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More rental units coming to Barrie

Grove Street development eyed to help ease tight market
Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 2.51.11 PM

City councillors have given the initial green light to ramp up Barrie's rental-starved housing market.

The proposed redevelopment of the YMCA site on Grove Street would include 3 residential towers, 22, 23 and 24 storeys in height adjacent to Highway 400 with 4 and 2 storey stacked townhouses and an 8 storey apartment building adjacent to Grove Street - all equipped with underground parking.

"I can't tell all the residents that are couch surfing that we're going to deny this application. I actually have a couch surfer on my couch because he can't find an apartment and I can't open up my doors to that many people," said ward Councillor Rose Romita.

The proposed 918 rental units would increase the supply of private rental apartments in Barrie by about 25 percent, according to city staff. 

Mayor Jeff Lehman noted during Monday night's meeting that rental rates in Barrie were once again listed among the highest in Canada - the third highest behind Vancouver and Toronto.

"The reality is that doesn't mean you throw away all your planning policies but the reason that I'm going to support this is it's entirely in line with our policies," Lehman said. 

"To me, when you come back to saying what's good for Barrie, according to the household survey we have something in the order of 10 to 12,000 households that are renters in the city of Barrie. We've only got 3,585 private rentals. Is it any wonder we're the third highest rent in the country?" 

Lehman said the site backs the 400, will have no shadowing impact in adjacent buildings and has more public transit going to thie site than anywhere else in the city with the exception of Georgian College.

Councillor Bonnie Ainsworth was the lone opponent and spoke passionately against the application.

"I don't want this type of density to be the new precedent for development everywhere and anywhere in the city. I refuse to go down this road," she argued

"If we just go along with this now we might as well just rip up all of our planning or lock the door to the planning office until we figure out why these high density applications are coming forward for us to consider in the first place. Maybe we have a bunch of new employees from Toronto. I don't know," she quipped. 

"It's so easy just to say yes and sit back. That's not what we're here and if we're not the watchdogs at the gate, there won't be any."

But Councillor Arif Khan said every development plan should be judged on its own merit. 

"I think it absolutely sets a precedent that the city of Barrie is open to well thought out, well planned applications that will address the issue of density.  I don't think we should shy away from density."

Khan added "Let's make sure this is a gateway feature. We don't need to blow the budget,"

Concerns about the look of the building were first raised by Councillor Steve Trotter.

"I want it to look good because it will be statement building.  Thousands and thousands of cars that are going by the highway will see that and it will be a reflection of the decisions that we make on it." 

Council will consider final approval of the rezoning and redesignation of the YMCA site at its Oct. 23 meeting.

















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Sue Sgambati

About the Author: Sue Sgambati

Sue has had a 30-year career in journalism working for print, radio and TV. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
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