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What's Going Up: Neighbours raise issue with Newmarket 'monster home'

Eden Court neighbours question compatibility of house towering over their bungalows, but town says house under construction meets permitted height allowances
Some residents of Newmarket's Eden Court are expressing concern about a new home's compatibility with the surrounding area, despite a town study several years ago.

What's Going Up is a regular NewmarketToday series highlighting growth and development that is proposed and ongoing in town.

Patricia and Warden Hawke weren't expecting the jaw-dropping sight they would see upon returning to their Eden Court home in Newmarket after a summer vacation.

The new house being build across from their home had progressed, with framing underway. Even without a roof, it was rising well above the one-storey bungalows on the court. Now, it is towering well above surrounding homes as construction continues. 

Patricia said she and husband are concerned about “monster homes” springing up across town, questioning how well the town’s efforts to address the compatibility of new builds in existing neighbourhoods have worked.

“Maybe nothing can be done about this house across the street, but something needs to be done, or not, for the future,” she said. “If the town doesn’t care and people don’t care, let it continue.” 

The town put in place a building freeze on single or vacant lots a couple of years ago to do a neighborhood compatibility study in a bid to address so-called “monster homes” being built. Council amended its bylaws based on the study, with recommendations that include recognizing built-form patterns of each neighbourhood, while acknowledging the value of diverse housing types and requiring development in residential areas to be compatible with existing built forms.

But the Hawke family said it seems strange for a house like this one, high above its neighbours, to be allowed after such a study concluded.

“I just don’t get it. What did the town spend $150,000 for on a study to allow that?” Patricia said. “Coming to a neighbourhood near you. Do you want this?”

There is a homeowner, but the development is being done by Imperial Design Inc., a luxury home builder. NewmarketToday did not receive a reply to a request for comment from Imperial before publication time.

Director of planning and building Jason Unger said new dwellings on existing lots are exempt from site plan control, meaning only a building permit is required. He said the home does meet the height requirements of the municipal bylaw.

The new bylaw did reduce the lot coverage from 35 per cent to 30 per cent, which this new home is violating by covering 31.5 per cent of the lot. Unger said a minor variance application is required and will be reviewed by the committee of adjustment.

He said the compatibility study “focuses on the ability for residents to make improvements to their property,” while still considering the neighbourhood's character.

Anita Sehaap, another resident of Eden Court, said the size of the house was an unexpected development.

“I'm very surprised the town let a big, two-storey house get built in a small court like that,” she said. “What can you do? Nothing, really.” 

Warden Hawke said the new house will also impact the neighbourhood by possibly resulting in an increase in property values and an accompanying hike in taxes. He added that a real estate agent has already appeared at their door, asking them to sell, and he believes builders are looking for prospective places to demolish and replace with bigger houses.

“I don’t care if it’s to code,” he said of the new home across from his, “it’s a giant, freaking, eyesore.” 

The province does plan to allow for more flexibility on single lots, with landowners having the right to build up to three residential units without a bylaw amendment. But that is meant to allow for things like more add-on suites and homes, rather than replacing a single home with another one. 

Patricia said she has no issue with new, denser developments, or new builds that fit in with the character of the surrounding community. But she said something like this is different, and Newmarket should be wary of allowing more “monster homes” to spring up in existing neighbourhoods.

“It doesn’t fit here,” she said. “It looks ridiculous.”