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Steve Hinder says opposition to Clock Tower “makes no sense”

Steve Hinder believes opposition to Bob Forrest’s proposed development “makes no sense”. 

Hinder, who will be jointly moderating the Ward 5 candidates Q&A on 4 October 2016, believes a seven storey apartment building in the heart of the Heritage Conservation District is needed, dismissing as irrelevant the three storey height cap mandated by the Heritage and zoning by-laws.

Hinder, an Aurora resident, believes it is OK to demolish irreplaceable historic buildings – including one dating from 1845 where the first female pharmacist in Canada had her business. This is a matter of no consequence to him.

Surprised at opposition

Hinder is “surprised” at the opposition to the Clock Tower redevelopment.

And yet this is the man who will be holding the ring at the candidates Q&A next Tuesday, responsible for ensuring fair play.

We all want to see the Town’s Heritage District survive and prosper.

But the real question is this: Will Bob Forrest’s Clock Tower development be a dose of arsenic to the old downtown, killing it off completely, or will it be a tonic?

Even with a whole section of Main Street South shuttered and boarded up for years by Bob Forrest the street has gone from strength to strength. Everyone celebrates its vitality.

But can the street survive three or four years of construction with dump trucks thundering along residential roads? Can the Heritage District stay its old attractive self with this monstrous out-of-place development at its very heart?

Steve Hinder clearly thinks so.

The letter below was sent by Steve Hinder to Newmarket Council earlier this year. He staunchly supports Bob Forrest’s Clock Tower development.

How on earth can the Chamber of Commerce consider him an impartial referee?

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The letter from Hinder to the Mayor and Members of Newmarket Council reads:

I would like to express my opinion on what I think is a tremendous opportunity for the Town of Newmarket.

I am surprised to hear there is opposition to the Clock Tower redevelopment knowing the benefits it will create for Main Street, adding to the current assets that already exist in the area.

Although I live in Aurora, I shop, dine and visit Main Street on a regular basis. For the last 40 years as a resident of the area, I have watched how the street has changed from one that struggled with maintaining and attracting retailers, restaurants and people, always however recognizing the potential.

To today, where it has become the total opposite and is known as one of the most attractive areas in which to visit and a focal point for the community. A destination for people.

I applauded the leadership of politicians and community leaders that envisioned this “people” place and acted by designing and developing River Walk Commons.

This addition brought people to Main Street. It became alive with activity and commerce because that’s what people bring. New restaurants and retail followed and resulted in attracting even more. It has become a jewel for the area.

Newmarket is fortunate to have a great Main Street, Riverwalk Commons and Fairy Lake all linked in an attractive community setting.

I heralded the news of the Clock Tower redevelopment recognizing that it would bring more residents to the downtown core. More prosperity, more opportunity, more support for small business. This can only be a positive economic boost that will help ensure a vibrant, sustainable Main Street for decades to come.

To present opposition to such a positive addition makes no sense. To maintain the status quo for the sake of not wanting change is the type of thinking that will jeopardize not only local business but risk squandering something very special.

I personally find the lifestyle such a development would offer, extremely attractive. I know I speak for many of friends who shared the excitement about living in such a special community that provided dining, shopping and recreational opportunities all within a short walk. We’ve been talking about this redevelopment as a positive move forward since it was first proposed and considered it the next logical addition.

I encourage members of Council to look forward to what might be, rather than focus on what used to be. If downtown Newmarket does not see this great opportunity before them, others will and this exciting addition will be lost forever.

It’s time to continue building on what’s been started and ensuring the sustainability that will make Main Street the desirable community it can be.

I encourage you to continue with your leadership for the good of all residents, businesses and all that enjoy this great space today AND tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Steve Hinder


 

The Clock Tower project could be morphing

Bob’s at it again!

Is there no end to the number of re-designs of the Clock Tower development? How many more expensive makeovers is it going to get before Bob finally throws in the towel? 

I asked the Town if Bob’s application - with all its elevations and drawings - had been amended or supplemented in any way since the public meeting was held in the Council Chamber on 9 May 2016.

Apparently Bob has been tweaking again.

Ongoing discussions

I am told there have been “ongoing discussions” with the applicant’s heritage consultants on the massing and density but no formal version can be shared with me or the wider public.

I expected conversations between staff and Bob’s people on the state of the brick facades at 186-194 Main Street South now that the metal sidings have been removed.

Massing and Density

But discussions on “massing and density” go a bit beyond what even I was expecting. We have already had six, nine and now seven storeys. We’ve had condo, rental and now condo again.

