Zoning changes in Parkdale won’t fix the bad bars already operating in the area, but residents heard at a recent community meeting that it is the only tool the city really has when trying to control bars.
The issue of controlling bars is a complex interaction between the city, Municipal Licensing and Standards and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario, explained City Planner Dan Nicholson, adding the real tool the city has is to look at the zoning in an area.
“Zoning is a blunt tool, whatever rules we come up with apply to everyone,” Nicholson said. “How will that fix the existing bars, those couple of bad apples... in the short term it won’t do much. Zoning is much better at controlling the future.”
In October 2012, City Council passed an interim control bylaw on Queen Street West in Parkdale, which put a moratorium on new bars and restaurants from opening in order to give the City planning staff time to complete the study of the area. It has been a hot button issue in the area and more than 70 residents attended a meeting on Feb. 13.
At the annual general meeting of the Parkdale Residents Association (PRA), a panel discussed the Queen Street Restaurant Study, the ongoing study of the number of bars, restaurants and similar-use establishments on Queen Street West between Dufferin Street and Roncesvalles Avenue. The study is meant to determine if additional zoning controls should be introduced to mitigate some of the impacts of the high concentration of restaurants and bars. That could mean limiting size, how many restaurants can be on a single block or controlling rear and side patios.
Residents currently have an opportunity to give planners input on what form the strip will take in the future and the panel was meant to help residents understand the issue and hear different points of view.
The new chair of the PRA, Andrew Emery, moderated the panel, and audience members were able to ask questions. Although how and why the interim control bylaw came about is still the subject of much debate in the community, Emery said the discussion that evening would focus in on the amendments being proposed as part of the study and not the bylaw that was already in place.
The panel was made up of three Parkdale residents with differing opinions on the way Queen Street should evolve: local business owner John Silva, Ric Amis who lives and works on Queen Street, and Aaron Hershoff a professional planner by trade.
Silva explained as a business owner and resident of the area he is opposed to the implementation of the ban as well as the sorts of restrictions that might come out of it.
“There is a problem with bars in our neighbourhood, but it is with a few bars and this doesn’t address those few bars,” Silva said. “What this does is stifle creative, energetic entrepreneurs that want to set up a business in this neighbourhood.”
On the other side of the debate, Amis said he lives near Queen Street West and Elm Grove Avenue and the effects of the onset of bars on his block frustrate him and his neighbours so he supports putting controls in place.
Silva said the frustrations with existing bars should be being addressed by the AGCO which, he and others said, isn’t currently happening.
Hershoff said he was on the panel as a sounding board for residents in terms of what they might like to see in the bylaw and to help them understand how best to communicate that with city planners.
“You can’t regulate people’s behaviour, but you can limit where they do it by limiting the number of seats, sizes and patios,” Hershoff said. “Is zoning a blunt too? Probably, but it is the only tool the city has.”
A final report to City Council by the Planning Department is expected in the June of 2013.
However, before that report comes out the moratorium will be the subject of a hearing at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB). Gary Armstrong was not at the meeting, however the local businessman is challenging the interim control bylaw.
“I would like to get the ban dropped because I am opposed to it,” said Armstrong, who owns and operates Gary Armstrong Woodwinds on Queen Street West. He has had his store near Queen and Sorauren for the past 10 years and he also lives in the area.
“I feel like the new bars coming into the neighbourhood are bringing an improved vibe into the neighbourhood,” Armstrong said. “And what we really need to do is put controls on these old bars that are already around here that over-serve.”
The OMB will hold a hearing on the appeal on Wed. April 24 at 10 a.m.