Local residents speak out against proposed high-density projects slated for Hansen Blvd.

January 31, 2020   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Baker

There weren’t many happy faces inside Town Hall on Monday evening, with close to 100 local residents on hand to voice their displeasure over a pair of development projects slated for Hansen Boulevard. 

The first, led by Transmetro Limited and Cachet Developments calls for the construction of four high-rise residential buildings, six storeys tall, on approximately 7.7 acres of land along Hansen Blvd. Those buildings would contain approximately 383 apartment units, with some ground level commercial space to be available, likely for small retail and fast food outlets. 

The second project, fronted by Sarah Properties, would see the development of 104 bungalow-style townhouse units and three apartment buildings, each eight storeys high, containing a total of 270 apartments. This venture, at the most western point of Hansen Blvd. immediately beside Veteran’s way, also includes plans for a commercial plaza containing 3,140 square metres of floor space. 

Public meetings for both projects were held on Monday, with Brandon Ward, the Town’s Manager of Planning, seeking to reassure those in attendance that a final decision to approve, or reject, either application was not close. 

“The purpose of the public meeting is to provide an opportunity for the applicant to present their proposal to the public and members of Council, for members of the community to ask questions and submit comments,” Mr. Ward said. “No decision is being made at tonight’s meeting, really this is an information sharing exercise.”

Mr. Ward said the initial application for the project led by Cachet Developments was received by the Town in March 2019, and was deemed complete in the summer. The land in question is, currently, mostly vacant. In addressing the public, Mr. Ward confirmed the land was currently designated as ‘Employment Area’ within the Town’s official plan, and would need to be re-zoned to allow for residential development on the site. 

Another potential kicker to both projects is the fact that the subject lands are situated within the Veteran’s Way South Community Policy Area. As per the development concept policies outlined for the area, it’s noted that a maximum of 400 residential units be allowed on site. In his report to Council, Mr. Ward noted the existing residential subdivision in the Hansen area practically covers that 400-unit threshold. As such, major changes to that framework would be required if Council were to approve the construction of 757 new units in the neighbourhood. 

Dave Hannam, of Zelinka Priama, the organization providing consulting services to Sarah Properties throughout this process, offered some additional information about the second proposed project. He states the townhomes, apartment buildings and commercial complex would be constructed on approximately 23 acres of undeveloped land. The inclusion of the apartment buildings in the application, Mr. Hannam states, is designed to help plug a gap that currently exists within Orangeville’s rental market.

“It’s our understanding that Orangeville is in need for additional residential allocation, particularly rental accommodation. The proposal would also provide for a range of enhanced commercial opportunities and services for local residents, and would generate, for the Town, a significant amount of development charge funds,” Mr. Hannam said. 

Mr Hannam added, “The landowner has made considerable efforts, in terms of design, to be respectful of surrounding properties, as well as provide housing forms that we were advised would be needed in this area.”

While that point may be true, those who took the time to address Council on Monday weren’t having any of it.

Michael Simon, a resident of Fitzgerald Street, located in the Hansen subdivision, took issue with the proposed density of the development, noted he moved to Orangeville from Toronto to get away from the type of high-rise properties the two landowners are hoping to build. He also called into question whether or not vital infrastructure services, such as hydro, water and sewage, could handle the “increased strain” these developments would bring.

Finally, he told Council they shouldn’t consider approving any project on the west side of Hansen before the road is completely opened up.

“I would suggest that any discussion about further development in this area should be tabled until the Hansen connection is completed. For me, there is a very serious public safety concern here,” Mr. Simon said. “There is one entry point and one egress point into this development. One, and one only. In the event of any emergency, any unforeseen accident or catastrophic situation, then residents in this area are really in a pickle.”

Robbie Mair is a real estate agent with ReMax Realty in Brampton. He moved into his home along Drew Brown Boulevard two years ago, and doesn’t feel it’s fair that individuals who invested in what they were led to believe was a high-end residential subdivision should take a hit on their property value if these developments are to be approved.

“This potential project was not part of the municipal plan when Cachet sold these homes to us only a few years ago. We were told (the land) would be used for other family homes, with some retail components,” Mr. Mair said. “It isn’t fair to sell someone a home projecting one vision, and then changing it once you’ve sold them a home and put down roots here. Cachet and the Town of Orangeville have created a desirable family neighbourhood that people will pay more to live in, and this development threatens that.”

While he would prefer to see no apartment units erected across the road from his home, Mr. Mair said if the project is to go forward, there’s no way it should be approved in its current format.

He said having 383 apartments “is simply absurd. If the project is to go forward, concessions to the number of units, height of buildings and individual ownership should be addressed.

“I have with me 100 personally signed letters from households in the direct neighbourhood from people who can’t be here, but wanted their voices heard, and I only went down Drew Brown Blvd. There was not a single house we knocked on that didn’t want to sign a letter. This neighbourhood clearly does not want this development.”

He added, “Council members, your number one responsibility is to protect community members and here you have an opportunity to show us we elected the right people to do so.”

After she purchased her home along Drew Brown Blvd for almost $900,000 in 2018, Traci Dimambro says she feels “completely duped” after learning of Cachet’s plans to erect four large apartments blocks in her “beautiful” subdivision.

“Before purchasing our home, our real estate agent contact Cachet regarding future development of the subdivision. We, as buyers, were told this land would be used for future freestanding detached homes,” Mrs. Dimambro said. “Our family would not have committed to this purchase price, nor to the $8,000 per year in property taxes we’re paying, to live in a dense commercial area.”

Mrs. Dimambro also expressed her concern over parking, which she says is already an issue in the neighbourhood.

“Adding nearly 390 apartments, and thousands of residents will only make things worse, and is not a vision we were sold a year and a half ago. This leaves most of us feeling completely duped. Please do not turn our beautiful subdivision into a supercentre of people and traffic, as that is not what we were promised when we purchased our family home” she said. 

Several other residents stepped up to press home the previously mentioned points regarding density, stresses on existing infrastructure, and whether or not local schools would be able to handle the increase in population. Taking something of a different view, local resident Paul Clarkson expressed his belief that Council should leave the lands in question under their existing designation.

“We often hear that we need more employment opportunities in Orangeville, and that people need to be able to get a better wage for their life. Looking at the two lands specifically, they’re designated as employment areas, now we’re talking about residential, with some small retail shops in the bottom, come on,” Mr. Clarkson said. “It’s pretty easy to figure out why we need to create more rental space versus (building) properties people can own. We’re not fixing the actual problem in this town, which is there needs to be more opportunities for employment.”

Addressing the crowd, Deputy Mayor Andy Macintosh said Council members were hearing residents’ concerns.

“No decision is going to be made tonight. Your concerns have been heard and I’m sure they will factor into our decision at some point,” he concluded. 

Following the public meeting, Mr. Ward noted the applicants will now have to respond to concerns and comments brought forward by the community via further public consultation. Once that process has been completed to a satisfactory manner, staff will make an official recommendation to Council for consideration before any decision to approve the projects is made. Any movement on this issue isn’t expected until later this year.

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