The Zoroastrian Temple in Toronto: A Case Study in Land Use Regulation, Canadian-Style

AuthorEran Kaplinsky
The Zoroastrian Temple in Toronto:
A Case Study in Land Use Regulation,
Oin Toronto at the southwest corner of Bayview Avenue
and Steeles Avenuestands a stately twostorey residence overlooking the
ravine that separates it from the busy intersection. The mansion stands out
amongtheupscale suburbanhomes oftheneighbourhood foritslarge size
andsTudorRevivalarchitect ureAgateandwroughtiron fenceguard
leads to a second entrance. At various times the house was known as “Tudor
HillWindrushH illtheRuddhouseandtheMazodelaRoc heman
sion” after the famous Canadian author who, as a small plaque notes, once
livedthereThesignnowreadssimplyZoroastria nTempleBayview
The controversy that engulfed the house over thirty years ago, highlighted
in HGWintonLtdvNorthYork,ist hequ inte ssent ial story ofzon ingr egu la
tion in Ca nada.
The Zoning Power
Z best known and arg uably the most important mean s
ofreg ulati ngth euseo fland inCa nadaMu nicip alzon ingp owersar ederive d
* I would like to tha nk Brandon Mewhart and Tim Groves for their research
from enabling provincial legislat iona nd while the specic arrangements
varyf romjur isdiction toju risdiction zoning bylawsty picallycon sistof a
map dividing the municipal territory into dist ricts or zonesand a text
the development standards, such as height and bulk limitations, that apply
character of the various areas in the municipality, be it residential, commer
cial, or otherw ise.
Local governments had previously exercised limited public control over the
builtenvironmentthroughvarioushealtha ndbuildingcodesaimedchiey
atcontai ning re and contagionbut the paerns of land use within each
community were determined largely by topography, the location of ports
and railways, and common business sense, and were unreg ulated except by
the common law of nuisance and the use of private restrictive covenants.
Howeverwith rapidurbani zationi ndustrialization and increase di mmi
gration came a demand for new municipal powers over land use and de
velopment, which was met by the enactment of suitable enabling legislation
bythevariou sprovincesForexa mpleinmunicipal itiesinBrit ishCol
ViewoftheMazodelaRochehous efromCreeksideRoadPhotoERAA rchitects
or washhouses may be established maintained or operated Similarly,
Ontario municipalities were authorized in  to preventreg ulate and
control the location, erection and use of buildings for laundries, butcher’s
shops, stores and manufactories.”
I n KitchenerO ntariobec amethe
rstCanadianmunicipalit ytoadoptazoningbylawthatdividedthewhole
municipal territory into use districts in accordance with a comprehensive
town pla n.ThepracticeofzoningspreadacrossCanadasoonafterandthen
inthe UnitedStates oncethe constitutionality ofzoni ngwasse ledbyt he
Comprehensivezoningwasc hampionedbyan emergingplann ingpro
fession captivated by ideals such as the “City Beautiful,” and later the “City
EcientZoning also appealed to professional s urveyorsarc hitects and
engineers, as well as reformers and housing advocates, who shared the
planners’ belief that it would promote orderly growth and a more salubrious
urban environment. In the US, the federal administration actively encour
agedtheproliferationofzoningas ameanstoexpandinghomeownership
Planninga ndzoningwereconsonantw iththetenetsoft heProgressiveEra
governance, and were endorsed in Canada largely on similar premise s.
Despiteitspromisetopromotet hepublicgoodhoweverzoningwould
not have gained popularity if it had not appealed to the private interest of
homeowners and developers. New modes of transportation introduced in
theearlypartsofthe thcentury rsttheelectr icstreetcarandt henthe
private automobile — created new opportunities for development and fun
damentally altered land use paerns across Nort h America A suburban
century” began, as manufacturers no longer needed to build their factories
next to ports or railways, and workers no longer needed to live near their
place of employment. The suburbs beckoned to the middle class in particu
made them vulnerable to intrusion by uses a nd users deemed “undesirable,”
including multifamily housing. Zoning was to the middle class a defender
oftheirnewlyfoundsuburbanidealByentrustingzoningtoloca llyelected
councillorscaref ullyaunedtot heirwishesprivi legedhomeownerscould
obtainthe nextbestthingto adirect voteonwhomaybeadmiedtot heir
neighbourhoods. This de facto right to exclude was also a boon to real es
tate interests, because it protected land values and promoted investment in

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