Nunziata proposes zero charges on developments in Weston

Frances Nunziata, with her colleague Michael Thompson, is asking the city to waive development charges in Weston and the other 12 priority neighbourhoods.

Development charges are fees charged on new residential and commercial spaces. The charge is $5–$15,000 for a residence, and about $35,000 for a 2000 square-foot commercial space. (Industrial spaces are exempt). Nunziata’s proposal to council says,

With many of these neighborhoods having their main streets lined with vacant storefronts, empty apartments and/or dilapidated buildings, there is little appeal for people to shop at the few stores on th e commercial strips and even less appeal for new businesses to locate there.  Less business in the community results in fewer jobs in the community, reinforcing the disparity that already exists in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods between population and the availability of local employment….

By waiving development charges in the City’s Priority Neighborhoods for a fixed period of time, the City would aid in the revitalization of the Priority Neighborhoods, with the anticipated result of increased interest in development opportunities in those neighborhoods.

The Globe and Mail has a nice article discussing this. Not everyone agrees with Nunziata;

“It’s not going to work instantly,” predicts Stephen Dupuis, who heads the Building Industry and Land Development Association. “I doubt there’s a whole lot of land holdings sitting [in those areas] waiting for an incentive.”

“The problem in those neighbourhoods is lack of demand, not lack of supply,” adds planner Joe Berridge, noting that development-charge holidays or other measures, such as tax increment financing, won’t create local economic activity.

Your humble correspondent also wonders whether Westonians would even want this plan to succeed. It seems to him that Weston has plenty of high-rise housing and likely already has low retail rents.

Even Nunziata agrees in part; in what is surely an off-the-cuff comment in the Globe, she says, “Ninety per cent of the stores on Weston Road are vacant”.

 

Toronto Life has scathing article on Nunziata

Frances Nunziata, City Councillor for York South—Weston, created a scene at City Hall that Toronto Life calls “bizarre” and “uproariously crazy”.

Nunziata ruled that Council could not discuss the auditor’s report that has led to the firing of the board of Toronto Community Housing. She then ruled that nobody could applaud.

This council meeting was probably the most uproariously crazy we’ve seen in a while…. Nunziata threatened to have the crowds ejected from council. As a compromise, Paula Fletcher suggested that people wave their hands in the air as a silent alternative—what The Globe and Mail’s Kelly Grant dubbed “jazz hands”—and, amazingly, it stuck. With only a few exceptions, for the rest of the night the benches used jazz hands instead of applause, and two-handed thumbs downs instead of booing.

As the night went on, Nunziata’s ruling that council couldn’t discuss the TCHC audit led councillors into increasingly creative linguistic acrobatics to try and refer to “the report which we cannot discuss,” “that thing he [the auditor general] wrote” (that one courtesy of Josh Matlow) and  “the report which shall not be named.” Xtra’s Andrea Houston called it “the Voldemort report,”

 

 

NDP gears up for battle

The provincial and federal NDP are sharing offices in preparation for the upcoming elections—though the federal election not yet been announced.

Paul Ferreira will be running for the Ontario NDP again. Ferreira held the seat for a few months in 2007, but lost it in a close contest to Laura Albanese.

Mike Sullivan will be running again for the Feds. Sullivan lost to Alan Tonks in the last election, and has been working as a co-chair of the Clean Train Coalition since.

Neither the Provincial nor Federal Conservatives have announced their candidates, (though the PCs did ask me if I would be interested when I enquired!). Albanese and Tonks will presumably run again for the Liberals.

The NDP is hosting an grand opening on Saturday at their new election headquarters at 1193 Weston Rd.

TV show filming in Weston

Filming wrapped today for the TV show Nikita. The show was shooting at 14 William St, and the crew was enormous. Trucks spread up and down Rosemount, William and Elm.

Nikita is based on the older Canadian TV show of the same name, which is based on the American movie Point of No Return, which is based on the French movie from 1990, Nikita, which was actually quite good. If it’s at all true to the original, it’s about a troubled young woman who is recruited to the secret service to do high kicks in short dresses. In a word: awesome.

Becky Winder, the owner of the house, was sympathetic about the impact the show was having on her neighbours. She said, “It does benefit Weston but is a large pain.” Weston is a popular location, too, she said; “filming in Weston has been going on since I first bought my present home, 26 years ago.”

 

Nunziata’s War of 1812

As WestonWeb has mentioned in previous articles, Frances Nunziata is our vocal and dynamic councillor. She has been involved politically for decades and overall her contribution has been outstanding. Years of opposition made her an outspoken maverick ready to fight for her constituents.

