Highland Gate Redevelopment
Information Overview July 9, 2015

The information below has been compiled by Highland Gate Developments Inc. to respond to questions and concerns raised at two recent public meetings in Aurora: a Community Open House hosted by the Developer on April 15, 2015 and a Public Planning Meeting, held by the Town in accordance with the Planning Act on June 24, 2015.

The information is organized under the following headings:

1. Pre-Construction Activities
2. Construction Phasing and Management Plan
3. Site Grading
4. Trees and Vegetation Buffers
5. Natural and Artificial Features and Wildlife
6. Drainage and Stormwater Management
7. Neighbourhood Character, Compatibility and Density
8. Lot Coverage and Set-back Controls
9. The Condominium Building
10. Street Design Standards
11. Single-Loaded Streets
12. Street Lighting
13. Traffic
14. Noise
15. Parks, Trails and Open Space
16. School Space Available
17. Town Services, Development Charges and Property Taxes
18. The “One Foot Reserves”
19. Environmental Policy Conformity and Zoning
20. Comparison to Glenway in Newmarket

1. Pre-Construction Activities

Prior to construction, the former golf course lands will continue to be maintained as private property by Highland Gate Developments Inc. This maintenance includes grass cutting and inspection of the property for damages and general condition. For added security we have retained a private security firm to monitor the property in-person, seven days a week.

Highland Gate Developments Inc. will offer to undertake a preconstruction inspection of all the existing homes adjacent to the site. This is a voluntary inspection that each homeowner can opt to participate in or not.

During construction, on-site inspection and vibration monitoring will also be undertaken, as required, as a preventative measure. Should there be any concerns raised by adjacent homeowners, the situation will be immediately investigated based on the available information and should the situation be confirmed to have occurred as a result of the construction activities, the situation will be remedied by Highland Gate Developments Inc.

2. Construction Phasing and Management Plan

The developer will prepare a construction phasing and management plan that will be subject to best practices and accepted standards for control of dust, noise, construction traffic, and security.

The plan will be reviewed by and is subject to approval by the Town. The plan will set out the means by which the developer will mitigate the effects of construction on existing residents, along with the mitigation elements to be installed by the developer agreed to with individual homeowners.

Both the Town’s and the developer’s on-site inspectors will monitor construction during earthworks and servicing to ensure the plan is adhered to. Contacts will be provided for residents in the event there are questions during construction. An estimated construction timeline will be provided once all approvals are in place, prior to construction commencing.

No private properties are required for site access. There may be instances where certain works such as grading or landscaping are agreed upon with neighbouring property owners and carried out at specific lot line interfaces. Appropriate construction fencing will be installed as approved by the Town of Aurora and Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority (LSRCA) prior to the start of any construction.

3. Site Grading

Grading within the redevelopment site will be required. Some of the grades within the site will be altered to accommodate the proposed lot and street layout. Proposed changes will be discussed with neighbouring landowners on a site by site basis, but there is no proposal nor intention to alter any property not owned by Highland Gate Developments, except where there is agreement with a neighbouring landowner.

Grading of the subject site will consist of both cut and fill areas, and in all cases, drainage from any disturbed areas of the site will be captured on site and directed to the municipal storm drainage system. Sediment control measures will be installed and maintained during grading activities.

Any drainage currently coming from the existing lots onto the subject site will be accommodated through the site drainage design. Retaining walls are being provided as minimally as possible and only where necessary to account for grade differentials.

4. Trees and Vegetation Buffers

In response to the recommendations and expertise provided by a professional landscape architect, we will plant approximately 2,600 new trees throughout the development, which is in excess of the 3:1 ratio typically recommended by both the LSRCA and the Town of Aurora. In other words, more than three trees will be planted for every one tree that is removed.

The new trees will be monitored for survival and replaced as needed within the normal maintenance period. Typically, this is a two year period, following which the Town assumes ownership of the new infrastructure (for example, roads, pipes, trees).

