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Newmarket's Mobility Hub Study ignores the big issues

The Mobility Hub Study for the GO rail station at the Tannery on Davis Drive will not address two key issues flagged up in the Town's Secondary Plan. 

These Mobility Hub Studies look at ways of connecting trains, buses, cars and people as seamlessly and as painlessly as possible.

The Study, undertaken by Metrolinx and partnered by the Town, is currently underway and consultation meetings have recently been held at the Seniors' Centre on Davis Drive.

Grade separation

Unfortunately, the Study will not look at grade separation and nor will it examine the possibility and desirability of co-locating the GO bus terminal at Eagle with the GO Rail station at the Tannery.

Grade separation costs an arm and a leg but in some places - such as Davis Drive - it is essential. But, amazingly, it doesn't look as if it is going to get into the plan. After all the millions of dollars spent on the corridor we shall still have a clunky level crossing with barriers, bells and flashing red lights. And, no doubt, the sizzling overhead wires suspended above the rail track that come with electrification.

Co-locating bus terminals and rail stations makes sense and it beggars belief that this option is not part and parcel of the Mobility Hub Study. True, there was talk years ago of the possibility of moving the bus terminal at Eagle on to the Upper Canada Mall site. But, as is often the way of these things, nothing has materialised. The thicker and more authoritative the planning document, the more likely it is to be ignored.

"as a minimum"

The Town's Urban Centres Secondary Plan is a perfect example that illustrates the point. Its latest version (Office consolidation October 25, 2016) solemnly promises the Mobility Hub Study Station Area Plan should address as a minimum the potential for grade separation of the rail line at Davis Drive and the integration between the GO Rail Station, the Rapidway, the future GO bus services and the GO bus terminal. Of course, this doesn't necessarily mean co-location but it doesn't rule it out either.

At some point, the twin tracking which is currently planned to stop at Aurora will be extended northwards. Fast trains will slow to a crawl at Davis Drive to negotiate safely the level crossing.

Metrolinx published its GO Rail Station Access Plan last December which helpfully shows current station usage together with the 2031 forecast. It also details expansion plans for each station location. It shows that ridership is projected to more than double network-wide from a current average of close to 100,000 daily riders (2016)  to 225,000-250,000 in 2031.

Aurora the busiest Rail Station by far

The report gives details for each Rail Station. (See pages 133-142) Some of the projected ridership figures surprise me. They seem to be on the low side for areas slated for major growth. By contrast, the very high projected ridership at Aurora comes as no surprise given its 15 minute two-way all-day service.

Metrolinx hopes to persuade people to get to their home GO Rail Station by public transit, kiss and ride, and by walking and cycling.  Driving to the Rail Station and parking will be made ever more difficult.

Here are the Rail Stations in Newmarket and those most local to us.

GO Rail Station

GO Rail ridership

Current (2016)

Forecast (2031)

Aurora

Daily riders' home station

2,250

Very high (8,001 or more)

 

Daily riders' destination station

25

Average (251-1,000)

East Gwillimbury

Daily riders' home station

675

Average (2,001-4,000)

 

Daily riders' destination station

0

Nil or very low (0-25)

Newmarket GO

Daily riders' home station

575

Very low (1,000 or less)

 

Daily riders' destination station

25

Low (26-250)

Mulock GO

Daily riders' home station

Not applicable

Very low (1,000 or less)

 

Daily riders' destination station

Not applicable

Nil or very low (0-25)

The Station Area development potential for Aurora, East Gwillimbury and Newmarket is deemed "moderate". For Mulock, it is low.

Electrification

There will be a Metrolinx presentation on electrification at the Community Centre, Doug Duncan Drive, Newmarket on Wednesday 5 July 2017 from 6.30pm - 8.30pm with the presentation starting at 7pm.

This will be a great opportunity to hear more about electrification and what it means in practice.

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Urban Centres Secondary Plan. Office Consolidation, October 25, 2016

9.3.3 Newmarket GO Rail Mobility Hub Station Area

i. The Newmarket GO Rail Station will be planned as an urban station that is primarily accessed by pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders, with limited park-and-ride capacity. Park-and-ride service should be focused at the East Gwillimbury GO Rail station and the future Mulock Drive GO Rail station.

ii. The Town of Newmarket will encourage Metrolinx to partner with the Town, the Region and other relevant partners to prepare a Mobility Hub Station Area Plan for the area around the Newmarket GO Rail Station, as conceptually illustrated in Schedule 5. The Mobility Hub Station Area Plan should address as a minimum, the following:

a) the long-term role and function of the Newmarket GO Rail Station within the broader GO Rail network, taking into account Policy 9.3.3 (i);

b) potential for grade separation of the rail line at Davis Drive;

c) potential re-location of theNewmarket GO Rail Station access to Main Street to improve access and reduce traffic impacts on Davis Drive;

d) integration between the GO Rail Station, the Rapidway, the future GO bus services and the GO bus terminal;

e) pedestrian connections between the Rapidway Station at Davis Drive and Main Street and the GO Rail platform;

f) pedestrian connections between the active transportation network and the GO Rail platform;

g) opportunities and constraints to development in the vicinity of the station, including floodplain restrictions; and

h) accessibility and bicycle parking considerations.