One of the problems apparent in the Weston community is the illegal use of premises to hold large parties to which admission is charged. Parties go long into the night and attract some dangerous individuals. These unlicensed premises are a threat to safety and because their whereabouts are unknown, often in basements and side-alleys, they are hard to detect and shut down. When establishments are licensed, police officers and inspectors can enforce operating hours, room capacities and reasonable levels of noise.

Femi’s Place, an existing restaurant at 1812 Weston Road has applied for a licence to serve alcohol. For some reason, Ms. Nunziata recently steered through this emergency council decision to block the application. In her motion, Ms Nunziata claims that ‘Residents of Weston Village, within which this establishment is located, are already troubled by the number of licenced establishments in the area which frequently violate the conditions of their liquor licences but still remain in operation.’

As a result of complaints she sent inspectors to visit the restaurant, but they found that the restaurant was serving alcohol legally and without problems (the restaurant had applied for and obtained special permits). There was no evidence of wrongdoing other than hearsay.

There are few licensed establishments in the immediate area south of Lawrence. There is one nearby at 1828 Weston, Michelle’s Place, whose owner claims that they have never had problems.

In Ms. Nunziata’s zeal to clean up Weston, she may have forgotten that a nuanced approach is best rather than ‘Kitty bar the door’. Successful businesses and neighbourhoods have to start somewhere. Legal businesses pay taxes, enrich the local community and are subject to inspection and control.

The statement by Ms Nunziata that there are Weston establishments frequently in violation of their licenses implies that we are being failed by the inspection and enforcement process. Perhaps this is where she should focus rather than victimizing fledgling businesses.

 

Nunziata wants to dry out south Weston

 

Femi's Place, 1812 Weston.

In a town plagued by illegal after-hours bars, is legal liquor a problem or a solution? That’s the question at the heart of a brewing conflict in Weston. Frances Nunziata would like a restaurant in a troubled part of town to stay dry, but being dry would hurt the struggling establishment.

Femi’s Place, at 1812 Weston Rd, is quiet, spacious, and attractive. There is a piano and a stage, and the tables and bar (there are no bottles behind it) are clean. In the back, there are newspaper articles about the owner, Femi Abosede. He is an accomplished saxophone player and, according to the Harbourfront Centre, “the King of Afrobeat in North America”.

Abosede applied for a liquor license earlier this year, but Nunziata wants the license application rejected. Her report to City Council says that she received several complaints about noise and illegal sales of alcohol, which she directed staff to investigate. According to Nunziata’s report, when “inspectors visited Femis [sic] Place… violations of the Liquor Licence Act were observed.”

Residents of Weston Village, within which this establishment is located, are already troubled by the number of licenced establishments in the area which frequently violate the conditions of their liquor licences but still remain in operation. The noise and disruptive behavior caused by the clientele that frequent these establishments has been an ongoing cause for concern; if this establishment obtained a liquor licence the existing problems would only become worse.

But Terri Thompson, the manager, said “It’s not a bar. It’s not a nightclub. It’s a family place. It’s not the kind of clientele who’s going to sit there and spend their last dime drinking.”

While we visited, there were no other customers, but Thompson was upbeat. She said, “business is OK. It’s decent. I can see it booming with a liquor license. In a day, I turn away three of four couples; they want to have a beer, but because we don’t have a liquor license, they don’t want to come in.”

The stakes are high. If Frances Nunziata has misjudged the establishment, and if she gets her way, the business will suffer, perhaps close. And that neighbourhood, just south of Lawrence, needs all the help it can get. Two young men, Courthney Facey and Mike James, were shot to death near Femi’s Place late last year. Some early reports and rumours placed the men in an illegal bar before their murders, though Facey was not old enough to drink. Another young man, Jahmelle Grant, 26, was shot to death in 2009 while trying to break up a fight outside an illegal bar just down the street, at 1764 Weston Rd.

Thompson said that she had never heard from Nunziata about the application. She said, “I never got a phone call from her. I would like the opponents to show how it would be [against] the best interests of the community . I would never allow any trouble. This is my place of work.”

Electrification Still Has Legs

Up for consideration at City Council today is a motion to find out whether the Air Rail Link between Pearson Airport and Union Station can be electrified in time for the Pan Am Games in 2015. If experts say it can’t be done (Metrolinx says it can’t), the motion calls for alternative transport arrangements for the games rather than beginning with diesel trains and later electrifying the line. This is in spite of the fact that diesel trains have already been purchased. Apparently the plan is to convert them to electric in 2017.

Who is behind this motion? None other than our own Councillor Frances Nunziata and Mayor Ford’s brother Doug. With backing like that, you can be sure the motion will pass handily and that in this election year, the Provincial Liberals will be torn between stonewalling and keeping the Ford boys happy.

You have to hand it to the Clean Train Coalition for keeping this issue alive and getting representatives at all levels actively involved.