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Ashton points to Scarborough as transit, planning test case for rest of city

Scarborough councillor heads up new committee

SUSAN O’NEILL
Jan. 11, 2007

Council’s ability to address the planning and transportation needs in Scarborough will be a test case for how well the city handles the challenges facing Toronto as a whole, according to Ward 36 Councillor Brian Ashton (Scarborough Southwest).

Ashton is taking on the role of chairing the city’s new planning and growth management committee.

And as he looks ahead to the next four years, he argues the city’s plans to revitalize Kingston Road will be a test of council’s ability to plan for the future in a way that ensures Toronto’s success as an urban centre.

“One thing that’s neat about Scarborough is I really strongly believe Scarborough is right at the front of the curve, it’s really the pioneering area,” Ashton said in an interview this week.

The city and the TTC are preparing to launch an environmental assessment (EA) that will study transit improvements planned for the section of Kingston Road between Victoria Park and Eglinton avenues.

The longtime councillor says the upcoming EA could serve as a model for planning and transportation across the city.

“Why this makes an interesting model or exercise is … Birch Cliff is different than Cliffside, Cliffside is different than the Cliffcrest portion. So you have an opportunity with the three different types of suburban environments to test new city development opportunities and transit visions,” he said.

Ashton said there is a benefit to Scarborough because the city has learned much from the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way exercise on issues like the impact on the environment and businesses, the transportation capacity of the road and how the communities will respond.

“Hopefully … we’re going to launch it in a way that the EA will be a real study in local democracy and getting local input into how do we use this opportunity to rebuild Kingston Road?” he said. “It will almost be an example for other avenues, in not only Scarborough but in North York and Etobicoke, on how to revitalize.”

Ashton also said the timing of the EA is important because the TTC is developing an integrated transit plan for Scarborough.

“If we can’t solve it in Scarborough, the rest of the city is pretty much doomed,” he said, adding if the mayor and council concentrate on these projects it will be “a test of the city’s ability to develop this new international, North American city that’s environmentally sustainable and socially mobile and economically prosperous.”

Ashton also said it’s important for the city to ensure neighbourhoods remain strong as Toronto’s population grows.

“We need enough flexibility in the planning regime to honour the local neighbourhoods and to allow them to flourish, to breathe,” he said, adding it’s essential to manage any market intrusions that threaten to stifle or crush neighbourhoods.

“That’s one of the issues, when places become successful, strangely enough the market comes in and changes what made it successful in the first place,” he said, citing the Beach as an example.

“The more successful that becomes, the more people want to come in and rezone it and put something bigger and taller, and then you say why would you do that you’re destroying what made it work in the first place? So that’s the balance we have to find,” he said.

The first planning and growth management committee meeting takes place Thursday.




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