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Councillors turn down Johnson St. project

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

This high-rise, Imperial Towers, already exists at 37 Johnson St. in Barrie. City councillors denied a second one Monday night. Contributed photo

This high-rise, Imperial Towers, already exists at 37 Johnson St. in Barrie. City councillors denied a second one Monday night. Contributed photo

Back to the drawing board for 37 Johnson St. in Barrie?

A proposed 11 storey, 215-unit apartment building was shuffled away by city councillors Monday.

Coun. Bonnie Ainsworth asked that the current density limits be maintained, and the rezoning be denied. A majority of councillors supported her position.

“For me this is the dark side of planning,” Ainsworth said of the proposal. “There is never any happiness around infill and intensification applications.

“Only heartache, disappointment and resentment.”

Ainsworth estimated keeping the current density limit would allow approximately another 21 units on this site. There is an existing 11-storey building with 192 units.

“This is just way too much density in the wrong place,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman of the proposal. “This area has never been identified for intensification.”

City council will consider final approval of the motion at its Sept. 18 meeting. But only Coun. Mike McCann voted against Ainsworth's motion Monday.

“This isn’t infill, this is overkill,” said Coun. Arif Khan, paraphrasing Coun. Barry Ward’s comments earlier in the evening. “This is a massive increase on an existing footprint.”

“To me this area has already done its share, for intensification,” said Coun. Doug Shipley

“I do not believe there is an argument for this type of development,” said Coun. Steve Trotter.

“With so many people against the project,” said Coun. Peter Silveira, “I don’t see how we addressed those concerns.

“How will the project affect this whole neighbourhood?”

Nadine Saunders, of nearby Campfire Court, gathered more than 430 signatures on a petition opposing the project.

Many area residents filled the Council Chambers Monday night as Ainsworth explained why the new project should not go ahead.

She asked city planning staff 10 questions about the application, and the process that led to staff’s recommendation of the development.

They ranged from gross floor area, intensification and the project’s scale to its financial benefits, affordable housing status and the possibility of a compromise.

The existing 11-storey, 192-unit apartment building on 37 Johnson St. has been there since 1973.

Barrie planning staff say an additional apartment building there meets the city's locational criteria for intensification, and does not introduce a new built form into the neighbourhood.

The site is also near Barrie Transit, directly adjacent to a city park, near schools and commercial uses, including a grocery store.

City planning staff say it represents an appropriate form of development.

“I think it may already be a complete community,” Ainsworth said of the area.

The Ward 1 councillor has said this council has more than done its share accommodating local and provincial intensification criteria, and that squeezing this development into 37 Johnson St. will overwhelm the area with people and traffic.

The developer, Starlight Investments, is asking for both an Official Plan amendment and a rezoning to allow this project.

The latter includes a reduced front-yard setback, as well as side and rear landscape buffering for the parking lot, an increase in building height, gross floor area, surface parking lot coverage and fewer parking spaces.

“How can we give some comfort to the residents … when we are recommending things that don’t comply with city standards,” Trotter said.

This project would generate $378,185 in development charges for the city, along with cash-in-lieu of parkland totalling just more than $1 million.

But there are already concerns Monday's decision would be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

“I don’t have a good feeling about this going to the OMB,” Ward said. “It’s a roll of the dice.”

McCann agreed.

“I believe we are going to got to the OMB,” he said. “It’s going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

McCann said he believed the OMB would support city planning staff’s recommendation.

Barrie's intensification policy establishes four principle areas where intensification is encouraged, including: the Urban Growth Centre, or downtown Barrie and Allandale; primary and secondary corridors consisting of arterial roads such as Bayfield and Dunlop streets, Essa Road, Duckworth and Yonge streets; primary and secondary nodes at significant intersections along the primary and secondary corridors; and South Barrie GO Station near Yonge Street and Mapleview Drive East.

A series of guidelines have also been created to help direct new development within these intensification areas, and are viewed to be complementary to the existing city urban design guidelines.

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