What's on City Council's Agenda: April 2013
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What’s on City Council’s Agenda: April 2013

Here's what city council will be focusing on this month.

In which we highlight key items from the month’s city council meeting. You can also watch it live.

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City council is meeting on April 3 and 4. Here are a few items from this month’s agenda that have been in the news, or should have been.

City council will weigh whether or not to:

Open more emergency shelter beds in light of persistent complaints that there currently aren’t enough.

In the wake of a series of protests this winter, in which both shelter clients and front-line workers said that there weren’t enough beds available to meet immediate needs, council will decide whether to open up 172 “flex beds” on an interim basis. The motion also calls for City officials to collect more data about residents’ needs, including people who go to one shelter and are directed to others in the city, and to develop a “client centred, outcome focused housing stability service plan” with a focus on getting people out of the shelter system entirely.

Develop a business incubation network.

City council recently passed an economic development plan that calls for, among other things, increasing support to small businesses. As part of that effort, there’s a proposal to develop an incubation network that would help new small businesses get off the ground. Since Toronto is a major centre for food processing, there’s also a call to substantially expand an already existing food business incubator.

Apply to make Toronto an official Fair Trade Town.

If passed, this motion would see council commit to having the City of Toronto purchase only Fairtrade-certified coffee, tea, and sugar, and support an application to have Toronto registered as a Fair Trade Town.

Pass a new zoning bylaw.

The City has been trying to revise and consolidate its zoning bylaws for years—not an easy task considering the fact that each former municipality had its own zoning bylaw prior to amalgamation. The City enacted a harmonized zoning bylaw in 2010, then repealed it the following year after complaints and OMB appeals starting rolling in. Now, at last, council will decide whether to take a crack at enacting a new, revised version. Let’s hope things turn out better this time.

Allow developers to build affordable housing units in exchange for increased density.

Right now, under existing planning law, developers can trade community benefits (think cool playground equipment, streetscape enhancements) for the right to build more densely than the City’s planning bylaws technically permit. These trades are authorized by Section 37 of the Planning Act, so the community-improvement funds are known as Section 37 money. Council now has a chance to decide whether to allow developers to designate certain condos in their buildings as “affordable housing” units, as a way of meeting their Section 37 obligations. This would theoretically help the City carve out space for low-income tenants in some of the trendy new towers going up around town.

Improve heritage preservation efforts across the city.

As part of a legally mandated five-year review of its Official Plan, the City held a wide-ranging consultation on its heritage preservation policies. The review yielded a bunch of suggestions for technical changes to the heritage parts of the OP, partly to bring them in line with changes to provincial legislation and partly to strengthen them. Council will decide whether to implement those changes.

Allow cyclists to ride side-by-side, instead of only single file.

In the process of consolidating the traffic bylaws of all the pre-amalgamation municipalities, Toronto somehow made it illegal for cyclists to ride in any formation other than single file, even though riding two-or-more abreast had previously been allowed on most streets. Council will decide whether to do away with the ban on side-by-side riding before it actually becomes enforceable.

Hold out for a better tenant for Nathan Phillips Square’s new year-round restaurant space.

The new skate rental building in Nathan Philips Square has two separate restaurant spaces squirreled away inside it: one seasonal, one year-round, and both, for the time being, vacant. The City put both spaces out to bids, and settled on Hero Certified Burgers as the best available year-round tenant. Some councillors want the City to find another tenant with a more “diverse” menu. Mayor Rob Ford, meanwhile, loves burgers and would like Hero to get the contract. Today, both factions will duke it out. It’s not clear why Ford is interceding on behalf of an individual business owner. Is it still “sticking up for the little guy” if the little guy owns a chain of restaurants?