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Newmarket neighbours reject housing proposal for Gorham

'I can assure you that I will be taking a very active stance on what I think can be done to improve this site,' councillor says in support of residents

A 184-signature petition roundly rejecting a proposed 22-unit housing development on a one-acre parcel of land on Gorham Street is among the mounting opposition to the project.

Developer Gorham Developments 849 Inc. wants to build three blocks of three-storey townhouses totalling 20 units and two semi-detached homes at 849 Gorham St., between Alexander Road and Carlson Drive/Doak Lane.

The proposed design for the townhouses include flat roofs, a first for the neighbourhood that features peaked roofs on bungalows, side-splits and two-storey homes. There is a potential for amenities to be located on the flat rooftops such as patios.

A single house now stands on the landscaped lot that has been operating as a commercial business.

More than a dozen neighbours shared their concerns during a virtual Newmarket council meeting Monday.

Thornwillow Court resident Ted Bomers who, along with several neighbours, undertook the arduous task of going door-to-door to collect signatures while adhering to pandemic safety measures, said concerns about the proposed development run the gamut.

Bomers cites as troubling the mid-summer timing of the original public meeting that was rescheduled to Aug. 31 to give residents time to comment, the high-density nature of the complex, the potential loss of mature trees that provide privacy and environmental benefits, and that the proposal doesn’t fit with the established character or streetscape of the mature neighbourhood. 

More than a dozen other nearby residents submitted similar concerns to council, noting that the developer’s plan so far doesn’t provide enough on-site parking, and garbage and snow removal logistics lack sufficient detail.

Bomers takes particular issue with the townhouse design that features flat roofs for rooftop amenities, where new homeowners may install wet bars, hot tubs, furniture and barbecues.

“I don’t feel it is appropriate for the area, the town currently has no regulation on rooftop amenities, so anything goes,” he said. “How do you call this neighborhood compatibility?”

New rules and policies around new builds and renovations for single houses on one lot could come later this fall after a report known as the established neighbourhoods compatibility study is expected to provide guidance to council on infill development. An interim control bylaw that remains in place until that time is meant to put a freeze on so-called monster homes.

Those new policies would not cover a housing development such as the one being proposed for Gorham Street, however.

“I did a quick calculation of what the increase in lot coverage would be (on the Gorham proposal) and it’s over 800 per cent,” said Bomers. “It’s just unbelievable that they (council) is so short-sighted in not taking this type of development into consideration, along with the impact on the neighbourhood. This area is part of the established neighbourhood study.”

“For the town to say it’s only applicable to single houses is ridiculous,” Bomers added. “I hope the town councillors are cognizant of that. And the planning department seems eager to push this through, but they need to seriously look at this because they’ll be providing a final report with recommendations to council.”

The developer’s application would require an amendment to the town’s official plan, which is now zoned as stable residential, as well as a zoning bylaw amendment from the current residential detached dwelling status to allow both townhouse and semi-detached dwellings.

In a remote deputation regarding the Gorham development, Sparrow Road resident Katherine Whewell, whose home backs onto the subject property, said she and her husband are “totally opposed” to the proposal.

“Twenty, three-storey townhouses and two three-storey semi-detached homes is not a good fit for our neighbourhood at all, in fact, these are the most unattractive townhouses I have seen to date,” Whewell said. “Whoever designed this complex deserves to win the worst design award of the year.”

Whewell said the neighbourhood is a “vibrant, well-established community”, with most of the homes owner-occupied. The homes are well-cared for in the quiet neighbourhood, and everyone gets along regardless of background, she said.

“We spend most of our time in the neighbourhood, we enjoy our home and our property, and entertain in our backyards quite a bit,” said Whewell. “Because of the tall evergreens surrounding the property at 849 Gorham St. and its business hours, we have enjoyed quiet weekends in our backyard.”

Whewell also took issue with the proposed removal of more than 40 mature evergreen trees on the property, which provides a privacy screen for nearby homeowners.

Area councillor Victor Woodhouse took note of the residents’ concerns and said the developer “certainly has work ahead of them”.

“They (developer and its representatives) are going to need to be listening to council and the issues raised, and listening to what the residents have said,” Woodhouse said. “So I’m looking forward to engaging with residents, staff, and the proponent of the property to see how we can move forward here.”

“I can assure you that I will be taking a very active stance on what I think can be done to improve this site,” Woodhouse added.

Representatives for the developer, LARKIN+ Land Use Planners, confirmed in an email to NewmarketToday that an informal community meeting regarding the Gorham housing proposal has been tentatively scheduled for Oct. 1, 2020.

Due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, the meeting will be held outside on the subject property.

If you’d like to attend the meeting, email John Buckley at jab@larkinplus.com.

To review the proposed development plans for 849 Gorham St., visit here.

To submit your feedback to the town, email clerks@newmarket.ca.

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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