I was invited to sit in on a get-together tonight at one of the local Ossington businesses where about 25 of the local business owners came together to discuss the future of the neighbourhood. It was a powerful group of people, not by wealth, but by conviction and love of the neighbourhood. A true group of local entrepreneurs supporting both employment and the arts.
They were there to put together an organization to counter a proposal being organized by Deputy Mayor, Joe Pantalone. After a first strike at enterpreurship in May when he, pretty much single-handedly, stopped growth on Ossington with a moratorium on new businesses on the strip, he intends to push through a proposal to drive a nail through that coffin by imposing a harsh new set of bylaws which, essentially, kill all potential for the neighbourhood to grow and develop.
Local entrepreneurs are, as you can imagine, enraged.
The new proposal being floated before council will essentially end entrepreneurship in the area of the city. The proposal include such restrictions as:
- Limits on Restaurant Size to less than 1800 sqft – hardly enough to make money. (as a former restaurant owner, I can confirm this)
- Removing any potential of the restaurant use to ‘entertainment purposes’. Currently 20% of the eating area of restaurants can be designated.
- No patios are permitted anywhere. Whatsoever! (too bad for summer lovers in the city)
- No second floor restaurants. (where’s the cool local flavour in that? and what about cool rooftop patios? – and there are no other current restrictions on that anywhere else)
- Limits on window and door openings. (these don’t consider in other places)
The moratorium was imposed in May and I can’t see where there’s been any local study take place. The restrictions proposed replace the moratorium and are the same ones that have been imposed on College, Queen West, and Queen East. There’s been no discussion with local owners or residents. In fact, these regulations have been imposed suddenly, with a sense of local malice.
As a resident of the neighbourhood I haven’t been polled, asked, or even invited to a resident’s association to talk about how the great entrepreneurship and development in my neighbourhood affects me.
While the people I met with tonight seemed like a bit of a rag-tag group – busy, and struggling entrepreneurs struggling against comfortable local, government and, perhaps, corporate interests – I think they are genuinely protecting the vibrancy of the neighbourhood. If its a good neighbourhood in the day, at night, and on the weekends for residents and visitors, they succeed, and we all succeed – as residents, businesses, as a city, and as a culture.
Let’s hope they do, for all of our interests!