Mayor Iain Lovatt

Elm Rd Towns: What was the Mayor thinking?

Thank you for your email.

I appreciate you sending your feedback on the proposed development on Elm Rd.

First, let me begin by saying that I am supportive of new housing in WS. I ran my last election on a platform that included a commitment to guide the town through the provincially mandated growth targets that through our new Official Plan process, will see the town grow to over 100000. That growth target is staggering to most, including me and it is compounded by the affordability crisis we are all facing. In order to plan for that growth, we need housing of all types and built forms. Approximately 85% of Stouffville’s housing stock is unaffordable single-family homes. We need more condos, apartments, stacked towns, basement suites and granny flats and everything in between. This is often referred to as the missing middle.

In today’s (Feb21) council meeting, we received a presentation from staff on how provincial (Bill23) & federal (Housing accelerator Funding) legislation will make ancillary units (basement suites, garden suites, attic conversions etc) as of right, with up to 3-4 units per lot. This legislation will have a huge impact on existing built-up neighbourhoods across the province in the coming years. This legislation aims to help increase supply into our towns with the hopes of making housing more attainable.

As for the Elm Rd proposal, I was supportive of the first submission which included the basement suites. I do not believe that 24 units in this particular block will have the detrimental traffic impact some do. If we are honest, 24 units are inconsequential when we consider we will be doubling in size as a town over the next 3 decades which is why our draft OP process has been so important over the last 3 years. As mentioned above, we need housing of all types. What planned basement suites do for us is give staff the opportunity to address the certain issues of parking during the site plan stage. I made the suggestion to move the housing blocks closer to the road, which will allow for more space for rear parking. I also suggested removing the small back yards for decks above the car port and including a proper 2 car garage- creating 4 potential parking spots for each unit. These basement suites will also allow for owners to have a source of income to help pay for their mortgages and create desperately needed rental units for all ages. Approving the 2 town blocks with roughed in, unfinished basements will actually create more problems in the long run. I believe owners WILL finish them and rent them as an income source and will not have the required parking. To me the better strategy is to deal with the future realities now and ensure we don’t run into the predictable problems down the road. The current planning process is even more important considering the as of right impacts of provincial legislation that could allow for a tri or 4plex on each lot without the need for rezoning or any public input at all.

Developments across the town are unique and need to be addressed on their own merits. In my opinion, the Loretta development you mention has some transitional and setback challenges that the Elm Rd development doesn’t. The plan moved forward towards Elm Rd creates even more of a setback for the neighbouring houses to the south. Requesting an 8 ft rear privacy fence from the developer is also not out of the question creating the needed buffer some residents are concerned about. I believe what was presented with some minor changes could work in the area. I also have walked the area in the morning. I understand the traffic issues firsthand with 2 elementary schools operating on basically the same schedule. Two of my own kids went to Glad Park so I am well acquainted with the area. Safety is a priority for council which is why this council has addressed some of these concerns by adding the crosswalk on Win Lane and advocating for the regional crosswalk installed at 9th and Elm.

With that being said, I am but one vote on council. It takes 4 votes to approve or deny an application. And regardless of how council votes on this or any other planning application, when voting, I will always consider the single mom who called me recently with 4 kids who is being evicted in the spring from her rental home in Ward 6 with nowhere to go, or the 25-year-old teacher living in ward 5 with their parents because they can’t find a rental in their home town, or the 3 generations of a family who have to live together out of financial necessity.

We have a housing crisis in Stouffville that I believe will only be addressed by creating housing options of all types for all people.

Thanks for reading.

Be well.

Original Email from resident to council. Good Afternoon:

I am writing with regard to the proposed development at the north end of Fairview/Elm/Gladpark.

I am aware that the original proposal was for 24 units – 12 units +12 basement suites.  This would greatly increase the amount of traffic and congestion in this area, especially during the construction.  Upon reviewing the council meeting this was a point that the two school boards had concern with –  ensuring safety.  I have witnessed the busyness of that area with the proximity of two elementary schools and the traffic that incurs.  I can’t even begin to imagine how that could be safe.   I would like to challenge the mayor and each of the council members to visit this area as school goes in or lets out to observe the busy activity of the area.

The presentation made by the developer at the beginning of the meeting, included amendments to the original application.  They were thoughtful and reasonable taking into consideration and respecting comments from the neighbourhood.  This removed the 12 basement units, thus removing some of the parking and traffic concerns.

Why then did the mayor practically argue these 12 basement units back into the scenario to better suit the needs for low income housing and request the building cover more space closer to the road? Those in attendance did not have opportunity to respond to the concerns they would have after he made those suggestions. In another developmental related town council meeting of January 31st regarding similar housing to be built near existing residential areas, the mayor noted that has he walked through his neighbourhood, he was concerned about the proposed housing project and its parking and how it would affect the neighbours. How is this different?   He also mentioned that nearby municipal parking could be accessed for parking for residents.  How many residents want to walk a block or so to their parking?  The arena parking, in particular is very busy in the evenings with sporting events, which is potentially when residents may want to be parking there.  That is not a solution.

Another consideration for the traffic concerns, is that just down the block at Fairview and Main Street a very large condo is being proposed.  Traffic will also be greatly increased in the area and on the streets from that huge project. And I have heard that there may be units built at Elm/9th line, just across the road, further adding to traffic.   Fairview Avenue shouldn’t have to take the brunt of all of this traffic.

Many of the comments that were listed by the developer from concerned residents were well thought out and very valid.  In the January 31st meeting, the mayor praised the community/neighbourhood for speaking out on these matters.  It was evident in the presentation by the developer that the community had sent in many of their concerns.   The developer seemed to respect and take these into consideration, the mayors comments did not.

I am writing as a life- long resident of Stouffville, who has seen many changes over the years.  Many of these have been for the good.    I am also writing as someone who has 2 children who have been fortunate enough to be able to purchase homes in quiet residential areas in town.  Both of these homes are being threatened by developments that do not take into consideration the existing infrastructure of the area and will overshadow any existing residents by size and traffic.  I know that development and housing must increase, but please make it reasonable for existing residents and put the high densities in appropriate areas of town, ie. undeveloped land.

Thanks you for your consideration.

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