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What's Going Up: Plan for 200 new homes in Newmarket changing after public outcry

Developer commits to public access to natural area on Stonehaven Avenue, but plans to go ahead with demolition of 20-year-old police union building
2021-07-13-600 Stonehaven Update-JQ
Stonehaven Residents' Committee member John Birchall said they are working to preserve the environment at 600 Stonehaven Ave., the site of a proposed development.

The developers of a project for more than 200 homes at 600 Stonehaven Ave. in Nemarket are preparing to put the project back into the public eye after months of negotiations following initial opposition from area residents.

Marianneville Stonehaven Limited intends to make a planning resubmission to the Town of Newmarket this week after months of work adjusting the application based on feedback. The company plans to put approximately 62 detached homes and 142 townhouses on the 40-acre property, purchased from the York Regional Police Association.

Marianneville Stonehaven Limited vice-president Joanne Barnett said the developer has responded to residents’ comments and changed plans accordingly, including enhancing public access to the natural area on the property.

“They can get to the public space and they don’t have to encounter the new development to do that. That is a major consideration we have accommodated,” Barnett said. “We have worked tirelessly and vigilantly to make sure we impact the existing community as little as possible.”

The initial proposal involves using half of the 40-acre property for the houses, with the remaining half protected from development as a floodplain and wetland. A public meeting was held October 2020, after which the developer began working on a resubmission based on feedback.

The development attracted concern from nearby residents, who formed the Stonehaven Residents’ Committee with the support of Ward 1 Councillor Grace Simon. Citizens had issues with density of development, the environmental impact, and loss of green space.

Committee member John Birchall said the group has met with the developer on several occasions since the public meeting. He said the idea is to work out a compromise. 

“We’re not here to try and kill it, we’re here to try and find an answer that works for the community, works for you (the developer), and works for the town, which is a different approach than not in my backyard,” Birchall said.

He said the hope is to protect as much of the environmental area as possible The group believes the proposal is too dense, though Barnett said the number of units is not changing much in the resubmission.

“The developer’s been fair,” Birchall said. “But in the same sense, what they presented was far too much density, in far too little space, in an environmentally sensitive area.”

Barnett said they have worked to address any environmental concerns put forward, including comments by the Simcoe Region Conservation Authority. She said it is advantageous to work with residents. 

“It’s the right thing to do, and it has been very effective,” she said.

But one point of concern not changing is around the planned demolition of the 20-year-old police association building currently on the property. 

The residents committee had asked about repurposing the building. But with the police association planning to vacate it by the end of August, the developer intends to apply for a demolition permit in the fall. The demolition could proceed regardless of the development application.

“It has no heritage value, and it won’t remain on the site,” Barnett said.

Birchall said though the demolition is an issue, saving the building is not the top priority.

“We said the focus needs to be on saving some of this (environment) because it’s more critical. So, if we have to give up the building, it’s still a priority, but it’s not a number 1 priority,” Birchall said. 

The Town of Newmarket said once a resubmission is received, it will be circulated for review, though there is no timeline yet for a report to council. 

Barnett said if council approves the zoning bylaw amendment necessary for the project, they hope to start building homes by next summer.

She added she hopes for a good public feedback on efforts to ensure there is stronger public access to the natural area. 

“I hope that there’s a positive response to the effort we’ve made." 

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Joseph Quigley

About the Author: Joseph Quigley

Joseph is the municipal reporter for NewmarketToday.
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