On January 21, I attended a public meeting to discuss the possible re-zoning of a few specific areas to allow for the development of small, local stores — like (but not limited to) corner stores.
The meeting itself began with a presentation about the possible change in the by-law. Stores could be opened on certain high pedestrian traffic residential areas, and could include corner stores, but also salons, art galleries, cafes, etc. The zoning could not prevent something like a Starbucks from opening up, but it would limit the space to 1000 square feet.
There were around 80 people at this meeting and they seemed very antagonistic to the re-zoning idea. They don't want property taxes to go up (they will only go up if a residence is changed to commercial). They don't want increased traffic (the stores cannot provide parking). And for some bizzare reason, they seemed very opposed to cafes and patios (like they are going to turn into all night discotheques). It's as if they have never walked around a single European city, littered with cafes through residential neighbourhoods. At times, the meeting felt right out of an episode of Parks & Recreation.
As Joanne Chianello points out in her article, the concerns are entirely of the NIMBY variety, not based on a broader vision for what our city could be. Last week I posted about this zoning study on Facebook and it recieved almost 200 likes and shares, which demonstrated at least some form of interest in the study. I suspect the people who take the time to show up at a zoning meeting are generally going to be against whatever is being discussed. If you are a proponent of changing the zoning by-law, and allowing small, local businesses to open up in select residential areas, then please contact your city councillor. On such a specific issue, even a few voices or letters will help.
Below: 5 minute sketch from the back of the meeting at City Hall