|Posted by Darryl Wolk on February 11, 2014 at 11:10 AM|
By Edward LaRusic
Whether or not to cap building heights in Newmarket is
brewing as municipal election issue as a draft urban centres
secondary plan nears completion.
Regional councillor John Taylor is at odds with city staff
recommendations which permit a maximum height of 20
storeys at the Yonge Street and Davis Drive intersection, with
section 37 density bonusing allowing for up to 30 storeys.
Taylor told NRU that he thinks it is premature to allow such
density in the city.
“Early in the process, I asked that we explore height limits
of approximately 15 storeys, and made a motion to that eff ect
about two years ago. We’re coming very close to the end
[of the secondary plan process] now, and staff has set up a
series of height and density limits throughout the secondary
plan areas. Part way through the process, [staff ] brought
in bonusing, which is not an uncommon concept through
section 37, but they added those on top.”
Staff is recommending that at the Yonge-Davis intersection,
that heights of 20 storeys be allowed, stepping down to 15 storeys
for adjacent properties. Along Yonge to the immediate north and
south, as well as Davis to the east, staff recommends 10 storeys be
allowed, stepping down to 6 storeys to allow
a transition to nearby residential neighbourhoods. Additional
height may be achieved through section 37 bonusing, which
would allow buildings as tall as 30, 25, 18, and 8 storeys in the
respective areas. Staff also recommend in the draft report that 15
storeys—25 with section 37 bonusing—be allowed in the Yonge-
Mulock Drive area to the south, as well as the Bolton Avenue-
Davis Drive intersection near the regional healthcare centre.
Taylor believes that the height limits that staff are recommending
in the draft report are not only out of touch with what
he believes is appropriate for Newmarket, but also are heights
that do not refl ect what developers would be willing to build.
“I think Newmarket being quite a bit smaller and earlier in
its development is unlikely to see anything of that magnitude.
We’d be leaving benefi ts on the table. I just don’t think
[developers] would be building buildings of those heights.
So why not make it a little more restrictive? You can change
it every 5 years through the offi cial plan [review]. I think in
some ways we’re losing an opportunity.”
Taylor is not clear when he would be moving a motion to
address height limits, but suspects it will be in a month or two.
He said he is waiting until at least a February 10 workshop
with staff members about the secondary plan that helps lay out
“In all likelihood, I’m going to move a motion that any
[section 37] bonusing be allocated within the original height
limits of 20, 15, 10 and 6.”
The issue is being pushed into the spotlight thanks to Darryl
Wolk, a candidate for Taylor’s regional seat in the upcoming
municipal election. Wolk does not support height limits.
“My take is that if you put an arbitrary cap, it’s not going to
hold up at the [Ontario Municipal Board].”
Wolk said that he would prefer that council look at
development applications on a case by case basis to judge
whether the proposed height is appropriate, and to work out
any community benefi ts with the developer.
“If you’re talking about an intersection like Yonge and
Davis, let’s see what proposals come in, and judge them on
their merits, rather than setting an arbitrary limit. If you set
a 15-storey height limit, you’d wind up with routine, ugly,
Wolk said that Newmarket council has been too quick to
fi ght every application that comes its way. He said that the
town is a growing economic centre. He believes that if the
town is to be serious about protecting the greenbelt lands that
surround it, must add density to the core—especially to create
“I realize that not everyone is in support of growth. We need
to tell them what they need to hear, not what they want to hear.”
Newmarket senior policy planner Marion Plaunt told
NRU that the recommended heights in the draft secondary
plan were developed by looking at both low growth scenarios
projected by York Region, and high growth scenarios from a
2010 visioning document.
“We went to the public with that, and then based on the
input from that engagement, we developed the development
concept that looked at where there were opportunities for the
greatest density and height, and where there were areas that
should remain quiet.”
Plaunt said that the process continues to be tweaked,
and that urban design principles are going to apply to any
application, potentially limiting building heights less than the
draft secondary plan suggests. Plaunt said that staff is examining
using 45 degree angular planes when assessing
applications to provide an appropriate transition to neighbouring
residential buildings, and to limit shadow impacts.
Plaunt said that whether council wishes to allow greater
heights in order to qualify for section 37 benefi ts is a decision
it can decide to make or not.
“Th e [height] bonus is at council’s discretion.”
Taylor said he is open to having his mind changed.
“I’m not married to [having height limits]. I’m always open
to being educated.”
Newmarket mayor Tony Van Bynen said he shares Taylor’s
concerns about the section 37 bonusing proposal, and doesn’t
think the market would allow a 30-storey building in Newmarket.
“I think the purpose of the secondary plan is to set out a
framework that defi nes what council—having consulted with
the community—feels is appropriate. If a developer feels there
is a market for more than that, there are processes that are in
place that have to [be followed to have that] happen.”
“I think it’s more than just height limits. It’s around community
building, and it’s around making sure there is a good transition
between the existing built form and residential areas.”
Staff will be seeking further direction from council about
the refi ned secondary plan on February 24th, with an aim to get
a recommendation from council to send the secondary plan to
York Region for approval in May.