Sin tax?

If we could be certain that Sin Fronteras (which in English sounds ominous but in Spanish means “without borders”) would be good for Weston, nobody would oppose licensing it. As we can’t be sure, we must ask whether Sin Fronteras will be worse than the alternatives—and the alternatives are bad indeed. They are the illegal and unlicensed ‘booze cans’, which have been a source of terrible violence and danger in Weston.

Your humble correspondent generally holds to the “keep your enemies closer” philosophy of public morality; he thinks that vices are best made legal and taxed to hell, if only because they otherwise disappear underground and spread. Sin Fronteras, by this principle, should be given a go and kept in the bright public view. After all, perhaps this will be the establishment  that turns Jane into a new Latin Junction. Even if it likely won’t, there is only one way to tell.

Sensible people, though, disagree with this philosophy; Jennifer Cicchelli and Frances Nunziata are among them.

Jennifer Cicchelli, Frances Nunziata’s executive assistant, took the time to respond by email to yesterday’s post on the new Weston establishment applying for a liquor license. In her email, Cicchelli clarified their experience with managing troublesome businesses:

I was informed [by the AGCO] that while we have been told in the past that owners can take a suspension to avoid a hearing, and consequently avoid a review of their liquor licence, this information is not accurate. It was explained to me that whether there is a hearing or not, the licence is reviewed.

I would also like to clarify the comment I made regarding places opening up as restaurants and then operating as nightclubs. The AGCO is not responsible for enforcing the use of the premises as stipulated on their business licence – this is something the City is responsible for. When I wrote the email I did not intend to imply that all the issues I noted fall under the jurisdiction of the AGCO. What I was trying to convey was that, from our experience, problem establishments which are licenced to serve alcohol are not easier to “close down” than those that are serving alcohol without a licence. The AGCO itself does not have the authority to order an establishment to close down. They only have jurisdiction with respect to the serving of alcohol.

If these experiences are generally true, Sin Fronteras could turn out to be as bad as the alternatives, which is hard to imagine. If problem establishments are just as hard to shut down as unlicensed ones, it is very important to do the job right the first time, and to license those places that will not be a drag on an already labouring community. However, according to Cicchelli, the bar’s owner is not reaching out to the councillor’s office to make his intentions clear.

Nunziata asks AGCO to reject a second Weston bar

Frances Nunziata and the Etobicoke-York Community council don’t want a bar to open on Jane St. Last month, Nunziata and City Council also opposed the liquor application of Femi’s Place, a restaurant on Weston Rd.

In her letter to council, Nunziata says residents “have reported several concerns to my office regarding the ongoing activity in and around the building at 1784 Jane Street in which Sin Fronteras is to operate.” Jennifer Cicchelli, Nunziata’s Executive Assistant, said in an email that the “problems reported include allegations of drug activity, late night noise, and late-night construction.”

Neither Nunziata nor Cicchelli say, however, that the people behind the application are causing the problems.

According to Cicchelli:

“Legal” bars are part of the problem.  In Weston in particular, specifically, places open up as restaurants and then operate as bars and/or nightclubs. Some of the problems encountered include alcohol being served after hours, alcohol being served to minors and serving people who are already noticeably intoxicated.  While the AGCO issues licences, they rarely revoke them. The owners can either take a suspension or go to a hearing at which point their licence is reviewed. It is not uncommon for owners to just  take a suspension to avoid going to a hearing. We have some “restaurants” in our ward that have violated the conditions of their Liquor Licence over and over again, yet they have not had their liquor licence revoked, despite pleas from the Councillor and area residents to the AGCO.

Once identified, it is easier to close down “illegal” bars or booze cans than it is to deal with problem establishments that have a liquor licence.
Currently, there is a notice of arrears posted on the door of the building. The previous tenants, a beauty supply company, owe more than $10,000.
Photos by Roy

King St residents to be surveyed for speed humps

King St residents will soon decide whether they want speed bumps on their street.

Etobicoke York Council directed city staff to survey residents to see if they want the humps. If more than half of those surveyed respond, and if more than 60% vote in favour, the humps can go ahead. In the past, though, few surveys have had enough respondents.

King St residents, among whom your  humble correspondent numbers, should vote in favour. Traffic speeds increase closer to Jane St. Some drivers managed to go faster than 65 km/h between Pine and Jane even with the enormous potholes, according to the city report.

Speeds and numbers will likely increase when John St is closed and the road is repaired. Further, some of the other east-west streets in Weston recently got humps; those humps will push traffic toward King unless residents object.

If the residents vote in favour, nine humps will be installed, at a cost of $33,000.


Mugging at Jane and Lawrence

Toronto Police report that two young men were mugged at the corner of Jane and Lawrence last week.

Four men approached the pair and demanded their cell phones and cash. One mugger said that he was armed, but, according to police, did not show his weapon. The muggers also demanded the victim’s bank PIN number, and the victim provided it.

