Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Casino is No 'Place of Amusement'


My letter to Council.

Re: Application to Amend the City of Greater Sudbury’s Official Plan and Zoning By-law 2010- 100Z
City of Greater Sudbury File Nos. 751-6/17-24 and 751-6/17-19


1916596 Ontario Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as the “applicant” or the “land owner”) has applied to amend the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan and Comprehensive Zoning By-law 2010-100Z for lands described as being Part of Lot 9, Concession 4, Part of Parts 10 & 11, and Parts 12 and 13 of Plan 53R-19391 in the geographic township of Neelon. Together, these applications intend to permit a casino by adding a site-specific “place of amusement” land use permission to the Plan and by-law.


Presently, the lands subject to the proposed zoning by-law are designated "General Industrial" in the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan.  The General Industrial designation permits a range of industrial land uses and complimentary and ancillary uses as of right, and allows for heavy industrial activities subject to an amendment to the zoning by-law.


The lands subject to the proposed zoning by-law amendment are presently zoned "M1-1" in the City of Greater Sudbury's comprehensive zoning by-law #2010-100Z, as amended by a site-specific by-law in 2014. Presently, the zoning permissions on the subject lands include a range of industrial uses, and some commercial uses including office uses, bulk retail, warehouse uses and a commercial recreation centre and hotel.


The Subdivision


The lands subject to the proposed Official Plan and zoning by-law amendment and other lands in the area under the control of the land owner were previously subject to a draft approved plan of subdivision, which received draft approval subject to conditions by the City of Greater Sudbury in 2010. The application for a plan of subdivision sought to create 33 blocks (12 blocks for light industrial service commercial use; 10 lots for industrial use; and 11 for heavy industrial uses. Two blocks were also provided for stormwater management purposes) in accordance with the City’s Official Plan.


That draft plan of subdivision appears to have lapsed in October, 2016 – although the City of Greater Sudbury continues to treat the draft plan as if it had not lapsed. Determination as to the actual status of the draft plan of subdivision may need to take place at some point – however, comments and analysis provided here will be done so based on the City’s understand that the draft approved plan of subdivision remains active.


The Proposed Official Plan Amendment


A casino is not presently identified as a permitted land use in the City's Official Plan. The Plan provides no guidance or direction to decision-makers with regards to how and where this sort of land use should be developed. The City's staff report in support of this applications treats a casino as a type of commercial land use, and as such, considers it a an employment activity appropriate for a mixed-use industrial/commercial area.

Non-Commercial Land Use


A casino is not a commercial land use. Commercial land uses are normally considered to be transactionary in nature – where goods or serviced are exchanged with the public for remuneration. The City of Greater Sudbury's zoning by-law is helfpul in understanding what commercial uses are, describing them as (with regards to a building, structure, lot, use or activity) as, “pertaining to the buying, selling or renting of commodities or the supplying of services for remuneration, gain or profit, but does not include activities primarily associated with industrial use (processing or manufacturing) or with any construction work.

The proposed casino will offer no services to the public. Instead, it is a government-run monopoly whose primary function will be to enrich government coffers via legalized gambling. The government of Ontario controls contracts, and this casino will not be in competition with other casinos – indeed, the government of Ontario has ensured a lack of geographic competition between casino facilities via agreements with casino operators which “bundle” casino operations in geographic areas together.


As the use is not commercial in nature, the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan should provide a policy environment that is appropriate for the development of a casino gaming facility in the City. At present, the Plan does not provide such an environment. Given that the Plan is now proposed to be amended by the application, the appropriate time to formulate a policies to guide the development of a casino would be through this amendment process – however, the applicant is not proposing any new policies to be added to the Official Plan.


Removal of Land from Employment Area – Requires a Comprehensive Review


Further, as the use is not commercial in nature, it is presently inappropriate to consider the use as an employment activity appropriate for an employment area. As per the Provincial Policy Statement (2014) lands should only be removed from designated employment areas after a comprehensive review has assessed their need over the long term. There has been no comprehensive review conducted by the City of Greater Sudbury to determine whether the subject lands continue to be needed to meet the City's long-term employment needs, and as such, this application for a casino use is premature.


Public Health and Safety


The Provincial Policy Statement (2014) indicates in Section 1.1.1 c) that healthy, livable and safe communities are sustained by avoiding development and land use patters which may cause environmental or public health and safety concerns. Section 1.1.3.4 of the PPS indicates that appropriate development standards should be promoted which facilitate intensification, redevelopment and compact form, while avoiding or mitigating risks to public health and safety.


Locating in a casino on the subject lands sites a potential health risk adjacent to a proposed public facility (in the form of a community arena) and in proximity to existing residential land uses. Further, through the integrated site plan process, Council appears intent on making the casino more accessible to citizens via enhanced public transit and the provision of additional parking facilities beyond the requirements of the zoning by-law, compounding potential health and safety impacts.


At this time, the City of Greater Sudbury has not assessed the potential health and safety impacts that a casino would be expected to have on the public. As such, it is premature for the City to approve these applications.


