Fight brewing between Beach residents over multi-million-dollar super homes
Neighbourhood is 'environmentally sensitive land,' area councillor says
Tensions are brewing between residents in the Beach, as the owners of some of the city's most valuable real estate are rallying to stop proposed plans for two massive homes that neighbours say would irrevocably change the fabric of the area.
The homes in question are at 428 and 440 Lake Front. Some in the neighbourhood are balking at the sheer size of the building proposals on the lots (and how they might affect their own beachside views) and a long list of variances for which the owners are applying through the city's committee of adjustment.
"It just completely changes the view of this very special part of the Toronto lakeside properties," said Kevin Kimsa, who has lived next door to 428 Lake Front since 2005.
"This changes the full landscape of the beach area."
Property records show the home at 428 Lake Front sold for $5 million back in the summer of 2016, while 440 sold for $5.4 million in October of 2018. It's expected both existing structures would be demolished to make way for new homes, should plans get approval.
Lawyer Dennis Wood, who is a specialist in municipal law, is representing some neighbours in the area as the issue makes its way to the city. The owners of both homes are slated to appear before the committee of adjustment in the coming weeks to argue in favour of variances to their properties — though Ward 19 Coun. Brad Bradford said those proceedings could be deferred.
The committee either approves or denies requested variance changes. The losing side then has the option to appeal the decision.
Wood says about 30 or 40 people went to a community meeting on Monday to voice their concerns about the proposed developments.
"Each time there's a new development … it tries to get closer to the water, and it inevitably blocks the views of the people who are beside it," Wood said.
"It's kind of a race to the beach."
Bradford told CBC News his office has also heard from several residents about the issue. "I understand why residents have voiced some concerns," he said.
In a letter to the committee of adjustment about 428 Lake Front, Wood's law firm laid out the reasons it is objecting to the variances, namely that the home would be too high and too long, out of character with the immediate neighborhood, and "too intrusive on [neighbours] enjoyment of their properties with significant overlook and privacy issues given the length of the building and its position on the lot."
The letter also alleges that if approved, the development would set a negative precedent for the redevelopment of the remaining lots along the top of the bluff.
But Gunther Eysenbach, the owner of 440 Lakefront, told CBC News in an email that much of the concern over his property is based on "misinformation."
"As a member of the community and lover of the Beaches myself, I am passionate about this area and recognize the importance of both maintaining its character and establishing a strong rapport with other residents," he said.
Eysenbach says the roof of his proposed property will be lower than the existing house, and his house would have a "significant setback from the public beach."
"Some of the residents may not agree with having contemporary homes in the Beaches. While the style may not be of everyone's choosing, there is no question that the design will be tasteful and fit in the beach environment," he said.
But Bradford also raised the issue of the area being "environmentally sensitive land."
According to the Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), lake levels have slightly exceeded historic highs in two of the last three years.
Both properties originally had coastal hazard assessments approved by the TRCA, deeming their proposals to be safe.
But on Thursday, the conservation authority reversed its original decision for 428 Lake Front, saying it is now recommending the application be deferred so its distance from the shoreline hazard limit — which is the property line closest to the water — can be reconsidered.
Bradford agrees that issue should be examined.
"In a world where climate change is very much a reality, and season after season we see shoreline rise on our beaches … is it a good idea to be waiving variances?" he said.
"I would suggest not."
- This story has been updated from an earlier version after CBC Toronto was able to speak with the owner of 440 Lake Front.Dec 20, 2019 3:17 PM ET
- An earlier version of this story stated the conservation authority reversed its original coastal hazard assessment decision for both properties and recommended deferral so their distances from the shoreline hazard limit could be re-examined. In fact, the TRCA only reversed its decision for 428 Lake Front.Jan 07, 2020 12:43 PM ET