The statutory public meeting for the huge new development at 175 Deerfield Road comes and goes without the people living next door - who will be most affected - receiving the notice.
The residents of 212 Davis Drive (built by the Rose Corporation, the same developer as 175 Deerfield) take it upon themselves to organise their own meeting in the little cinema they have on the ground floor. Good for them.
And they invite along Ward 5 councillor Bob “Jewel of the Council” Kwapeese and Regional Councillor hopeful, the veteran Newmarket councillor, Tom Vegh.
I wander along to hear what they have to say and settle down in the second row in a hugely comfy home cinema type leather armchair with holders in the armrests for drinks and a little table for snacks.
It is a full house.
Now the organiser, Gloria, is telling Bob and Tom a bit about the venue, pointing to the pop-corn machine in the corner.
Tom Vegh quips:
“I can book this and bring my friends here?”
We all laugh in a slightly forced way. Now it’s down to business with Gloria taking charge:
“I don’t know which of you gentlemen will take the lead.”
Delicious! What skill she shows in setting them up against each other!
Tom Vegh pulls rank and introduces himself as the candidate for Regional Councillor in the municipal elections in October. Bob, he says, is here as your ward councillor.
Now someone shouts out a question about the lack of visitors' parking.
Tom says this will be an important item going forward saying:
“I’m going to let Bob take the lead on that.”
Terrific! A not-so-subtle reminder of who is the top dog.
Bob “the Jewel of the Council” Kwapeese has other ideas and steps into the centre of the room in front of the cinema screen. Tom is on the right, in the shadows, a spectator.
Bob starts with an apology the residents weren’t consulted. This is good politics.
“Somewhere along the way communications were disconnected.”
Now he is telling us what the developer has in mind, jabbing at the photos in the hand-out. First one tower then another two. And there will be a new road all the way to Park View.
The audience cries out in unison:
Parking – and especially visitor parking – is an issue. Not enough spaces.
Bob concedes the number of parking spaces is a bit too low. He says the management company decided to designate some visitor parking for residents but this caused a huge kerfuffle and the visitor spaces have been reinstated.
Now I am listening to concerns about handicapped parking and the costs of parking – up to $90 a month.
Now we are on to the demography of 212 Davis Drive which was originally seen as a base for dynamic young professionals. But instead a whole bunch of seniors moved in.
From the sidelines Tom Vegh, clip board in hand, tells us that in the last ten years the number of seniors in Newmarket has gone up by 30%. He sounds just like a realtor:
“This is an emerging market.”
If he doesn’t win in October I can see him with Royal LePage cold calling potential clients.
Now the questions are coming thick and fast. What about affordable housing? And subsidised housing? A 35 year old man at the back tells us he was on the waiting list for 15 years before he got a place at 212 Davis Drive.
Bob’s round staring eyes lock on to the guy at the back of the room:
“15 years is crazy!”
We need a new Library.
Gloria, meanwhile, is ski-ing off-piste, demanding a new library.
Tom Vegh, who is on the Library Board, agrees the Town needs a “bigger and better” library and they are looking at finding space on the lower floors of the huge new developments that are expected to sprout along Yonge Street. By the time that happens most of the people in the room – including me – will be dozing in comfy armchairs in some celestial reading room.
Now the audience wants to know about new tennis courts. Bob responds by talking about skate-board parks which doesn’t quite fit the demographic in the room.
Someone wants to know about the open land opposite 212 Davis Drive, next to Tim Hortons. Will the Council buy it and do something with it?
I’m a numbers guy
Hmmmm. Bob is concerned about the cost of buying land and its impact on the Town’s taxpayers. If the land opposite cost $2m then that would mean a 4% increase in taxes. I am wondering about this and then I hear him say:
“I always like to simplify things. I am a numbers guy.”
Now Tom Vegh sneaks in another little put-down. He tells us it is not 4% and then confuses us all by going on about development charges and interest rates.
Our eyes glaze over and we turn to sewage – a topic we all understand.
Bob Kwapeese stuns us all by announcing:
“The bottom line is we still have a shortage of sewage.”
“Hopefully we will have plenty of sewage available to everyone.”
Tom Vegh says we could have an allocation in two years for the development.
Living in a construction site
Then an incisive comment from an older woman behind me. She wants to know how long she will be living in a construction site. Four or five years?
Bob can’t or won’t put a timeline on it. Four, five, six or ten years. Who knows? Now he is gone off at a tangent talking with great enthusiasm to his elderly audience about bicycle routes.
Someone asks if the developer has planning approval. Even I know the answer to that one. The Jewel of the Council hesitates and is rescued by Tom Vegh. No he says.
Now Gloria wants to know what they are going to do about the buzzing from the transformer that disturbs people during the night. Bzzzzzz.
They are on to it.
As the meeting closes, I turn to the woman on my right and ask her what she thought of it all.
“They did their best.”
Read the Deerfield report at page 180 of the Committee of the Whole agenda of 9 April 2018 here.