City View: Shawn Star May 26th, 2015

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Exploring Toronto’s ever-expanding magnificent backyards

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It’s a strong belief outside of Toronto that by buying a house in the city you’re sacrificing yard space.

I grew up outside of Toronto and always believed this to be true. Even once I moved here, I still thought so. But when I looked closely, I found Toronto lots are actually the deepest and biggest, perhaps even in the country.

Take just about any development as an example: if there’s a statutory public meeting, anyone who lives within 150 metres of the development in question is invited to voice an opinion (read: opposition). Yes, it is essentially a city policy that everyone’s yard has a depth of 150 metres, and no, you may not build that egregious monstrosity in it.

But lot size doesn’t stop at developments nearby. As it turns out, many people have backyards that stretch nearly across the entire city.

When city council was debating whether to consider allowing a casino to be added onto Woodbine racetrack in the very western edge of the city, councillors representing Scarborough and downtown Toronto, each more than 10 kilometres from the proposed site, were arguing for community consultations to be held in their neighbourhoods.

Think it stops there?

Please.

Backyards in Toronto also extend, it would appear, several thousand feet into the air. Look at the efforts of the Toronto Aviation Noise Group, who have rallied people into believing they have a say about where airplanes fly, and that flights from all over the country — and the world — need to take the comfort of their backyards into account when planning and routing complex schedules.

Sorry Air India, your direct flight from Mumbai can’t cross here as it interferes with a homeowner on Ranleigh Avenue who can no longer hear the sound of his lemonade being sipped.

And that Cathay Pacific line from Hong Kong? It’ll have to find another way in, because with all that noise from your jet I can’t hear myself yelling over all the lawnmowers, buses, garbage trucks, home construction, kids playing, music blaring, horns honking, leaf blowers, fire trucks and motorcycles that usually make my neighbourhood a nice quiet place to live.

Yes, welcome to Toronto, where your home might cost a lot, but your backyard is bounded by Vaughan and Markham in the north, Lake Ontario in the south, Brampton and Mississauga in the west and Pickering in the east — and from wherever the bottom of the subway is up to the ozone layer.

It’s incredibly spacious. You might even be able to squeeze in a third deck chair, if you can find room among the entitlement and privilege.