect the identified archaeological site (where the old school house foundation remains were located) with a park in that location
  • Implement additional privacy measures between the site and the surrounding neighbourhood
  • Consider the results of the Stage 4 Archaeology Assessment prior to the OMB proceedings
  • You can view the decision at http://app.toronto.ca/tmmis/viewAgendaItemHistory.do?item=2014.NY34.95

Thank you to all who attended the Community Council proceedings and to the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Association for their efforts on behalf of the community and residents.

Published July 16, 2014 - A Directions Report on the Rezoning Application for 124 townhouses will be considered at the August 12, 2014 meeting of North York Community Council. 

Published July 16, 2014 - You may have noticed activity on the Briar Hill site yesterday. I want to thank neighbours who notified my office, and to update you on what is happening on the site.

In response to my request to the Province to conduct a rigorous archaeology review the land-owner has been directed to complete additional testing of the buried school remains.

This additional archaeological review began yesterday by Archaeology Services Inc (ASI) and will be underway through this week. Once this latest investigation is complete ASI must then advise on the best approach to dealing with the school remains. This could include preserving them underground on site, or commemorating them and the site in some way. To be clear, no school remains are being removed at this time but a detailed investigation of the site is being conducted. My preference, like many of those in the neighbourhood, is to have the remains left in place and the site protected.

The Archaeologist will forward their findings to City of Toronto Heritage and the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport for review and comment. These findings and comments from the Ministry will be included in a report that will go to North York Community Council on August 12, 2014. This report will accompany another one from City Planning on the townhouse development proposal where the developer has made and appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). A date for this hearing has been set for November 25, 2014.

I will push for my council colleagues to NOT approve the proposal for this site AND I intend to have the City provide legal and planning experts at any OMB hearing to defend the neighbours' position on this development.

Published May 14, 2014

Heritage: In follow up to the motion I put forward at Council, new archaeological work was completed to further review the heritage significance of the site. As a result, footings from the original 1863 school house were found along with some artifacts (pencil led and 2 panes of glass). This information will be used to prepare an updated archaeological report that will be reviewed by the City and Province of Ontario.

In light of these archaeological findings, I have made a formal request of the Province to conduct a rigorous review of the site and the forthcoming archaeological report.

Ontario Municipal Board (OMB): The City recently received a "Notice of Appeal" letter submitted by the developer that means that they can now seek a decision at the OMB instead of waiting for the City's process to unfold. It is my intention to have the City provide legal and planning expertise at any OMB hearing to defend the neighbourhood's position on this development. As soon as I have information about any proposed hearing dates, I will notify residents.

Working Group: Many residents have expressed their interest in participating in a "Working Group" that would review the application and provide suggested changes. However, in light of this latest action by the developer, I am unsure what will be accomplished by a working group. Currently, meeting dates are set for May 27, June 2, and June 17. If or when the Working Group meetings proceed, notice will be given and a 3rd party facilitator will oversee these additional community consultations.

City Park: As mentioned in my last update, clean-up of the park has begun so it will be safe for public use. This includes removal of old fencing, swings and timbers, clean up of garbage and debris and removal of diseased or storm-damaged trees. A new fence is being installed along with an entrance on the south side of the park. Additional trees will also be planted.

May 6 Council Motion: In an effort to help protect school lands, I was please that my colleagues supported this motion to find more creative solutions to land deamed "surplus" by the Toronto District School Board.

Published May 6, 2014 Work Begins on Briar Hill Park  

Great news--City staff are beginning maintenance and clean up at 1100 Briar Hill to open the City owned area for the newest park in Ward 15. In the next few weeks, they will be removing the old swings and timbers surrounding them, removing the old fence and installing a new fence along the current property line, cleaning up garbage and debris, and finally installing a public access point on the south side of the park.

In order provide safe access, the trees were assessed by our City Forestry staff who recommended the following actions:

  • Removal of a Silver Maple which had root rot at the base leading up the tree which created a serious hazard.
  • Removal of the Ash trees that were all either dead or seriously infected with Emerald Ash Borer.
  • Removal and/or pruning of remaining trees for broken branches and hangers which were a hazard, and related to the December ice storm.  

