Kingston to Discourage Drive-thrus | Tim Hortons Threatens Legal Action

Drive-thru provision may drive coffee franchise to sue


Posted 1 day ago

Tim Hortons may sue and Lowe’s could find a way to build where it wants to in the wake of the city adopting a new official plan.

The document, which will guide where and how development will take place over the coming decades, also sets guidelines for where new halfway houses, health-care facilities and student homes can be built.

The official plan is now in the hands of provincial officials who will pore through it before opening a 20-day period for public appeals, likely in October.

Besides Tim Hortons, there could be a slew of hearings for companies and individuals unimpressed with how the document treats them or their properties.

"We’re hoping that (the number of appeals) will be minimal," said George Wallace, the city’s planning director.

Topping the list is Tim Hortons. The coffee and doughnut purveyor bristles at one provision of the new plan, designed to "discourage" drive-thru lanes.

Only once has the company gone to the Ontario Municipal Board over an official plan issue related to drive-thrus.

It won.

Company lawyer Michael Polowin said he’d rather see things worked out before a hearing becomes necessary.

"We don’t want to go the OMB, but if we have to, we will," he said.

The city produced a number of studies to back up parts of the official plan, but didn’t provide one to explain its drive-thru rationale, Polowin said.

The OMB, which has final say on all planning decisions, will believe the city is unfairly targeting one industry and require the city to change the wording in the document, Polowin said.

The word that causes the most concern is "discourage." Tim Hortons believes that’s tantamount to a prohibition; the city says it allows planners to deal with drive-thru applications on a case-by-case basis.

"We thought the wording we put in there addressed their concerns," Wallace said, "but it did not."

Wallace said the city expects Tim Hortons to file an appeal, which would result in a hearing likely by April or May.

Tim Hortons says drive-thrus are central to its business plan and the wording wouldn’t permit it to build any new stores in the city.

The company says it is planning six more locations in Kingston, which could create 200 new jobs, according to a letter Polowin sent to city hall. (Tim Hortons already has 23 locations in Kingston and employs 600 people.)

Polowin said the belief that drive-thrus cause excess emissions is false. Peer-reviewed studies the company commissioned showed that idling for about four minutes in a drive-thru line emits less greenhouse gases than parking a car, going into a store and then starting it again five minutes later.

"The air quality thing is simply wrong. It couldn’t be further from the truth," Polowin said. "We’ve had the science done."

He said the company wants to present the information to planners and councillors, which is why it didn’t hand over the studies. "The documents need to be properly presented," he said. "The City of Kingston doesn’t have a science department."

The new planning document merges the official plans from the former townships of Pittsburgh and Kingston and the former city. Wallace said planners didn’t introduce a lot of new information into the document and tried to correct any past errors.

Property owners that wanted their land zoned a particular way in the new plan didn’t always get their wish.

"We were not doing that unless there was an exceptional circumstance," Wallace said.

"That would include NCS Holdings."

NCS Holdings Ltd. is the company that owns land along Gardiners Road where Lowe’s wants to build. If the city grants its request, the official plan would be amended to allow commercial development on land that is zoned for industrial use only.

Such a change would allow Lowe’s to build its proposed home improvement store, which is the subject of an OMB hearing slated for the winter.

The official plan will also limit development to areas that already have municipal services, mainly south of Hwy. 401.

The growth boundary could change depending on whether any challenges are successful. If one property sneaks in and pushes the line out a little farther, that gives fodder for the next land owner to ask for the same treatment.

More information about the city’s new official plan can be found online at

– – –

What is an official plan?

* An official plan is the primary planning document for a municipality. It lays out how and where development can take place based on projected growth in the coming decades.

* This plan will replace the plans from the former city, Pittsburgh and Kingston townships.

* City planners expect Kingston’s population to grow to 133,100 from the current population of about 117,200, an increase of 15,900 people over the next 17 years.

* They also estimate the local economy will grow and create new jobs, with a target of 700 new jobs per year being created in Kingston, or about 14,000 by 2026.

* While the population could rise, the number of people per household is anticipated to fall over the next 15 years. That will require 13,300 new homes and apartments to be built by 2026, or about 780 new residential units per year.

“Climate policy is characterized by the habituation of low expectations and a culture of failure. There is an urgent need to understand global warming and the tipping points for dangerous impacts that we have already crossed as a sustainability emergency that takes us beyond the politics of failure-inducing compromise. We are now in a race between climate tipping points and political tipping points.”
David Spratt, Philip Sutton, Climate Code Red, Australia, Published July, 2008

~ by Cory Morningstar on July 23, 2009.

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