Shrink Slessor Square!

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181 Beechwood Crescent reduced to rubble

Earlier this year, the Town gave the go-ahead to Norm "Chainsaw" Stapley, the owner of 181 Beechwood Crescent, to subdivide his lot into two parcels, each to have a single detached two storey house. Norm is a builder and a developer with an eye to the main chance.

The imposing old house that had dominated the leafy lot was demolished a few days ago and nothing remains except bits of the foundations and a few piles of rubble.

The new houses will be two storeys at 2000-2500 sq ft per floor - around twice as big as the existing homes on Beechwood.

The Town's Committee of the Whole is to consider a staff report on infill development and best practice at 1.30pm on Monday 16 October 2017 at 395 Mulock Drive.

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17645 Yonge Street - here we go again

The Statutory Public Meeting for the "Redwood on Yonge" development on the old Slessor Square site, opposite Upper Canada Mall, will take place at 7pm on Monday 6 November 2017 in the Council Chamber at 395 Mulock Drive.  

The developers are also holding a second Open House on 26 October 2017 at 6pm in the Seniors' Centre on Davis Drive to brief the public and to let people into their thinking.

The Council gave Slessor Square approval in principle in February 2013 but, even at the time, this was seen by many of us as either insanely optimistic or premature. Or both.

The proposed development will be exclusively rental but the rents will be higher than York Region's affordability threshold of $1,496 per month (in 2016).

The Province's new growth plan will require the Region to work with lower tier municipalities to set targets for both affordable ownership housing and rental housing.

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1011 Elgin Street - a case study in what can go wrong with new developments in Stable Residential Neighbourhoods

Morad Dadgar's new development at 1011 Elgin Street is still under construction but already it dominates the streetscape. 

A report going to the Town's Committee of the Whole on Monday (16 October 2017) gives options for controlling this kind of inappropriate, out-of-scale, infill development but whether anything will change - at least in the short-term - is doubtful.

A similar report went to councillors in March 2012. Indeed, the latest report lifts chunks of text from the earlier one.

Insofar as we can tell, Mr Dadgar has followed all the rules.

The Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, says the owner only needed a routine Building Permit from the Town because the Zoning By-Law requirements in respect of setbacks, height and lot coverage had been met. 

Loss of Privacy 

Because the buildings were deemed to meet the Zoning By Law requirements there was no public consultation whatsoever. Neither with neighbours nor with anyone else. Issues such as overlooking and loss of privacy were never considered. (Right: windows at the rear of the new house overlook the neighbour's hitherto private garden.)

This wasn't an accident or an oversight.  The very issues identified by the Planning Department over five years ago quite simply have not been addressed.

It is perfectly possible to regulate the nature of development. That's what diligent planners are paid to do. Indeed, the March 2012 Report tells us:

"Regulating lot coverage is an excellent way to prevent overbuilding in low density residential areas. If it is determined that a particular area has an average lot coverage of 25% an approach could be to set the lot coverage for a two storey building at 25% and allow a greater amount of coverage for a bungalow at 35%. This would also encourage one storey buildings in established neighbourhoods."

The stipulated maximum lot coverage for 1011 Elgin Street is 35%. The site plan submitted to the Town's building control people showed the proposed lot coverage would be 31.3%.  The Director of Planning told me the building complies with the 35% zoning standard and that assurance is good enough for me. 

Optical illusion

Nevertheless, we see here a powerful optical illusion at work. The building at 1011 dominates the lot on which it sits yet, in reality, it occupies less than a third of the lot.

Fortunately, we can find out the approximate lot coverage through GIS mapping. The Planning Department could do this in a matter of moments. (The image right from Google shows the property as it was before the current development got under way.)

Monday's report (and, indeed, the 2012 report) says:

"Through the use of GIS mapping, the approximate lot coverage for low density dwellings in established neighbourhoods can be determined."


Infill development in stable residential neighbourhoods is all about respect. Over five years ago, in that perceptive March 2012 report, the Town's planners said this:

"While intensification is directed to the Town's urban centres, limited intensification can still occur in stable residential neighbourhoods. If done respectfully, the development can be of value to the community. However, redevelopment can occur in a manner that does not respect the built form that exists. In older neighbourhoods, the existing lot areas and frontages are large enough to accommodate larger homes while still meeting the requirements of the Zoning By-Law. As a result, new development can occur in a form that is inconsistent with the height, building footprint, design and character of the existing residential dwellings in the neighbourhood." (My underlining for emphasis.)

And that is exactly what has happened at 1011 Elgin Street.

No consultation. No discussion. No consideration.

One word says it all.


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Donald Trump and Tony Van Trappist

For years, Newmarket's Mayor, Tony Van Trappist, has blocked me from viewing his Tweets.

And now I read that Donald Trump is blocking the renowned Toronto Star Washington correspondent, Daniel Dale from looking at the daily torrent of Presidential tweets. 

Of course, there is no equivalence between the two.

I am protozoa compared with the President of the United States and the Mayor of Newmarket - the biggest fish in their respective ponds - and with Daniel Dale, the celebrated award winning journalist.

The Star is outraged on Dale's behalf.

Trump is just being Trump. But the Star's editorial this morning went further than even I expected. The paper suggested that no politician should block citizens whose criticisms they find inconvenient or annoying.

"No-one is suggesting that hateful or harassing messages shouldn't be blocked. But in a democracy, all citizens, including the news media, have the right to criticize elected officials. No politician should be allowed to exclude citizens from the public square of the 21st century just because he finds criticism inconvenient or annoying."

Of course, not all politicians have thick skins. They may be easily offended. Or feel threatened. Or just be very sensitive souls. Like our Mayor.

Van Trappist's Twitter account is private but it looks official. It is all about his public persona as the Town's first citizen. There is a photo of the great man with the heavy Mayoral gold chain of office around his neck.

I started referring to Van Bynen as "Van Trappist" years ago after observing his listlessness and inattention at meetings of York Region where he is an ex officio member. He is there because he is Mayor of Newmarket. 

Even when matters are on the agenda that directly affect Newmarket he rarely bothers to stir himself and intervene. Yet he pockets a substantial "stipend" of over $50,000 a year for his "work" on the Regional Council.

In February 2016 there was a debate on social media at the Town's Committee of the Whole. Many councillors made the point that it is perfectly legitimate to block someone who is being abusive or guilty of harassment. Absolutely. I don't disagree.

In that debate 18 months ago, Van Trappist explained why he was blocking a local Davis Drive activist from his Twitter feed:

“Yes. You are entitled to say what you have (said). And if you have something to say my view is you post that on your site. My page represents my views and anything that comes from my Twitter feed is believed to be endorsed. So I don’t feel in the slightest way obligated to advance an argument that is contrary to my views. So I don’t apologise for blocking certain people."

"I do set standards in terms of what I permit on my site and again I don’t apologise for that. But if you have something to say, set up your own site. Set up your own contacts. Send out your own messages. So you still have that right.”

So there! Comment on someone else's tweets, not mine!

The Star's editorial, calling on politicians not to block critical comment, is probably a counsel of perfection.

Van Trappist, the old banker, is not going to change his ways. Any more than Donald Trump.

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