Today the city council met to discuss the Ossington Restaurant study and the recommendations presented by the city planner Jeff Markowiak. The amendment to the city laws prohibits restaurant sizes to less than 175 square metres and restricts any second floor use or patios by restaurants on this small local strip. Unfortunately council voted to pass this restrictive amendment.
While there were about 15 presenters who opposed the motion, the council decided to ignore them to support what they called the ‘silent people’ who don’t come to these sorts of meetings. There were both local residents and business owners who presented and many, including myself, mentioned the fact that they weren’t consulted on what was going on in the neighbourhood.
After everyone presented Mr. Pantalone spoke for about 10 minutes presenting a case that disputed the evidence presented by the people who spoke at the meeting. He again cited his usual ‘An Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure’ mantra to justify his position. He stated that one of his challenges was to balance the interest of local business owners and businesses.
Many of the other councilors spoke up and supported Mr. Pantalone and they all seemed to think the city planner had done a great job in the ‘study’ and that it was standard practice to simply have a town hall meeting just before the study is complete to get the feeling of what local residents are thinking.
A number of councilors spoke up and said that there were avenues to go through to work around the by-laws presented, including going to a committee of adjustment. A few business owners, as well as city planners I talked with after the meeting say that this creates an unfair burden on the business, both the local business owner and the building owner, to go and meet with the city. And from what I understood from prior experiences conveyed to me, a single local resident can veto any amendment proposed. This does not create a level playing field for entrepreneurs, especially because restaurants on Dundas and Queen are not subject to the same rules. Any proposal to the city of adjustment takes time and money, and not something that would be undertaken by most small local businesses. They would just go somewhere else.
Another issue raised by the councilors was that this was a balance between business owners and local residents, but this wasn’t in evidence at all. Both local residents and business owners were represented at the meeting.
Mr Pantalone, to his credit, offered to meet with the business owners before the 30th of November when some adjustments can be made to the bylaw. The local business owners are intending to take him up on the offer.
Local residents should too. We will be setting up a website where local residents can support the local businesses and their community in order to allow the entrepreneurship on the street to flourish and grow. Look forward to something posted here.