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Old fairgrounds could become home to townhouses, retirement facility

'More green space and less cement would be better for the community,' said a resident who weighed in on the proposal for historic property

The proposal has been aptly dubbed The Old Fairground.

During Monday night's planning committee meeting, SGL Planning and Design sought Official Plan and zoning bylaw amendments for 175 and 199 Essa Rd., as well as 50 Wood St., which is located at the north end of the site along Highway 400. 

The numbered company's application calls for the land to be rezoned from general commercial to mixed-use corridor and open space. Public consultations have been undertaken over the past year.

“Staff are currently reviewing and are working with the applicant and consulting team to review the comments received through the public consultation process,” said Michelle Banfield, director of development services for the City of Barrie.

The plan includes back-to-back street townhouses and a maximum height of 32 metres for residential and office buildings.

A proposed retirement home for the site would be an assisted-living facility, including long-term care, with a maximum height of 47 metres, or 15 storeys.

The rezoning would also include special provisions for the existing Barrie Curling Club on the site, surface parking in any yard, and temporary private or public gatherings or events.

Four residents spoke during the public portion of the meeting, outlining various concerns.

“What SGL is proposing here encroaches significantly on our leased land,” said Norman Speak, representing the Barrie Curling Club, which has a binding lease on the club property until 2150.

While Speak said the curling club is not opposed to the development as a whole, they have some concerns about lighting, parking, and the encroachment, which they are asking be worked out before approval is given for the development.

“We want to be a good neighbour,” he said.

Cathy Colebatch shared concerns about how tall the buildings would be as well as the number of units.

“What’s the total population that would live in that subdivision?” she asked. “More green space and less cement would be better for the community.”

She also asked if the history of the lands as an old fairgrounds and its significance to Barrie could be acknowledged somewhere in the community.

Coun. Keenan Aylwin asked about what the applicant is doing to ensure at least 10 per cent of the units would be affordable-housing units.

“The plan contains a mix of housing types, including (different) townhouse types and apartments,” said David Riley with SGL Consulting. “We think the proposal is helping to achieve that goal. We’ll have further discussion on details.”

Coun. Jim Harris asked questions about traffic lights and entry points.

“There’s lots of history there and lots of great memories for those of us who grew up in Barrie,” said Harris.

Banfield said many technical aspects of the site are still under review by city staff.

Staff are planning to come back with a recommendation report on the project to council by the end of this year.

- with files from Raymond Bowe

Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen brings 12 years of experience to her role as regional reporter for Village Media, primarily covering County of Simcoe matters, education and features.
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