A newly approved council motion establishes a Community Improvement Plan for the Creative Cluster and suspends zoning enforcement for existing creative businesses.
By Ryan McGreal
Published October 14, 2010
this article has been updated
Ward 2 Councillor Bob Bratina just issued a statement to local media indicating that last night's Council meeting approved his motion instructing planning and economic development staff to suspend "enforcement of the zoning and sign by-laws for Arts and Culture users" within a community action project area.
His motion also calls on staff to study a Community Improvement Plan for the Creative Industries cluster. A Community Improvement Plan is defined under Ontario's Planning Act as a formal municipal plan that identifies a community in need of support and outlines what needs to change to address the community's needs.
The legal framework gives municipalities flexibility to change land use rules, zoning, development charges, loans, grants and incentives to achieve the goals identified in the Plan.
The motion indicates the city's formal commitment to healthy neighbourhoods, adaptive reuse of existing buildings, and growth in the arts and culture industries, but notes that the city's Official Plan is still pending provincial approval, a situation that creates "uncertainty as to the timing of the implementation of the new Zoning By-Law".
The City has charged the Pearl Company with violating the industrial property's residential zoning by hosting an art gallery and theatre, whereas the owners maintain their business is a legal, non-conforming use. City staff maintain that the company must apply for a rezoning, but owners Gary Santucci and Barbara Milne maintain that this would incur potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in rezoning, development, parking, and cash-in-lieu-of-parklands fees.
According to Bratina, his original wording would have applied to all legal actions, but the city's Legal department advised against this. "The argument was that Council should not be seen to be interfering with matters before the courts."
As a result, the City will not lay any additional charges for potentially violating creative uses as of October 13, 2010.
As for the status of the previous charges, Bratina clarified: "No one is immune from charges related to illegal or unlawful activity, nor can such immunity be granted by Council. We can and did withhold imposition of charges regarding the operation of the company under current regulations."
Here is the full text of the motion:
Whereas the City has identified "healthy neighbourhoods" as a strategic priority and the City Manager has initiated a strategy to create healthy neighbourhoods;
Whereas the City fully supports the Arts and Culture through the Economic Development Strategy and new City of Hamilton Urban Official Plan;
Whereas the new Urban Official Plan provides policy direction for the encouragement and growth in the Arts and Culture sector by calling for the preparation of Community Improvement Project or community strategy to enhance and support the arts and culture sector;
Whereas the new Urban Official Plan provides policy direction for creative thought to be used in developing adaptive reuse of existing buildings;
And whereas, the Ministry's delay in approving the new Urban Official Plan, timing of the resolution of appeals provides uncertainty as to the timing of the implementation of the new Zoning By-law,
Therefore be it resolved that the Planning and Economic Development Department be directed to initiate a study of a Community Improvement Plan for the creative industries cluster (Arts and Culture), together with a review of City policies and by-laws, including but not limited to the Official Plan, Zoning By-law and incentive programs to grow the City's Art and Culture industry.
Further that enforcement of the zoning and sign by-laws for Arts and Culture uses, at properties within the study area, where the use was in existence on October 13th, 2010, be suspended until the results of the study are presented to Council and any recommendations implemented. Such suspension of enforcement shall not include any action that is presently before the courts or any violations/actions covered under the Ontario Building Code or Fire/Health related regulations.
According to the City Clerk, the motion was moved by Bratina, and seconded by Bernie Morelli, councillor for Ward 3. (Note: these are draft minutes and have not yet been approved by Council.)
Two councillors were absent, one was opposed, and the rest voted in favour.
Update: updated to add the council vote breakdown. -Ed.
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