Trees that may be affected by the development will be assessed to confirm their overall health and condition. Some of those that appear to be naturally declining and those that are affected by the development will be replaced, either by other trees, appropriate shrubbery plantings and/or landscaping.

Tags on the existing trees simply mean those trees have been recorded in a tree inventory. Tags do not indicate whether or not a tree will be removed. As set out on the Tree Preservation Plan prepared by Schollen & Company, about 65 per cent of the trees that have been inventoried are anticipated to be removed.

In consultation with our neighbours, new trees and shrubs will be planted, or existing trees will be transplanted, throughout the proposed development to help integrate the new homes with the existing homes and to provide vegetative buffering. Through ongoing consultations with our neighbours, new opportunities to preserve additional trees have been identified.

We recognize that much of the site directly abuts existing residences and we

understand the need to mitigate potential impacts on existing residents. We will do this through ongoing, case-by-case consultations. More than 150 of 190 planned one-on-one consultations have already taken place with residents to discuss mutually acceptable solutions.

5. Natural and Artificial Features and Wildlife

The existing man-made ponds within the proposed park block (Block 207) are proposed to be removed and replaced in conjunction with a re-naturalization of the watercourse to improve water quality and base flow conditions. These ponds were created to serve as a water source for irrigation and to create water hazards on the former golf course. Removing these man-made ponds is consistent with the LSCRA’s Guidelines for the Implementation of Ontario Regulation 179/06. Clause 9.2.2 of the Guideline states that “The construction of new in-stream or by-pass ponds which are directly connected with a watercourse will not be permitted. Where these ponds exist, the LSRCA will encourage their removal and the restoration of the site”.

The environmental benefits of removing the ponds and re-naturalizing the watercourse include water quality improvements downstream, with respect to clarity and temperature, and the replacement of non-native fish species with native species. Vegetation plantings along watercourse edges will have environmental and aesthetic benefits. We are currently assessing the feasibility of retaining the pond in Block 188 with staff at the Town and the Conservation Authority as it is not connected to a watercourse and therefore will not impact water quality. The remaining man-made ponds are proposed to be removed.

A realignment of the watercourse may be undertaken near the planned condominium building. We will work closely with the Conservation Authority to meet all regulatory requirements and enhance the functions of the natural heritage and hydrological features in the area.

Our environmental experts, Beacon Environmental, have conducted seasonal field investigations over the calendar year to characterize and document the existing natural heritage features and functions. This has included woodland and wetland staking with staff of the LSRCA, breeding bird surveys, breeding amphibian surveys, vegetation mapping and a plant inventory.

Throughout these field investigations ecologists also maintained a list of other wildlife observed (e.g., mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians). These seasonal field investigations are standard requirements of a Natural Heritage Evaluation for lands within the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, (ORMCP), and the Lake Simcoe watershed (and generally within southern Ontario), for development proposals.

The extensive information obtained regarding vegetation, wildlife, and aquatic features (ponds, streams) was assessed in relation to the proposed development in conjunction with all applicable legislation and policies (for example, Aurora Official Plan, York Region Official Plan, Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan, LSRCA Policies and Regulations, Endangered Species Act, Lake Simcoe Protection Plan).

No Endangered or Threatened species have been recorded on site.

6. Drainage and Storm Water Management

The stormwater drainage and stormwater management system is designed and will be built to the high standards of the Town of Aurora, the LSRCA and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC).

Stormwater quality control will be provided to the “Enhanced” level MOECC criteria, which is Ministry’s highest level of stormwater quality treatment.

Stormwater quantity or flood control will be provided throughout the site via in-line storage (also referred to as ‘superpipes’) within the proposed municipal storm sewer system to provide peak runoff control to match pre-development levels for the standard design rainfall events, including the 2-year up to and including the 100-year rainfall event.

The stormwater management system includes the use of environmentally friendly bioswales.

Bioswales are landscape elements designed to remove silt and other material from surface water runoff. They consist of a grassed-lined swale with gently sloped sides, filled with mulch and vegetation.

