Barrie’s ever-evolving landscape is poised for yet another transformation, as city councillors recently gave their initial approval for rezoning a prime property along the bustling Yonge Street corridor in the southern part of the city. These proposed changes could significantly reshape the urban fabric with the construction of two impressive seven-storey residential buildings. With unit counts of 177 and 196, these developments would flank the vibrant MacLaren Avenue, adding to the dynamic character of the area.
The next crucial step in this transformative process involves final approval by the city council, scheduled for the meeting on September 20th. Interestingly, the decision was not without its fair share of debate and opposition. Couns. Clare Riepma and Jim Harris, representing the interests of the residents in this district, stood in opposition to the rezoning proposal.
Harris articulated the concerns of many local residents, highlighting their reservations regarding the development. “Their position is they will not support the recommendations in this report,” he emphasized in reference to the staff report. “I ask you to consider their interests. Their objection is rooted in two key policy areas — density and conformity.”
In simpler terms, the crux of the matter revolves around the project’s scale, which some argue is incompatible with the existing neighborhood, both in terms of density and architectural style. Riepma echoed these concerns, stating, “There’s no question there is going to be intensification on that site. The question is how do we make it fit in with the community. I think this is too high and we need to go back to the drawing board and figure it out.”
Nonetheless, the majority of councillors rallied in support of the rezoning, emphasizing the importance of adhering to established policies. Coun. Sergio Morales expressed his frustration with resistance to change, remarking, “It’s frustrating when we have residents who don’t want change. It’s no longer not in my backyard (NIMBY), it’s not in your backyard.”
Coun. Bryn Hamilton also stressed the necessity of making decisions in accordance with existing policies, reminding everyone that Yonge Street is designated as an intensification corridor, implying that changes are inevitable.
Coun. Gary Harvey highlighted the futility of opposing the rezoning application, suggesting that it would likely not survive a challenge at the Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT), the provincial authority that adjudicates contentious planning matters. “I see our chances of winning at the (OLT) as zero,” he candidly stated.
Mayor Alex Nuttall concurred with this sentiment, expressing concerns about the potential consequences of pursuing legal action. “I worry … we go in (to the OLT), we spend a bunch of money and (the development) gets higher and denser with less setbacks,” he cautioned.
The proposed rezoning, put forth by Barrie Yonge Developments GP, aims to rezone 1.35 acres at 447, 449, 451, 453, and 455 Yonge St., transitioning from residential single-detached dwelling first density to mixed-use corridor with special provisions. These special provisions include increased side- and rear-yard setbacks, designed to ensure that the building’s massing is positioned further away from the surrounding low-density residential areas, preserving essential separation distances and creating a harmonious transition to the ground-oriented residential development in the vicinity. Additionally, the building will feature ground-floor commercial spaces, promising to infuse vibrancy into the neighbourhood.
Similar changes are proposed for 1.63 acres at 427, 429, 431, 435, and 437 Yonge St., which constitute relatively flat land. The rezoning application envisions a shift from residential single-detached dwelling first density to mixed-use corridor, with the same special provisions in place. The plan also includes provisions for underground and surface parking, catering to the practical needs of residents and visitors alike.
City staff also anticipate that this development will integrate seamlessly with adjacent lands to the north, particularly at 410 and 481 Yonge St., both of which are undergoing redevelopment into mixed-use projects.
This stretch of Yonge Street is undoubtedly slated for significant transformation. At 410 Yonge St. and 343 Little Ave., Mason Homes is in the process of planning a 117-unit condominium townhouse development, currently under review by planning staff. Simultaneously, at 481 Yonge St., the city has received a site-plan control application for a four-storey residential apartment building with 67 units, also under review by city planning staff.
Further along at 505, 511, 515, and 533 Yonge St., the city has received a rezoning application that paves the way for four multi-residential buildings, ranging in height from eight to 12 storeys, coupled with commercial spaces. This ambitious project promises to offer 400 residential units, supported by 469 parking spots and amenity spaces, ushering in a new era for this vibrant part of Barrie.
As the city continues to evolve and grow, these proposed developments on Yonge Street offer an exciting glimpse into the future of Barrie’s urban landscape. The coming months will undoubtedly be pivotal in shaping the destiny of this vibrant community, as it seeks to balance growth and tradition while responding to the changing needs and aspirations of its residents.