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cityscape

Mr. Christie, the Ontario Food Terminal, and Development in Etobicoke

Council makes a bid to preserve area for employment lands in the face of condo development plans.

A few weeks ago, there was an announcement that saddened many Torontonians: the Mr. Christie bakery, near Lake Shore Boulevard, would be closing. It’s the end of a longtime landmark, and also of 550 jobs. Etobicoke councillors are concerned that factory owner Mondelez Canada wants to have the land rezoned for residential development—cue the condo alarm bells—and that this will lead to the loss of further employment lands in the area, and in particular threaten the future of the Ontario Food Terminal.

Today, in an effort to reverse that trend, city council voted unanimously to ask the province to declare the Food Terminal and the land around it, including the Mr. Christie site, “a provincially significant employment area”—which would have more effect than the municipal government’s designation, because it would preclude appeals to the OMB.

Local councillor and Planning and Growth Management chair Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore) has been championing this cause. In an interview with us last week he explained why he thinks this is a matter of not just municipal but provincial concern: it’s not so much the Mr. Christie plant itself, though that’s garnered most of the headlines, but that bakery’s ability to serve as a buffer between the condos that have already been allowed in the area and the Food Terminal. And the Food Terminal, he contends, is essential. It’s the largest produce distribution in the country and the third largest in North America. For decades Toronto has been a major food processing centre, and Milczyn’s worry is that if condos start encroaching on the Food Terminal the province, which owns the site, will be tempted to move it outside of Toronto—and this, he says, could have a cascading effect on other local businesses, ranging from those processors to the many small shop grocers who make the journey to the Terminal several times a week to stock up.

He is also concerned about the future of development in Etobicoke. “We’re reaching a point where the infrastructure to support increased residential is not there,” he says, “in terms of traffic capacity, in terms of public transit, schools, libraries, other facilities.”

Nobody really expects today’s vote to save the Mr. Christie plant: even if the provincial government grants the City’s request, Mondelez is likely to shut it. (They could then sell the land to someone else who wanted to operate a factory, manufacturing site, etc., if they were denied the opportunity to build condos on it.) But the reason councillors from across the City spent time speaking on the matter today is that they share a concern about the shrinking availability of employment land in Toronto. And they hope that by maintaining the current zoning and planning designations, they might not only preserve the Food Terminal but find a way to spur some new economic activity in the area. Council, following a motion from Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina), is now going to consider striking up a working group to examine the prospects for “hosting educational and/or commercial food incubator programs and possible new food industry tenants” on the land.

Comments

  • Anonymous

    If the City designates an area to have a particular zoning, when can the OMB overrule that? (And please, no “when the developer pays enough” comments…)

    • Anonymous

      The OMB can override this, if it comes from the City. That’s why the City is asking the provincial government to step in.

    • ModernLife

      It isn’t so much the zoning of the Terminal property itself, it is the residential zoning of the lands around it. If, for example, an industrial property finds itself adjacent to new “sensitive uses” (i.e. residential), there is no grandfathering in of permitted nuisance emissions (noise, smells, etc), and it must change its practices. So, for example, a 24 hour a day industrial use that’s can be a little noisy now has to comply with the City’s noise by-law, effectively shutting it down for a large chunk of the overnight. For many businesses this is enough to shut the business entirely.

      The provincial designation would prevent a potential developer of an adjacent/area property from appealing to the OMB a denial or a non-decision from the City on their development application.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I get that thanks. What I want to know is: what justification does the OMB have to give to over-ride the City on a zoning decision?

        • ModernLife

          They are an appeals “court” (well, tribunal), so they function as any appeals court. They can uphold decisions, they can amend decisions, and they can overturn decisions.

          • Anonymous

            Sure, but on what grounds can they overturn/amend those decisions?

          • Anonymous

            WHEN THE DEVELOPER PAYS ENOUGH

          • VincentClement

            On what ever planning grounds they believe to be reasonable.

          • Anonymous

            So they can give any reason they like???

          • ModernLife

            I misunderstood your question. OMB decisions are, like municipal decisions are supposed to be, based on what represents good planning free from political interference and consideration. It is like the Senate of planning.

        • VincentClement

          The Planning Act gives the OMB the power to hear appeals on planning matters. Any order from the OMB will include the board’s planning analysis and on what grounds they base their decision on.

    • ModernLife

      This is playing out in many corners of the City.. from Christies, to Redpath, to the Junction…

  • Ronci_Roger

    Bravo. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that all of this rampant (condo) upward density housing needs infrastructure – such as the usual amenities (groceries, shopping, cafés, etc) and especially another downtown subway line to relieve pressure from an already crowded TTC (subways and streetcars). I just wish more of the condos actually looked way more architecturally engaging, so the city would be picturesque, and the kind of place you’d want to live in.

  • Humber cyclist

    When I lived in Toronto I used to cycle along the Humber bike path. When I moved to Mississauga I used Queensway to bike to Toronto.

    There is a sewage/water treatment plant just north of the Queensway. The aroma of baked goods from the Christie factory was usually enough to counteract the aroma from the plant.

  • Anonymous

    Assuming the image is an accurate reflection of how efficiently the land is currently used, there would be more jobs generated from mixed-use (residential and commercial) buildings constructed on the site than in its current form, which would also generate a lot more in property taxes per square foot of land, and decrease housing and transportation costs. Danny Handelman

    • Jackinthebox

      So its better to have more mixed use and minimum wage part time jobs then to have less jobs but better wages? And housing prices still wouldn’t come down enough for what these shoeboxes in the sky are really worth.

      • Anonymous

        Where did I state that the jobs would be minimum wage or part time? Construction jobs pay better-than-average, and the city has the option of imposing by-laws or zoning which requires a certain amount of retail and office space as a ratio of residential space. The more people who are within walking distance of a retail or office space, the longer the hours of operation of the commercial space is. Furthermore, increasing the quantity of commercial space and reducing the cost of the capital, operating and maintenance costs of said space will permit the employees to receive greater wages. The cost of dwelling units contained in multi-dwelling unit buildings would decrease, and the average size of said dwelling unit would increase, if it became more profitable for builders to build upward rather than outward through elimination of height and minimum setback restrictions, maximum automobile parking of 0 for infill, integration of residential and commercial use of land, decreasing development charges to 0 for infill and increased for low density, basing property taxes on the value of land alone (as advocate by the Green Party of Ontario) rather than land and building, and eliminating the municipal land transfer tax.

      • Anonymous

        And, the capital, operating and maintenance costs per square foot decrease as the square footage of a building increases due to economies of scale, but because of government intervention in land use, the low density dwelling units have lower capital costs per square foot than higher density dwelling units.