They are known as low impact development (LID) features that help facilitate the natural filtration and infiltration of stormwater runoff in an environmentally friendly manner. The use of LID’s is encouraged by the LSRCA and the Town of Aurora and endorsed by the MOECC.

In addition to their stormwater management function, bioswales have the added benefit of providing green vegetated areas along the new streets, throughout the development.

7. Neighbourhood Character, Compatibility and Density

The planned use of the property for housing and parks and trails is compatible with and generally in keeping with the fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The lot sizes, housing types, streetscapes, architectural styles and street patterns will complement the surrounding established neighbourhood and maintain its quality character.

In keeping with the surrounding areas, the proposed redevelopment contains lots that vary in size – both in frontage and depth.

Lot frontages generally range from 50 feet to 60 feet but there are instances where the lots are much wider, up to 70 and 80 feet. Similarly, lot depths are generally 100 feet, with instances where they are much deeper, 130, 140 and 150 feet, and in a few cases the lots extend up to 200 and 300 feet in depth.

The current application anticipates a mix of bungalows, two-storey homes, and two-storey homes with loft space built into the attic.

The 184 new single detached homes will be compatible and generally in keeping with the density of the existing community. At 13.2 units per hectare, the density of the proposed development is lower than most of the surrounding, existing Highland Gate community, which is between 13.6 and 16.3 units per hectare (being those areas immediately adjacent to the south and northwest).

Any lower density would not be in keeping with the surrounding community nor would it further the principles of intensification and efficient use of the land as called for by the Provincial Growth Plan.

8. Lot Coverage and Set-back Controls

The Town’s zoning bylaws determine the buildable area of the lot by imposing setback standards to control how much of the lot can be occupied by a house. In other words, the allowable footprint of a building on a given lot is controlled through the use of “minimum yard” standards.

Yard standards, together with urban design guidelines and architectural controls, provide adequate controls for single family detached homes.

The R2 Zone standards for Minimum Lot Area, Minimum Lot Frontage and Minimum Rear Yard Setback are the same as in the surrounding R2 area, with the exception of a very limited number of cases where a rear yard setback of 6 metres is proposed to account for irregular lots.

The proposal to change the front yard setbacks from 6 metres to 6 metres for the garage and 4.5 metres for the main building is in keeping with contemporary urban design standards that seek to bring front doors and porches closer to the sidewalk to encourage social interaction and enhance neighbourhood safety with “eyes on the street”.

Side Yard Setbacks are proposed to be changed from 1.5 metres to 1.2 metres for an interior side yard and from 6.0 metres to 4.5 metres for an exterior side yard. This is also reflective of contemporary urban design standards.

As noted and illustrated by the developer at the June 24th 2015 public meeting, the proposed development will feature homes with building massing and streetscapes that are similar to the existing homes and streets. A copy of the developer’s Public Meeting Presentation material is available at www.highlandgateaurora.com.

9. The Condominium Building

Ten storeys is an appropriate height for a building in this location, adjacent to the Yonge Street corridor, where other buildings of similar height already exist and where transit service is provided and is planned to be enhanced.

A site specific permission is required to permit ten storeys in height where prior site specific zoning (the apartment building immediately to the north) has a permitted height of seven storeys.

The proposed 144 unit condominium apartment building is generally in keeping with the higher density character of abutting lands and balances the lower density of the rest of the proposed development while providing population density to support a future regional rapid transit stop at Golf Links Drive and Yonge Street.

The building will be separated from the existing single family homes to the west by the existing Regional Storm floodplain, renaturalized watercourse, and associated green space.

The proposed height of the building meets the “angular plane” principle outlined in the Town’s Official Plan policies for locating a high density building next to lower density existing neighbourhoods. The angular plane test is a standard urban design principle and key consideration when determining the acceptable height of a high rise building located in proximity to low rise buildings. The angular plane test also serves to control the visual impact of the building on nearby streets.

The principle underlying the angular plane rule is to provide adequate separation to reduce shadow effects and allow a more comfortable visual transition. Shadow studies have been completed and show that there will be no unacceptable shadow impacts to the nearby low rise residential properties.

