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Newmarket residents can have say on developer's bid to get environmental protections lifted

A public meeting to discuss Shining Hill Estate's proposal to have two protected areas of Newmarket opened up for development is scheduled for Jan. 18
2021-01-05 shining estates
A map showing the two parcels of land that Shining Hill Estates is asking to be redesignated.

Newmarket residents will get their chance to have their say about whether the town should roll back environmental protections in Newmarket's southwest corner to allow development there.

A virtual public meeting has been scheduled on Monday, Jan. 18 at 1 p.m. to gather public feedback on a request from property developer Shining Hill Estates to amend Newmarket's official plan and redesignate two large parcels of undeveloped land to allow for future development. 

"The purpose of this amendment is to permit a portion of the lands to be developed for urban uses, such as a mix of low/medium residential, institutional, commercial, office, parks and open spaces uses," reads the meeting notice.

The area in question is one of the only undeveloped green spaces left within Newmarket's municipal boundaries. This is because development has been prohibited there since 2003, when the town designated it as an environmental protection area.

Much of the area is part of the Oak Ridges Moraine, a large and ecologically sensitive area protected by provincial regulations governing its use and future development. But Newmarket's blanket prohibition of development on the moraine lands is unusual compared to Aurora and York Region's policies, both of which allow development with conditions. 

Newmarket has treated the moraine lands as a "hands-off" area since the 1990s, formalizing its protected status 17 years ago.

Shining Hill Estates already owns the lands it wants redesignated to develop a new neighbourhood complete with homes, shopping areas and parks. 

The issue is shaping up to be a contentious one with reaction to NewmarketToday's initial story about the possible rollback of protections causing several commentators to call for keeping them in place. 

"Enough with the development of these beautiful natural areas. The Oak Ridges Moraine was designated as such for a reason," said D. Tennant. "Enough with the never-ending cycle of tearing down natural areas for more of the same ugly developments. Get a backbone and say no to these developments."

Jenna Goldmith agreed, writing, "When the town has no green space left, those in charge will wonder why."

"Plus, all new housing in Newmarket is overpriced and "house in a box" style construction. I'm so tired of the town being treated like one big development complex."

Joseph Alan felt a compromise could be found between the need for more housing and the need to conserve green space.

"Allow very high-density (development) on five hectares to get the proposed number of units and leave the other 150 hectares open space," he said.

The virtual public meeting will be streamed on the Town of Newmarket's website starting at 1 p.m. Anyone who would like to make some comments about the proposal has a couple of options:

1. Submit written comments by email to clerks@newmarket.ca.

In order for comments to be received by council at the statutory public meeting, written comments must be submitted to clerks@newmarket.ca by the end of day on Jan. 17.

Written comments will also continue to be received after the public meeting has concluded, after the meeting written comments can be sent to planning@newmarket.ca.

2. Speak to council during the live meeting through video conferencing (Zoom).

Individuals who wish to provide verbal representation may provide a remote (live) deputation through the Zoom platform during the council meeting. Due to the technical requirements of joining an electronic meeting, residents should pre-register for a remote (live) deputation by completing the form provided at newmarket.ca/meetings or by providing their full name and contact information by registering via clerks@newmarket.ca or by calling 905-953-5300 extension 2203.

The documents regarding the application can be found by clicking here.