The Town of Bracebridge’s Planning and Development Department is seeking public input on a proposed apartment complex off Woodward Street near the fire station on Taylor Road.
Developer and Muskoka cottager John Amardeil is looking to get the property rezoned for high-density housing, which would allow him to build seven apartment buildings with seven units each. Amardeil’s petition in support of the project has about 300 signatures and 135 people have signed up to be on a waitlist of potential tenants, even with the knowledge that occupancy would be late 2021 at the earliest. A public meeting regarding the development is being held virtually on July 27, and members of the public are able to share their thoughts through written or oral submissions.
The town’s planning department notifies immediate neighbours that will be impacted by the development and invites them to comment, but it’s been Amardeil’s mission to make sure that more people get to express their thoughts. Given the local housing shortage, he isn’t surprised by the positive reaction the development has received so far, and he said he’s also not surprised that the only opponents he’s come across so far have been the immediate neighbours.
Cathan DeForest is one of those neighbours, and she says that density is the biggest issue she and her neighbours have with the development. They know something has to go there, she said, but they want something that “fits into the neighbourhood,” not a high-density build.
“It was slated for residential homes,” DeForest said. “It’s just going to change the whole atmosphere when it gets rezoned to possible high density because it wasn’t really meant for that. It was supposed to be just a quiet neighbourhood.”
Along with concerns about noise, DeForest and her neighbours worry that if the project is approved for high density, some of the many future tenants may cut through their yards to get to the nearby shopping area. DeForest also cited disruption of wildlife and traffic issues as potential problems, saying the left turn from Woodward Street onto Taylor Road already poses safety concerns without the increased traffic expected if the rezoning get approved.
“I understand that we have to have more housing, I do, because there is a shortage in Bracebridge,” she said. “But I don’t necessarily know if that’s the right place for it.”
Amardeil said a traffic consultant stated no concerns and noted that current plans for the property include considerations to maintain as many trees as possible, but he doesn’t blame the neighbours for their resistance to the development, particularly because they’ve had a forest in their backyard for as long as the houses have been there. However, the fact remains that they’re living in the urban centre of Bracebridge, he said, so he encourages those impacted by housing shortages to make written submissions in support of the project.
“There are always things that are good for some and not great for others, but you’ve got to balance it out,” he said. “My whole campaign has just been about making sure that the politicians are not only listening to the 30 or 20 homeowners that they invited.”
It sounds like he would be building a lot given the fact that the development would include 49 units, Amardeil said, but because of the size of the units, the proposed buildings would only take up about 13 per cent of the land compared to 35 per cent allowed by the town. If the project isn’t approved for high density, he said he could get a plan to build 35 townhouses “approved tomorrow,” which would mean reduced density; however, the project would require more building and the option of offering attainably priced rentals would be off the table.
“[The neighbours are] worried about how it’s going to affect them personally, but I know there’s thousands of people being negatively affected by the shortage of housing there,” Amardeil said. “People are driving from Huntsville and further to try to get to work in Bracebridge and stuff like that, so if it gets approved and built, I know it will improve the situation there.”
To learn more about the proposed development, read the article below. Those interested in making written submissions can send their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org any time prior to the hearing. For those looking to make an oral submission, a link to the Zoom meeting and instructions on how to participate will be available on the Town of Bracebridge website and the Council and Committee Calendar on July 24.