Tim Hortons | ‘Idle’ Threats in Kingston

Kingston’s Vision: Canada’s most sustainable City.

Kingston’s progressive ICSP can be found here: http://www.cityofkingston.ca/cityhall/sustainability/index.asp

August 4, 2009

Tim Hortons says expansion cut off by drive-thru policy

Threatens to take fight to Ontario Municipal Board




The company that owns Tim Hortons says sections of Kingston’s new official plan will prevent any future drive-thru facilities it plans to build in the eastern Ontario city.

The TDL Group Corp. has told city hall that unless changes are made to the official plan, it is prepared to take the city to the Ontario Municipal Board to have the drive-thru provisions changed. The company says the city has not produced any studies to back the official plan’s intent to “discourage” new drive-thrus.

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 a company lawyer sent to city hall. (Tim Hortons already has 23 locations in Kingston and employs 600 people.)

“Use of the word ‘discouraged’ in the absence of a policy describing when the use satisfies the policy direction of the OP, is tantamount to a simple prohibition,” company lawyer Michael Polowin wrote in a letter to Kingston city hall on July 9.

“The impact of this proposal would be to… render non-conforming and therefore virtually undevelopable all of our client’s sites in Kingston.

“In addition, 100% of the commercial lands in the city would be denied to our clients for future development.”

The company asked the city to delete the four sections related to drive-thrus, but didn’t get its wish. Instead, city councillors approved the official plan in mid-July.

The drive-thru provisions of the official plan state that “new drive-through facilities are discouraged, and the city may impose design guidelines to regulate the form and location of such uses.”

City planners believed that the use of the word “discourage” would satisfy Tim Hortons, but the company said the wording wasn’t clear enough. The city now expects to have to fight an OMB appeal from Tim Hortons, likely by April or May 2010.

Only once has Tim Hortons taken a municipality to the OMB over drive-thru regulations. The OMB struck down portions of Ottawa’s comprehensive zoning bylaws that prohibited drive-thrus on traditional main streets and substituted language that included exceptions.

Kingston’s wording is based on the belief that drive-thrus needlessly add to greenhouse gas emissions. Polowin, with the Ottawa firm of Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, said the city doesn’t have the studies to back up the assertion.

Polowin said the belief that drive-thrus cause excess emissions is false. Peer-reviewed studies the company commissioned showed that idling for about four-and-a-half minutes in a drive-thru (the average time a car spends in a Tim Hortons drive-thru) emits fewer greenhouse gases than parking a car, going into a store and then starting it up 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.”

Polowin said Tim Hortons was never provided a chance to present the information to planners and the city’s planning committee.

Polowin said he believes the OMB will feel Kingston’s official plan is targeting one industry and will end up striking down the sections of the plan dealing with drive-thrus.

The official plan is now in the hands of provincial officials who will scrutinize the document before opening up a 20-day period for public appeals likely by October.


“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


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