Could the wily old fox be about to unveil a re-worked version of his seven storey apartment block?

Bob has invested years in this project – and spent barrow loads of money. He is not going to give up until we prise his fingers from the historic properties he is determined to demolish.

Elsewhere…  Information surfaces from Terraprobe - the consulting engineers hired by Bob to examine the state of the ground underneath the Clock Tower and Market Square. Drilling took place in May this year (photo below). Their letter to Bob dated 20 June 2016 tells him they found water 8 feet below the surface at the site. 

“Because the ground water level is so shallow in the area large rainfalls that cause the ground water to rise may cause flooding in basements.”

“The proposed development includes three levels of underground parking. In order to construct the structure the local ground water table will have to be temporarily lowered. Based on the depth of the water table, the presence of the dense sands and silt till layer and the use of a concrete cut-off foundation wall for the proposed structure, the amount of dewatering will be relatively minimal. Therefore, the ground water table and its levels will generally remain unaffected by the dewatering activities during construction. The ground water will still continue to flow toward the Holland River which is at a lower elevation.”

“The underground structure of the development (a three level underground car park) will not block the flow of water to the Holland River. Instead, the water will slowly flow around it and under it, like a stream around a rock.”

Civic Vandalism

With inventive engineers and loads of money – and a dose of civic vandalism - I suppose anything is possible.

The June 2016 letter should be read in conjunction with the earlier Terraprobe report of 10 October 2012. This “preliminary geotechnical investigation” report is, of course, out of date.

It envisioned a six storey structure with only two levels of underground parking. Paragraph 5.2 talks of basement floor slab design with crushed stone “compacted by vibration to a dense state”.

I am left wondering what impact this relentless pounding will have on the irreplaceable stained glass windows of Trinity United just across the road.

Paragraph 5.7 estimates Market Square will be excavated down to 8 metres below the surface to accommodate the two level underground parking. I assume they will be going deeper to get a third level.

It will be quite the hole.

If it ever gets dug.

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To access the Terraprobe documents open here and scroll to the bottom of the screen and open.


Ward 5 Candidates Q&A

I now have clarification from the Chamber of Commerce about their event on 4 October 2016.

Let me say at the outset that I am very grateful that the Chamber has taken this initiative.

I am told the event is not a debate and has not been advertised as such. It is a question and answer session.

Two people will be running things - Steve Hinder and Neil Moore. I am advised they will simply take written questions from the audience and read them out.

This is, indeed, a very circumscribed role.

I am assuming there will be “rules of engagement”. There will be seven candidates on stage. Will they all have an opportunity to answer every question? What criteria will be used to select questions? Will questions from the audience directed at a particular named candidate be ruled out of order? And so on and so forth. The permutations are endless.

Steve Hinder is a man of many fine qualities but, clearly, he is not disinterested in the outcome. Far from it. He tells us he wants to move to Newmarket’s “enhanced” downtown.

“I think this project (ie the Clock Tower) will continue to enhance the downtown by adding people to support the local retail and restaurants. Great for economic development. I want to move there myself.”

I fear Mr Hinder is putting himself in an exposed position – even if he does nothing more than read out questions metronomically with a face wiped clean of any expression.

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Steve Hinder and the Ward 5 Candidates Debate

I hear the Town’s Chamber of Commerce has told Ward 5 candidates that the forthcoming by-election debate on 4 October 2016 at the Newmarket Theatre is to be moderated by Steve Hinder.  

Steve Hinder is Manager for Community Relations at Magna International Inc and has a long and very impressive CV. He was Chair and President of the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce in 2011-13.

I am left wondering if this is the same Steve Hinder who signed Jill Kellie’s pro Clock Tower petition some five months ago. It looks suspiciously like it.

“I think this project will continue to enhance the downtown by adding people to support the local retail and restaurants. Great for economic development. I want to move there myself.”

Steve Hinder, Aurora, Canada

The Clock Tower project is hugely controversial where by-election candidates are taking very different positions. Some are in favour. Others are adamantly against. And others take positions which are more fluid and nuanced.

If Steve Hinder (petition-signer) is the same Steve Hinder (Chamber of Commerce) there is no way he can act as a neutral moderator.

He should step down and make way for someone who is genuinely impartial.

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Jill Kellie’s pro Clock Tower petition was backed by 222 people. The rival petition promoted by Margaret Davis called on the Town to respect its own by-laws and cap development at three storeys. It was supported by 1212 people.