We are all squashed into the library at Maple Leaf Elementary School in Longford Road waiting to hear urban planner, Brad Rogers, tell us how new development on Davis Drive would increase property values in our “stable residential neighbourhood”.
The meeting, organised by the Newmarket Heights Residents’ Association, is buzzing. Ward 4 Councillor, Tom Hempen, is here along with regional councillor John Taylor. The Mayor drops in and says a few words. It is good that he is here, taking the pulse of the meeting.
Brad Rogers is, of course, the urban planner advising the Slessor Towers developer.
But he wants to talk about the changes coming to Davis Drive and what it will mean for residents.
He is asked about the impact of the Slessor Towers on property values and immediately ducks the question. He tells us land use planning doesn’t get into property values. But he says that in his experience property values will go up. Hmmm.
A knowledgeable estate agent sitting directly in front of me springs to his feet. He says proximity to high structures such as water towers can adversely affect property values.
In my mind’s eye, I see the Slessor Towers looming over Newmarket like three water towers sitting on top of one another.
And then there is the dust and dirt from construction that will blight the neighbourhood. And the traffic.
Having listened attentively to Brad Rogers, a guy behind me fears we could have a wall between us and Davis Drive.
We could be walled in by high rises.
Brad says development is going to happen. There is no stopping it. He says Newmarket has got to accommodate 20,000 more people by 2031.
John Taylor corrects him.
He tells us that Brad is using a 2006 baseline.
With a 2012 baseline the growth would be in the order of ten to twelve thousand more people by 2031.
That’s more like it.
Tom Hempen tackles him on the height of the Towers saying the Town’s planning people are still insisting the higher of the two will rise to 29 storeys.
Tom seems genuinely frustrated that there is still a lack of clarity about something as fundamental as the height of the Towers.
The avuncular John Dowson who chairs the meeting tells us change is inevitable. In his time in Newmarket he has seen the town grow and grow.
But the key question is: what kind of growth?
People are genuinely concerned that their homes are going to be affected by high rise development and residential roads will become, in effect, major thoroughfares with increased traffic, noise and pollution.
The Mayor assures us there will be plenty of opportunities to comment on the Davis Drive plans as they unfold. There will be consultation on the Town’s Secondary Plan.
Alas, no-one points out that the Slessor Towers are outside the Secondary Plan process as the application is already in the Town’s planning pipe-line.
It is being dealt with quite separately.
We are waiting for the Slessors to publish their “view-shed analysis” as required by the Town. This will show the visual impact of the Towers from various vantage points, near and far.
When this happens, I suspect we shall hear more from the good people of Newmarket Heights Residents Association.
And from others.