It is Monday afternoon (19 March) and I am sitting in the Council Chamber waiting to be educated on the municipality’s water supply and treatment. Like most people I don’t give water a second thought because it is always there, on tap.
The man in charge, Luigi Colangelo, gives us the annual water quality review, assuring us our water is clean and wholesome. He says his water people have passed all the tests with flying colours.
I learn that councillors can be held personally liable if they don’t exercise their oversight duties with care and diligence. Who-hoo!
Regional Councillor John Taylor says:
“I ask more questions when I know if we don’t ask questions we could end up in trouble or in jail!”
As he is struggling to answer a question put to him by Luigi on “adverse residuals” I find myself thinking of all the times councillors could have been carted off to jail for not asking perfectly obvious questions. Hmmm.
A legend in the water field
Now it is the turn of Dave Kerwin, Canada’s longest serving councillor and her most fluent and accomplished flatterer. If there is such a thing as an institutional memory in the Town of Newmarket it lies under that combed-over 75 year old pate.
“Luigi Colangelo is no stranger to me or to his predecessor, Bill Wilson, a legend in the water field.”
“Luigi we are lucky to have you. Great to have you in Newmarket because you are replacing a legend.”
Adding for good measure:
“I am really impressed by the way you performed today.”
Trail legend flatters trail legend
Now we are on to a deputation which includes former Mayor Tom Taylor (John Taylor’s dad) making a case for cash for Habitat for Humanity.
Kerwin (who has a trail named after him) lavishes praise on Tom Taylor (who has a trail named after him) effusively thanking him on behalf of the Council and the people and the residents of the five Habitat houses in Newmarket.
Suddenly, the spell is broken as I hear a very loud cracking of knuckles behind me. I turn and see the man from the Rose Corporation, Dan Berholz, taking a break from his laptop, his fingers in a cat’s cradle above the keyboard.
Deerfield and Affordable Housing
As it happens, I had come along to listen to the debate on Deerfield, the big new Rose Corporation development just behind 212 Davis Drive. The report from the Town’s planners is good, giving councillors lots to chew on – especially on the issue of the moment, affordable housing. Instead, we get a few cursory observations about parking and open space. (The 5 March 2018 edition of Macleans tells us Newmarket is one of the country’s housing hotspots. In 2016 a staggering 20.6 of home sales in Newmarket were purchased as investment properties. “When the Crash Comes.”)
The planners tell us the developer will meet the 25% target for affordable homes but only if concessions are offered. No details. No questions from our incurious councillors. The proposal now goes on to a public meeting.
Now a terrific deputation from a member of the public, Stuart Hoffman, on infill development and the effects of vibration on houses next door to construction sites. He tells us cracks form, then they widen and deepen but without a “base-line survey” undertaken before work begins the builder can walk away from the damage saying it wasn’t caused by him. Christina Bisanz looks like she will take this up and bring in a new By-law on vibration damage.
The Council is having a workshop on infill development on Monday 26 March 2018. Add vibration to the basket of other concerns.
The old house is falling down
Now we are on to the future of the Bogart House. The house, built in 1811 and designated in 1987, is on the point of collapse through neglect.
Tom Hempen, who sits on the Heritage Advisory Committee, is in fine form, animated and spirited in defence of the old house. He wants to compel the property owners - Forest Green Homes - to take action.
Our listless Mayor, Tony Van Trappist, says:
“I am sensing a sense of urgency.”
Now there is talk about site visits. The Director of Planning, Rick “through you Mr Mayor” Nethery burbles on. Taylor wants to see matters expedited. The Council, he says, should not entertain the removal of the old house.
The Commissioner for Corporate Services and former Town Solicitor, Esther Armchuk, says that though the house is designated it is on private property and further investigations are required.
Almost three years ago (in the context of the Clock Tower buildings) I warned the Planning Department about demolition by neglect:
“Is the owner obliged under any by-law, rule or regulation, to inspect his properties on a regular basis to ensure they remain protected against the elements? If so, does he report to you at the Town Hall?”
I was told there is a property standards by-law but it is the same for any building, designated or not. The Town was looking to prepare a Heritage Building Standards by-law but nothing materialized. Legal Department too busy. Other more pressing matters to deal with.
Now I hear the legendary old flatterer saying:
“It’s frustrating to see the deterioration.”
Tom Hempen declaims theatrically:
“The elements are upon us!”
But how on earth was this allowed to happen?
And what it to be done?
Send them all to jail?
Personally I favour a stern reprimand.