NEWS February 27th, 2016

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Homeowner loses fight over 9 inches at OMB

Residents who complained about house height pleased, but owner says carpenter was to blame

A group of Leaside residents, used to seeing the Ontario Municipal Board side with developers, are pleased by a recent decision that took their side against a house they say is too high.

The homeowner whose appeal was dismissed, however, says he wasn’t trying to exceed the height allowed for his original application.

Kian Sohrabi, owner of a recently completed three-storey, nine-metre high, detached home at 151 Airdrie Rd., had previously been authorized by the city’s committee of adjustment to build a structure of 8.8 metres, which would have exceeded the local bylaw limit of 8.5 metres.

Residents, led by Geoff Kettel, Leaside Property Owners Association co-president, and supported by Ward 26 councillor Jon Burnside, argued at the OMB hearing in December the property’s height was inappropriate for the neighbourhood and represented an attempt by Sohrabi to beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.

“I thought the principle here was really important,” says Burnside, who sent city inspectors to examine the home after neighbours complained while it was under construction. “It’s about maintaining the integrity of the system.”

Eventually, Sohrabi was issued an order to reduce the structure’s height to the authorized 8.8 metres and when he did not do so, a stop work order was given, Burnside says.

Before submitting an appeal to the OMB, Sohrabi returned to the committee of adjustment, which refused to grant his application for a 9.01-metre building.

The OMB later followed suit, delivering its decision on Jan. 26.

“It shows you that size does matter, and conformity with the character of the neighbourhood matters,” Kettel says.

“People tend to say the OMB is terrible, and impossible, and anti-democratic … but it is possible to receive a decision that favours the residents,” he continues. “They attempt to look at planning information, and in this case the board member was persuaded by the residents and not by the owner.”

Sohrabi, who lives near Yonge and Bloor streets and purchased the home for his parents, says his former carpenter was to blame for exceeding the original project’s 8.8-metre height and he intends to comply with the OMB’s decision.

“I don’t know what to do with [the carpenter] right now,” Sohrabi said in an interview. “At this point we’re just trying to fix what’s happened, because my parents want to live in that house.”

During the hearing, Sohrabi argued the height difference between his finished house and what the committee of adjustment authorized — 23 centimetres (approximately nine inches) — was negligible, and could not be seen when viewed from the street.

He also said it could serve as a transition between the houses on Airdrie and an adjacent four-storey apartment building on neighbouring Millwood Road.

However, the OMB was not sympathetic to either claim.