Additional tree planting will be part of the park plan, but at this point staff are focusing on making the site safe for public access. If you have any concerns, contact my office at 416-392-4027.

Archaeological Assessment Investigation

On Friday April 25, 2014 a consultant archaeologist for a developer applicant and an independent archaeological consultant acting for the City of Toronto conducted additional Stage 2 assessment at 1100 Briar Hill, a former school site. During the extensive additional excavation that was completed by the team, intact remains of the original 1863 schoolhouse and 1908 addition were found on the site.

I was very excited to learn of this find as the remains uncovered have a direct lineage to the First Settlers in York County and are of great cultural and heritage significance to the community. Given these findings, I have requested that the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport investigate these findings under the Standards and Guidelines for Consulting Archaeologists, and that a rigorous review of the assessment submitted by the applicant archaeologist be conducted. Read Letter

Published April 15, 2014: Site BeautificatPuion Update

Last year when the building demolition took place, some asphalt and debris were left over. Since then, the applicant's contractor had been waiting for weather conditions to improve to complete the balance of the work. The asphalt requires removal in order to implement a seeding exercise to all disturbed areas once weather permits . This is part of the site beautification plan I informed you of in our last update. This clearing of debris should only take a couple of days. I will keep residents informed of any changes to timing.

Published April 11, 2014 In response to residents' concerns, I am very pleased with the progress that has been made to address issues regarding an application to build townhomes on the former Briar Hill school site.

  • beautifcation plan for the site (attached) has now been finalized. This will ensure the site is kept cleaned, maintained and contained throughout the year.
  • The motion I put forward at North York Community Council with input from the local residents group will result in additional Stage 2 Archaeological Assessments being completed in order to further review Heritage significance on the site. Link to decision here. City Staff have also been directed to look at other historically significant sites in the area. (View letter)
  • As promised, we are moving forward to establish a working group made up of local residents, the applicant, City Planning and other Divisional Staff and my office, to review the application and discuss the communities concerns about the proposed built form, density, and zoning considerations. I am pleased to report that my efforts to have additional oversight of this application have been successful  and the Chief Planner has agreed to have an external consultant oversee the working group consultation. If you would like to be a member of the working group, please contact my office by April 15th, 2014.

Once again, I want to thank the local residents group, the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee for their continued efforts to bring forward and share resident issues regarding this application.

Published March 6: In an effort to determine the historical significance of the site and retrieve any historical material, I am pleased that my request for New Stage 2 Assessment of 1100 Briar Hill Avenue was adopted by North York Community Council (NYCC) at the February meeting.  Read full item and my letter to NYCC here.

Published February 6, 2014 As we continue to work through the application process for the proposed development at 1100 Briar Hill, I have the following updates for you in response to the local residents association, the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee, request for additional information on behalf of area residents.

Applicant's Encroachment on Park Land

January 20, 2014 - Response was sent to Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee from the Manager, Urban Forestry Tree Protection and Plan Review indicating that multiple site visits were conducted and Parks Staff were satisfied there was no issue. Follow up from our office confirmed this with Parks Staff. Parks further offered to conduct a site visit with the residents group.

The Project Manager Parks Development has also contacted the residents group in follow up to arrange a site visit, and my office is available to help facilitate this site visit.

Corrective Action Regarding By-Law 3102-95

December 19, 2013 - In a response from City Planning Staff to the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee regarding beautification of the site pending development, City Planning advised that they are working with the property owner to address interim site improvements.

January 20, 2014 - A letter from the Chief Building Official advised that City Planning is taking steps that will address the goals of "beautification of the land" in keeping with the goals of the Act and that measures to address the "beautification of the land" as defined in the City of York Act, 1994 (No. 2) pending the redevelopment of the site will continue to be pursued.

My office has also directed City Parks Staff to perform maintenance and clean up of the site as soon as weather permits so that it may be open to the public as soon as possible.

Indication of the City's response to the Applicant's proposal

City Planning provides a recommendation to North York Community Council on all applications in the form of a final report. Prior to this time, Planning Staff are available to speak with residents and listen to public feedback, are informed by public meetings, and may also instil additional consultation measures as required. The City does not state its position in the Preliminary Report which is a neutral part of the process.

