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Conflicting Visions for Barrie’s Future: Intense Debate Over Essa Road Development

During the last week’s Barrie City Council meeting, residents discussed the development at 175 and 199 Essa Road and 50 Wood Street. The proposal includes 4,054 residential units, comprising high-rises, mixed-use high-rises, townhouses, and commercial spaces, along with a designated school block. Specifically, it breaks down to 13 residential towers ranging from 15 to 40 storeys, 113 two-storey townhouses, and 98 three-storey townhouses. The development also proposes 196 parking spaces.

Craig Busch, representing Vision Barrie, advocated for a high-quality urban life in Barrie. He suggested that the development could address potential traffic concerns by adopting a high-density, urban village model, allowing residents to access amenities and work without needing cars, thereby enhancing quality of life and alleviating traffic.

Darren Vella, from Greenwell Construction, presented a plan for a mixed-use, high-density housing project. The plan focuses on community amenities and reduced car dependence, while also respecting existing zoning, such as that for the nearby curling club.

Norman Speake, representing the Barrie Curling Club, raised concerns about the development’s impact on the club. He emphasized the need to revise their lease due to a proposed new access road and called for greater clarity and involvement from the city to address these issues.

Mayor Alex Nuttall highlighted that Barrie has not yet achieved the intensification standards set by provincial and federal governments for housing fund eligibility. He also pointed out the city’s inability to control conflicting directives from the Ministries of Education, Transportation, and Municipal Affairs and Housing, noting a lack of coordination between them.

The council approved a motion for city staff to initiate the Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) application. It was also agreed that if neither school board opts to build a school in the development, the land would be transferred to the city at no cost for parkland use.

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