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Greatwise responds

The planner for Greatwise Developments has responded to this story. It's all over this Dec. 30 pile on in which the mayor, Planning Committee chair Peter Hume and College Ward councillor Rick Chiarelli vow, in no uncertain terms, to nip the 'surprise' expansion of a west-end residential project in the bud.

It should come as no surprise the city is taking a public stand on a development issue, given Jim Watson's tough-talking budget speech back in October. Watson put builders on notice, warning them to stop treating the city's Official Plan and zoning rules as mere inconveniences. At the same time he vowed to clarify those rules, making them less susceptible to creative interpretation.

So it was really just a matter of which unlucky developer would wander through the city's crosshairs first. It may be that few people have heard of Greatwise, so that made the company an easier target than, say, Minto. (If you haven't heard of Greatwise you soon will: The company has hired Hill & Knowlton to make sure councillors and senior staff know exactly who they are.)

Here's one thing we already know about Greatwise: They don't like being called names. In an e-mail, the planner on the Redwood project, Lloyd Phillips of Lloyd Phillips & Associates Ltd., had this to say:

"It is not surprising that controversy would surround this proposed development; it has since the very beginning more than 3 years ago. However what is surprising is the type of language used by high-ranking City officials in the news release and in media coverage to imply Greatwise's motives in amending this proposal were less than honourable. Words or phrases like "sneaky", "backdoor" and "I don't think its ethical" ascribe intentions and process to Greatwise which not only don't add anything to the discussion but are also not true.

After a long protracted debate two years ago over this proposal, it is incomprehensible for anyone to suggest that this was a "sneaky" and "backdoor" scheme preplanned by Greatwise just to do it again.  This was purely a marketing decision. Nothing more. Nothing less.  The condo market in the west end has undergone a complete change over the last two years and Greatwise had to amend their plans to reflect that change."

There follows a comprehensive Q&A outlining Greatwise's position on the matter. Their most important arguments though are these:

  • The proposal conforms "100%" to the zoning for the site.
  • There never was a specific number of units assigned to the zoning; 334 was merely the number of units arrived at under the site plan.
  • The change in units is based on a shifting real estate market, specifically a growing need for smaller units -- nothing more, nothing less.
  • This is no loop hole; city staff have always known the zoning allowed for more density, and that the developer may want to take advantage of that allowance.

This will all make for quite a show at the Planning Committee meeting on Jan. 10. (The timing of the city's attack is curious, though likely no accident; it gives Greatwise very little time to prepare their defense and lobby the players.) In the end we'll know whether the city can really back up all the tough talk, or whether they've chosen the wrong developer to pick on.

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