10. Street Design Standards

A total of 2,976 metres (2.976 kilometres) of new streets are proposed for the development, all of which will be designed within a 17.5 metre wide public right-of-way, which has been implemented elsewhere in the Town.

The width of the pavement within the right-of-way varies, depending on the intended function of the street. In this development, the street pavement widths vary from 6.0 metres to 7.5 metres. The wider width will be used to accommodate on-street parking, if required.

In all cases, the new streets will be wide enough for safe passage for all vehicles including emergency and service vehicles (fire, ambulance, garbage/recycling trucks, snowplows).

The new streets will have sidewalks on one side and a stormwater management bioswale on the other side, within the public right-of-way.

11. Single-Loaded Streets

The configuration of the site requires that many streets in the new development will be “single -loaded”, meaning that they will have homes on one side of the street.

The single-loaded streets will be used for local traffic only, not as thoroughfares.

Where a new street is proposed adjacent to an existing lot, the minimum separation between the property line and the asphalt for the new street is 5.5 metres (approximately 18 feet). This area will contain the green bioswale and other plantings. In the limited instances where on-street parking is required, the separation distance is 4.0 metres.

Furthermore, in many instances there is an additional buffer zone adjacent to the existing lot, which increases the width of the vegetation buffer between the street asphalt and the property line, in some cases, up to 10 to 20 metres (33 to 66 feet).

The buffers abutting existing residential lots will take into consideration, where possible, preferences expressed by our neighbours including the integration of existing vegetation, replacement of existing vegetation with new plantings, fencing options, and landscape screening.

12. Street Lighting

Street lighting will be constructed in accordance with Town of Aurora standards. Street lights are proposed to be located on the opposite side of the street from existing homes.

The light fixtures will be designed to control the illumination to focus downward onto the new streets and sidewalks, mitigating any potential light impacts on existing residential properties.

13. Traffic

A Traffic Operations Analysis concluded the study area intersections will not be adversely affected as a result of the redevelopment, either during peak travel hours or otherwise.

Given the amount of development proposed and its dispersed character, there will be little effect on the area transportation system. No off-site traffic improvements are required to accommodate the future traffic volumes.

The Site Distance Analysis concluded there are no sight-line safety issues associated with the development of the intersections within the proposed redevelopment.

The additional traffic related to the proposed development will not change the character and function of existing area streets.

The proposed new streets will have minimal traffic as they will only serve the residents of the proposed development. The estimated peak hourly traffic volumes for the new streets range from 5 to 15 vehicle trips.

Traffic related to the proposed condominium building was also considered as part of the traffic analysis.

The existing traffic impediment on Golf Links Drive created by vehicles queuing to access the Tim Hortons is an isolated matter that should be addressed by the Town in consultation with the owner of the Tim Hortons. The Transportation Study concluded that no physical improvements are required at the Yonge Street and Golf Links Drive intersection to accommodate the forecasted traffic volumes from the proposed development.

Turning movement counts for the Yonge Street / Kennedy Street and Yonge Street / Murray Drive intersections, which were conducted by York Region, were provided by Town of Aurora staff. As these turning movement counts were undertaken in October 2011 (weekday morning peak hour) and February 2012 (weekday afternoon peak hour), three and two years of growth, respectively, were applied to the through movements on Yonge Street to reflect 2014 traffic conditions.

14. Noise

Due to the existing traffic volumes on Bathurst Street and Murray Street, sound barriers will be required along the rear of the proposed lots backing onto Bathurst Street and Murray Street to address Town and Regional requirements to satisfy MOECC noise mitigation guidelines. The design of the fencing will be determined in consultation with the Town and Region.

Care will be taken to ensure the entrance feature at the Bathurst Street and Highland Gate entrance is in keeping with the high quality design of the community, providing an attractive entrance to the community while fulfilling its function as a sound barrier.

The additional volume of vehicles is so modest that it does not trigger the need for any further noise mitigation measures within the site.