You can see a map of the muggings in the Weston area here.

Excellent article on, of all things, front-yard parking

Regular readers will know that no news is too small to report for WestonWeb. This humble correspondent will cover leaves falling if it’s a slow day. He does so sure in the belief that small news matters to the people who make it.

However, it’s a little unusual to find a smart, sympathetic treatment of tiny issues in the major media. This week, though, Tim Foran, from InsideToronto, wrote an excellent article on front-yard parking in Weston. Foran takes a tiny topic to drill into the walls around City Hall. With the facade cracked, some of the absurdities poke through.

Front-yard parking can be hard on a neighbourhood, and so it must be approved by the city. City staff survey the neighbours, and if enough of them give their thumbs up, the parking spot can be approved.

But there’s a catch: more than half of the people surveyed need to respond, otherwise the application is rejected. And most of the time, people don’t respond.

City staff refused [a] Weston resident’s application for a front yard parking pad even though her Somerville Avenue property met the city’s restrictive criteria determining eligibility and she agreed to the landscaping requirements for permeable paving material and planting of a tree, said Nunziata.

The hangup preventing city staff from approving Catania’s application is that only 35 of 80 ballots sent by the city to her neighbours were returned, less than the minimum 50 per cent response rate required for a poll to be considered valid, states Nunziata’s letter. Of the 35 residents who voted, 91 per cent approved of Catania’s application. “If the rest of the people don’t care enough or have a vested interest in voting, then why does their voice speak so loudly?” questioned Catania, who intends to make a deputation to the public works committee Wednesday morning in support of Nunziata’s request. The councillor is asking staff for their recommended solution but she suggests the ballots could state clearly a non-vote will be assumed to mean there’s no objection. The required minimum response rate could then be abolished, she states.

We’ve seen this in Weston a number of times before. Speed humps on MacDonald and John were rejected by staff because too few residents responded. Community Council overruled the staff. King St will soon get the same kind of survey.

But residents cannot, as far as I know, make an appeal if council doesn’t want speed humps. In a wonderful twist, it turns out that $750 will buy you a front-yard parking spot if your neighbours couldn’t be bothered to say no:

Residents [can] pay a non-refundable fee of $748.03 to make these appeals.

“I don’t think that’s fair,” said Nunziata.

Catania isn’t too thrilled about that idea either.

“Basically we could pay for a yes,” she acknowledged. “That sort of irks me, the whole concept. It just doesn’t sound like the process is right when the people can pay another $750 and then it will go through.


Weston Treasures: Weston GO Station

Weston is lucky to have access to downtown in 17 minutes via the GO train. Just to put that in perspective, TTC subway from Royal York to Union involves a line change and takes 33 minutes on a good day. Property values around Royal York Station are astronomical in no small part because of the subway. Here in Weston, we can get downtown in half the time and don’t have to change trains. The only thing faster to downtown than the GO from Weston is a helicopter. Unfortunately GO’s service is a commuter run only with 7 Union Station bound trains in the morning and 6 Weston bound trains in the evening (go figure).

According to about 450 people get on or off at Weston each day. Assuming that most are on a return trip, that’s fewer than 250 actual people. The lack of parking at the station has long been cited as a problem. Weston’s GO station’s new location just south of Lawrence Avenue later this year may help. The relocation will almost double the number of parking spots to 200 and access will be from Weston Road. A temporary platform will be in place by November and a fully functioning station, platforms and even more parking will be ready for the opening of the Airport Rail Link in 2015. GO transit is anticipating an increase in ridership from Weston with the additional parking spots and a doubling of service levels in 2015 by which time the Airport Rail Link will be making stops here too. With electrification of the line, the service will be quieter and even faster.

The new Weston GO station should help revitalize the Village of Weston as 2015 approaches, if it’s constructed to reflect the wishes of the community. Congratulations and thanks should be extended to those fighting for a better implementation of the Airport Link stop as well as to those fighting for electrification.

Denison Rd houses demolished

The Georgetown GO line and the Air Rail Link have taken their first casualties. Nine houses along Denison Rd were demolished over the past two weeks to make way for the expanded train service.

Denison is being rerouted and lowered into an underpass; right now, the tracks are at a level crossing. Denison will be soon be closed and will remain so for about a year.

Sam Frustaglio Avenue, just east of the tracks, will be made into a cul-de-sac, and according to InsideToronto, other buildings will be demolished, including the newly-renovated offices of GO itself.

GO plans to demolish a few more buildings to accommodate the underpass. It expects to tear down its own community office and an Enterprise Rent-A-Car location, both on the east side of Weston Rd. and Dennison [sic], but not before next March. More immediately, it estimates it will acquire the Ebenezer Gospel Tabernacle this April. The church has identified a property for relocation, said GO.