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Change is constant at Leaside Business Park

Arguably one of Leaside’s biggest retail success stories is Moms to be and More, the 12,000-square-foot baby boutique at the corner of Bayview and Manor Rd. Over the past 13 years owner Karen Judd and her team of more than 30 employees have turned the store into a retail phenomenon, not just in Toronto but across the country.

As a result of this success it’s had to find additional space elsewhere to meet growth demands. Expanding operations to 89 Research Rd., it operates a spin-off retail store called Moms to be and More: The Best of the Best, as well as a fulfillment centre for online orders.

Judd tells me that with plenty of parking right out front, unlike at its Bayview location, expectant mothers are especially happy with this arrangement.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees eye to eye with its success. 

Dag Enhorning, president of the Leaside Business Park Association (LPBA), remarked to Councillor John Parker in February about a zoning violation at Judd’s Research Rd. location. As a result, Parker asked Michael Carey, supervisor of investigations at the city’s Municipal Licensing and Investigations division, to look into the matter.

Currently it is an open file, and not of public record, so I’ve been unable to ascertain anything more than that discussions are underway between the building’s owners and the city. Carey and Judd confirmed this much to me by written and verbal communication.

So, what is the zoning violation?

According to City of Toronto Zoning By-Law 569-2013, chapter 60, 89 Research Rd. is considered part of an employment industrial zone. A retail store can only be operated under two conditions:

1) It’s associated with a permitted manufacturing use; or

2) It’s a convenience store attached to a gas station.

Clearly, Judd’s store is neither. By the letter of the by-law Moms to be and More might be in violation of city zoning. But you could also argue that their fulfillment operation qualifies as a warehouse under the permitted uses section in chapter 60.

Not to mention that this concern totally disregards the changes happening in the business park as a whole. Moms to be and More sits almost directly across from Leonard Linton Park (Linton was LPBA’s longest serving president), a two-acre parcel donated by the developers of Hyde Park in Leaside as part of their settlement with the city in 2003,

Linton said this at the opening: “I hope this park will be the cornerstone of our continued revitalization program.” Although Linton was referring to the LPBA his intentions were for everyone to benefit from the park, including, I would think, the future employees of Moms to be and More.

Two hundred metres to the west at 57 Research Rd. (and directly across from Linton’s park) is The Original Dog House, a provider of doggie daycare and boarding facilities.

Enhorning believes that a store catering to moms with young children in tow is a safety concern because trucks are travelling through the business park.

But the same thing likely happens when people drop their dogs off at doggie daycare before heading to junior’s school and then off to work.

However, unlike retail, the by-laws clearly allow for pet services, animal shelters and kennels in these employment industrial zones.

In one instance the city allows kids to be in close proximity to trucks but not in another despite they being a mere 200 meters apart.

Recently I had the opportunity to walk through a large chunk of the business park on a Tuesday afternoon, At no time did I feel threatened by passing trucks, including in those stretches where there aren’t any sidewalks. That’s because there isn’t much heavy industry these days.

With the exception of Tremco, Siltech, St. Mary’s Cement and a handful of others, most of the businesses in the area tend to be service-based rather than true manufacturers.

According to Google Maps, Tremco and Siltech are a 500-metre walk from Moms to be and More while St. Mary’s is approximately double that.

Just around the corner from St. Mary’s is 42 Industrial St., a two-storey office building that’s been nicely restored. I find it hard to accept that anything going on at Moms to be and More is in some way less important than the business carried out in those offices. Yet no one seems to be getting upset about what they’re up to,

The reality is that ever since Canada Wire and Cable was acquired by Alcatel and its Leaside property sold to Mitch Goldhar, CEO of Smart Centres, in 1997, change has been a constant in the Leaside Business Park.

Good or bad it is what it is. The train has left the station and I find it wrong that anyone from the LPBA would have a problem with Moms to be and More.

The store is a Leaside success story to be celebrated. The same applies to Siltech and the other industrial businesses making a go of it. Mixed-use development is the future for the industrial area and the sooner the city recognizes this and creates by-laws that allow different types of uses to coexist, the sooner the business park can flourish.