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Stacked townhouse proposal in Holland Landing receives loud opposition

The proposed 97-unit development would be located on the southeast corner of Yonge Street and Thompson Drive
Simon Martin
March 27, 2023

How do you get a full council chamber at the East Gwillimbury Civic Centre? It’s simple just propose a 97-unit stacked townhouse development on four lots on Yonge Street in Holland Landing and see what happens.

That’s what Reza Esmaeli and Land Services Group did and the chambers were full of mostly vocal opposition from locals and council. Esmaeli, the founder and CEO of Land Services Group, said this is the kind of development needed on Yonge Street just south of Thompson Drive on 19399, 19357, 19356 and 19349 Yonge streets. “The village core of Holland needs to be revitalized,” Esmaeli said. “Stacked townhouses are the smallest in terms of size and it is the least expensive in terms of price. So it makes it the most affordable for first-time home buyers.”

The development is asking for an official plan amendment that would see the maximum density per net hectare changed from 32 units per hectare to 175 units per hectare.

The proposed zoning bylaw amendment would alter requirements for lot frontage, rear, front, and side yard setbacks as well as maximum height from 12 metres to 15.6 metres.

The criticism came fast and furious at a public meeting about the proposed amendments March 21.

Residents raised concerns about a whole host of issues, including traffic on Thompson Drive and Yonge Street, setbacks from existing townhouses, density, building height and parking to name a few.

Mike Morra has lived in Holland Landing for 32 years and said he loves the village but this proposal doesn’t feel well planned. “I’m not against development,” he said. He pointed to the recent townhouse development on Peter street. “It blends perfectly with the surroundings,” he said.

Neighbouring resident Alan Balinsky said there were too many homes in a small area. By his back-of-napkin calculations, the proposed 97 units could bring in roughly 400 people to the area. “That’s a block and a half for 400 people,” he said.

Dave Gingerich lives at the first house on Thompson Drive east of Yonge Street and said people are going to have a very difficult time turning left onto Thompson Drive from the development. “The whole logistics of this is mind-boggling,” he said.

While the vast majority of the packed crowd, voiced their opposition to the proposal there were some supportive of the concept. “I’m going to be brave here because I do support this project, not in its entirety,” Holland Landing resident and real estate agent Sandra Pettifer said. “There isn’t a lot of the missing middle which is you know affordable housing. People like my kids couldn’t live in Holland Landing,” she said.

Residents weren’t the only ones not pleased. The criticism continued from council.

“We know that people need affordable housing. We know that land values are going up so we need density but not like this, “ Ward 1 Coun. Loralea Carruthers said.

"There are so many concerns with this has not been addressed," Ward 1. Coun. Terry Foster said.

The line of the night came from Ward 3 Coun. Scott Crone after he probed why he saw two names for the development of Holland Hope and Holland Park. The developer's consultant said they changed the name to Holland Park from Holland Hope because they were informed Hope is the historical name for Sharon. "So you're losing hope," Crone said to loud laughter and cheers.

Ward 2 Coun. Brian Johns while the name thing is minor it shows how this development has got off on the wrong foot. "It is a big deal to us because it means from the get-go from when you registered your company name you didn’t know the community," he said.

While it looks like this proposal will need significant changes to win council's approval, Esmaeli said if they are denied by council they do have the option of going to the Local Planning and Appeal Tribunal. "That is an option," he said.