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Barrie councillors advance major Fairgrounds development as curling club fights to maintain its footprint


City councillors have placed the immediate future of the old Barrie Fairgrounds into the hands of the province.

On Wednesday night, councillors gave final approval to submit a Community Infrastructure and Housing Accelerator (CIHA) to the province for a major new development proposed for a property along Essa Road that has remained dormant for the better part of 20 years.

"It's so needed and for the housing," said Deputy Mayor Robert Thomson. "I truly believe the developer wants to build something that will stand out and be proud and not stand out in the sense of an eyesore."

The CIHA is a new tool employed by the provincial government as it works towards building 1.5 million homes by 2031, expediting the approval process for certain developments that will help the province achieve its goal.

The Proposed Plan

The proposal from Greenworld Development has multiple high-rise towers and several townhomes, collectively bringing more than 4,000 units to Barrie. It also has about six acres set aside for a new school. However, with multiple school boards interested and nearby traffic implications, Thomson says the CIHA will help get multiple ministries on board.

"There's the housing minister, the education minister, and the transportation minister, so we're trying to get them all in the same room," Thomson says.

However, sitting as general committee late last month, Councillor Clare Riepma raised concerns that another CIHA application submitted last year for a proposed long-term care development has yet to see any action.

"I have confidence, know their goal is to build well over one million houses, so I think they'll understand the importance of moving this forward, and that's why I think the majority of council supported going forward, knowing that it's hard sometimes to get answers from three different ministries."


Curling Club's Footprint

While the property has remained largely vacant for roughly two decades, the Barrie Curling Club (BCC) remains the only existing tenant, with a lease extending well into the next century.

On Wednesday, the club's director deputated to council, asking that the CIHA application be delayed until outstanding issues between the BCC and developer can be resolved.

As it stands, there are concerns that the current plans will encroach on the club's footprint.

To alleviate those concerns, councillors submitted the CIHA with an amendment that it is not transferrable, meaning whatever zoning decisions are made through the application will not stand if the ownership of the property ever changes to a new developer.


"We're a little skeptical or have some reservations around that CIHA process but we've had assurances from city council that they understand the value that the BCC brings to the community and they want to see us remain financially viable and operational," said BCC Manager Melanie Hughes.

The BCC has been vocal about how the development could impact the facility for months. However, BCC leadership is far from opposed to the development moving ahead.

"The idea of bringing a bunch of new residents to the City of Barrie, essentially to our backyard, is great," said Hughes. It will be great for the Curling Club, and anything that's great for curling in general is great for the Barrie Curling Club."

BCC Director Norman Speake, who has led the negotiations and presented at council numerous times, says there are more issues outstanding. He left optimistic Wednesday night that its footprint will eventually be protected but says other capital costs will be put on the club if the development moves ahead.

"There's a very, significant, economic impact on the Barrie Curling Club solely as a consequence of this development going forward and while it is largely a landlord and tenant matter those issues are inextricably entwined with the determination of the future of the Barrie Curling Club."

Speake says the BCC cannot take on fees related to changes to the parking lot, snow removal, and landscaping.

"We can only hope that the City can find a way to involve itself in those matters going forward because they are as important as any other matter that we're talking about today."

Rail Proposal

Councillors have also voted to have staff investigate the possibility of using existing train tracks as a new transportation option for the development. With existing rail spurs already in use, staff will spend the coming months investigating the feasibility of using them to connect the Fairgrounds development to the Allandale Transit Terminal, which is currently under construction.

"The rail tracks don't end here at Allandale Train Station, and so the potential shouldn't end either," said Councillor Sergio Morales, who first brought the idea forward. "If we leverage the rail tracks that continue past the highway and westward, we can actually have a better developed Fairgrounds that doesn't contribute the same amount of cars that one would expect it to but where we can leverage it for commuter traffic and other residents of the City of Barrie."

Morales expects the study to take some time.

City staff are unclear on how long the CIHA application will stay with the province before it is returned. Top Stories

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