Wednesday, December 26, 2007
It must have seemed a good idea at the time. Bell Canada would put up a cellphone tower on church property, the Guildwood community would get improved phone service for their cell phones and blackberies, and the Church would make some welcomed income. Everybody wins.
However, the 150 people who jammed the Guildwood Community Presbyterian Church just before Christmas, clearly disagreed. The meeting had been called by officials from Bell and Industry Canada, the federal agency that governs telecommunications, to reassure residents that electromagnetic radiation from the tower would pose no health threat and that the tower will look like a flagpole. Although at 37 metres in height, that would make for a very large flagpole indeed. One with a large shed at its base.
The deal had been reached between the Church and Bell Canada in back in April, but residents, only learned about it on Nov. 8th, after Bell sent letters to about 70 homeowners in the area informing them the tower would be built in the new year. Ward 43 Councilor, Paul Ainslie, told the meeting the city has developed a protocol requiring telecommunications carriers to consult with the municipality on tower locations as of January 1, 2008, but it couldn't be backdated to this tower and wouldn't be binding on cell companies.
Under the Radio Communications Act, Industry Canada has the final authority to approve the location of telecommunication towers and antennae. Municipal zoning by-laws do not have to be considered. A court decision on March 2, 2007 determined that telecommunication installations are not subject to site plan control since they are a Federal undertaking.
Many people at the meeting were also angry that no church officials showed up to explain why they made a 20-year lease deal with Bell without first informing the community.
In the past, the City of Toronto Board of Health have noted concerns that existing guidelines may not be health protective for continuous lifetime exposure to radio frequency (RF) electromagnetic levels and that several jurisdictions have adopted stricter limits than those in Canada. In 1999, the Board of Health recommended a prudent avoidance policy that RF waves from telecommunication towers and antennas be 100 times below Safety Code 6 in areas where people normally spend time. The Medical Officer of Health has recommended that the City collect data from cell phone carriers on predicted RF levels of proposed towers and antennas to allow the City to monitor the potential impact of proposed telecommunication facilities in Toronto.
Bell officials reassured residents that testing done at the base of other towers showed the electromagnetic radiation is "thousands of times" lower than acceptable levels; however, many at the meeting distrusted the claim. Others felt that even if the tower was not a health threat, they didn't want a flagpole more than twice as high as the church steeple towering over their community.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
Friday, December 21, 2007
Morningside Crossing isn't the only major construction slated for West Hill in the new year.
Ward 43 City Councilor Paul Ainslie's office has just confirmed that an 8 story condominium is planned for 4151 Kingston Road, on the site variously known as the Petro Mart or the Shamrock gas station, beside Johnson Chevrolet. The application complies with the existing zoning and would only require site plan approval before it could proceed.
According to Ainslie, "The drawings demonstrate an attractive building for this site and I have asked staff to ensure that a number of trees be added to the plan."
The Councilor is in the process of arranging his own community meeting for February 2008 to discuss the proposed development because City staff have advised him that a community meeting is not mandated for such an application.
The mixed use building would contain some street level retail along with the privately owned condominiums. The Payzac and Kingston Road Building would not likely be completed until 2009
Having disused gas stations turned into condominiums instead of used car lots will be a refreshing change.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
It came as predicted. All the way from Texas. The most vicious December storm in more than two decades.
The City's plows were out early racing against the endless down fall of snow and the wind whipped drifts that made driving treacherous. But the task was hopeless. The storm just too massive.
Neighbours were out shoveling driveways again and again, trying to stay ahead the accumulation. Ambitious teens were out with shovels making extra money clearing driveways and walks. For the most part the roads were deserted and the small number of drivers braving the weather were taking proper care. Of course there were always the few, with engines more powerful than brains, driving their pick-ups and muscle cars as if it was a fair weather day in springtime, putting at risk those cautious drivers whose responsibilities forced them onto the road.
The photo above was shot at the Tim Horton's restaurant parking lot at Kingston Road and Morningside looking west along Kingston Road. The usual coffee line-up back to the restaurant door was missing; but, despite the weather, all the tables were taken. Groups of people huddled over their coffees, refugees from the storm, talking in hushed tones, worried about the drive home.
Most Westhillians stayed indoors, snuggled around kitchen tables or roaring fireplaces, sipping hot chocolate and hoping Monday would be declared a Snow Day.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Dan Sandor, recent Conservative candidate in Scarborough Centre, is leading the fight to protect police enforcement animals with a new law he calls "Brigadier's Law".
You may remember Brigadier, the 8-year-old prize-winning Belgian cross, who worked in the Mounted Unit of Toronto Police until he was killed by an erratic driver in 2006 at Lawrence and Kingston Road. Being 16 hands high, "Brig", the "Gentle Giant", weighed 1500 lbs but was no match for a speeding car.