With respects to Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee request for the local Councillor to make a new proposal for the site, my preferred vision for the site was for it to remain institutional. To this end, I spoke to TDSB officials, Provincial representatives and local independent schools in an effort to keep a school or community related use on the site. Elected officials cannot dictate what is an appropriate proposal for private land owners; however, City by-laws, Planning act, Official plan etc. can make those determinations.

I have also put in place extra measures including offering to host a second public meeting, forming a working group, and organizing meetings with local residents and the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee. Through these extra measures, feedback will be taken from the community and through the Planning process, to influence the final proposal.

Request for more senior oversight

January 10 2014 - During a meeting requested by a member of the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee with the Manager Community Planning, the Planning Manager made a commitment to provide active guidance and oversight on this file and attend all future meetings.

As a result of my discussions with City planning staff and the Chief Planner, I have confirmed that an independent Planning facilitator has been retained to help lead proceedings on this file. This also addresses Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee concerns that it would not be appropriate to have the current City planner host the roundtable.

I want to thank all residents and members of the Briar Hill-Stayner Residents Community Committee for their continued interest and work on behalf of our community.

I also want to assure residents once again that, this proposal has not been approved and I will support the consensus of the community.

Published January 14, 2014

For complete information on 1100 Briar Hill Avenue Zoning By-law Amendment Application, please view the City website.

1. Notes from City Planning Public Meeting on November 26, 2013

As requested by residents and promised by City Planning Staff, the meeting notes from the community consultation meeting on November 26th are now available and attached for your review. If you would like to see the applicant's presentation slides, please contact my office.

2. Demolition of Briar Hill School

During our community consultation, residents questioned whether a former City of York bylaw was applicable for the demolition application for Briar Hill School. The bylaw requires an applicant enter into an agreement with the City for a beautification plan for the site pending development (before any new buildings are erected) prior to a demolition permit being issued. City Staff did not consider the applicability of the bylaw before issuing a permit authorizing demolition of the school. As a result, City Planning is now working with the owner of the land to put in place measures that will address beautification of the land.
(Attached is the response from Toronto Buildings on this matter)

Like you, I was dismayed to see this historical piece of our community demolished. While I am pleased we were able to retain pieces of the buildings corner stone to be used as a monument in the City Park secured on site, more needs to be done to protect historical and institutional buildings in our community.

Through my position on the Planning and Growth Management Committee I have requested City staff to provide a report on enabling legislation and implementing conditions on demolition building permits for buildings located on institutional sites, such as churches and schools. View item

The City of Toronto protects its housing stock by requiring individuals demolishing residential homes to submit replacement building plans prior to the issuance of any demolition permit, but no such requirement currently exists for buildings located on institutional lands--such as the school at 1100 Briar Hill. With the increasing trend by school boards to sell off school lands in the City of Toronto, the City and its residents are vulnerable to the negative impacts associated with demolishing buildings located on these lands. This includes the loss of buildings with heritage and cultural significance and the loss of community spaces and hubs. I will continue to update residents on the outcomes of this report.

3. Fencing around City Park at Briar Hill

During an inspection of perimeter fencing at the Briar Hill site with Parks Staff and residents, it was determined that an audit of the severance line between the park and private lands would be completed to ensure existing fencing is adequately protecting all City park lands including protection of a group of mature trees onsite.

The applicant agreed to implement plastic fencing to protect the area next to the park and to remove signage on the park fencing that indicated it was private property.

4. Phase III Archaeological Assessment

During our community consultation residents raised questions about the Archaeological review and assessment conducted for the Briar Hill site, and resulting conclusion that no historical artifacts of interest were identified. Residents requested additional review be conducted in the form of a "Phase III Archaeological Assessment".

My office has since learned from Heritage Services that a Stage III Assessment can only be triggered if an actual item of artifact has been found. No items were found in the Stage II Testing. Heritage Staff therefore concurred with the Stage II Findings and no further recommendations for assessment were made.

If any additional or new supporting evidence that challenges the Stage II findings is submitted to Heritage Services, they will review this information against the existing assessment. I have been speaking with the local residents association on providing additional information to conduct this review.

Finally, I want to re-affirm that no application has been approved for this site. Residents have spoken loud and clear that they are NOT in favour of this proposal and I will support the position of the community.