iii. An amendment to this Plan may be necessary in order to incorporate relevant findings or directions from the Mobility Hub Station Area Plan


 

Newmarket-Aurora PCs quit after Charity McGrath is "selected" as candidate for the 2018 Provincial Election

My spies tell me the Newmarket-Aurora PC riding association has seen a wave of resignations following the "selection" of Charity McGrath as their candidate in next year's provincial election. They believe McGrath cheated and stole the election.

As regular readers will know, I am not a Progressive Conservative but I am happy to comment on their internal battles. In political parties, as in life, I prefer fair play over skullduggery.

My spies say disgruntled PCs are resigning in droves because they cannot bring themselves to support the candidate or, indeed the party, "given the ethics".

Bad move

This is a seriously bad move. 

The resignations will be a one week wonder, reported fleetingly by the local press and then immediately forgotten by the wider public. 

And without internal opposition, the new candidate will cement herself in place, impossible to dislodge.

She is already out-and-about, getting herself a profile. (Photo: with Patrick Brown at the Aurora Street Festival.)

The PC MPP hopeful in Hamilton, Vikram Singh, has already gone to Court, alleging dirty tricks. His application will be heard in the Ontario Superior Court in Hamilton tomorrow.

The Newmarket-Aurora PCs who are angry and upset should stick in there and let events take their course.

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Newmarket-Aurora Progressive Conservative MPP hopeful Charity McGrath is a cheat say leading local PCs

Charity McGrath, the Progressive Conservatives' standard bearer in Newmarket-Aurora in next year's provincial election, is a cheat according to the riding association Board. 

I have to pinch myself as I tap out the word "cheat" on the keyboard but, astonishing as it is, I am merely repeating what appeared on the front page of last week's ERA newspaper which reported in a matter-of-fact sort of way:

"Local riding president Derek Murray, with the support of the riding executive, filed two appeals following the April 8 nomination meeting, claiming candidate Charity McGrath cheated by falsifying signatures on memberships and paying the $10 membership fee for new members, both of which are against party rules."

Malpractice widespread

The allegations of cheating were put before the Party Leader, Patrick Brown, but he decided to soldier on regardless, endorsing McGrath and others across the Province similarly accused of malpractice.

The Newmarket-Aurora riding Board says there is

"clear and substantial evidence indicating the campaign team for Charity McGrath Di Paola blatantly breached party rules in their membership drive when members did not pay their own fees and their signature was falsified on the membership form and fraudulent members were knowingly allowed to vote at the nomination meeting in which (she) was declared the winning candidate."

It is stated as fact that people attending the nomination meeting:

"may have personally seen school buses funded by the McGrath campaign bringing people from the buildings in question to vote. It is these memberships that are under question." 

Forging signatures   

I have no idea if it is against the rules for candidates to hire transport to ferry supporters to  the nomination meeting - I suspect not. But you don't need a degree in jurisprudence to know it is corrupt to forge the signatures of "supporters" or to pay their membership fees for them.

I learn that McGrath's margin of victory was 35 votes out of 717 cast but the Board asserts that

"many more than 35 were bussed in."

The riding Board had commissioned an independent survey of the riding's membership before the nomination meeting on 8 April 2017. Members were asked:

(1) if they had been contacted by a candidate to attend the nomination meeting on 8 April

(2) if they had signed an application to become a member of the Ontario PCs and

(3) if they or an immediate family member paid the membership fee.

The telephone survey tried to contact all 1267 members and got a response from 287 (22.6%). It listed so called "challenge addresses" involving 358 "members".

On 28 May 2017, the provincial nominating committee told the Newmarket-Aurora riding Board it proposed to take no action on the allegations of cheating and fraud.

PC Leader, Patrick Brown, has now ruled that the nominations of the 64 candidates endorsed and approved to date will stand, though many are challenged. A new, more rigorous, system for checking on cheating will be brought in for all nominations "going forward".  

Membership cut-off date

One simple, straightforward and easy fix is for the membership freeze date to be brought forward many months before the nomination meeting. Unless this happens, candidates may feel forced to go on a last minute membership recruiting spree, signing people up who have little or no ideological affinity with the PCs just to make up the numbers.

This is no way to run a party. It leads to clientism and bogus members packing meetings. Soon the whole body politic is infected.

Brown has said he will be signing the nomination papers of candidates such as Charity McGrath, branded as a cheat by leading members of the Newmarket-Aurora riding association.

