The first sign of spring in St Patrick’s Ward isn’t the recently returned birds chirping away demanding seeds or the clocks moving forward. We know it’s getting warmer when the ubiquitous white Committee of Adjustment signs start popping up all over and the mailbox starts to fill with notices of public meetings regarding certain properties. You don’t need the farmer’s almanac to determine what’s in the air, be it the sing song of the contractors hammer or hexavalent chromium. I used to love being part of this rite of the season, the annual gripe sessions down at the Italian Canadian Club with my neighbours, where we let it all out and absolutely no one sides with the city, developers, the company in question or anybody at the head table. We’d fill the room and let everyone have their moment at the mic, even though the development or adjustment happens regardless, with perhaps some minor changes. Occasionally, a good old fashioned petition would get passed around, never to be seen again. Someone would write it all up for the Tribune or the Mercury. It was a time honoured ritual.
As with all traditions, many fade with time. Currently, the parties in question can no longer be bothered to hear the neighbourhood as a group, except for meetings at city hall where the classic democratic process is still strictly enforced. The trend now in these hectic, app driven times is toward the Open House or Information Session These new free form meetings are further split into separate afternoon and evening events, presumably in the name of accommodation but actually serving to dilute the kvetching of the masses even further. No longer do we jockey for a good seat in the rows of chairs to stare down the applicants/consultants/city staff in the hot seats. No more impassioned speeches from Joe Lunchbucket about “where am going to park the truck?” or Sally Camomile-Tea voicing concern about what her organic children may be breathing in. We had a good thing going dammit, our community meetings were a much loved spectacle. Now, we stand divided and pretty much conquered. Our engaged badass reputation teeters on extinction.
(This isn’t actually in The Ward but similar sentiments can be found scribbled here and there in all neighbourhoods such as ours)
First up this past week was a Q and A session about 200 Beverley Street, aka the Imico foundry lands. The city has dumped millions into property maintenance and brownfield monitoring. Millions more will be spent to “prepare the site for development”. There are lots of suggestions out there as to what might happen, little nuggets of hope floated that we might get something exciting such as a park, arena, community centre or “education facility”. Realistically, there are only two options. The site will either revert to an industrial use or be zoned for more condos. If the brownfield launderers surface in short order, condos are a certainty. The Mercury has suggested that four “firms” have expressed an interest, although none of whom will state their intentions openly. This would imply some kind of big box, a hot trend in other parts of town (the site is 13 acres) or it’s the industry option, which will definitely be lighter weight stuff than the foundry was. Either way, it’s widely implied that the city has “no money” and private capital is necessary to take care of it. So this rules out the park, arena or something for the people. We can forgo the perennial whinge fest good neighbours, this is a done deal!
(Once again, not actually in The Ward but a similar scene can be expected soon)
The following evening saw our largest neighbourhood industrial concern, Owens Corning, pulling out all of the stops over it’s inability to meet the coming improved air quality regulations. OC insists they are “committed to conducting its operations in a manner that protects the public’s and (our) employees health and safety and the environment” according to one of a ream of fact sheets doled out. The caveat is they will be unable to meet the new air pollution regulations for hexavalent chromium that the province has devised, so they are looking for an “site specific” exemption. New tech they are installing will vastly improve their current emissions but they can’t hit the bar within the time frame, if ever. So they are obligated to tell us about it. This meeting followed a more science fair/trade show structure, with those tasked to mind the display tables swooping in on anyone browsing or remotely making eye contact. This way, people like myself don’t get a public moment to bring up the mass layoffs, shipping the labour intensive (union) jobs to Mexico whilst keeping the polluting part of the operation here because its easier and more cost effective, which in turn pleases the shareholders – the actual true bottom line. We former outspoken types are reduced to blogging in our pyjamas, hoping someone out there might read it, knowing full well that armchairism never changed a goddamn thing, ever.
You won’t see me at city hall on March 12th at 5.20pm at the application for severance for 47 Richardson Street. I’ve got a radio show to put on. I’m fairly sure the slumlord era is drawing to a close for St Patrick’s Ward and the new dawn of all things luxury is upon us, so a couple of infill houses are probably nothing to worry about. But if you do have any concerns, be sure to make your presence known, although the comment period is over. Or is the golden era of our scrappy populace over? It’s up to you.
Post Script: The Richardson Street application to jam two homes on a lot best suited for one has was denied late last week, due in large part to the efforts of a solid, united block of neighbours. There’s hope for us yet.