Posted on: January 17th, 2023. By: Joseph Quigley, newmarkettoday.ca, Original Article.
Blue Door’s plan to build a new transitional housing facility in Newmarket moved a step forward as council agreed to a ministerial zoning order.
The order approved by committee of the whole Jan. 16 will speed up the planning process for the 14-unit proposal on 835 Gorham St.
Blue Door seeks to demolish its existing facility there to build a larger one with stacked townhomes that will accommodate families and individuals needing help. The order would allow the housing charity to meet a funding application deadline from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.
Ward 2 Councillor Victor Woodhouse said this is the exact kind of development for which an MZO is designed.
“There is a significant need for housing in Newmarket. There is also an important need for housing for families that are on the lower end of the spectrum,” he said. “It would be wrong for myself, as a councillor, to hold up the process when there is an opportunity for funding to get this done.”
The project would provide emergency housing for up to 30 days and affordable housing for up to one year. It would replace the existing facility, which had space for 12 individuals before the pandemic. The new development requires a rezoning to proceed before a site plan process begins.
But the added density proposed has raised some concerns. Gorham Street resident Lionel Franklin presented to council, raising questions about the MZO. He said Blue Door should be commended, but a two-storey building might be a better fit. He added several developments are in the works on Gorham that need consideration in unison.
“Each development may be justified on its own merits,” he said, but added that “the town should be looking at the overall impact on the community.”
Director of planning Jason Unger replied that staff does consider overall development proposals, including for traffic impact. He added that the town is undertaking an official plan review starting next month that will address the future development direction of areas like Gorham.
Newmarket Mayor John Taylor said he understands the concern, but it is not something as extreme as a six-storey building. He added that the town needs to find places to intensify to help address housing challenges.
“If we don’t find an opportunity to add some units and intensify,” he said, “we’re never going to meet the challenge that stands in front of us … I don’t ever cherish the idea of not having the fullest possible public input, but in this case, the need for it outweighs that issue.”
An MZO does not require public consultation. But the staff report said Blue Door is committed to consultation and plans for a future open house and community liaison group.
This is the second time council has backed an MZO like this, with Inn From the Cold making a similar request last year to help speed up its development of a new location.
Councillor Christina Bisanz spoke in favour of the Blue Door proposal but added concern about organizations getting forced to make these requests due to funding body deadlines. She said it is an excellent proposal that meets government priorities at all levels.
“We keep getting back to the situation where the non-profits are forced to have to push forward very quickly with something like an MZO because they’ve got an arbitrary deadline,” she said.
The MZO will still need final approval at a council meeting later this month, followed by provincial approval.