Newmarket's planners are recommending councillors give the green light to the Slessor development at the Committee of the Whole meeting on 4 February.

Slessor's original twin tower proposal is rejected but the refined, re-worked, modified and endlessly re-imagined alternative gets the go-ahead.
Bad news!
The staff report says two buildings at 21 and 19 storeys and another two at 8 storeys would be OK. All levered into a tight 4.6 acre site.
If councillors accept the report - and the thinking behind it - Newmarket will be utterly transformed within a decade.
Even now, after months of discussions and negotiations, there are major issues still outstanding - traffic impact for example. These are to be subject to so-called "holding provisions". The developer will have to satisfy the Council that these are being addressed. Hmmmm.

We shall see.

Newmarket may be about to throw overboard the very feature that makes the town so attractive - its human scale.

You can read the report here. Scroll to Slessor Square - staff report 4 February 2013.

Newmarket councillors will consider the Slessor application at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole in the Council Chambers at Mulock Drive at 7pm on Monday 4 February.

The meeting is open to the public.

The staff report with recommendations will, unfortunately, not be available this week “due to complexities of this application”. The senior planner responsible for the Slessor file, Marion Plaunt, says it will be available no later than Thursday, 31 January 2013.

The report will be posted on the Town’s website in the usual way and also on Shrink Slessor Square.

Our sister organisation - the Residents Group Opposed to Slessor Square - has produced this excellent briefing, submitted by the Group's spokesperson Anna O'Rourke. It will help to inform the debate when councillors meet on 4 February 2013 to consider the Slessor proposals.

The Residents Group Opposed to Slessor Square represents a significant group of people who are deeply concerned about the immediate and long-term implications of the Slessor Square Adult Lifestyles Condominium project proposed by Dwight Slessor Holdings Inc.

At 23 & 26 stories (with approval sought for 29 stories max), 774 persons/jobs/hectare and 446 units/hectare the height and density of the project is far in excess of the 200-250 persons+jobs/hectare and 125 units/hectare indicated in various Provincial, Regional and Town planning documents. It also exceeds the stated maximums of 125 units/hectare and FSI of 1.0 indicated in the town’s Official Plan for Phase 1 development.

It is an extreme departure from the progressive and reasonable intensification of Newmarket’s core and is not consistent with the guidelines for intensification targets or the wishes of the citizens of Newmarket.

Our Primary Concerns:


  • At 26 and 23 stories (as submitted with 3 story commercial platforms) (23 stories- 73.92 m (242.5 ft.) 26 stories – 81.87 m (268.6 ft.)  The relief sought by the By-law application is for 26 & 29 stories which would make the tallest tower approximately 89.82 m (294.68 ft.) almost 3 times the height of the highest buildings in Newmarket.
  • Close proximity of the project to residential off George St.
  • Current proposed 15 story cap under review
  • Existing residential consists of half a dozen buildings at 10-12 stories scattered across town.


  • FSI of 3.63 vs. 1.0 permitted in the Town Plan in Phase 1 and 2.5 minimum indicated in the Regional Growth Plan.
  • 446 units/hectare vs. 125 maximum permitted in the Town Plan.
  • 774 persons+jobs/hectare vs. 200-250 minimum   and a maximum of 349 as the projected goal in the Regional and Town Plans by 2031.


  • The most recent traffic study indicates that the Slessor Development will add 542 rush-hour trips to the already overloaded Yonge/Davis corridors.
  • The only Regional collector road egress is Yonge St. The development would add 542 rush hour trips to an already grid-locked Yonge St.
  • George St. is a local collector street not suited to handle overflow. It also exits at Davis Dr. and Yonge St. via Kingston Rd. providing no ancillary relief to traffic overflow. Bleed out into the residential areas to the north and east is unacceptable.

Our Supplementary Concerns

  • Lack of truly “affordable” housing – 35% of the development will be under $300,000 which is classified as the accepted affordability index. Newmarket recently ranked 13th overall in the MoneySense survey of the quality of life in 190 cities around the world but was 143rd on the affordability ranking. There are upwards of 10,000 people in Newmarket/Aurora living below the poverty line.
  • Setbacks, stepbacks and angular planes – Buildings on George St. have only a 3.46 m setback from the property line.
  • Impacts on future infrastructure support costs
  • Cash payments “in lieu of” parkland and greenspace provisions. Parkland should be included in the plan to respond to intensification guidelines for urban spaces. We have no assurance that this “in lieu of” money will be spent beautifying the intensification corridor.
  • The inability of emergency services to adequately respond to situations at the site.