I want to thank all residents who have contacted me to date with their questions and concerns, to those who attended the public meeting and to those individuals I have also met with in person. A group of your neighbours, the Briar Hill - Stayner Residents Community Committee has also done a significant amount of work to organize residents, share information about this proposal and contact City Staff on these important issues. As discussed at the public meeting and in consultation with the Briar Hill – Stayner Residents group, we are speaking with City Planning Staff about hosting a second public meeting in the community.

If you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact my office at 416-392-4027.

You can also contact the City Planning Manager Al Rezoski, atarezosk@toronto.ca, 416-392-1791.

Published November 27, 2013

Thank you to all who attended last night's City Planning meeting to discuss a proposal put forward by the new owners of the 1100 Briar Hill school site.

There was a lot of enthusiasm from residents and many great questions and comments were presented by your neighbours. This information was heard by the applicant and City Planning staff, who recorded this information for inclusion in all future considerations for the site.

A group of your neighbours, the Briar Hill – Stayner Residents Community Committee, has also done a significant amount of work to organize residents, start a petition and share information about this development proposal.

Many residents stated their disappointment that the Briar Hill School was demolished before a heritage review of the building could be conducted. I am pleased that we have since learned the corner stone and name stone from the school were salvaged. These items will be gifted to the community for inclusion in the land I was able to secure that will become a public/ City park.

Residents who attended spoke loud and clear that they are NOT in favour of this proposal, and I will support the position of the community.

At the end of our meeting there was interest from residents to meet again and further discuss this proposal. It was my promise to host a second meeting for residents in addition to the City Planning meeting, and I will follow up with a meeting date and location.

If you were unable to attend last night's meeting you can send your questions and comments about the proposal to:  Emily Rossini, City Planner:erossin@toronto.ca, 416-395-7172 Al Rezoski, Planning Manager:arezosk@toronto.ca, 416-392-1791, or contact my office.

Published November 14, 2013

As you may have seen over this past weekend, demolition unfortunately began at the Briar Hill School site.

I joined residents at the site on Saturday morning and was very upset to see the destruction of the school.

At the same time, I was contacted by residents who informed me they were seeking a Heritage Designation to preserve the Briar Hill School. I then contacted the developer/ land owner with an appeal on behalf of residents to delay any demolition until a heritage review of the school could be conducted. I have since contacted the land owner to request pieces of the stone work facade removed over the weekend be provided to the City for inclusion in a design for the parkland I secured at the corner of Dufferin and Briar Hill.

In July 2012 when the school first went up for sale, I stated that I am opposed to these lands being used for residential purposes and that the school site should remain as public and park land. At this time, I also worked with several local private schools and not-for-profit organizations to try to purchase the school site.

Despite the demolition of the school, NO plan for residential development has been approved.

A public meeting has now been scheduled for Tuesday November 26th at 6:30 pm at Sts Cosmas and Damian School, 111 Danesbury Avenue. At this meeting an application for the site will be reviewed by City Planning Staff with residents and the applicant.

I will continue to keep residents updated on this issue and should you have any additional questions, please contact my office at 416-392-4027 and check my website for updates.

Published November 7, 2013

The community meeting with our City Planning staff has just been confirmed for:
Tuesday November 26 - 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Sts Cosmas and Damian Catholic School (111 Danesbury Avenue) 

  • Last year, the TDSB made the unfortunate decision to close Briar Hill Public School and to sell the land.
  • I put forward a proposal and was successful in acquiring a portion of the land to remain as a public park.
  • The remaining portion of the school was sold to a new owner who has made an application to build 136 townhomes with underground parking and 4 commercial units on Dufferin Avenue.
  • preliminary report went to North York Community Council meeting on October17, 2013, which triggered the community consultation process.
  • At this meeting I put forward extra measures to ensure residents are consulted on any proposal by extending the residential notification area for the public meeting, ensuring that any impact to the surrounding neighbourhood is reviewed through a more comprehensive planning study, and adding detailed information about surrounding uses as requested by local residents.
  • A public meeting will be held where residents will be able to review the application and provide their feedback to the applicant and City Planning Staff.

 Published January 10, 2013

The Briar Hill School grounds are for sale and I want to keep residents updated as plans for this site move forward.

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