Residents of Alcona have noticed a new billboard display erected at the property owned by Abandel Group Ltd. on the north side of Innisifil Beach Rd., opposite the Shoppers Drug Mart. This was the site of two previous proposals, one for a multi-storey condo at the back of the property with no clear plan for the street frontage, and a later second concept for a couple of strip-plaza type of buildings with one of them fronting on Innisfil Beach Rd. Neither plan met with Council approval.
The company is back with another lame concept consisting of multiple buildings surrounded by parking including a drive-through fast food restaurant and a bank with a drive-through ATM. The bank building would also include three additional floors of office space. There would also be two strip-plaza type of retail spaces and some town houses at the rear of the property. The development plan encompasses the Scott’s Towing property to the west as well as the adjacent empty field that was the site of earlier proposals..
Remarkably, this design comes forward just as the province has announced that control on sprawl will be tightened to require 60% of new development to be within municipal settlement boundaries instead of 40%. The kind of suburban style auto-oriented development proposed by Abandel is at least 50 years out of date. It may have been acceptable pre-Jane Jacobs in the sixties. And in the last 30 years we’ve had Smart Growth, Greenbelt legislation, the Inspiring Innisfil official plan, the Innisfil Place-Making plan, the Innisfil Beach urbanization project and design guidelines, and the province’s review of the Greenbelt Plan, “Planning for Health, Prosperity and Growth in the Greater Golden Horseshoe 2015-2041”.
Is the company and its architects and planners totally clueless about provincial and municipal planning objectives? Do they have any grasp of contemporary urban planning concepts? What part of intensification, urbanization, commercial core, main street, downtown, walkability and place-making don’t they understand? I just think that paving more than 160 parking spaces on this site is a tragic waste of a prime development opportunity. Maybe our zoning regulations are partly to blame.
I would think that any reputable urban planner and architect would leap at the chance to design a fresh, contemporary, 21st century people-friendly, multi-use concept on a ‘blank slate’ like the empty commercial properties here, which are free of any pre-existing built impediments. Who would throw away that opportunity to build something that is outdated before construction even begins? Well, now we know.
The sad part is that if this proposal is approved, the next property to the east, a 2 acre empty field, will almost certainly follow the same fate of being turned into parking with strip-plaza retail. And Rod’s Esso and the Crossroads Plaza is adjacent to that. We face the prospect of the entire eastern stretch from Jans Blvd. to Adullum Ave. consisting of car-oriented strip retail on a series of bleak parking lots for at least another generation.
Applications for rezoning of the Abandel Group property and Scott’s Towing property to facilitate Abandel’s proposed plan will be considered on Wednesday, June 1 at 6:30 pm.