Banana Republic

You expect this kind of fiddling in a banana republic - not in apartment blocks on Davis Drive allegedly full of fraudulent "members".

It is in Charity McGrath's own best interests to press for a review of the nomination process and to co-operate fully with it. And to temporarily stand down until it is completed.

I don't like labelling candidates for political office as cheats.

But I like it even less when unscrupulous people steal elections.

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Update on 15 June 2017: PC Vikram Singh goes to Court over ballot stuffing allegation.


 

The Glenway West Lands and "giving back to the community"

What are we to make of the decision of the Glenway developer, Marianneville Developments Ltd, to donate 16 acres of their land to the Town? (shown in outline below)

 

Are the developers public spirited philanthropists giving something back to Canada on her 150th birthday (as suggested by the Town's Chief Administrator, Bob Shelton) or are they simply offloading to the Town land they otherwise cannot use or develop?

The Town's media release tells us 16 acres will bring

"the total of public land ownership for parks, trails, open space and environmental protection to 27% of Marianneville's land holdings." 

Marianneville bought the Glenway lands for $9,900,000 on 21 January 2010. This was later described by the longest serving councillor in Canada, Dave Kerwin, as a "fantastic deal" - an uncharacteristic understatement from the master of hyperbole.

In November 2013, in an attempt to avert an OMB Hearing on the proposed Glenway development, Marianneville's lawyer, the ubiquitous Ira Kagan, offered the Town a 10 year option to purchase 57 acres of land west of the Glenway development - the Glenway west lands - for $5,500,000, the price fixed for 10 years.

If the Town bought these lands they would remain open space. But if the Town subsequently decided the land should be developed, the lands would either be returned to Marianneville for $5,500,000 or any profits from the sale or development would be made over to Marianneville. That’s capitalism folks!

At that stage, Kagan told the Town that approximately 26 out of the 57 acres were capable of being developed.  (Photo: chewing up the old fairway off Eagle)

An offer you can’t refuse

This was supposed to be an offer the Town couldn't refuse. But it did.

With no prospect of a deal, Marianneville went to the OMB which found in the developer's favour on 27 March 2014.

In her written decision, the OMD adjudicator Susan de Avellar Schiller observed:

"There is no evidence before the Board that the Town took any steps to acquire these lands for public open space and public park purposes."

In fact the Town had considered the possibility of buying the Glenway lands in 2008 but decided not to proceed on the advice of Bob Shelton, the CAO, on the grounds the Town wasn't in the business of running a golf club. However, it is in the business of protecting and preserving and, hopefully, extending public open space. The OMB wasn't told about any of this. 

Entertain an offer

In June 2014, having lost at the OMB, chastened councillors asked Bob Shelton to contact Marianneville, cap in hand:

"to see if the owner might consider selling some or all of the west lands... Council did not direct staff to make an Offer to Purchase, but rather Council wanted to explore whether this was simply an option that could be considered in future."

On 5 September 2014, Bob Shelton told councillors he had approached Marianneville to see if they would "entertain an offer" for the Glenway West Lands:

"I contacted Joanne Barnett regarding this and was advised that the (west) lands were not for sale. After further discussion, I was advised that the developable 22 acre piece of property is proposed for development and thus not for sale, however they may entertain offers by the Town to purchase portion(s) of the remaining approximately 30 acres of land. This 30 acre piece is also intended for development, subject to certain successful studies being carried out."

We know that a good chunk of the Glenway West lands are developable (whether it is Barnett's 22 acres or Kagan's 26 acres) but what did Barnett mean when she told Shelton the 30 acre piece was intended to be developed "subject to certain successful studies being carried out"? Sounds fanciful to me.

Shelton goes on:

"From my conversations it would appear the owner will not be acting on any of the west lands until late 2014 or more likely 2015.”

So, here we are in 2017 and still no sign of anything happening. Does it surprise me? Not one bit. For Marianneville having a land bank is better than keeping their money in a real bank.

According to the Ward councillor Christina Bisanz

"Marianneville continues to own the balance of the west lands not included in this donation of property. These lands include a woodlot, stormwater management ponds and former golf course fairways. At this point, no application to develop this other land has been filed by Marianneville."

Seems to me Marianneville has donated land to the Town that it cannot, for one reason or another, develop. So it surprises me to hear they are hanging on to stormwater management ponds and a woodlot - if it is protected.  (Photo below taken from Bathurst: the gifted land)

But for Marianneville this giveaway has an added bonus. The value of the donation can be offset against tax.

Bob Shelton’s Information Report tells us:

“There is no capital cost to the Town as the lands shown on Appendix “A” are to be donated with the owner being provided with tax receipts reflecting the value of the donation.”

I am left wondering how much the land is worth.

No. No. No.

It’s the thought that counts.

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