The City of Toronto is in the process of dramatically
changing how its "Employment" lands are
treated. Employment lands are lands which have previously
been called "industrial" and include lands where
manufacturing, offices, some retail uses, warehousing/distribution
and some institutions, like places of worship and schools, have
located. Both the City and Province believe that Employment
Lands need be protected to ensure the City's continued economic
In general terms, the City's proposed plan is to discourage,
restrict or ban in varying degrees retail uses, places of worship,
recreational uses, most schools, office buildings and residential
uses from the Employment Areas.
Through an amendment to its Official Plan, the City would divide
the existing Employment Districts and Areas into two new
designations: General Employment Areas and Core Employment
The Core Employment Areas would primarily be reserved for
manufacturing, warehousing/distribution, transportation, research
and development, utilities and industrial trade schools. Retail
activities and restaurants will be significantly restricted.
Most institutional uses will be prohibited. The Core Employment
Areas represent 75% of the Employment lands in the City.
The remaining 25% would be designated as General Employment
Areas. These areas will permit more uses, including retail,
service and restaurant uses, plus recreational uses (fitness
centres and ice arenas). It is likely that lands which are
designated as General Employment Areas will enjoy an advantage
over lands designated Core Employment Area.
As the City of Toronto is composed of six former municipalities,
North York, Scarborough, East York, York, Etobicoke and Toronto,
there is currently a hodgepodge of zoning and Official Plan
permissions in place for the existing industrial and employment
lands. Much of the City's industrial/employment lands
currently permit a much broader range of uses than
contemplated. The effect of this Official Plan Amendment
("OPA 231") will be to be effectively prevent land from
being redeveloped for retail, restaurant or institutional purposes,
even if those lands could be redeveloped that way today. It is
important to understand that even if the existing zoning permits
the use which is being removed by OPA 231 if a rezoning is needed
because current standards such as height, density or set-backs are
too restrictive, conformity with OPA 231 will be required.
While existing uses can continue provided they were clearly and
demonstrably established legally, expansions will become
problematic, requiring further approvals. Those approval
applications will be faced with the argument that the Official Plan
intends these uses to disappear.
Landowners should consider whether their redevelopment rights
are affected by OPA 231 now so they can seek relief. As the
boundaries for the new Core Employment Areas and General Employment
Areas do not necessarily correspond to the existing zoning by-laws,
each property should be reviewed to determine whether or not the
Official Plan Amendment's mapping threatens its redevelopment
potential. There is an opportunity now to seek site specific
changes to the Official Plan to permit any existing stand-alone
office, retail, institutional or other permissions to remain on the
Please note that in order to challenge any portion of OPA 231,
including the mapping of the two Employment Areas, a landowner must
provide either oral or written communications to Toronto City
Council prior to the adoption of that Official Plan
Amendment. We strongly encourage any landowners with an
interest in determining whether their current use or rights to
redevelop their land are affected by this Official Plan Amendment
to make that determination as soon as possible so there is time to
prepare and formally file submissions with City
Council to preserve the right to appeal the Official Plan
Amendment to the Ontario Municipal Board. Owners should have
submissions filed before the City Council meeting scheduled for
December 16-17, 2013 to ensure their rights are
We anticipate that there will be a significant number of appeals
to the Ontario Municipal Board of this Official Plan Amendment and
failing to be proactive with respect to your land may leave your
land at a competitive disadvantage to other lands in its
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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