Drawdown Newmarket-Aurora member Walter Bauer said the environmental advocacy group feels good about what they helped achieve in the Shining Hill lands.
The Town of Newmarket announced an agreement Jan. 24 with a developer to secure several concessions for future development in the environmentally protected area, including using advanced environmental design and conveying 80 acres to the town.
This comes after Drawdown pushed for the town to get more concessions back in November and Bauer said they are pleased by the results. Still, he said they would be following the process as it goes.
“It’s a win-win situation,” Bauer said. “The intent of the agreement is clear. The final legal wording is critical.”
The agreement will see the town get 80 acres of land protected in perpetuity. The applicant, Shining Hill Estate Collections Inc., will also be required to plant 5,000 trees and construct 30 homes implementing an advanced standard of environmentally progressive housing. It will also transfer 2.5 acres to Housing York Inc. to build affordable housing and ensure 25 units have fully finished legal basement secondary suites.
The company has sought rezoning for the southwest corner of town for residential development. The town had previously zoned the land as environmentally protected, though it is considered for future residential development in regional and provincial plans.
There has been some opposition from those concerned about development in sensitive areas. But Drawdown had decided instead of fighting the project, they wanted to encourage the town to steer it in a better direction, presenting a list of asks for environmentally friendly and affordable development.
“The reception from council was very good, and I think it was so because we weren't just complaining. We were trying to offer solutions,” Bauer said.
But not everyone is happy. A group of residents on Old Bathurst Street, across from the environmentally protected lands, have continually pushed back on the project.
Anthony Stewart said he is disappointed in how this is unfolding and that efforts to develop green spaces seem contradictory to governments encouraging clean energy.
“One of the draws to the Town of Newmarket was there was still some existing agricultural space, green space, and now that’s disappearing. It’s unfortunate that what attracted our families to Newmarket is disappearing,” he said.
Council committee of the whole will examine the agreement and rezoning the lands on Jan. 31. If that goes ahead, the developer will still need to go through a planning process and has indicated it would take six to 10 years to complete.
Bauer said the legal agreement still needs to be sorted out, and the “devil is in the details.” He said they also want to ensure the advanced environmental homes are strong visually, with roof solar panels.
He said he hopes this can lead to developers trying the housing model in other places.
“The idea is to get the ball rolling,” Bauer said, adding they believe those homes will sell well. “Let’s say that we’re proven right. Then the developer is going to be motivated to build more next time.”