- Written by Gordon Prentice
News that John Taylor, our Regional Councillor, wants to see a cap of 15 storeys on new development is a step in the right direction.
As he writes in his blog Newmarket is a town. We are not aiming for city status.
I want to see our town grow - but not at any cost. New developments should be attractive, well designed and built on a human scale.
The future of our town is too important to be left to the troika of professional planners, developers and councillors. The rest of us should have a say too!
And because millions of dollars can turn on Town Hall decisions to re-zone land, we need complete openness and transparency.
There should be no place for off-the-record and whispered briefings when fortunes can be made from land use decisions.
All the facts should be put on the table.
Councillors and Town planners shouldn't hoard information but should share it widely.
The decision by the Town to allow a 20 storey condo at the junction of Davis and George Street illustrates the point perfectly.
The Mayor told us that only two people turned up to the public meeting called to consider the proposed development. But only a tiny number of residents were notified. The surrounding area is almost all commercial, the LCBO, Shoppers and so on.
In the circumstances, the fact that as many as two people turned up was, in itself, a minor miracle.
It should not be read as indifference.
The sky is not the limit.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Slessor Square development should be rejected.
- If Slessor Square is given the go-ahead by Councillors they will first have to set aside key provisions of the Town’s Official Plan. Amendments to the Plan are allowed if supporting studies show the proposed development (a) will not create an unacceptable level of traffic (b) will be compatible with the existing surrounding development and (c) is in conformity with the intent of the applicable provisions of the Official Plan. Using those criteria, the Slessor Square proposals should be rejected.
- In decisions already taken on proposed developments in the Yonge Street-Davis Drive corridor, Councillors are setting aside their own zoning by laws to allow inappropriate developments. A 20 storey condominium at the junction of Davis Drive and George Street has been approved. Newmarket’s planning department says that while all applications are intended to be addressed on their own merits “consideration is often given to approved comparable development.” Approval for height and density busting developments can,
therefore, set a precedent.
- A decision to allow 29 and 26 storey towers on the Slessor site will pre-empt the Yonge Street Centre Secondary Plan that is currently being worked up. It is due to be completed by the end of 2012. The current height limit in the Newmarket Official Plan is 8 storeys. The developers say they want to “work with the Town as secondary planning for this area evolves”. Do other parties – for example, local residents - have any say in shaping the secondary plan?
- The developers assume planning guidelines and regulations that have yet to be made. They say “the secondary plan for this area is anticipated to prescribe densities to sustain (the new infrastructure investment) building on the density and massing requirements in the official plan”. They go on: “This proposed development takes its direction from these height and density requirements and creates a complete community for mature adults who wish to age in place”. This is speculation on the part of the developers.
- The height and density requirements set out in the relevant Provincial, Regional and local plans are being exceeded. Slessor Square is a massive over-development of a tight site of under two hectares. The proposed density – 832 persons and jobs per gross hectare – exceeds by a factor of four the minimum density of 200 residents and jobs per hectare in the Yonge Davis Provincial Urban Growth Centre. Newmarket’s Official Plan says that, within the Yonge Street Regional Centre, “residential uses in the 30-125 units per
hectare are permitted”. The developers propose 410 residential units per hectare.
- The Slessor development is more than double the minimum density of 400 residents and jobs per hectare set out in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe for the urban growth centres within the City of Toronto. Slessor Square exceeds by a factor of four the minimum density of 200 residents and jobs per hectare which the Growth Plan specifies for Central Newmarket. It blows apart the maximum density of 250 residents per hectare set by Newmarket’s Official Plan.
- Slessor Square wants more parking spaces than are currently allowed under the Newmarket Official Plan. The Town’s Engineering Services Department says “Given the location of the proposed development the Town will be considering reducing parking standards in the future.”
- Shoring for the underground car park will extend below the ground surface beneath adjacent properties. What do Slessor Square’s neighbours have to say about this? Underground parking under a Regional Right of Way is, say the Town’s Engineers, unacceptable to the Region.
- Slessor Square’s east side frontage will be seven storeys with no provision for any stepdown on the grounds that George Street is a municipal road. The building will be set back from George Street by only 3.46 metres. On the other side of the street there is a low-density residential neighbourhood. Newmarket’s Official plan says “Building heights immediately adjacent to a Stable Residential Area should provide an appropriate transition and achieve suitable visual angular planes. Where a greater building height is proposed, stepbacks may be required in order to achieve appropriate height, massing
and architectural quality for the location”.
- The development does not include any affordable housing. The Newmarket Official Plan, York Regional Plan and the Provincial Policy Statement require affordable and/or special needs housing to be provided. The developers say they are proposing a “specialised form of housing that will be marketed towards older adults and seniors” and that these affordable housing provisions “cannot be applied to the units within the proposed development”. Why not? And is there a minimum age for condo buyers?
- The Region requires a minimum of 25% affordable new housing units across the Region in each of the area municipalities. Newmarket says it will work towards achieving the affordable targets. It should start by insisting on an element of affordable housing in this “adult lifestyle community”.
- In their Planning Justification Report the developers say the proposed buildings are “appropriate for this important, highly visible location in the town of Newmarket and represents good planning”. Yet no viewshed analysis has been carried out which will show the extent of the visual impact of the development on the surrounding neighbourhoods. The twin towers will be seen from miles around.
- The developers propose a cash payment in lieu of parkland. The development is too dense to allow parkland dedicated for public use.
- The developers have not produced an Urban Design and Compatibility Study to show how the proposed development will fit in.
- No Energy Efficiency plan has been submitted by the developers.
- The size of the Slessor Square lot is insufficient for the proposed development and its bulk and massing will be detrimental to the settled residential neighbourhood to the east of George Street. Councillors are obliged to take these and other matters into account when considering departures from the Town’s own zoning by laws.
There are other matters not touched on here.
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