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High-rise plan downed

In Barrie
Sep 21st, 2010

nother high-rise project has been shot down at city hall.
Barrie councillors have nixed a proposed residential/commercial development at 300 Essa Rd., where 3,000 people could have lived in a mix of five high-rise apartments and townhouses, and where 143,000 square feet of commercial space could have been built, on about 11.6 acres of land.
The city’s planning department recommended denial of the Clawson Group’s development, and councillors followed suit Monday.
“To me, the answer is clear,” said Coun. Michael Prowse, who represents this part of the city. “The (Clawson) application needs to conform to our intensification study and Official Plan, and it does not.
“The applicant needs to rec-o gnize their application is about eight-to-nine times too large and they would need to seriously reduce the commercial component and need to eliminate the development on the environmentally protected area.”
“We simply haven’t seen four buildings of this size, with commercial, before,” said Coun. Jeff Lehman. “It’s far too far away from the plan.”
“Quite simply, it is too much for the area to handle,” said Coun. John Brassard. “We are going to see more of these high-density developments going forward.”
Ontario’s Places to Grow and the provincial planning policy encourage intensified develop-m e nt. But Prowse said this development does not meet any of the city’s thresholds.
“I am delighted that planning staff have come to the same conclusion,” he said. “This doesn’t close the door forever on some sort of development.”
Clawson has been asked to change its plans — to reduce the density and respect the property’s environmental protection area. The new plans would also require another public meeting.
Residents expressed concerns about density, heights and the resulting traffic — for this property on Essa’s east side, south of Bryne Drive — during a public meeting in June. The city has received about 120 e-mails about this development, with the majority of them in opposition.
Prowse said he has about 300 e-mails from residents who want to know the status of this development.
This denial could cost the city money, however. Current property taxes on this land are $15,125 annually. That would jump to $3.3 million when developed. Building permits would generate $2.2 million and development charges $21 million.
Stephen Fagyas, of the Toronto firm Commercial Focus Advisory Services, representing developer the Clawson Group, asked council Monday for a 60-day delay.
“This request is highly problematic and regretful for our client, as we have been working for many months closely with the (city) planning staff to get this matter in front of (councillors),” he said. “However, upon our review of the staff report, we require consultation with (city staff ) … to ascertain why significant elements of our proposal have been ‘glossed over’.”
Fagyas said this included the proposal’s rental housing, its transit-oriented element and environmental sustainability, and the benefits of the village concept. Clawson says this development will create as many as 28 full-time jobs and more than 60 part-time positions.
“It is, however, ironic that, for several months now, the developer (Clawson) has badgered city staff to bring forward the staff report ‘forthwith’ and demanding that it be presented before the election,” Prowse said.
He said any delay is only appropriate when the developer is close to the city’s standards and minor changes are required. The delay was not granted.
“In this case, they have missed the mark in virtually every category and I believe the only appropriate response is to deny the application,” Prowse said. “They can submit a new application, should they choose, properly reflecting the city’s standards for acceptable development.”
City planning staff have met with Clawson and its consultants about density concerns, but the developer didn’t revise its plans before the public meeting and hasn’t to date.
The Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority has told the city that the majority of this property is classified as Level 1, the highest category, in its natural heritage system, based on significant woodlands, wildlife habitat, a wetland and endangered species — and functions as a groundwater recharge and discharge area. The LSRCA also says the development area is too large.
Prowse sent out postcards to residents earlier this year, advising them of the ‘Village of Essa Woods’ application. He’s said Clawson has been unwilling to address the project’s density — five high-rise apartments from 14 to 25 storeys, 1,130 apartments, 31 town-houses for a total of 1,161 units, and 143,000 sq. ft. of retail, commercial and office space.
But Fagyas has said the plan supports provincial intensification policies and is environmentally sensitive. The project would designate about 10 of its 21.5 acres as environmental protection, and be accessible to the public, complies with provincial planning policies calling for complete communities, that a transportation study shows there are no adverse impacts, and that it offers a variety of housing types — rental, market and for seniors.
But Prowse says this property isn’t even identified as an intensification node in the city’s intensification study. If it was, the target density would be about 1,180 people.
Prowse also questions whether this land is suitable for conversion from employment lands (industrial) to non-employment purposes. He says the province wants such requests to include a municipal comprehensive review, which, in this case, hasn’t been done.
These lands are designated general industrial, which means they are to be used for manufacturing, processing, servicing, the storage of goods and raw materials, and industrial warehousing.
Prowse is also concerned about the traffic impact in the Highway 400/Essa Road area, and local roads, given additional road work and widening for the area is still years away.
This was the second large development in two weeks that’s been given a rough ride at Barrie City Hall.
Last week’s public meeting on Baywood Homes/Options for Homes’ development plans to build 2,174 units on nearly 100 acres of land, at 700 and 725 Mapleview Dr. East, faced opposition from residents.
They, too, were concerned about the sheer size of its medium-and high-density housing project, including street townhouses, four-and six-plexes, and a number of apartments varying from six to 24 storeys.
Baywood/Options is asking for changes to the city’s Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw, and approval of its subdivision plan for this development on this land, located immediately east of the St. Paul’s GO Transit Station, and the plan includes 46 acres deeded to the city.

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