Residents concerned with Midtown’s high density, ‘never seen before in Oakville’s history’


Published May 29, 2023 at 2:56 pm

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From increased pressures on police and transit to lack of green spaces and employment, local residents voiced their concerns over the proposed plans for Midtown Oakville and the “overwhelming” density of the project.

Town Council held a special meeting last Tuesday (May 23) aimed at gathering feedback from local residents on one of Oakville’s most comprehensive urban growth centre projects and for many of the delegations who spoke it was simply too many people for the area.

“This Midtown monstrosity is the epitome of what I classify as anti-Oakville,” said Gordon Brennan, a board member with the Oakville Community Association.

Planning to create a vibrant urban community surrounding the Oakville GO Station first began in 1999 and is being updated in response to recent provincial legislative changes arising from Bills 109 and 23, including the provincial housing pledge.

Based on provincial requirements, Midtown Oakville will see a minimum of 20,600 people and jobs combined (people residing and/or working).

According to growth estimates, Midtown Oakville will grow progressively over time with approximately 68,000 people and jobs anticipated for 2081 depending on factors that include market forces.

Brennan, though, suggests the massive project will change Oakville’s unique character that it has worked to build over 100 years.

One affluent from its own core beginnings with traditions of kindness, philanthropy with real estate that flowed through the simple cottage like homes to stately manners.

On that eventuality expanded with town houses, semi-detached and small single-detached homes, apartments and condominium buildings with limited heights in districts spread out across our town.

“Now we have this one-time massive proposal of high density never seen before in Oakville’s history,” said Brennan,” who mentioned that of the over 1,000 comments they received on social media, only one was in favour of the development in its current form. “Frustration among thousands is growing because once more residents feel unheard of and even feel betrayed of the system that states one thing and does another.

“Because of these extended frustrations, citizens of Oakville want to know what, if any, are the consequences of council, or even the province, from ignoring or potentially ignoring residents needs and concerns.”

Ben Sprawson, a local architectural technologist and second generation developer in Oakville, says more clarity is needed on what the vision is in terms of density numbers.

“I am concerned the current proposed amendment could open up the door to much more growth than the province is requiring,” he said.

Sprawson said he understand the need to accommodate more housing in Oakville and that areas like Midtown are prime candidates for higher density areas than we are used to.

“From my analysis, I worry that the densities and building types that this plan could allow for will exceed the growth we need,” he added.

He believes 68,000 is a “very reasonable” number, but his numbers for the current proposal were closer to 120,000.

“I think we need to look at how those projections were made as then linier progression after the 68,000 I don’t think is realistic,” Sprawson said. “We need to start at the point of a goal and work backwards from there.

“I don’t think anyone would argue with me that 120,000 people is probably overkill for Mid-town Oakville.”

Plans for Midtown Oakville Official Plan Amendment (OPA) would see the highest density north of the railway tracks and the lower density south of them in order for a better transition to surrounding residential areas.

The area would have Oakville’s highest buildings.

“Midtown always has been envisioned as a transit-oriented, complete community,” said Geoff Abma, a senior planner with the Town of Oakville. “This is a place where people can live, work and play.

“A place where they can accomplish most of what they do every day within a short walk, bike ride or transit ride of their home, all within a well-designed and attractive public realm or streetscape environment.”

For Rick Snidal and Ted Haugen, they believe the project can be a unique neighbourhood reflecting Oakville’s spirit and lifestyle rather than just another high-rise destination.

“We need this OPA to show how we can be different and better than the competition,” said Haugen.

Still, they see many areas of concern.

Snidal pointed out four areas the town must make sure the OPA document firmly represents.

That there be a balanced mix of singles, families and seniors able to create a livable community and not huge towers filled with small units for first-time buyers. The Midtown amenities must include adamant green spaces that are interesting, useful and accessible to all residents and visitors to Oakville.

That there must be a focus to provide local employment per residence of Oakville and Midtown and as well that there is a financial fairness for both current and future tax payers in Oakville.

“There will be considerable pressure on police and firefighter services, transit, child care spaces and social services. Parkland and greenspace is extremely limited within the development,” said Haugen. “Are facilities north and south of the QEW able to handle these increases in population, will they be accessible? School transportation capacity is already stretched to the limit, can we find classrooms for our new children?

“The rendition of Midtown at the presentation and at Town Hall. . .  showed town houses, wide open green spaces and lots of blue sky. We don’t think that’s clearly realistic based on other developments. What will it really look like?

Haugen also talked about what he called the significant costs Oakville will incur to provide services for Midtown while there will be reduced development charge which creates a financial risk.

“Oakville has signed a significant signing pledge, are we confident in our population estimates which seem to be moving targets?,” he asked. “Which will be used to guide the development, services and infrastructure. There will be considerable pressure on Cornwall and Trafalgar Roads, neither which can be widened. Have mitigation factors been sufficiently planned?.”

Snidal said they are only voicing their concerns because they want Midtown to be a vibrant new community to be enjoyed by new and current Oakville residents and visitors. “We need Mid-town to be a financial success for both developers and citizens,” he said. “Since this plan covers more than 30 years of development, we need vision, planning and consent now to ensure it succeeds as we hope it will.”

Sprawson said he only wants Oakville to be the home for his kids that it was for him,

“I  have a young daughter and son on the way at any moment and I want to ensure that this development keeps Oakville the amazing place that I grew up for generations to come, so that they choose to stay close to home when they’re my age,” he said.

Work on the proposed Midtown Oakville Official Plan Amendment (OPA) will continue after local councillors passed a resolution to set up a special Council committee.

The Special Committee will report back to Town Council before the end of 2023 following additional work, such as study of best practices for Major Transit Station Areas, climate change initiatives, relevant master plans, population forecasts, and a detailed review of infrastructure requirements, timelines and commitments.

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