Friday, March 6, 2009

Leslieville Wins OMB Ruling vs. Wal-Mart. Why Not Here?

OMB rejects big-box plans in Leslieville

Plans for a $220 million retail "power centre'' south of Eastern Ave. in Leslieville have been turned down by the Ontario Municipal Board, a decision that has city officials celebrating.

"This is a total victory for the city of Toronto," city lawyer Brendan O'Callaghan said yesterday.

"It's not every day that we're that happy with an OMB decision," exulted Paula Fletcher, the councillor for the area.

No kidding.

The property in question, in the heart of burgeoning Toronto' film district on what used to be the site of Toronto Film Studios, has been the subject of furious debate ever since Smart!Centres bought it and proposed a Big Box retail development. Local residents howled, local councillors took up the cause, and the OMB actually listened. Because any idiot could see that it was a bad idea.

In a 55-page ruling, OMB vice-chair James McKenzie sided with the city's experts, who in effect said the SmartCentres/Toronto Film Studio application didn't constitute good land use planning and would probably "destabilize" the designated employment district south of Eastern Ave.

Professional planning consultants and real estate advisers the city hired as experts had warned the OMB hearing that the application risked causing "retail contagion" in the area. Allowing the large centre would make it easier for subsequent retail applicants to get a foothold, argued real estate expert Jeffery Climans.

This would rapidly bid up the market value of the industrial and commercial properties in the district, leading to lease terminations and limiting the ability of existing businesses to renew their leases, Climans said. That would result in a general disruption of the area's business fabric.

Sound familiar? Contrast that with the attitude of Our Lord Mayor in this 2007 Toronto Star article on the demise of Milton's downtown core:

Mayor Gordon Krantz, a former small business owner, sees the downtown decline as a simple by-product of capitalism.

"Businesses locating on the outskirts could locate right downtown if they wanted – but they don't," he said. "That's called free enterprise.

"So businesses have to adapt. You have to continuously reinvent yourself. You can't survive on sentiment and emotions, that's for sure. It might sound hard-hearted, but that's the hard reality of it."

I will never, ever understand the affection people in this town seem to have for Gordon Krantz. I'm sure he's a nice guy and all, and maybe he did good things for Milton in years past. But whether it's greed, hubris or encroaching senility, his words and actions over the past ten years have been short-sighted, ill-informed, and ultimately destructive to this town and our way of life.

Time to retire, Gord.

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