Gus Sinclair explains the principles by which HVRA acts in zoning questions:
What is the role for a Residents’ Association when applications for variances to the zoning bylaw are made to the City of Toronto Committee of Adjustment (C of A), or decisions of the C of A are appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board, or there is an application to the City for a bylaw change? There certainly is a role for HVRA to play when these things happen in our area, but it may not always be that of leading a charge either for or against the proposal. Put another way, there is just not enough time or resources for a volunteer board take on the task of researching and actively engaging with all such matters in behalf of our members.
In general, then, we respond to queries and concerns from our members, and over the years HVRA has developed a policy with respect to these matters that goes like this:
In general and in response to our membership, HVRA seeks to inform our members how to frame a case at any adjudication. We may and often do chair public meetings where both our members and the principals in the project may meet and sort out issues and assemble final positions. If the issues are clear cut and the system appears to be working fine, we do not necessarily write or make cause with any party to the application. If we have brokered an agreement between parties, HVRA will normally write a letter endorsing that agreement.
Although HVRA may not be the main player in giving testimony in matters of applications for permits or development, we will from time to time make a case in writing if:
the development in question is large enough to have a general effect on more than just a few neighbours
there is an overarching principle that needs to be emphasized at adjudication time
the system appears to be broken and the failings of the bureaucracy need to be addressed.
Writing in December 2009, Gus noted that from 2000 to that date HVRA had appeared at OMB eight times and was successful seven times, and that HVRA had appeared at C of A about 35 times on matters deemed important to the whole of Harbord Village. He explains:
In cases such as the Brunswick House or Comfort Zone, we have held public meetings co-chaired by HVRA and the councillor, the object being to ensure that good process is followed. In essence we put the residents and protagonists in a safe environment where the neighbours ask the hard questions and let the consensus of the meeting decide the results
It must be emphasized that the Board does not decide things as much as it facilitates process. But it can advocate once a position has been taken by members and adopted by the Board. In 2009, for example, when the specific case of the Silver Dollar/Comfort Zone reached the OMB, HVRA in concert with the neighbours argued vociferously for and achieved severe restrictions on the operation that went some way to alleviate the distress that this business had been bringing to the nearby residents.