David McKay, a long time resident of Roseland,
presented the following at the June 13, 2012
OMB hearing regarding the severance of the lot at
216 Hart Avenue in Roseland:
To quote William Shakespeare “What’s Past is Prologue”. Allow me, Mr. Chairman, to share a little of our Roseland’s past with you.
To me, Roseland is an area of some 12 to 14 square blocks laid out in part by Ross Hart in 1922 and extended by the Cleaver family in 1924. It is characterized by large lots, many of whose widths are between 70 and 120 ft, and whose tree canopy is extensive, owing to the large number of boulevard trees planted by Hughes Cleaver, together with those planted by early residents. Only a portion of the lots were built on in the 1920s and early 30s; the residences at this time were substantial (though not overly large), elegant and in keeping with the size of their lots, providing considerable open space on the developed lots.
Most of these fine homes are still part of our neighbourhood, some tastefully altered by their owners and a goodly number are on the City’s heritage list, two with designated provincial heritage status.
Owing to the depression of the 1930s and the Second World War, the rest of Roseland was not developed until the late 40s and early 50s. At this time, the homes built tended to be smaller, and a good number were single storied. Given the large lot sizes there was considerable “open space” around these homes as well. As well, a number of large lots were at this time separated into smaller ones with about 50 – 60 ft frontages. Now deemed “legal non-conforming”, one of these lots, together with its 2000 square foot Cape Cod house, has been home to my family for 41 years.
The presence of this mixture of large and small lots, on some blocks, has changed the character of some parts of our neighbourhood; changed the streetscape, changed the character, and changed the level of privacy that was intended by its original planners. That we have done this once does not mean that we should do it again.
In the past 5 or 6 years, a number of houses in Roseland have been demolished and replaced by ones of considerably greater size, often through the granting of minor variances. (As an example, the 70 foot lot diagonally behind our property is in the process of having its 1500 square foot bungalow replaced by a 5000 square foot multistory house). I and others in Roseland recognize that today’s homebuyers wish to have more “built space” and less “botanical space”, and are prepared to pay a substantial price for such a property. However the effect of these houses on both the smaller ones around them and the neighbourhood streetscape has become a cause for considerable concern. These concerns were in part responsible for the drafting of specific amendments to By-Law 2020 dealing with Infill Development, amendments which were cited in the Planning Comments on the original severance request.
The point of this bit of oral history is to emphasize that our community understands that some changes to it are inevitable. Ours is not a “not-in-my back yard” reaction (indeed I personally have change in my backyard at the moment) but rather it is a desire to, in partnership with the City, manage change, to encourage and if necessary insist on sustainable development which to the greatest extent possible preserves the visual character and streetscape of this unique area.
It is of interest that urban centers are taking a greater interest in the preservation and enhancement of their neighbourhoods. The Burlington Strategic Plan 2011 – 2014 has as one of its three directions “Vibrant Neighbourhoods”. The document states that “Burlington will create and improve neighborhoods in harmony with the natural environment”.
We have heard a good deal about “study areas” today, Mr. Chairman. I would suggest to you that given the creation of a scattering of small lots throughout our neighbourhood, as outlined earlier, the only appropriate study to take is the one on which the severance is requested. This block, sir, like a goodly number of others in Roseland, consists entirely of large lots with side yards well above today’s minimum standards, and will set back from the street. It is what a Roseland block was planned to be.
The requested severance, Mr. Chairman, runs counter to this direction. It will change a large lot in harmony with its neighbors to a pair of small ones far below City standards for this area. It will place two new dwellings in close proximity to each other and to the street which will be substantially altered and not for the better. It will result in the removal of a number of mature trees – an act which is not in harmony with the natural environment. It will not “improve the neighborhood”. It may be good planning for the proponent; it is not good planning for the community or for the City.