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Councillors choose not to exercise option to buy Mapleton Avenue property

The city won’t be buying 461 Mapleton Ave., and it won’t be limiting development there to just single-family homes.

This could clear the way for a development of medium- or high-density residential units.

Councillors have decided not to exercise the city’s option to purchase this land in southwest Barrie, following the Superior Court’s Feb. 4 decision.

It found that while the residential subdivider’s agreement gave the city the right to buy this land for park purposes, the city didn’t have first refusal — allowing it to match another offer.

So the city has 30 days to waive or exercise this option, and councillors have decided on the former.

“The decision by the judge changes the language and therefore the meaning of the clause (in the subdivider’s agreement),” said Coun. Michael Prowse, who represents this part of Barrie.

Last spring, Prowse tried to amend the clause so that only single-family homes could be built on the property.

“The ruling instead gives the city only 30 days to execute our option, with no requirement for there to be another offer,” he said. “In short the amendment still stands, but will expire with the option (to purchase) if not executed in 30 days.”

Residents voiced their disapproval to townhouses and eight-plexes at 461 Mapleton Ave., in their single-family neighbourhood at a December 2012 public meeting. About 30 people spoke against it.

The 101 residential units being proposed would add traffic and crime, cut safety for children and hurt property values in the area, residents said. Many speakers said they moved to this area because it is a single-family neighbourhood, and don’t want townhouses there because it could mean renters and absent landlords.

Residents also said there wouldn’t be enough parking in this development and that congestion would only get worse in the area.

Prowse noted this property still requires a rezoning to build this development.

“That gives us a lot of control,” he said. “The rezoning was always going to be our best control mechanism on any development; the (purchase) option was really just an extra step.”

This five-acre property —located on the south side of Ardagh Road, west of Mapleton — is a former school site no longer needed by the Simcoe County District School Board for that use.

The developer is a numbered Ontario company.

Its rezoning and Official Plan application is being considered by the city’s planning department, which will prepare a staff report for councillors.

Barrie city councils have long dealt with the frustration of residents in new developments with planned school sites. They expect their children to be able to walk to school, then an education board decides the school is not needed.

The children are bused to class instead, and more residential units are built on the former school site — adding additional people and vehicles to the area, especially if it’s intensified development.

City staff didn’t recommended park use of this land when the education board made its decision not to build a school there. Its estimated purchase price of $1.5 million to $2 million would have virtually emptied the parkland reserve fund of $2.1 million at the time.

A sports fields, landscaping, parking and other infrastructure costs could add another $1 million to the price tag.

Staff looking at building soccer and/or baseball fields there

note soccer participation has dropped by 800 since 2010, and the city doesn’t need any new ball fields until after 2019.

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