According to police, on February 24, 2006, Brigadier and his rider, PC Kevin Bradfield, were on Community Patrol in the West Hill area, when their attention was drawn to a driver stopped at the former drive-through ATM machine at TD Canada Trust. The driver was reportedly yelling and screaming at the driver in front of him. The enraged driver sped away when approached by the mounted unit, but then made a u-turn, and drove full force into Brigadier, leaving the horse and his rider crumpled in the roadway. The officer's neck, back and rib were damaged, and he was rushed to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. But Brigadier had taken the full brunt of the collision and his massive injuries were untreatable. He was put down where he lay on the street next to MacDonalds, by officers from the Toronto Police Emergency Task Force.
Unlike many other countries and several US states, there are no additional charges available under the Criminal Code of Canada for deliberately killing a law enforcement animal. This is despite the critical roll Police Service Animals perform in a whole range of duties such as Search and Rescue, Community Oriented Policing, Public Safety and building a bridge between the community and the police.
Now Dan Sandor has proposed creating an amendment to the Criminal Code of Canada to better protect Law Enforcement Animals. Letters have been written to the Canadian Federal Government, including the Prime Ministers office, regarding this proposal giving Police Service Animals the much needed protection they require, under the law. The proposed amendment was nicknamed "BRIGADIERS LAW". For a copy of the open letter to Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, written by Dan Sandor, visit: http://www.brigadierslaw.ca/ or join the cause on Facebook at http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/46332?recruiter_id=10811716
Saturday, December 8, 2007
West Hill Collegiate has just finished a brilliant production of Antigone (an-tig-o-nee). Not the ancient play by Sophacles, but the 1944 adaption by Jean Anouilh, intended to make the play more accessible to modern audiences.
Antigone is, of course, a tragedy and modern audiences have little appetite for tragedies, no matter how well adapted. If anything, our entire culture is a rebellion against tragedy, against predestination, against fate. Against death itself, for that matter. Given the hubris of our time, it is little wonder the West Hill Auditorium was less than half full.
Antigone is the daughter of King Oedipus who married his mother without knowing his relationship to her. But in ancient Greece, innocence is no excuse and once the rule of the gods has been transgressed, there is only once possible outcome. Oedipus is destroyed and so are his innocent children who are the result of his marriage. Oedipus' two sons fruitlessly battle over their father's throne, killing each other. Crea, the new Queen, declares one brother an enemy of the state and orders that his body remain on the battlefield unburied, and therefore deprived of what passed for heaven in ancient Greece. Outraged, Antigone determines to give her brother a proper burial knowing that her disobeying the Queen's law will result in her death. As, of course, being a Greek tragedy, it does. But there is a twist in Anouilh's Existentialist adaption, no longer does Antigone nobly choose death, instead she rejects life as desperately meaningless without affirmatively choosing a noble death.
Antigone is a challenging play with difficult themes and an heroic clashing of ideas, as the various characters debate Antigone's plan and debate the appropriate response to her disobedience of the Queen. As Anigone, Gaayathri Saravanamuthu is in nearly every scene of the play and has an astonishing amount of dialog to master. Antigone succeeds or fails with this one performance and Saravanamuthu carries the part off with a spirited and rousing performance, well worthy of the standing ovation and the two curtain calls. Giving as good as she gets, Shanique Pearson, as Queen Crea, dominates the stage with a regal presence that also infuses the part with with a real humanity as her personal sympathy and affection for Antigone wrestles with her duties as ruler of a shattered country.
There were no weak performances in Antigone but Stephanie Hinds as Antigone's sister Ismere, Eric Slyfield as Antigone's finance and Aretha Reid as her Nurse were out standing. Justin Kwan managed to replace the entire Greek Chorus with an arresting performance that was at once omniscient and more than a little creepy. Providing much needed comic relief, Priyanka Kumor as the First Guard, showed a rare comedic talent that reached the audience every time. Unexpected additional comic relief was also provided by Bruce, a bat that had gotten into the threatre and occasionally swooped over the heads of audience and cast alike.
Perhaps the real tragedy of Antigone were the empty seats in the auditorium. The acting was at a near professional level, the play was filled with challenging and engaging ideas that are as relevant today as they were in Sophocles time. The actors deserved a full house. If this level of sophistication is the norm for plays put on by West Hill drama students, the community needs to give them more support.
Friday, November 30, 2007
There was certainly no minute silence to mark her passing. Indeed the roar of the tractors, powershovels, crushers and dump trucks was louder than ever as the last of the Mall came down on a bleak November 30, 2007. In the picture above, only the North front stairwell to the second floor remains standing, behind the new Morningside Crossing.
Still young by any standards, the Mall suffered from internal decay, the life slowly bled out of her over the last ten years.