Our Expectations:

  • Reduce the height and density of the project by 50% (15 stories or 150 ft. / 390 jobs/persons/hectare / 1.8 FS|). This still meets and exceeds all intensification targets set by the province, the region and the town while creating manageable, sustainable growth.
  • Reduce the proposed 446 units/hectare to the permitted maximum of 125 indicated in the Official Plan.
  • Approve 15 (150 ft.) story cap on future developments and a limit of 390 persons+jobs/hectare on future density. Hold FSI to the regionally recommended 2.5. Allow additional stories or density in exchange for other indicated expectations in the intensification guidelines i.e.  affordable housing units, additional public spaces etc.
  • Require the provision of a percentage  (5%) of units of any development at no charge for assisted or low-income individuals with condo fees waived in perpetuity (see OMB Greatlands Development decision in Richmond Hill)
  • Provide setbacks, stepbacks and required angular planes (45 degrees) from lot lines to reduce the footprint and impact of this and future projects on George St. and other residential neighbourhoods.
  • Require mixed use low-rise commercial/retail/residential for street-level built form and higher density (see previous slide) in developments stepped back behind this to reduce imposing street level designs.
  • Require developers to fund undergrounding of hydro as part of their project costs.
  • Require developments to conform to traffic growth load factors in their density and built form to ensure growth can be managed.
  • Require underground parking as part of all major developments in the intensification corridor to provide above ground use for greenspace provision.

Newmarket Theatre is bursting at the seams as I arrive for the Glenway meeting just before 7pm.

The doors are barred.

No more room!

We are ushered to the overflow room, the cavernous High School cafeteria, which is filling up rapidly.

Glenway people are turning out in force for this “Statutory Public Meeting” called to discuss the future of their neighbourhood.

The rapacious Marianneville Developments Ltd are up first and outline their plans to a disbelieving and resentful audience.

The developers want to shoehorn into Glenway a further 292 apartment dwellings, 219 condominium townhouse dwellings, 54 condominium one storey dwellings, 165 residential detached dwellings and a commercial block.


Understandably, Glenway people are up in arms about this.

They believe their neighbourhood will be utterly transformed, without their consent.

Marianneville claim their plans are consistent with Town and Regional plans and policy statements. Developers always recite this, as a fact. They could hardly say otherwise.

Marianneville say the new development will be compatible with what is already there. They describe this as “same-to-same”.

The developers are heard in respectful but seething silence.

Next up is the Ward 7 Councillor, Chris Emanuel.

He has already made it clear he is against the proposed development which is not needed to meet the Town’s growth targets. (more about that later)

He wants more detail from the developers on their thinking.

His colleague, Tom Hempen, tells us he heard concerns from residents about traffic and density at an earlier meeting on 18 June. He wants to know how the plans have changed to address these concerns. (Hmmm…. Not a lot)

Now it is the turn of Ron Kassies who speaks for the Glenway Preservation Association. His workmanlike presentation receives a rapturous reception.

It is clear Glenway wants Mariannville as much as a dose of anthrax. (my words not his)

Next up is Anne Leroux with a clear and confident message to go with her Powerpoint presentation.

The development would impact on important wildlife corridors. And it would destroy the green spaces that urbanising areas need if they are to stay healthy.

Deborah Jane Pope is now at the rostrum.

A terrific presentation. Clear as a bell. The development of Glenway is not needed to meet the targets flowing from the Places to Grow Act.

She says, in as many words, that the whole consultation has been a farce. And that Marianville’s strategy has been to divide and conquer, playing off some residents’ concerns against others.

Glenway, she declaims, is not a lot waiting to be filled. It is already filled… with homes and people and friends…

The Town, she says, should put residents’ interests ahead of developers.

Dave Hanson steps up to the plate, picking up the theme that the developers want to divide residents.

He warns people not to believe they will be safe just because their home will still back on to open space after the infill development is complete.

Marianville’s plans for a 9 hole “executive” golf course may never materialise. We learn there is no market out there for “executive” 9 hole golf courses.

He predicts the developers will sneak back after a few years with plans to build over what is left of open parkland.

Now it is the turn of Michelle Price who talks about preserving the quality of life at Glenway. Many subsequent speakers echo her concerns.

Now the meeting is thrown open to contributions from the floor.

So far, no-one has spoken in favour of Mariannville’s vision of the new Glenway.

A self declared senior, Betty, laments it is too late for her to start over. Her landscaped property is the product of 26 years work. She says the Town’s Official Plan doesn’t seem to matter.

Now a terrific contribution from a Mr Oloya (?) who wants to know what will happen next. He wants a referendum.

The Mayor passes the ball to Richard Nethery, the Town’s top planner. He waffles on about opportunities to make your views known. Contributions will be listened to… Possibly taken on board…

The Mayor says he hopes this answers the question.

No it doesn’t, cries Mr Oloya.

Now the discontent is beginning to bubble to the surface.