The public health and safety issues with a casino gaming facility have been brought to the attention of Council time and again through various processes, including the public process underway to evaluate these development applications. This issue can't be ignored if consistency with the Provincial Policy Statement is to be demonstrated – unless Council refuses these applications.


The Proposed Zoning By-law Amendment


The proposed zoning by-law amendment applied for by the applicant seeks to add a “place of amusement” as a permitted use to the subject lands. This site-specific addition to the by-law will not facilitate a casino in this location.


The City's zoning by-law defines a “place of amusement” as, “a commercial establishment where indoor facilities are provided for participatory entertainment and amusement activities, or where exhibits are displayed for gain or profit, and includes, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, a bowling alley, pool hall, billiards parlour, arcade or game establishment, pinball arcade or wax museum.” A “casino” is not listed in the by-law as an example of a place of amusement.


The zoning by-law is clear: the use must be commercial in nature – which means that it will provide a good or service with the requirement of remuneration. As discussed above, a casino is not a commercial land use, as it does not provide goods or services, and does not reap or lose profit as commercial enterprises do. It is a government-sanctioned monopoly that does not compete with other, similar uses for the purpose of profit.
Further, it is quite clear that the zoning by-law contemplates much smaller-scale uses than a casino in the “place of amusment” category. The uses listed are all commercial in nature, and although may be physically somewhat large, they are the sorts of uses that one might expect to find in town and regional centres, and along mainstreets. And that's largely where “places of amusement” are presently permitted in the by-law.


Indeed, the by-law even includes restrictions for some types of places of amusement – notably, lands zoned C2 in the by-law permit a “place of amusement” but offer further restrictions to “pinball arcades”, indicating that a pinball arcade containing more than 20 game machines shall locate within 300 metres of a public school. This restriction on “pinball arcades” of a certain size is very suggestive that the “place of amusement” zoning category is one that contemplates a type of use which is a poor fit for a casino.


If a casino is not a “place of amusement”, what, then, is the appropriate zoning category for a casino? As with the City's Official Plan, a “casino” is not defined in the City's zoning by-law. As such, it is clear that the use is not presently contemplated in any zoning category. A site-specific zoning category would need to be established in order to permit a casino use anywhere in the City via a zoning by-law amendment. The application in front of Council filed by the applicant would have been the appropriate time to address the specific regulatory needs of a casino, however the amendment seeks simply to add a “place of amusement” to the by-law for the subject lands.


Although not specifically defined in the City's zoning by-law, there is an existing land use permission on one piece of property in the City where a casino appears to be identified as a permitted use. The lands on which the Slots at Sudbury Downs are located are zoned “Open Space Recreational 2” in the City's by-law, which permits “wagering facilities” and a “gambling casino”. It does not permit commercial land uses, or a “place of amusement”. Instead, the by-law here is very clear with regards to the use in question – a “wagering facility” and “gambling casino” are uses and activities that are quite different from a “place of amusement”.


While the language in the by-law for the OSR2 lands may be left over from the former Comprehensive Zoning By-law for the Town of Rayside Balfour, it must be noted that the City of Greater Sudbury did away with that by-law in 2010 when it adopted a Comprehensive By-law for the City in its entirety. The City could have addressed the matter over the appropriate zoning for the Slots facility in 2010 if it believed that a casino would more appropriately be zoned as a “place of amusement”, but it did not change the land use permission for the Slots at Sudbury Downs.


Based on the above, I submit that the applicant, if applying for a permission for a casino, has erred in the submission of a zoning amendment to permit a “place of amusement” on the subject lands. A casino is not a commercial land use, and it is not a permitted use on lands where a “place of amusement” is permitted. Given that the City of Greater Sudbury's comprehensive zoning by-law only permits a “casino” on lands currently occupied by Sudbury Downs, the City should rely on that zoning permission in the by-law to determine what an appropriate zoning category for a casino.


And since a casino is not presently permitted in the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan, the City should develop policy for casinos through the Official Plan that can help guide decision-makers when it comes to determining whether a casino is an appropriate land use in our City, and if so, where it should be located so as to minimize health and safety concerns as per the Provincial Policy Statement.


Analysis


The proposed Official Plan and zoning by-law amendments do not have regards to matters of Provincial Interest as identified in Section 2 of the Planning Act (and specifically those matters related to public health and safety), are not consistent with the Provincial Policy Statement (2014) and do not conform to the City of Greater Sudbury's Official Plan, which currently does not contemplate this type of land use without the comprehensive addition of guiding policy.


Further, the proposed “place of amusement” land use permission for the subject lands is inappropriate, as it will not facility a casino on the site.


For all of the above reasons, Council should refuse the proposed zoning amendment.


Please provide me with Notice of Council’s decision with regards to this matter.

(opinions expressed in this blog are my own and should not be interpreted as being consistent with the views and/or policies of the Green Parties of Ontario and Canada)



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