Among the first signs of trouble, more than a decade ago, was the closing of Jack Sprats restaurant on the upper level between a pet food store and Shoppers Drug Mart. It wasn't so much that the restaurant closed as the inability of the Mall to find a new tenant for the site. It sat empty for several years with a large "For Rent" sign out front before the Mall gave in and simply walled over the area making it look as if nothing had ever been there. Soon to follow was the loss of Walking on a Cloud and Mahar's Shoes. The loss of Second Cup Coffee with its lively and attractive wait staff was a devastating blow. Then we said goodbye to Suzie Shear, Town and Country, Jack Fraser's and the other clothing stores. The Library moved from the third to the second floor, to disguise the growing number of empty store fronts with "For Rent" signs in the windows. The closing of Home Hardware and the German deli on the ground floor were the writing on the wall for all to see. The two jewelery stores got tired of being robbed and fled early.
Security Guards began to patrol the two levels of the Mall. Their very presence an advertisement that the Mall was no longer safe. Shoppers began to stay away in droves.
When Walmart pulled out it was clear it was over. No more would the little animated family wave at us from above the movator at Christmas time, as they had since Woolco days. Coles bookstore fled to far distant Kennedy and the 401, to become Chapters. Blacks photography held on until nearly the end. As did Nat and Mario's and Cadet dry cleaners and the shoe repair. The Library moved to Manse Road and away from the major population centre. Then Dominion closed forever. Soon only the banks and the convenience store remained.
Gradually all the fast food restaurants brought down their shutters for the last time until only coffee time on the bottom floor was left.
Now all we have are memories. And for good memories we have to stretch back a very long way indeed. However, somewhere, in almost every West Hill resident's photo album there is a picture of them or their children taken in the lower level court yard of the Mall, seated on Santa's knee and beaming radiantly at the camera . Those are the memories that will last forever.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
The installation of a 15 foot totem pole in Morningside Park was intended to be an event, not an adventure and a mystery. The Pole was a creation of the Monarch Park Project by Mr. Dorsey, part of an effort to beautify our parks and is the second Totem to be raised in the City. The project was completed with the assistance of 30 youths from the Malvern community.
The totem was built in a collaborative effort between the Toronto and the Regional Conservation Authority, the Scarborough Arts Counsel, Dorcey (a professional sculptor) and the students from Malvern. The magnificent totem pole was made from a recycled hydro pole gracefully carved from top to bottom. The first totem had been created back in 2004 as part of the Monarch Project, an attempt to involve youths in artistic and environmental initiatives to improve the community.
However, the day before the Pole was to be raised, it went missing. The theft of the pole outraged the community and made headlines in all the Toronto papers. To loose this work of art after so much time and attention had been lavished on its creation, was heart-breaking. How such a large object could have been spirited out of the Park was a mystery. Police speculated that it would have taken six people and a truck to remove the pole. Fortunately the truth proved much simpler than that once the mystery was solved. It had just been rolled into some distant bushes and was later found by two Toronto residents who had strolled off the Park's main pathway.
At over 416 acres, Morningside is by far the largest park in West Hill and one of the most beautiful and interesting in the City of Toronto. Connecting to the University of Toronto grounds and Col. Danforth park, it forms part of a continuous trail all the way to Lake Ontario. Through the summer months, the Park is regularly visited by numerous Community, Church and Scout groups, families, and sports organizations. Although the totem was erected at the end of the third parking lot, due to the vastness of the park, and despite the size of the pole, the totem is easily missed. Although not deliberately hidden now, to be seen, it still needs to be found.
This week will likely see the end of the Wood Green Ravine. A 4 year battle to save this young forested site in West Hill has come to an end and developers will soon start to clear cut the nearly 2000 trees.
Earlier this week over 30 local residents braved nearly freezing rain at 7:30 in the morning to block the developers entrance to the site.
The Ravine is a five acre site, located near Lawrence Ave. E. and Manse Road behind the new 43 Division Police Station. This wonderful site has more than 1200 trees, plus an additional 800 saplings, and many types of bushes and flowers. It is the home to abundant wildlife including white tailed deer, fox, raccoons and a wide variety of birds. It is both a resting and feeding ground for the monarch butterfly on its migration to Mexico. The Ravine is used by people of all ages for playing, walking, exploring, meeting, or enjoying the fruits of a huge blackberry patch!
All of this, however, is about to come to an end. The City of Toronto, as owners of the property, have sold it to a developer for the construction of 60 affordable houses. The development plans call for the site to be clear-cut, so that not a single blade of grass will remain!
There are many reasons to save this environmentally sensitive woodlot. In addition to being a community meeting place and treasure, and a home to birds and animals, the trees help act as a carbon sink removing pollutants from the air, helping moderate the air quality in the area. The Ravine borders on an industrial site along Coronation Drive with a large concentration of chemical industries. The area has been identified as having the fifth highest toxic chemical emissions in the City of Toronto!
