Sunday, September 02, 2007

Toronto mulls tax on 'big box' retailers, gas stations - CBC News

Toronto mulls tax on 'big box' retailers, gas stations
Last Updated: Friday, August 31, 2007 | 10:43 AM ET
CBC News

Toronto city hall is considering an idea of forcing some businesses — including so-called big-box retailers and gas stations — to pay higher property taxes because they encourage car culture.

A report will be considered at council's executive committee next week that looks at putting mega-stores such as Wal-Mart and gas stations in a higher tax bracket.

The idea is that the money raised from higher taxes would offset the costs to the city of more driving. Any such move by the city would likely require provincial approval.

With a focus on climate change and public transit, councillors are looking for ways to keep people out of cars. Some big-box retailers estimate they can each generate a million car trips a year.

Coun. Cesar Palacio said big-box stores should pay higher property taxes, especially for the enormous lands reserved just for cars.

"They encourage the car culture more and more all the time, and that defeats the purpose of one of city hall's priorities to encourage public transit," Palacio told CBC News.

As for gas stations, Palacio insisted he isn't suggesting they should be eliminated, but should pay more as the city struggles with pollution, traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.

Coun. Paula Fletcher and many in her eastern Danforth ward are trying to stop a Wal-Mart from setting up on their neighbourhood's waterfront.

She said she doesn't think a higher tax bracket will serve any purpose and would rather have the city go further by banning big-box stores.

"The problem is not how to tax the blight; the problem often is the blight itself," Fletcher said.
I have no problem with big box retail, just as long as the parking is in back or underground, and the stores are on the ground floor of a multi-use, multi-story development. An excellent example as near Jane and Highway 7, where a Future Shop is stacked above a Home Outfitters in a compact, attractive building.

Big box and the urban environment can co-exist, but not in the form it has presented itself in the past. The city must do whatever it takes to prevent these unsustainable land uses from developing, and to force them to redevelop into a better built form.



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