See: Eric Andrew-Gee, “Slaughterhouse smell repels Toronto condo dwellers”, Toronto Star (1 July 2013).
This recent Toronto Star story illustrates tensions resulting from rapid expansion of condo developments in areas of our city previously dominated by manufacturing plants but which still contain operations that impact the surrounding area.
It also highlights the surprising ignorance of those who shill condo units in such areas and the purchasers who lap them up without doing proper diligence.
At issue is a slaughterhouse that has been a feature of the King and Bathurst neighbourhood for over 100 years and still employs 700 people. The Toronto Civic Abattoir, built before 1915 and owned by Quality Meat Packers since 1960, is one of only three federally-licensed pig slaughter plants operating in Ontario. Its owner received a $3 million loan last year from the federal government to finance upgrades to the facility.
The complaints: In addition to the pervasive animal odour and sounds, there is significant truck traffic serving the plant.
Memorable quotes from the story:
“It’s no place for a slaughterhouse, downtown, with all those condos going up,” said Bob Ross, a 10-year resident and superintendent of Niagara Neighbourhood Co-op, an apartment block around the corner from the abattoir.
“It’s a shame they haven’t moved it yet. Everyone in the neighbourhood would like to see it go. There are protests all summer long, but nothing ever gets done.”
Real estate agent Brad Lamb is the ultimate King-and-Bathurst condo person — he sells units in several buildings in the odour orbit, and lives across the street from the slaughterhouse.
Lamb hates the pigs. “I’m not sure what it is that I smell,” he said, “but it’s a very unpleasant smell.” He guessed it was probably feces.
“We shouldn’t be smelling that in what is really now a residential area,” he said.
He also objects to the sight of the pig transport trucks with ventilated siding rumbling along Wellington Ave. “You see their snouts sticking out,” Lamb lamented.
From the quotes, there is no mistake as to who occupied the neighbourhood first. The real question is whether the complaining newcomers have a leg to stand on. You be the judge.
Whiners aside, the story also highlights the fact that many neighbouring residents become accustomed to the smell over time and that it’s mostly the newcomers who complain. Residents also seem to recognize the value of the jobs at the plant.
But none of this is news. The clash between the abattoir and its neighbours has received press for at least the past three years. See these pieces from 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Given the periodic press coverage and the inescapable fact that the abattoir’s existence and impact has been open and notorious for over 100 years, it’s remarkably easy to discount the complaints of purchasers who failed to do their diligence or who were led down the garden path by an unscrupulous or incompetent realtor. It is equally tempting to dismiss calls for the abattoir’s removal as short-sighted and naive.
The rise of the condominium is unquestionably the largest single feature of the development of Toronto in our generation. It is not, however, the only one, and condominiums cannot exist in a vacuum or without places that provide food and jobs. Moreover, it seems foolish to chase away the last vestiges of the rich industrial heritage that was a cornerstone in building our city and still makes a positive contribution.
Image credit: Toronto Archives.