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Packed house at BWG council for public meeting

'Conform to our community and not the other way around,' ward councillor says to developers

The planners behind a townhouse development backing onto Roughly Street had a rough time with the neighbours Tuesday night.

Bradford West Gwillimbury council held a public meeting to learn more about the proposal for lands located at 2659 Line 8, a 1.16-hectare parcel of land where Eighth Line GP Inc. wants to build 46 townhouses. Residents on Roughly Street and Prince Drive in particular do not want the proposal to move forward.

An overflow crowd filled the Zima Room at the Bradford West Gwillimbury Public Library and Cultural Centre and many took the opportunity to speak out during the public meeting. Prior to the meeting “numerous e-mail inquiries from area and adjacent land owners,” were received, staff indicated. Those were echoed during the nearly two-and-a-half-hour session.

Many of the residents who spoke clarified they weren’t opposed to development, specifically development on that property. What they were opposed to was a proposal that seemed “problematic.”

“It’s not in the downtown core; it’s at the very edge of the line of the urban area… to me, it doesn’t fit in with good planning practices,” said Natalie Sparks, who felt the proposed density was far too great to be in a neighbourhood of singles and semi-detached homes. “As a resident, I knew it was going to be developed; it was inevitable…. Unfortunately, the people who bought it are going to do something that is not going to be good for the people who currently live there.”

Sparks was one of many who bemoaned the lack of suitable greenspace in the neighbourhood, something the development as proposed wouldn’t alleviate. In fact, none of the townhouses would have private backyards. Rather, personal recreation space would be confined to rooftop decks.

“These three-to-four-storey buildings on this infill lot will be looking down directly into the yards of all the existing homes (on Prince Drive),” said Gary Gill. “This is both a safety and privacy concern for families on this street.”

The property is currently home to a historical farmhouse, barn and accessory buildings. The home received heritage designation in 2022 and will be spared the wrecking ball, with it to be severed from the rest of the property and likely sold at a later date, councillors were told.

Gill thought a development of single-detached homes would better suit the parcel of land as it would match the existing neighbourhood. In fact, a subdivision of single-detached homes was originally planned for the land, near the time the rest of the neighbourhood was built, however, the then owners chose not to sell, and nothing moved forward.

Now, with new owners of the property, the proposal lacks the small-town appeal that many residents wish to remain in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

“It is a town – t-o-w-n – not a city (and) I would like it to remain a town,” said Greg Sim, who identified himself as buying one of the first homes on Prince Drive 25 years ago. “The area is all single-family homes. Roughly as 30-foot lots; Prince has 45- and 50-foot lots. It’s a nice area to grow up (and) these homes are going to have no yards…. If these kids can’t play in yards, where are they going to play?”

Whether it was the increase in traffic residents believe is bound to occur – especially with a planned right-in right-out and median on Line 8 - or varying concerns about safety – from danger to pedestrians to the potential for violence and sexual assaults – every member of the public who spoke did so in opposition to what was being proposed.

Town councillors weren’t impressed either.

“This is a nightmare to me,” said Coun. Peter Dykie, who added of all the developments he’s seen proposed in his nearly four decades on council, this was the one where he was able to compile a list of negatives the fastest.

Coun. Nickolas Harper is the ward council for the area in question. Of all councillors, he’s likely faced the greatest amount of concern from the residents in their attempts to stop the development. He lauded the developer for being “sympathetic” to the heritage building currently on the property but felt it was being treated better than the neighbours on Roughly Street and Prince Drive.

“We’re empathetic to the building but we need to make sure we work together and it builds toward the town and the neighbourhoods surrounding it,” Harper said. “When you say you want to be sympathetic and empathetic to the heritage site, I see that and I respect that. But what I don’t see is an empathy to our neighbours and the neighbourhoods surrounding this area…. Conform to our community and not the other way around.”

Coun. Peter Ferragine echoed Harper’s comments, adding while the town has a mandate to add housing and create places for people to live, it has a responsibility to ratepayers to do so in a way where it conforms to the community it’s being added into.

The draft plan divides the property into five blocks, with Blocks 3, 4 and 5 being where the 46 units would be constructed, back-to-back, in six three-storey buildings. Site access is proposed from Line 8, with private connections being made to Roughly Street and Prince Drive.

Under the rezoning requested, the minimum lot area for interior units would be 150 square metres, a reduction of 20 square metres from standard Residential Two zoning.

Coun. Jonathan Scott said he went into the meeting with his eyes open to the development’s potential. He was very quickly taken aback by what he saw.

“I was surprised, with all due respect, with how bad it was,” Scott said, who said the proposal felt like a first draft rather than something ready to be presented to the public. “I don’t understand a lot of what you’re doing here.”

Scott highlighted the deficiencies raised by local agencies and town departments, as collected in the staff report, including the Bradford West Gwillimbury Fire Department, which “noted a number of technical issues regarding the proposed Site Plan and Site Servicing,” the staff report indicated, including “fire access routes, water distribution design and supply requirements, conformity with the Ontario Building Code regulations, location of water connections, parking and fire route signage, and other technical site servicing matters.”

Other concerns outlined in the report included the Lake Simcoe Regional Conservation Authority’s request for the town to defer any approval until it is satisfied with the stormwater management scheme for the site, and the town’s engineering department identifying “numerous technical issues” that needed to be addressed.

Staff will review the comments and come back to council at a later date with a recommendation on whether or not to proceed with the development.

Mayor James Leduc reminded residents that infill projects such as the one proposed would be essential for the town to meet its provincial obligation to grow to 85,000 without destroying what little remaining farmland is left. But it doesn’t mean such applications are rubber-stamped and ready to break ground.

“We appreciate your comments, we want to hear them; that’s what this is all about, this open process,” Leduc said to residents at the end of the meeting. “We will fight for you. We will make sure we get the best development of it.”