High-rise apartment building proposed for downtown Simcoe

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A long-awaited development proposal for a key piece of real estate in downtown Simcoe was to receive its first airing at Norfolk council on Tuesday.

An Ontario numbered company – 2273925 — has put forward a proposal for an eight-storey apartment building on the vacant lot at the north end of the Norfolk municipal administration property on Robinson Street.

The 174-unit high-rise is tailored to the seniors market and features a mix of retail uses at ground level. Along with housing, provision is also made for the establishment of a long-term care facility.

“It is our professional opinion that the proposed mixed-use development represents an appropriate and desirable use of the subject property in an area that has been designated for modest intensification and development consistent with provincial policies,” Design Plan Services of Etobicoke says in a report on behalf of the developer.

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Norfolk council was to receive the proposal during a meeting of its public hearing committee on Tuesday. Plans were to discuss the proposal and assess criticisms of it from the community. Planning staff will take note of the discussion and prepare a final report, with recommendations, for consideration at a later date.

In his report, Norfolk planner Fabian Serra says the letters of concern take issue with the proposed height of the complex and its potential for shadowing, reduced privacy and incompatibility with the surrounding neighbourhood, the potential increase in traffic volume, pedestrian accessibility and safety, and the possibility of insufficient parking.

“I know that – if you allow for an eight-storey building to be constructed — I will never again be able to see the sunrise from my kitchen window,” Christine Hrycun of King Lane says in a letter dated Jan. 30. “By permitting such a tall structure, this will completely obliterate the sun from shining into my windows (and) onto my backyard until nearly noon.”

Due to previous fire-fighting limitations, Simcoe does not have a history of high-rise development. Fire-fighting capacity has improved in recent years and, with it, an increase in the number of high-rise proposals.

Tall buildings are problematic in communities with a history of low-rise development due to potential shadowing issues. This has emerged as a point of contention for a proposed eight-storey apartment building on Sydenham Street across from Riversyde 83, the community hub under development by the group Church Out Serving.

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The address of the proposed development is listed as Robinson Street because this is the road allowance the property fronts onto. However, the actual location is a good distance up Queen Street North at the intersection of Kars Street.

The planning report notes that county staff has serious concerns about the county’s ability to provide adequate water to the site. Norfolk imposed a moratorium on new development proposals in Simcoe last week for this reason. Serra’s report says the application can proceed to the public-hearing stage but may have to wait beyond that for Norfolk to secure new capacity.

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