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”. 

Ring! Ring!

Ring! Ring!

I pick up the phone to hear my MP, Lois Brown, on the other end of the line.

It is Saturday morning around 9.30am and I am mightily impressed that Lois is calling to talk about Slessor Square.

Earlier in the week I am in touch with her office to be told she doesn’t comment on matters that fall within the jurisdiction of the Town.

Fair enough.

If she restricts all her public pronouncements to matters that fall within her Federal bailiwick then I can’t complain.

On the other hand she lives here and pays taxes here. Surely, I say, she must have a view on the biggest development Newmarket has ever seen.

Lois concedes she doesn’t want Newmarket to look like downtown Toronto.

The real villain of the piece is, apparently, the Places to Grow Act which she describes as

 the McGuinty Plan to move people out of the Toronto area.


Lois moves the conversation on to Glenway.

She explains that, back in the 1980s, there was a contract with the Town safeguarding the golf course for 25 years. Now, alas, time’s up.

Oh dear!

It’s all about a fusty old contract!

Her colleague, Frank Klees, doesn’t mention this. (see blog below)

Predictably, he blames the Places to Grow Act.

Par for the course, I’d say.

Just received this from Newmarket's senior planner, Marion Plaunt, who is responsible for the Slessor file.

Given the limited space at the venue for Monday evening at the Community Centre and the anticipated interest from the community, I am providing the following Update to advise that Dwight Slessor Holding’s Limited is proposing a reduction in height and that other opportunities will be provided for the residents to review and provide feedback on the revised plans.

Please feel free to share the following information with your group.

Please be advised that in response to community feedback, Dwight Slessor Holdings Ltd. has revised their proposal to reduce the height of their Yonge Street development to a maximum of 16 stories. The developer is currently in the process of finalizing the details of the proposal.

There will be numerous opportunities to review the details of the plan, including:

·        The revised plan and accompanying presentation will be available on the Town of Newmarket website at early next week

·        A community engagement meeting on Monday evening

·        Additional meetings for public review and input will be scheduled.

As always, we need to see the small print. 

But this is an encouraging sign of movement.

The “Community Engagement” meeting on Slessor Square will take place at 7-9pm on Monday 23 April 2012 in Halls 3 and 4 at the Community Centre, Doug Duncan Drive, Newmarket.

Marion Plaunt, the Town’s senior planner in charge of the Slessor file, tells me the developer will be reporting back “on all the questions and issues” including the question of height and the viewshed work.

I am told the Town will not be live streaming the event nor doing a YouTube of the presentation and Q&A afterwards – as we had requested -  because of “privacy issues”.

Pity. This is a great opportunity to reach out to the wider public who, for one reason or another, may not be able to get along to the meeting on Monday.

Time to state the obvious.

It is important to get as many people along to the meeting as possible. Numbers matter.

Councillors and, indeed, Town hall staff, count heads.

If half a dozen people turn up, the developers will breathe a huge sigh of relief.

We've got to keep focussed on the issues the developers don't want to talk about.

Generally speaking, they prefer to deal with small manageable groups of people. It makes the process of getting planning approval much less fraught than it otherwise might be.

If the viewshed work becomes available before the meeting (fat chance!) I shall post it here on ShrinkSlessor.


Frank Klees, our MPP, deserves a pat on the back for his super fast response to my query about Slessor Square.

Alas I am none the wiser. He is not going to stick his nose into someone else's business. Slessor isn't a matter for him.

Here is our exchange this afternoon:

Hi Frank

I am a constituent of yours. I live on Harrison Drive , Newmarket , not too far from the proposed Slessor Square development.

I've just searched your website but can't find a reference to Slessor Square . Have I missed it?

I'd really appreciate your views.

I think it's too high and too bulky with far too many parking spaces. Do you agree?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Gordon Prentice

Frank replies

 Hello Gordon, glad to respond to your inquiry regarding Slessor Square.

The reason there is no reference on my website to this project, is that this project  is under the jurisdiction of the Town of Newmarket and the Region of York. I have my plate full with the provincial issues for which I'm responsible and will leave my municipal counterparts to deal with theirs.

Should an issue arise involving this project that involves a provincial interest, I will gladly make the resources of my office available. 

Thanks for your note, and I trust this answers your question.

Frank Klees, MPP

I get back to him

Hello again

I am very impressed by your super-fast response. 

I know you are very busy and don't want to take up your time unnecessarily but what is the difference between Glenway, where you have expressed a view, and Slessor Square, where you have chosen not to?

I promise not to turn this into a ping pong.

Gordon Prentice

And Frank replies 

The difference is that the Glenway development issue involves a provincial policy (Places to Grow Act) that over rides the Official Plan of the Town and the Region.

I voted against that legislation when it was introduced because I believe the province should respect local decision-making.

To my knowledge, that is not the case with the Slessor project.