Shrink Slessor Square!

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The Battle of the Bulge

Last night (Monday 23 April) the Slessor Square team unveil their “re-imagined” development to a distinctly underwhelmed audience.

Slessor Square loses height but adds bulk.

We learn the towers will go down to 16 storeys – but the density will stay exactly the same.

In planning lingo this amounts to 832 persons and jobs per hectare where the current standard for this part of town is 200-250.

A member of the audience innocently asks how it is possible for the towers to lose so many storeys without density being affected.

Slessor’s Project Manager, Bob Forrest, puts it this way: “If you step on it, it will squish out at the bottom.”

Regional Councillor, John Taylor, is sceptical.

“If something comes down (in height). I don’t buy it must bulge out.”

But that is precisely what is being proposed.

Bob says: “Our effort has been to address the height issue while maintaining the density.”

(See the presentation on the Town's website by scrolling to "Community Engagement" at the bottom of the page.)

So what else do we learn?

* There will be vehicular access from Yonge Street cutting through the development into George Street.  Bob Forrest admits some concern about the impact this may have on people living in the Slessor complex.

* Provision will also be made for road access from the Slessor site to the adjoining sites (the Metro and McIvor Dodge car dealer) which would come into play when these lots are themselves developed in due course.

* The 7 storey retirement residence will be set back, a bit further away from George Street.

* There is still no parkland on the site. The developer pays the Town money in lieu. Pretty standard practice, says Bob.

The four member residents’ group puts in a strong performance:

Bob Bahlieda zeros in on the key issue of density. He says, quite correctly, that the intensification targets for Newmarket can be met at much lower densities.

Bill Chadwick echoes these concerns, fearing that approval for Slessor, as amended, will set a precedent for future developments along Yonge and Davis. He says the density is four times higher than it need be. The planners have no answer to this.

Gail Cunningham has anxieties about how long the construction will take. Would there be pauses between the phases? Bob says his best guess is 7-10 years but “whatever I tell you will, almost certainly, not be right.”

The group’s standard bearer, Anna O’Rourke, has worries about traffic going through the Slessor development and pouring into George Street. Ward 4 councillor Tom Hempen shares her concerns saying he will not support any proposal that puts more traffic onto George Street.

I think he has his work cut out for him on that one.

Now Bob Forrest is fielding questions from the audience, reassuring where possible, side-stepping and stonewalling where necessary.

A resident from Marlin Court – in the shadow of the towers - is told the 16 storey towers will make a difference as they will cast a shorter shadow. Her concerns about vibration from increased traffic on George are not addressed.

Others line up to quiz the developers on a range of concerns.

What about the absence of dedicated public open space?

How genuine are the developer’s much flaunted “green credentials”?

Is the Town serious about protecting residents’ quality of life?

People don’t want Newmarket to become another Richmond Hill.

There is a clear feeling – expressed in a thousand different ways – that the Slessor development is simply too big for the site and it will throw up lots of problems for local people.

And some of the key questions remain unanswered.

We still don’t have a detailed traffic study. And what about the enormous underground car park for 1,200 vehicles?

Bob says there is something on his desk and hints at new thinking.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

What next?

Marion Plaunt, the Town’s senior planner responsible for the Slessor file, announces another meeting on Wednesday 2 May at the Ray Twinney complex. By then, the changes proposed by the developers would be posted on-line.

Seems to me the changes in the configuration of the development are significant enough to warrant a new planning application.

But that’s unlikely.

The great danger is that we could all be ground down by a succession of meetings, meandering discussions and disappearing audiences.

The developers see a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

They will stay the course.

So must we.


15 Storey Height cap

The debate on the proposed 15 storey height cap for new developments in Newmarket has now been pushed back to Monday 22 May 2012.

Regional Councillor John Taylor asked for a report to be prepared by planning staff back in February.

Taylor said last night a height cap would “provide clarity for the development industry”. 

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