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Howard Friedman and the apartments at Gorham Street

Tomorrow (18 October 2016) Councillors will consider an application for an Official Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment to allow a four storey, 82 unit apartment building at 751 and 757 Gorham Street, Newmarket. (Scroll to agenda item 8 and open.)

The planning consultant for the developer (2439107 Ontario Inc) is none other than Howard Friedman who chairs the Town’s Development Co-ordination Committee whose members include senior Town staff from planning, engineering and legal services. Friedman has been doing this job for the Town since 1998 and recently had his contract with the Town renewed for another three years.

In February this year, the Town’s Planning Director, Rick Nethery, told councillors that if there was a conflict of interest Mr Friedman declares it, asks a staff member to take the chair and leaves.

Nethery went on to say:

“HBR (Howard Friedman’s firm) has managed to ensure a balance between the Town’s best interests being protected while respecting the challenges that face developers.”   (My underlining)

I have no reason not to believe that Friedman properly declared an interest in the Gorham Street development.

Here in Newmarket, the fox is never put in charge of the hen house.

But it does make me wonder how it is possible to reconcile the Town’s existing policies with what the developer is proposing. The answer, of course, is to have a planning regime which is infinitely flexible – one that bends over backwards to respect and accommodate the challenges facing developers.

"Stable Residential" means no apartments

The report tells us the developer’s lands are designated Stable Residential where

“permitted built forms include single and semi-detached dwellings, but would preclude apartment uses. The applicant is applying to amend/replace the existing designation on the subject lands to Stable Residential with special provisions to permit the proposed four storey apartment.”  (My underlining)

We are told a key principle in the Town’s Official Plan:

“is the commitment to protect and strengthen existing neighbourhoods. The Official Plan expects that redevelopment in stable residential areas respect the existing character of the area.”

That seems pretty clear to me. But hang on…

Stable Residential can mean apartments

Although staff have concerns about the building massing, site layout and landscaping

“in principle a low-rise apartment building is not incompatible with adjacent single-detached residential neighbours. The Town's practice has historically been that new development adjacent to existing development should be of a similar built form, notwithstanding that throughout Newmarket and in new development there are adjacent different residential built forms.”

It appears conflict can be resolved by deploying “sound planning principles” to ensure the impact of any new development is minimized.

Sounds like a load of old baloney to me.

Why not stick with the existing Official Plan and the Zoning By-law?

Defending the Official Plan

Back in the old days after the Glenway debacle, our Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, used to talk about “defending the Official Plan”.

These days that’s for the birds. We all know Van Bynen is the developers’ best friend.

As it happens, Van Bynen was at the Open House on the Gorham Street development on 14 September 2016 and my spies tell me he was going on yet again about intensification and how it is mandated by the Province, no doubt giving people the impression the Town’s hands are tied.

Then I am told he went off on a tangent talking about broadband and driverless cars. He was telling anyone who would listen that in the future no-one would own cars any more. You would just dial a car and one would show up. And we wouldn’t need parking lots either.

Tell that to the developer who wants 103 parking spaces.

Better still, ask Howard Friedman what he thinks.

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