15. Parks, Trails and Open Space

The proposed redevelopment is a conversion of private green space to public green space and residential uses, and includes the preservation of large areas of open green space that was, as private property, previously inaccessible to the public.

Of the 101 acre site, over 48% is to be preserved as open space – either as parks, trails or natural heritage areas – and will be conveyed to the Town for the use and enjoyment by the community, following the approval and registration of the plan. This is a very substantial conveyance and represents a significant public interest.

In developing the design for the plan we drew guidance from the Town’s Trails Master Plan which calls for an east-west trail system from Bathurst Street to Yonge Street, with connections to existing trails, including the existing Oak Ridges Moraine Trail along Seaton Drive, Murray Drive and Kennedy Road.

The proposed Master Plan contains a 7.3-kilometre network of trails, 60% of which are off-street.

Within this network, the main “Town-Wide Spine Trail” segment runs 2.5 kilometres along the northern section of the plan, with a potential linkage through the Tannery Creek area. Over that length, more than 85% of the Trail is off-street, achieving the Town’s goal to see trails off-street wherever possible, pursuant to section 5.7.3 of the Town’s Trails Master Plan (2011), which states:

“One of the objectives of the Aurora Trails Master Plan is to develop a trail network that is off-road wherever possible, recognizing that in some cases an off-road alignment is not possible even in the long term.”

The Town’s Trails Master Plan envisions the introduction of a trail system in the Highland Gate area, between Bathurst and Yonge Streets, within the 2035 to 2060 timeframe. If approved, the development proposal would realize the planned trail system in this area almost 20 years earlier.

Oak Ridges Moraine Trail
Within the limits of the Town of Aurora, the Oak Ridges Moraine Trail system spans approximately 11.4 kilometres, of which 3.0 kilometres (26%) are off-street, and 8.4 kilometres (74%) are on-street. Within this area of Town, the Oak Ridge Moraine Trail is on-street along Seaton Drive, Murray Drive and Kennedy Road. Designating the proposed ‘Town-Wide Spine Trail’ within the proposed development as an Oak Ridges Moraine Trail will substantially increase the extent of off-street trail in the area. This designation would be done by the appropriate public authority, in consultation with the Town’s Parks Department. There appear to be viable options to improve the connection southward from the Spine Trail to better link with the intersection of Bathurst and Henderson. These will be explored with Town Staff.

Continuous Green Corridor
As for the concept of a continuous “green corridor” between Bathurst Street and Yonge Street, a continuous trail is proposed throughout the east-west extent of the plan. Off-street trails are provided throughout most of the plan, except most notably where Street ‘H’ is proposed; there is insufficient room to provide a greenway or off-street trail in this location of the redevelopment.

At the request of community trails advocates, an alternative surface treatment for the sidewalk will be explored with the Town, to create more of a ‘trail’ condition along Street ‘H’.

Parkland Dedication
Whereas the Planning Act requires that 1.76 ha (4.35 ac) be dedicated to the Town of parkland purposes, the proposed master plan contains a total of 3.84 ha (9.49 ac), exceeding the Planning Act requirement by 2.08 ha (5.14 ac).

All of the parkland to be dedicated to the Town, Blocks 185 to 191 (3.84 ha), is developable tableland, which is outside of environmental protection areas and associated buffers. All parkland Blocks meet or exceed the Town’s minimum size requirement of 0.35 ha for a parkette.

16. School Space Available

Our analysis shows that the existing schools have more than enough space to accommodate the expected student population resulting from the new homes in Highland Gate.

Both the York Region District School Board and the York Catholic District School Board have reviewed the development proposal and confirmed in writing that they have no objection to the proposed development.

For background, there are nine schools within the Highland Gate catchment area:

  • four are Public elementary and three of these are operating under capacity, with a total of 228 spaces available;
  • two are Public secondary and one of these is operating under capacity, with a total of 146 spaces available;
  • two are Catholic elementary, and both are under capacity, with a total of 288 spaces available;
  • one is Catholic secondary and is under capacity, with a total of 378 spaces available.

