Neighbors concerned about townhouse development in north Scarborough promoted by former councilor

Townhouses are proposed for this lot at the corner of Huntingwood Drive and Birchmount Road.

Is what is proposed for 750 Huntingwood Dr. a blueprint for the future of Scarborough?

Townhouse construction projects are not uncommon in the old borough, especially along major highways.

One reason 750 Huntingwood is arguably different is the number of townhouses it would build on a single lot: five, plus five attached basement apartments.

Another reason is Jim Karygiannis, the area’s former councilor and now principal owner of lobbying firm GTA Strategies, is promoting the proposal on behalf of landowner Sivam Developments Inc.

This company, which was established in 2016 and bought the land containing a house-sized transformer shed in Huntingwood and Birchmount Road for $422,000, sent one of its directors, Lenin Marakathalingasivam, to meet Karygiannis three times in 2019. The purpose was “to explore the possibilities of building townhouses instead of a (a) detached house” on the property, according to records from the City of Toronto Lobbyist Registry.

A court removed Karygiannis from office that year for overspending on his 2018 re-election campaign. Although the Agincourt adviser was twice reinstated on appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear his case on September 24, 2020, materializing the dismissal.

Nick Mantas, who was Karygiannis’ chief of staff, ran in the by-election to take the seat of Agincourt (Ward 22) on January 15, 2021 and won.

A week later, Jeremy Beamer, an employee of GTA Strategies, emailed Mantas on behalf of Sivam Developments and arranged to meet with the new adviser on January 27, according to the register, which notes that Beamer has emailed Mantas in March and Joanne. Fusillo Ademaj, chief of staff of Mantas, in May.

Fired as Scarborough-Agincourt councilor for breaking campaign finance rules, Jim Karygiannis is now the principal owner of GTA Strategies, a lobbying firm. – Metroland stock photo

Residents say Sivam Developments is trying to sneak into the property too much. Several told a reporter they were concerned about the size of the project, the lack of water-absorbing green spaces, the lack of parking for visitors and the apparent lack of space for recycling bins. on the plot of 712 square meters.

A neighbour, Eddy Jagan, called the proposal “really crazy”. Another, Mort Lambert, said he thought people at 750 Huntingwood would park in front of his house.

At a community meeting on June 14, Roshan Baliah, who lives next to the lot, noted that the proposal called for townhouses almost 32 feet tall, with five rooftop balconies facing his yard. . “I’m not going to have any privacy,” he said.

Nitin Malhotra, the architect of Sivam, said the project will intensify “an underutilized area” and “enhance the image of the community”.

Town planner Renrick Ashby said townhouses and apartments are “not a product for everyone” because parking is so limited: one parking space for each townhouse and none for the basement suites. floor.

When residents predicted that future tenants and landlords would try to park on nearby streets, Karygiannis reminded them that the neighborhood had an overnight parking ban.

“They will be ticketed,” he said, later adding that the ban was there because he and Mantas “didn’t support rooming houses.”

Via email, Karygiannis, who is known for his efforts as an adviser to investigate possible rooming houses, was asked if 750 Huntingwood was the kind of proposal he would have approved of as an adviser, if Beamer was his employee when GTA Strategies last sent him to meet Mantas. year and how the proposal – which could see 15 or 20 people housed on a single lot – was so different from a rooming house.

Toronto city councilors are being asked this year to consider multiplexing, allowing up to four units in housing forms such as triplexes on lots in single-family neighborhoods. Karygiannis was asked if Mantas would commit to stepping up single-family neighborhoods in his neighborhood if the 750 Huntingwood proposal were approved.

On June 24, Karygiannis called the reporter, acknowledging receipt of the email, but stating, “I won’t answer any of your questions.”

Five townhouses with secondary basement apartments are proposed for this lot at the corner of Huntingwood Drive and Birchmount Road. -Mike Adler/Metroland

Mantas was also asked in an email if he would commit to stepping up single-family neighborhoods in his neighborhood if the 750 Huntingwood proposal is approved. He didn’t respond directly, but via email he said existing single-family homes in Agincourt were built to building codes at the time, while proposed new buildings at 750 Huntingwood “will be built in accordance with today’s building and fire codes”.

Mantas also said he heard residents at the June 14 meeting question the density of the proposal, but added that “various studies are needed before the project can move forward” and be presented to the community council. of Scarborough for approval.

“I ask all my constituents to follow this development closely and to express their concerns to the planners on this file,” he said.

STORY BEHIND THE STORY:

Journalist Mike Adler has heard neighbors questioning a townhouse proposal in Agincourt, including backing its developer from the area’s former councillor.

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