Marvin Hertzman Holdings Inc. v. Toronto (City)


BLG defended the City of Toronto’s plans for the redevelopment of Yonge-Dundas Square against serious challenges from some of the business owners who were to be forced out by the project. The case involved the validity of the City’s designation of the square as a “community improvement project area.” The applicants also challenged the City’s power to expropriate land and convey it to private developers.

Some of the affected owners applied to the Ontario Municipal Board and sought to advance their own plans for development of the square. BLG presented a wide array of evidence in defense of the City’s plan, including market analysis applicable to urban malls and entertainment-oriented development, and financial analysis of the City’s specific proposal. The Board even took a trip to New York City to observe the redeveloped Times Square.

The Board eventually adopted BLG’s arguments that the opportunity to redevelop Yonge-Dundas Square as an “urban entertainment centre” would be lost if not pursued quickly, and that only the City’s plan could be implemented quickly. The Board then expressed “full confidence that the project will be achieved as envisaged” with “minimal risk to the City.”

On the question of the City’s jurisdiction to implement the plan, the owners argued that the plan was unjustified because their businesses were not “blighted,” but the Board endorsed BLG’s position that the applicable sections of the Planning Act were “not limited to curing physical blight” and should be given a broad interpretation to permit redevelopment of the type that was proposed. Finally, the Board could find no reason to prohibit the City’s expropriation of land for conveyance to private developers. The owners appealed but the Divisional Court endorsed the Board’s findings.

Stephen Waqué, Frank Sperduti and Sean Gosnell are partners at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP and members of BLG’s EMER Group (Environmental, Municipal, Expropriation, and Regulatory Law). For more information on any of these professionals, please visit: www.blg.com.

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