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Tory takes aim at condo developers blocking traffic lanes

A crackdown is coming for private condo developers who block a lane of traffic during construction, which contributes to massive gridlock on downtown streets.

Mayor John Tory, who has pledged to tackle the city’s congestion, says developers have taken advantage of the privilege for too long.

“They may not need to close these lanes at all,” he said. “They’ve been allowed to do so in the City of Toronto so of course they’ve taken advantage of that.”

Currently there are more than 1,000 construction projects across the city that are blocking live lanes of traffic and sidewalks.

Tory isn’t the only one demanding a change to this practice.

Coun. Josh Matlow introduced a motion at city council last August, asking for developers to either pay significantly more to block the lanes or have them work within their own property lines.

“They are making multi-millions of dollars off their development project. Meanwhile they’re impacting every resident of Toronto who wants to get to work on time or get home to see their kids,” Matlow said.

“The development industry has had a lot of sway in this city and in this province for far too long,” he added. “I think it’s important to put the public’s interest before the developer’s interest.”

Developers currently pay the city less than $6 a square metre to block off the lanes. That’s not nearly enough according to Matlow.

“Developers have had a free ride. They pay so little to be able to occupy our lanes every single day, up to sometimes two to three years. That’s not acceptable anymore,” he said.

Matlow pointed out that in other large cities like New York, developers working within their own property line is common practice.

Stephen Deveaux, chair of the Building Industry and Development Association, said it’s something it would have to think about very carefully.

“Public safety is issue No. 1,” said Deveaux. “(It’s) something that we have to investigate. If there are jurisdictions around the world that are doing it, I imagine they’re doing it at great expense.”

He warns that any extra expense to developers would be passed onto buyers.

Matlow’s motion is scheduled to be debated by council on Feb. 10.