Last night, Council had before it an application for a mixed use, residential development within the secondary plan area or the Aurora Promenade. A development of residential units as part of the higher density intensification and mixed-use infill development on a site that is currently exclusively commercial use. A development that brings much needed housing to an area identified for over a decade as primed for residential housing growth.
Nothing is planned in a vacuum; it is all part of an integrated approach that is future focused while meeting the planning needs of today.
This application conforms directly with our Official plan as outlined in our secondary plan.
The Promenade Plan is our plan. Our vision for Aurora. Approved in 2010 (before my time on Council) and now under review as part of our Official Plan review, the Aurora Promenade Plan, “provides a framework for a long term vision for aurora” a vision that we are realizing now with the revitalization and community building initiatives such as the development of Town Square. And targeted intensification in transit accessible areas that have the “greatest impact that Aurora can make in moving towards a more sustainable future” by fostering “mixed use growth to The Aurora Promenade. In doing so, transit will be supported, walking will be encouraged, and existing infrastructure and services will be more efficiently used.
This application is within the area identified as “Promenade General” and specifically “Promenade Focus”. To quote section 11.6 of our OP, The ‘Promenade General’ designation is comprised of predominantly automobile-oriented commercial retail plazas with some office uses. As such, it holds the greatest potential for future redevelopment. The purpose of the ‘Promenade General’ designation is to promote transformation into a vibrant, pedestrian oriented mixed-use area. Change will primarily occur through the introduction of higher densities in high quality mid-rise forms placed close to the street, while providing appropriate transitions to adjacent neighbourhoods. While new development will be mostly residential in use, convenience retail as well as restaurants, entertainment and cultural venues will continue to be provided.
Of the 8 Key strategies outlined, in the Promenade Plan #4 is most applicable here – “From Commercial Strip to Mixed-Use Promenades “ Quoting from the Plan, “A key overarching strategy is to develop a framework to guide the transformation of the commercial strip plazas to mixed use areas in the North and South Yonge Street Promenades and the Wellington Street Promenade. These areas are currently in flux and there is an opportunity to transform them from auto-oriented single uses to walkable places where people live, work, shop and play”
Thus, as part of the Aurora Promenade, the proposal conforms directly with the Town’s Official Plan and Sections 11.6 and 11.7 by promoting the transformation of a primarily automobile-oriented commercial retail plaza into vibrant, pedestrian oriented mixed-use area.
Further, the design features a high-quality built form in line with the Aurora Promenade Urban Design Strategy and in particular the overarching vision of transforming “from commercial strip to mixed-use promenades” and strengthens the entryway function from south Yonge Street
With respect to density, there has been some misinformation that should be addressed. While I agree that the density of the site – at 90% – could be re-considered, it is simply not accurate to state that the density is in conflict with the Town’s plan or that it is “well above the permitted amount””. Again, I reference our OP. Per section 11.6.2 c of the OP, “The maximum lot coverage by a building or buildings on a lot shall be 90 percent. The minimum lot coverage by a building or buildings on a lot shall be 50 percent.”
The current site is a former large retail site with a large expanse of concrete and asphalt parking lot. In addition to providing housing options that meet our OP, the application also provides an opportunity to provide over 2,800m2 of new park space. Park space in this case defined by the ‘Linear Park’, which is considered the east-west corridor centralized on the site, and the ‘Urban Square’.
Could we ask for more green space? Absolutely but to say it is a “lost opportunity” is again, inaccurate. We are gaining green space and an urban park and in turn removing a massive heat island.
With respect to the need for more affordable housing, the mix of housing proposed in the application– rental and owned – must meet the requirements of our Official Plan, which states that a minimum of 25 percent of all new residential development must meet the definition of affordable housing. Can we add provisions to better ensure the provision of the much-needed affordable housing? Absolutely. In fact, I have a motion coming forward to Council that will look to strengthen our ability to do just that in all development applications.
Is there more work to be done? Yes.
Can we work with the applicant to try and have more than the over 25,000 sq ft of retail already provided in this application? Of course, but then I would ask each and everyone of you what is the right number for retail square footage? 30K, 40K, 50K? I would like to see some more retail space as well, but with the over 25k already provided it is not a deal breaker for me as it meets our Towns vision.
Would we like to make minor adjustments like the setbacks, consider a reduction in density, or have options for amenities and parks aside from just benches. Of course we would and these are things we can work with the applicant as we move to General Committee.
However, from the height, from lot coverage, from having retail, to having open space (an urban sq) this applications fits our OP and the Promenade plan to a “T”…..As our resident’s know, I have been a fierce advocate for the right of our municipality to have the authority to uphold our OP, I have fought hard to ensure that our voices are heard by the province so that we have a say in land use planning decisions in our community.
Well this is a prime opportunity to demonstrate to the Province that when presented with an application for much needed housing, including rentals, with appropriate intensification that is in line with our Official Plan, our vision for our community, then we will make the responsible decision to uphold that vision.
As I said at the table, while there is still work to be done on this application, I believe that we should have continued forward through the process ; proceeding to a General Committee while continuing to work with the applicant to resolve any issues that our residents and Council have. If, when we get to General Committee or even the Council meeting, the issues have not been resolved to the satisfaction of Council then we can say No to the application.
In my opinion, sending this application back to yet another Public Planning meeting, opens our Town up to the likely possibility of the Applicant taking us to the Board and having a unelected, unaccountable person decide the fate of our community.
Council in the majority did not share my view and instead voted 5 -2 (with Councillor Kim and I against) in favour of sending the application back to another planning meeting.
More to come…
Here are both our Official Plan and our Aurora Promenade Concept Plan (Secondary Plan)