In urban environments, land and resources are finite and are, as
a result, often faced with conflicts over the appropriate
development and use of land. Such conflicts are particularly bitter
when they concern proposed condominium development and
"big box" store developments in the downtown
Communities are often resistant to new condos developments,
which can contribute to an increase in rental rates and property
prices, displace poorer citizens, and change the character of a
neighbourhood. In contrast to other urban projects such as park
lands—which are far less frequently
undertaken—condominium developments often entirely preclude
public access to, and use of, precious urban land resources.
These battles are increasingly focusing on whether condo
developments interfere with a different kind of resource: sunshine.
With more and more frequency, opponents to proposed high-rise condo
developments are advancing the argument that these towering
structures block access to sunlight.
For example, the Toronto District School Board
("TDSB") and the City of Toronto are
fighting a proposed development near the intersection of Church
and Wood streets in the Church-Wellesley Village on the basis that
it is blocking access to sunlight. In proceedings before the
Ontario Municipal Board ("OMB"), the TDSB and the City
are arguing that the 38-story condo would, if built, cast a shadow
over a nearby elementary school, thereby depriving the young
students of access to sunshine at the school. The City is
suggesting the proposed condo's height be reduced to 25
Not long ago, the
OMB was faced with the question of whether a proposed condo
development could be allowed to proceed because it would cast a
shadow large enough to obstruct a neighbour's solar panel
array. In that instance, the OMB rejected the proposed development
on that very basis.
These sorts of battles are hardly new,
but as condo developments continue to proliferate in urban areas,
questions of whether sunlight is a public right and, if so, how we
value and share it, have become more urgent.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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Russell v. Township of Georgian Bay provides a useful reminder of the fact that while municipal officials sometimes appear to hold all of the cards in disputes with home owners, that is not always the case.
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