Does the Developer Know Something We Don't?
Here is the scenario: Alston Properties was denied their proposed 145' building in April of 2021, but allowed a concession of 110'. In March 2022, Alston proposes a 134' building, which was again denied by the city, as it exceeds the 110' they were previously allowed. Their appeal is scheduled for April 19th.
Being turned down twice by the City, with the fate of the project hanging on an appeal to the same City councillors that denied their appeal last year, one would think they would consider their chances of success slim at best.
So why have they spent thousands of dollars (estimated at over $75k) to have a drill crew working in the south east corner of the parking lot for more than 10 days straight (even weekends)? When asked what they were doing, the driller's response was "to find the exact location to put the construction crane?
Who spends that kind of money when the project's future is unlikely? I only see three reasons to do so:
The developer is not financially savvy.
They can build to the 110' limit despite their claims that it is financially not possible, thus the appeal is not critical.
They have some inside knowledge on how the councillors will vote on the appeal.
Let's dispense with #1 -- this developer has done many projects and is experienced and smart.
As for #2, if it is financially feasible to build a 100' building on this site, they have lied to the appeal board last year, and to me this year. Others have built in the Exchange and limited the height to 100' (buildings on Waterfront are a good example). This scenario is possible.
The third scenario, inside knowledge, is the one that scares me the most! At last year's appeal meeting, Councillor Klein voted to support the development, ignoring all of the heritage arguments. As I believe is true in many of these type of meetings, councillors from other areas, concede to the wishes of the councillor who is responsible for the area. My interpretation of the vote was that although Councillor Lukes was in favour of the development, she voted to support Councillor Santos's position.
The proposed development is in Councillor Santos' area, and she was mindful of the heritage arguments and that this proposed building would be significantly higher than the surrounding buildings. Did she vote against the development? No.
Instead, Councillor Santos amended the developer's variance request from 145' to 110'. There was no indication in the meeting that the developer had asked for this. Then she and Councillor Lukes voted to approve the variance at 110'.
Numerous people in the Exchange District have asked Councillor Santos if she supported the proposal and she has refused to respond. To me she initially responded that she would not say because "it was likely to be sent to appeal". Then when asked later, she would not respond because it was appealed and she would decide at the hearing.
So is Vivian Santos, councillor for the Exchange District, for or against a building that exceeds the bylaw building limit of 100' by a whopping 34'? Despite the fact that this issue has been before us for over a year, we honestly don't know.