Late on Friday, we learned that the Government of Ontario issued a series of Minister's Zoning Orders (MZOs) affecting three sites in the West Don Lands: 373 Front Street East and 90 Mill Street (Blocks 3, 4 and 7), 125 and 125R Mill Street (Block 20) and 153 to 185 Eastern Avenue (Blocks 17 and 26). These MZOs were issued without notification to City Planning or the local Councillors offices, and were discovered by chance by a member of City Planning. The Province did not provide information about their implementation to either the City nor to City staff prior to them coming into force.
The impact of these MZOs is the shuttering of community input, side stepping of the municipal process, and raises new questions as to how the City can now properly plan these sites. City Planning has raised concerns about discrepancies between the draft bylaws in front of City Council for 373 Front Street East and 90 Mill Street, hampering community input at the 125 Mill Street application that had been submitted only this summer, and potential loss of current and future community benefits. Critically, there is significant risk to heritage assets at Blocks 17 and 26 which contain the Dominion Foundry Complex, the largest concentration of heritage buildings to be preserved within the Precinct. The impact of the MZOs the province has enacted has created more questions than answers.
This move to impose new zoning without consulting the public or the City of Toronto sets a dangerous precedent for the development of other provincial lands in Toronto and across the Greater Toronto Area, including future transit-oriented development above GO stations and subway stations. Provincial zoning orders are final and cannot be appealed. The Provincial Government must commit to working collaboratively with the City and communities on this and all other developments, without exception.
Without a chance for the community or the City's professional planners to review and respond to the development, it is impossible to identify and address the range of issues that need to be considered for every new development, from water and sewer capacity to wind impacts to safe vehicular access points. A good process is critical for good planning, and for building a desirable, equitable and economically dynamic community.
Councillors Kristyn Wong-Tam and Joe Cressy will introduce an emergency motion to City Council on October 27 calling on the Province to work with the City on all development proposals, and to ensure there are no future surprise zoning orders issued in Toronto.
Quote from Councillor Wong-Tam:
"The Province’s unilateral decision to issue a Ministerial Zoning Order without communicating with the City first or even providing us the courtesy of announcing their intention is another example of Premier Ford's contempt for the City of Toronto's ability to govern our own affairs. The use of a MZO this way sets a dangerous precedent where a developer can go directly to the province to side step the municipal planning process, avoid public scrutiny and remove the right to appeal. This is not about usurping good outcomes. It’s about ensuring that MZOs go through a process that ensures the City and its residents are consulted and that outcomes are mutually agreed upon by both the City and Province." Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 13 Toronto Center)