The next speaker wants to know how on earth councillors ever allowed the development to get this far. He is incredulous.

An exasperated Tim Parker wants meaningful and complete answers from the developers. Some questions are only half answered, if at all.

Now it is the turn of Stuart Hoffman who tells us he paid a premium for living in Glenway with its open space. It puts it at $100,000 - $150,000.

His home backs on to a pond. For him, there will be no “same-to-same”

He wants to know if he and others in the same boat are going to be compensated.

To gales of laughter, the developer says there will be no comment on this tonight.

A stream of residents take to the rostrum, all of them angry at the loss of open space and amenity.

A spirited contribution from Nadine Gaudette (?) labels the developer’s approach “extremely distasteful”. She accuses them of refusing to answer questions and telling lies.

This is strong stuff but the language matches the mood.

She demands to know the views of all councillors.

The Mayor tells us it would be premature for councillors to comment.

They need to wait until all the reports are in. Then they can read them and weigh everything up. It is all about due process.

Personally, I find this proceduralism suffocating.

A few more contributions from the floor and now the Mayor is winding up the meeting, inviting the audience to give themselves a round of applause, presumably for being so restrained in the face of so much provocation from the developers.

This is toe curling.

Congratulating people for being good and “respectful” when they have every right to be outraged.

The Glenway people disperse into the night, uncertain of what happens next.

So, what did I learn from tonight?

More than ever, Newmarket people need a debate on what kind of town they want to live in.

But process and procedure is stifling the conversation we need to have.

Our councillors have to get off the fence and describe their vision of a future Newmarket.

Is it a pleasant town, growing and maturing, but still one built on a human scale?

Or will it be a city of high rise towers where developers call the tune?

One way to limit the size of Slessor Square is to make it more expensive for the developer to build and/or the future residents to purchase. It also becomes a bargaining chip for the town in their negotiations with the developer and/or the OMB when the appeal is filed. 

Traffic and density will not win the battle - the province wants more intensification and the developers want more profit per square foot - and frankly the township wants and needs more tax revenue. So increased density has been accepted as a necessary evil, and traffic is just an offshoot of that. 

Two issues remain that I think the developers and council have not considered yet, and which prove more fruitful as a solid justification for a smaller development. 

The first is the proposed mix of units - 1 bedroom and studios versus 2 and 3 bedroom units - which Slessor has not revealed yet either in their plans or their sales documentation. If Newmarket wishes to remain a family based community, they need to push for more 2 or 3 bedroom units which will reduce the traffic problem considerably, and minimize the number of units available for sale thereby driving the purchase price and reducing the demand for more height. One bedroom or studio units are out of place in Newmarket, as they attract a transient population reliant on public transit; which will not be adequate for their purposes as they want to live and work within walking distance like they do in downtown Toronto. Unless, of course, there is a major commercial development coming to Newmarket that Council is not allowed to speak about yet. 

The second is the issue of life-safety. Newmarket's official plan is based on 8 stories; Emergency services have been provisioned and capitalized based on that assumption. Any deviation from the planned height cap will require the township to review how they have provisioned for those services. If the developer wishes to grow beyond that cap, they should be paying for the extra height - and pass the cost onto the purchasers - not the residents of the town who have already agreed with the official plan. For example, fire trucks can be equipped to reach up to 120 feet or 10 to 12 stories; likely Newmarket has not equipped any of the existing firetrucks to reach that high. So that means new and/or more fire fighting equipment will be required - as well as the fire fighters will have to be trained in high rise fire suppression tactics. The physical conditioning standards for these fire fighters will have to enhanced as they will be required to potentially reach higher floors. 

The same exists for the ambulance service - specialized equipment will be required and potentially more and/or better trained attendants. Imagine having to carry out a person from the 26th floor who has just had a stroke or a heart attack and there is a power failure in the area. The attendants will need a special chair lift to extricate the victim and have to be in top physical condition to complete that task without causing further injury to the victim or themselves. 

Considering the development will be home to two seniors residences, the police services in York will be stretched thin if it ever became necessary for them to lock the development down to search for a missing senior. I spent five years with Metro Toronto Police Services, and was involved in a search for a missing women in Etobicoke. The police locked down and searched a single 16 storey apartment building with four external entrances and an underground parking garage, and it took 40 officers eight hours to execute the search. Imagine if you will the Slessor Square development with two seniors residences or approximately 500 resident seniors, interconnected with three floors of office and retail space, two large buildings and a recreation complex. I can only imagine the number of officers required to lock down and search such a large complex like that - 200, 300 maybe 400 uniformed officers. Given that York region only has 250 to 300 officers on duty at any time, I don't think our police force can handle a call like that. So additional officers will be required or lives may be lost.