By Connor Simonds, Local Journalism Initiative reporter
Markham’s landscape could be radically transformed with a development proposal currently under review by city council.
With plans for over 2,000 residential units and mixed-use buildings towering up to 28 stories, the proposal has sparked a heated debate among residents who fear that the development would irrevocably alter the character of the community.
In this article, we delve into the contentious proposal and the concerns raised by citizens during the public meeting, shedding light on the potential impacts of the development on traﬃc, the environment, and the community’s identity.
JD Elm Cornell Lands Ltd. has submitted an application to Markham city council for an Oﬃcial Plan and Zoning By-law Amendment, as well as a Draft Plan of Subdivision for a piece of land situated at the intersection of Highway 7 and Bur Oak Avenue. This land spans from the southern boundary of Markham Fire Station 99 (just east of Markham Stouffville Hospital), all the way along Bur Oak to Highway 7. If approved, the proposed development would significantly transform the area, in line with a vision that some residents believe could be intrusive and clash with the character of the community.
The development proposal has been under review since July 26, 2022, and the 120-day period before the owner can appeal the Oﬃcial Plan Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision applications to the Ontario Land Tribunal for a non-decision ended on November 23. The 90-day period before the owner can appeal the Zoning By-law Amendment application ended on October 24.
If approved, the proposed development would create approximately 2,116 residential units in seven mixed-use buildings, ranging in height from 10 to 28 stories. There would be 3,856 square metres of retail space, one partial park block, and three new roads. The development would also include 149,724 square metres of residential gross floor area and 1,412 square metres of retail gross floor area. The proposed development would create new opportunities for people to live, work, and play in Markham. Kate Cooper an agent from Bousfields Inc. spoke about how their development firm sees the area. “We think it’s a really important block in Cornell,” she said. “Located at a prominent intersection in the community and in proximity to community services and facilities that already exist. We have a hospital […] then community centre to the immediate north, we have fire services, we have transit […] and we feel that the site has the opportunity to develop in a meaningful way which will contribute to the area.” The development would also add to the city’s economy by creating jobs and increasing the tax base.
However, there are some concerns that the proposed development would have a negative impact on the surrounding community.
During the public meeting for the development proposal on March 21, 2023, concerns were raised by citizens including Brenda Young a resident of the condominium on the east side of Bur Oak at Highway 7.
Young commented on what it would be like living next to the proposed high rise: “Now with a 16-storey tower proposed we fear our home is once again going to be limited to enjoy.” She commented after mentioning how restrictive the Covid regulations were on her building. “Imagine sitting out on that rooftop looking up at 10 extra storeys. If the sun cannot reach us, what good is a rooftop garden? Dark shadows, no sunsets, no views.”
An additional concern is that the proposed development would increase traﬃc congestion in the area and impact air quality. The new roads that would be created as part of the development could lead to more cars on the road, which could lead to longer commute times for residents in the area.
Another concern is that the proposed development could have a negative impact on the environment. The Subject Lands include a woodland feature located in the southwest quadrant, and a small portion of the lands are located within a regulated area of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority. The development could have a negative impact on these natural features, which could impact the ecosystem and wildlife in the area.
Ward 5 councillor Andrew Keyes remarked that “it wasn’t a surprise […] as a resident that this density was coming.” The area had been ultimately slated for development for decades. He mentioned he would like to see establishments like restaurants and bars take footholds in the area and hopes more local parking for small businesses is included in many of the development plans.
Finally, there are concerns about the impact that the proposed development would have on the character of the community. The development would be comprised of seven mixed-use buildings, ranging in height from 10 to 28 stories, which could be out of scale with the surrounding community. The development could also change the character of the community by introducing businesses to the area and many more residents.
To conclude, the proposed development holds promise for the city, potentially oﬀering new possibilities for residents in terms of work, leisure, and habitation, while also providing a boost to the local economy. However, it is crucial to address the concerns regarding potential negative impacts on traﬃc congestion, the environment, and the community’s character. City council needs to take a thoughtful approach to the development’s review process, carefully evaluating these concerns and ensuring that the proposed development aligns with the best interests of the community.