patio toronto

Is the new zoning restriction against back patios south of Bloor Street a good idea?

From an efficiency standpoint, Toronto's newly adopted common zoning by-law is a long-overdue improvement to the previous system, which, 12 years after amalgamation, was comprised of 43 by-laws that applied to the former municipalities that made up Metro Toronto. Although there remain a number of site-specific exceptions, the consolidation of regulations related to things like building heights and parking standards just makes sense.

I have some serious doubts, however, about the new restriction on back patios (see pages 6, and 24) for restaurants and bars located south of Bloor St. (between Victoria Park Ave. and the Humber River). Although the by-law doesn't apply to establishments that already have such spaces and still permits side patios (so long as they're 50% or less of the building's depth), that's little solace for prospective business owners and patio-lovers.

The City's concerns are pretty straightforward. Patios can get quite noisy, and buildings in older parts of Toronto are generally pretty close to one another. But, be this as it may, I can't help but think this is an example of that old Toronto puritanism rearing its head. As was demonstrated with the one-year ban on new restaurants and bars along Ossington (established in May 2009), it would seem that the municipal government values peace and quiet over the financial benefits offered by an increase in the number these types of businesses.

And while it could be argued that this by-law is really quite different from the Ossington moratorium -- the ban is, after all, only on back patios rather than the opening of establishments altogether -- the fact remains that prospective restaurant and bar owners are always on the look out for patio space. And with the exception of corner lots, the options for side-patios on the majority of streets included in the by-law are minimal at best.

But, instead of getting creative with the by-law by, say, enforcing certain restrictions on the hours in which back patios may be used, the City has acted with a heavy hand to kill them altogether. And it's precisely short-sighted decisions like this that make Toronto seem anything but a progressive, world-class city.

Photo by amandachong in the blogTO Flickr pool.


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