Some Newmarket residents are asking council to ensure that a proposal for two 15-storey condominiums on Davis Drive won’t exacerbate existing traffic and parking woes in their neighbourhood.
“It’s a continual problem, it’s been building for years and it’s getting worse,” said David Engel, a 38-year resident of nearby Irwin Crescent who spoke to council at the statutory public meeting Monday, Jan. 13.
Other residents echoed his concerns about the gridlock at the Davis and Patterson Street intersection and side street parking problems caused by the busy York Professional Building medical centre, Hollingsworth Arena and adjacent Southlake Regional Health Centre.
“You’re going to add over 300 condos and those people are going to have cars, and you may park them underneath that building, but when they come out, they’re all coming out onto those little wee roads,” Engel said.
Briarwood Development Group is proposing to build a mixed-use residential and commercial complex at 693 and 713 Davis Dr., which would feature the two towers with a total of 318 units, connected by a three-storey “podium” with ground-floor commercial space.
“The two 15-storey point towers have been designed to contribute to a memorable and iconic skyline along this urban corridor. The vertical massing allows for a compact and efficient building footprint,” Elyse Snyder, project architect with Kohn Partnership Architects, said in her presentation.
The developer’s plan suggests access to the property can be accommodated with right-in, right-out lanes from Davis and full access from Patterson.
Two storeys of underground parking are planned, as well as 199 bicycle parking spaces.
Diarmuid Horgan, a consultant with Candevcon Limited, which conducted a traffic study for Briarwood, said traffic was monitored at the intersection over a number of days, in different seasons.
Engel dismissed the study, which predicted the development would have minimal or no impact on traffic.
“Obviously (he) doesn’t live on our streets,” he said.
Several residents were critical of the “public benefits” Briarwood is proposing in exchange for the addition of three storeys to the 12 storeys permitted under the town’s planning regulations.
The town’s list of acceptable public benefits includes cultural facilities, a special park, public art, structured parking used by the public, streetscaping, private roads that can be used by the public, human services, energy and water conservation measures beyond those required by the building code, and affordable or social housing, Horgan said.
The public benefits proposed by Briarwood are an “urban park”, gateway water feature, pedestrian linkages, a green roof and cool roof, energy and water conservation measures and low-impact development stormwater management infrastructure.
“All those items are consistent with what are considered to be public benefits by the town,” Horgan said.
However, Irwin Crescent resident Wendy Cassels suggested they would be of no benefit to residents at all.
“I don’t think there should be bonusing for something that should be happening anyway,” Cassels said of the developer’s proposals for energy and water conservation features. “In this day and age, and with climate change, this should not be happening as a bonus.”
The urban park, water feature and pedestrian linkages are simply amenities for residents of the condos, she said.
“This property does nothing out of the ordinary to be allowed an additional three storeys.”
Kim St. Jacques, who will see the condominium from her kitchen window, said she, too, is concerned about the height, parking and traffic.
“I understand the development is going to happen and I think it should be very positive for the town. When I look at other buildings that are being built throughout the area, downtown Toronto and Aurora, there’s not really a selling feature that I think is of benefit to the town,” said St. Jacques, who was born and raised in Newmarket and moved back to start her family five years ago.
“It’s kind of a typical condo building, there’s nothing special about it. I’m thinking why should we accept this plan and why should we accept the additional storeys?” she asked council. “What is the benefit to the town to have them go (to) the additional height?”
Longtime Patterson resident Charles Hanacsicn said he approves of the proposal, but asked council “to make it better”.
“I don’t agree with the bonusing for the park and other features that I think are probably common sense and that you would see at any development anywhere in the GTA,” he told council.
“What can we do with Patterson and that intersection to improve the design? … Let’s give (the developer) a bonus for something that really is meaningful.”
Park Avenue resident Patrick Monks also critiqued the proposed design, saying, “What’s wrong with innovation? Why can’t Newmarket have tall buildings that are architecturally pleasing to the eye rather than cookie-cutter buildings like we have on 212 Davis Dr.?”
Additionally, he said because the majority of the units are one-bedroom, rather than the two and three-bedroom units suitable for families, “I just see Airbnb going in there, people renting them out.”
Mayor John Taylor emphasized that the proposal is in the early stages and that none of the public benefits has been discussed or accepted, and that feedback from residents will be considered.
Councillor Jane Twinney, in whose ward the condos will be built, voiced agreement with residents’ concerns about traffic volumes.
“It is a very unusual intersection,” Twinney said. “This is an opportunity, maybe, looking at how do we enhance the intersection at Patterson and Davis.
“There’s a lot going on (with the medical centre, arena, hospital and Huron Heights high school), and a very weird, funny roadway with limited turning going east on Davis. This is a great opportunity for us to try to fix some of the issues going on there.”
Twinney added she would like to see some other community benefits offered by the developer, including increasing the number of affordable or social units.
The town’s planning department is continuing to receive comments on the development, prior to staff making a recommendation to council at an upcoming committee of the whole meeting, the date of which has not yet been set.
Residents can request to be informed of any meetings at [email protected].
All the planning documents related to the Briarwood application can be found here.