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Commercial Zone Extending to Lake Simcoe

The Town of Innisfil has approved an “interim control” bylaw to prohibit property owners on the south side of Innisfil Beach Road between the 25th Sideroad and Lake Simcoe from building or renovating on their properties for one year.

The Town intends to formally rezone this portion of Innisfil Beach Road as part of the Downtown Commercial Area. The Town anticipates a gradual transition over time. As current residents sell their properties, new commercial developments may likely take the place of dwellings, although residential uses will continue to be allowed. The new zoning would permit mixed-use developments from two to four storys, with retail uses at ground level. Upper levels would accommodate office and residential space.

I vaguely recall that we’ve down this path before (April 2012) with the previous Official Plan. I think objections from residents persuaded a previous council to end the downtown commercial zoning at the 25th Sideroad. But the writing has been on the wall.

In August 2018, Simcoe County approved the draft of Innisfil’s newest Official Plan, Our Place. Section 9.2 – Primary Settlement Area, contained a brief indication of what is to come in these words:

“As the Primary Settlement Area, Alcona provides the opportunity to build and enhance public spaces as vibrant Town-wide people places and destinations. Particular focus shall be given to creating and maintaining vibrant public spaces in the Downtown Commercial Area … with a strong pedestrian and built form connection between the Downtown and Innisfil Beach Park along Innisfil Beach Road.[emphasis added]

I don’t know how many people would grasp the implication that this language implied rezoning for mixed-use commercial extending to the lake.

The Our Place report which focused on identifying “place-making” sites in Innisfil discussed Innisfil Beach Road and Park in these terms:

“Innisfil Beach Road has the potential to become a strong, vibrant and unified main street in Alcona. We have focused on the stretch of the road that extends from Jans Boulevard, adjacent to the Sobey’s Supermarket, to Innisfil Beach Park as this has the most potential to become a cohesive main street environment… the commercial core should remain compact and walkable. Additional street amenities such as well-designed wayfinding signage, attractive planting, bike racks and benches located where they will be most useful will contribute to the success of the street. [emphasis added]

Streetscape alone, however, does not make a street vibrant and walkable. A lot depends on the architecture of the buildings that front it and the uses –retail, restaurants and public gathering places — along it.” (Appendix 2, Key Place Making Destinations, p 23)

This is the only apparent reference to reframing the ‘commercial core’ zoning as including the residential portion east of the 25th Sideroad. Most residents would, I think, assume that any reference to the commercial core meant the existing zoning.

Appendix 2 of the Our Place Official Plan presented a short list of recommendations for Innisfil Bach Road including No.4:

“Strengthen and intensify the corridor by encouraging mixed-use buildings with retail on the ground floor and residential above, fronting the sidewalks. Limit building heights, and consider the architectural treatment of the buildings and storefronts with the goal of enlivening the street and creating an attractive retail environment.” [emphasis added]

The language did not clearly define the extent of the ‘corridor’ or make it clear this involved rezoning a portion of the street under discussion. It seems odd that the most recent commercial developments have been occurring on the fringes of the actual presumed downtown ‘core’. The fact that Council is moving the rezone this easterly area over the coming year suggests to me that some of the more central properties may be approaching an actual building stage. Rezoning this residential strip now will enable a transition process to continue over the next decade.

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