Good planning means diversity. However, that is what is at risk by an influx of restaurants and bars on the western edge of Queen Street, Councillor Gord Perks told a group of Parkdale residents.
More than 100 residents gathered at the May Robinson Auditorium on West Lodge Avenue on Monday, for a second community consultation meeting regarding an ongoing study of the number of bars, restaurants and similar use establishments on Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Avenue.
“This meeting is to look at how to deal with the fact there is a conflict, and I can assure you there is a conflict,” Perks said.
In August 2010, council directed city planning staff to undertake a study of Queen Street West between Roncesvalles Avenue and Dufferin Street to determine if additional zoning controls could be introduced to mitigate some of the negative impacts of the high concentration of restaurants and bars.
“I think (the study) is important. As changes happen, sometimes you want to stop as a neighbourhood and ask ‘Is this the change we want?’,” Perks said.
He went on to say that sometimes bars and restaurants, which can make a lot of money, increase an area’s average rent and push other services and stores out.
“I am a very strong believer in complete neighourhoods,” said Perks. “I think that no matter how much money you have, where you come from, how old you are, what your abilities in life are, you should be able to live in this neighbourhood and get the services you need to enjoy your life.”
This study started in June 2011 and the first community meeting was held at that time. The 70 or so people in attendance repeatedly requested for a balance of businesses in the area and that issues with public drunkenness outside of clubs be addressed.
However, at Monday’s meeting, many questioned the study and a recent interim control bylaw, which prohibits any new restaurant, takeout restaurant, rear yard and rooftop patio, bake shop, place of amusement, place of assembly, or club from opening or expanding for one year. Council passed this bylaw Oct. 30.
Sheila Lippiatt, a Parkdale resident for 37 years, said Queen Street is the best she has ever seen it and said she objects to the interim control bylaw.
“My objection against this is very strong,” she said. “I suggest those in opposition get together and file an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.”
Resident Alicia Pang, however, said she supports the study and the bylaw because she said virtually all of the places she has seen open in recent years are bars and restaurants she could not afford.
“We need to have places that attract people at all hours of the day, from all walks of life and having one third of places on this strip be restaurants and bars jeopardizes that balance,” she said.
West-end resident and area real estate agent Neil Spiegel suggested the neighbourhood be allowed to grow organically.
“Lots of places in the city have a lot of character because they are not so onerously restricted,” Spiegel said.
Perks and the planning staff asked for input on the kinds of controls that could be put in place to try to steer the development of the strip in the direction residents wanted.
Similar restaurant studies conducted further east on Queen Street West, on College Street and Ossington Avenue, all identified conflicts between restaurants and the surrounding neighbourhoods. All of these studies resulted in zoning bylaw amendments that limited restaurant and related uses to the ground floor of a building and prohibited rear yard and rooftop patios in the study areas.
City planner Dan Nicholson explained that recommendations coming out of this study could also include limiting the maximum floor size, limiting the number of large venues and preventing multiple restaurants in a single building, prohibiting restaurant and related uses above the ground floor.
Currently on this strip of Queen Street West there are 74 restaurants and similar use establishments and 4,096 licensed seats, of those 2,226 fall in the one block between Brock Avenue and Noble Street.
Residents are invited to send feedback on the study and the development of the area to Nicholson at the city planning division at 100 Queen St. W., Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2. A report with recommendations will then be completed and brought back to the community in spring 2013 before heading to Toronto and East York District community council.