Based on a proposal of 184 single detached homes and 144 apartment units, the York Region District School Board would receive approximately 60 elementary school students and 33 secondary school students. The York Catholic District School Board would receive approximately 25 elementary school students and ten secondary school students.

The existing schools within the study area have sufficient capacity to accommodate the expected student population resulting from the development proposal.

17. Town Services, Development Charges and Property Taxes

Municipal services provided by the Town of Aurora, including water supply allocations (which include fire protection water demands), have been assessed and determined to be sufficient to meet the needs of those who will live in the new homes and condominium building without adversely impacting the existing community.

York Region provides water supply allocation to the area municipalities based on overall system capacity.

The developer will construct local services, and will pay development charges to the Town and Region to pay for the costs of both hard and soft community-wide services.

Property tax rates are subject to many factors and are assessed based on a Town-wide budget.

MPAC is an independent not-for-profit corporation and is not involved in this process, but as with their normal practice elsewhere, they periodically reassess property values.

Property taxes paid are a function of the tax rate and assessed value of the property. 18. The “One Foot Reserves”

The Town owns strips of land one-foot wide around parts of the Highland Gate property. The purpose of these ‘one foot reserves’ was addressed by the Town of Aurora Solicitor in Report No. LLS15-008 dated January 13, 2015 which concluded:

Multiple one-foot reserves exist within Highland Gate. Their use as “leverage” in any future development of the lands cannot be heavy-handed or arbitrary. The purpose of one-foot reserves as a planning tool is to enable municipalities to control access and development on the adjacent lands. The Courts have ruled that a municipality exercising its discretion to lift a one-foot reserve cannot make its decision in bad faith, for arbitrary reasons, or for extraneous, irrelevant or collateral considerations that have nothing to do with relevant planning principles.

19. Environmental Policy Conformity and Zoning

The Highland Gate site is within the Provincially delineated built boundary in the Town of Aurora Settlement Area. It is designated Private Parkland and Environmental Protection in the Town of Aurora Official Plan. The property is currently zoned Major Open Space (O/O-2) and Oak Ridges Moraine Environmental Protection (EP-ORM) by the Town’s Zoning By-law.

In May 2001, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing introduced the Oak Ridges Moraine Protection Act, which established a six-month suspension of development on the Moraine to allow for a period of study and consultation. That six month moratorium is no longer in effect.

The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan (ORMCP) designates the western portion of the Highland Gate property as a “Settlement Area.” Development may occur in Settlement Areas if it conforms to the applicable policies of the ORMCP.

The proposed redevelopment will occur in accordance with the applicable natural heritage policies of the Town of Aurora Official Plan, the Region of York Official Plan, the Provincial Policy Statement, the ORMCP, the LSRCA, and the Endangered Species Act. The plan as proposed complies with these policy directives and identifies opportunities to restore and enhance the ecological function of the site’s natural heritage features and features adjacent to it.

20. Comparison to Glenway in Newmarket

Highland Gate is not Glenway. They are in different municipalities and have different characteristics. There are, however, similarities between the two developments including the fact that both golf courses were designated as Private Open Space in the local Official Plan, both were largely developable table lands, both are within the Built Boundary and both proposed a form of development that was similar to and compatible with the surrounding existing residential community.

In both cases there is no planning debate respecting the “principle of development.” It is developable private property and the proper planning question is “what form should that development take?”

The housing densities of the proposed Highland Gate development are generally in keeping with the surrounding community, and the form of re-development proposed is derived from the surrounding neighbourhoods, not from Glenway or any other site.

The re-use of private recreational land, including former golf courses, for housing is not unusual or unique. In fact, the existing Highland Gate community resulted from the redevelopment of portions of the Highland Gate golf course some 30 years ago.

All such lands within designated settlement areas have the potential to be put to some other use, including housing.

Golf courses, whether they are publicly or privately owned, are not protected from redevelopment in perpetuity simply because they are golf courses.