With continued population growth, all wild areas are now precious but they are especially critical where, by some miracle, that wilderness can still be found the heart of a City of three million, the economic engine of an entire nation. In such a large city it is easy to loose sight of the fact that we are a part of nature. And if we loose Woodgreen Ravine, it will be harder still to hold onto that knowledge.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
If you live in West Hill and you have ever been to the movies you know West Hill resident, James Loader. You may not have known his name, but you sure know his face. If you're old enough you remember him from the Cedarbrae Theatres where he collected your tickets and directed you to your theatre for many years. After Cedarbrae closed he could be found working at Fairview or $2.00 ticket days at the massive Scarborough Mall. For the last seven years James has been ripping your ticket at the Morningside and 401 theatre and without anyone knowing it, he has become one common denominator that units us all.
In a world where you never get the same waitress no matter how many times you visit the same restaurant, James has been working for the same theatre chain for over 40 years. And now, thanks to Gus Saurer of Port Union, James is finally getting a little appreciation. Gus is the creator the the "Old Man Who Rips Your Tickets at the Morningside Theatre Appreciation Page" on Facebook. Since putting the page up a little over a month ago, over 10,000 local residents have joined to show their appreciation. There is even a move under way to get James nominated for the Scarborough Walk of Fame. If being instantly recognizable by virtually everyone in Scarborough counts as fame, James nomination is a sure thing.
As one fan puts it, "James is a great guy. He has been working in the cinema's for a long time. I have known him for about 20 years. He used to belong to the same church that I went to. He is truly a very nice person. He has a son, and lives with him. Lost his wife years ago, sad to say. He will greatly appreciate this fan club on his behalf and he really deserves this. He is truly a wonderful man, and is in the right job where he enjoys being of public service."
In one of the more substantial changes, our popular poll feature has been incorporated into the new West Hill News, which replaces the old Westhillian News section.
The West Hill website began over ten years ago as a simple attempt by West Hill resident, Barry Fraser, to show a distant Australian cousin what the West Hill area of Toronto looked like. His cousin, Roger, had been unable to find West Hill on any map. The West Hill Today section is a somewhat more elaborate version of that small original website.
To Barry's surprise the site began getting a large number of hits. He later discovered it had been linked as a Community on the City of Toronto webpage . The number of visitors led to a flood of e-mail questions about the area which resulted in more and more features being added to the site until it assumed the essential structure it has today.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Pier Giorgoi Di Cicco, the Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto was to hold a workshop on Building Creative Communities at Sister's Restaurant on Kingston Road this Fall. However unforeseen delays in the publishing of the Community Newsletter prevented news of the talk from reaching residents, and is now slated to be rescheduled.
Pier Giorgio is the author of "Municipal Mind, Manifestos for the Creative City."
Di Cicco offers a blueprint for building sustainable cities in a global era, predicated on the City Soul. As former Toronto Mayor, David Crombie observes, Di Cicco's ideas "...will find a home in the hearts of those who want to understand the indispensable connection between the building of livable cities and the growth of the human spirit."
Tickets for the event will be on sale from the Coronation Community Association of West Hill website at http://www.coronationca.com as soon as a new date is chosen.
The abandoned and nearly empty space known as Morningside Mall in West Hill has reached its end. The once massive three story building is now little more than rubble.
The reconstruction of the Morningside Mall space, at Kingston Rd and Morningside, into a medium sized box store shopping complex is now well underway, with a “Super-bank” centre including Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Toronto Dominion branches joining the old Scotiabank branch now complete. Other stores like Shoppers Drug Mart and Food Basics will be constructed on the site of the actual Mall when its demolition is complete. The date for these new stores to open is in the Fall of 2008. Pizza Hut, greatly reduced in size, has moved to the new Morningside Crossing from its present location at Kingston Rd and Lawrence. The TD branch between Kitchener Road and Lawrence has closed. Starbucks is thriving. While the line-ups don't match Tim Horton's across the road, it is still very busy.
The are rumors of the Liquor Store closing and moving to much larger quarters at Morningside and Lawrence where earth movers are already at work. There is also talk of the renovations extending to the demolition of the Blockbuster plaza, but this is unconfirmed.The properties formerly housing TD Bank at the top of Kitchener Rd and Pizza Hut and Lawrence and Kingston have yet to be sold.
Using the services of google blogs, all the tedious formatting is done for us.
Now we can return to the original intent of the Westhillian News, to keep Westhillers up to date on changes within our area, like the demolition of the massive three story Morningside Mall. As you can see, it is now easy to incorporate pictures into the News and news articles will all be achieved for future viewing.
This format also allows readers to comment directly on the stories they read in the News. Just click in the comments box and let us know what you think.
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