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Bigger not better in Newmarket as building ban takes effect

Small-scale additions, approved projects can continue while Town conducts a $150,000 study to identify neighbourhoods' unique characteristics and tweak policies to respect established streetscapes
20190223 monster home newmarket
This new home on Elgin Street in Newmarket, shown here during construction in July 2018, towers over its neighbours. It is often cited as an example of development that doesn't blend with existing housing or the surrounding neighbourhood. Google Map photo

The unique architectural characteristics that make up your neighbourhood are likely to stay that way after Newmarket council approved a temporary ban on any new homes or additions that fall outside a stringent set of new rules during its one-year study period.

Effective Jan. 21, 2019, the interim control bylaw freezes new home building on single or vacant lots and most additions to existing homes in many established and emerging areas in Newmarket, including residential lands adjacent to historic Main Street South and in the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The bylaw also applies to vacant lots that may be suitable for subdivision development. Building projects already approved prior to Jan. 21 will continue.

This comes after “a high level of concern” among some residents about so-called monster home construction that is not compatible with the look and feel of existing houses within the town’s mature neighbourhoods.

“We needed to improve our policy and the best way to do that would be to put an interim bylaw in place that would stop inappropriate infill and very large infill that is not appropriate to the housing beside it and neighbourhood around it,” Mayor John Taylor said. “That’s underway, and we will have a new policy that will find the right balance between ensuring infill development respects the neighbourhood, but will also allow for renewal and rejuvenation and for people to build homes and renew neighbourhoods.”

A request for proposal was issued last month for consultants to lead the $150,000 study, an expenditure approved in 2018 by the previous council.

Through extensive public consultation and at least one public information meeting, the study’s goal is to identify the unique character of Newmarket’s many neighbourhoods and recommend policies that complement and are compatible with the existing streetscapes.

Councillor Jane Twinney said the infill development issue has been an important one for residents for quite some time.

“There’s been a lot of discussion about infill development in our community and (the one-year ban) does allow some breathing space and opportunities for public input,” she said. “We don’t want it to go on too long. We chose an option that still allows for small-scale additions, so it doesn’t outright ban all opportunities for development.”

Councillor Bob Kwapis noted some communities in Newmarket are “very different from each other”.

“This (temporary bylaw) is just to put a pause button on anything brand new coming forward to make sure that whatever we want to approve is approved smartly, and that (the proposed development) makes sense for each individual community,” he said.

The bylaw prohibits the following:

  • Increasing the height of residential dwellings;
  • Building new residential dwellings on vacant lots;
  • Expanding the floor area of existing residential dwellings by 25 per cent or more and;
  • Rebuilding a residential dwelling with 25 per cent or more floor area.
The bylaw is in effect until Jan. 21, 2020, unless extended by Newmarket council for one additional year in accordance with section 38 of the Planning Act, or repealed by council at an earlier date. Council can also make an exception to the bylaw at any time.

For more information, visit the Town of Newmarket’s Interim Control Bylaw page.

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Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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