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David Dunlap Observatory Settlement Reached - April 13, 2012

Contact: Mayor Dave Barrow, 905-771-2493,

David Dunlap Observatory Settlement Reached
Important Public Asset Protected for Future Generations

RICHMOND HILL – On April 12, 2012, Council accepted a settlement proposal for the resolution of an Official Plan Amendment for the David Dunlap Observatory (DDO) Lands. A long and difficult negotiation was mediated by James MacKenzie, Vice Chair of the Ontario Municipal Board, and included the Town of Richmond Hill, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Region of York, Corsica Development Inc., and the DDO Defenders. 

“This settlement protects all of the historic precinct around the Observatory Dome and will create a unique heritage open space, the like of which does not exist anywhere else. We have respected the cultural and natural heritage in a way we can be proud of. This will be a legacy public place for Richmond Hill forever,” said Mayor Dave Barrow. “I am relieved that as a municipality we were able to achieve this result.”

The David Dunlap Observatory Lands are located at 123 Hillsview Drive in Richmond Hill. The settlement Council endorsed would create a historic/natural precinct in the western part of the site and allow development on the eastern portion. A wetland area, along with significant woodlands and heritage plantations, will be protected and enhanced and will come into public ownership. 

The developer has committed to continue discussions with the Town on the possible conveyance or acquisition of the Observatory Dome, the Elms Lea house and the Administration building. The open space precinct surrounding these heritage buildings will be given to the Town.

Corsica and the Town agree that the Town will purchase the adjacent property known as the “panhandle” lands (on which a park and an arena are located) at fair market value.  

“Although it was a very difficult process, the cooperation and collaboration of all parties has resulted in a positive solution,” said Ward 6 Councillor Godwin Chan, in whose ward the David Dunlap Observatory Lands are located. “I truly appreciate that all of the parties stuck to it and made this solution possible, especially the community group who spent so much volunteer time on this in good faith.”

It is expected that this settlement proposal will go before the Board of the TRCA and the Region of York for endorsement. Richmond Hill looks forward to next steps in a process for determining the future of what will be a unique public asset for the Town. 

NOTE: Please see attached Backgrounder: David Dunlap Observatory Settlement for more information and the Settlement Plan. Updates and more information can be found on the Town’s website at

Backgrounder: David Dunlap Observatory Settlement 
  • In the fall of 2007, the University of Toronto’s Governing Council declared the David Dunlap Observatory Lands surplus and proceeded to sell the Lands through a public Request for Proposals process. In the summer of 2008, the University of Toronto sold the David Dunlap Observatory Lands to Metrus Developments (Corsica).

  • The David Dunlap Observatory had been a research centre of the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics in the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto. The David Dunlap Observatory Lands include buildings of historical significance, including the Observatory Dome, the administrative building and a house.

  • The Lands include two parcels: a large parcel which is the focus of this settlement and an adjacent parcel known as the Panhandle. The area of the David Dunlap Observatory Lands, without the Panhandle, is 71.98 hectares (177.9 acres).

  • Under the Ontario Heritage Act, Council approved a Conservation Management Plan for the Lands in early 2010 that mapped cultural heritage features on the site.

  • Corsica submitted applications for an Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By-law Amendment and draft Plan of Subdivision for the David Dunlap Observatory Lands to the Town in April, 2010. The applications proposed to construct a low and medium density residential development comprised of 833 units on a portion of the lands and to retain other existing uses on the lands.

  • When endorsed by all parties, the OMB mediated settlement will save approximately 60% or 40.05 hectares (99 acres) from development as shown on the attached Settlement Plan. The settlement allows for approximately 40% or 31.93 hectares (78.9 acres) of the site to be developed. 
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