Shrink Slessor Square!

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Town Goes to Court over Clock Tower

The Town of Newmarket is taking Bob Forrest's Main Street Clock Inc to Court to enforce rights to lands in Market Square which the Town acquired in 2003 in an agreement with Michael Bryan, the then owner of 184-194 Main Street South.

On 17 April 2012, Bryan emailed Newmarket CAO, Bob Shelton, to say he was in the process of selling the properties to Forrest

"and I have authorised the purchaser, Main Street Clock Inc, including its parent company Forrest Group, to discuss details of my company's land exchange with the Town of Newmarket".

He went on:

"Accordingly, I extend my authorisation to the Town of Newmarket to discuss the land exchange details, as they relate to applications for development proposals for the property, with Forrest Group/Main Street Clock Inc."

The Town says the 2003 agreement involving a land swap (shown above) was entered into to facilitate the (then) redevelopment of Market Square and was a mutually beneficial exchange of surface parking rights. Nothing more; nothing less.

For years the Town and Michael Bryan kept to their agreement and it worked out just fine. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the actual transfer of lands never happened. Despite this, the Town now says the agreement reached with Michael Bryan is binding on Main Street Clock Inc, the successor in title.

This is clearly something for the lawyers. Is an agreement binding when parties abide by its terms for years even though it was never actually signed off?

The Town says Forrest's Clock Tower development application, first submitted in September 2013, has been revised over time. But until 3 May 2017 - the date of the first OMB pre-hearing -  the proposed development site excluded any surface development on the lands the Town was to receive "pursuant to the agreement".

Option B - which will replace the original application - involves building on that land.

Is this just lawyerly fancy dancing or does it amount to something?

I am left scratching my head.

Perhaps a more pressing question is whether the studies submitted by Forrest in support of his original application will be asked to fulfill the same function for Option B at the forthcoming OMB appeal hearing even though the two are very different.

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See relevant Freedom of Information requests here. And the link to the Clock Tower OMB page here.


 

Slessor Square rises from the dead.

Redwood Properties, the developer of the Slessor Square site, is holding a public Open House this evening (Tuesday 27 June 2017) from 5pm-8pm at the Seniors' Centre, 474 Davis Drive, Newmarket.

The flyer tells me

"the development team at Redwood Properties would like to invite the community and residents of Newmarket to an information session regarding the property at 17645 Yonge Street (formerly Slessor Square). A development proposal has been made to the Town of Newmarket to modify the approved zoning."

It will be purpose built rental. 

Development on the desolate Slessor Square site - directly opposite Upper Canada Mall - has been on the cards for years. It is a living example of our sclerotic planning system where things that are promised and approved, never materialise.

The original Zoning By-law application was submitted by Dwight Slessor Holdings in September 2011, proposing a mixed use development which included a seven storey retirement residence/special needs centre, two towers at 26 and 23 storeys (one down from 29 storeys) and another seven storey retirement residence.

In all, 731 suites/units. And a conference centre and a medical centre. Oh yes. In the early stages we were promised an hotel but that failed to fly. It all seems so long ago now.

The drawing (right) is an early imagining.

Then there was a "without prejudice settlement offer" in August 2012, modified in November 2012 by a "without prejudice refined offer" put forward by the ever inventive lawyer, Ira Kagan. Our innocent councillors were beguiled and agreed the settlement offer on 11 February 2013. The OMB Hearing, wrapping it all up, followed later that month. Then everything was put on hold. This is the story of Slessor Square.

The towers are now 21 and 19 storeys with a third tower proposed.

In June 2015 I was sitting next to Kagan at the Glenway "lessons learned" autopsy. He acted for the Glenway developer, Marianneville. I reminded him about Slessor Square.

I tell him that years after the decision it is still a patch of bare earth. Yes, he says. But it’s got a fence round it.

Moonscape

Over the years the plans morphed and morphed again. The land - by now a moonscape - was sold. The Slessors took the cash and disappeared. And here we are. Wondering what to do with a key strategic site on the Town's Yonge Street corridor.

The early proposals called for on-site parking provision for 1,263 vehicles. That's more than the parking capacity at Southlake Hospital. How could all those vehicles get in and out of the underground parking garage without snarling up the traffic on Yonge?

Over five years ago, I recall a certain Bob Forrest in the Doug Duncan Community Centre telling us the giant underground parking garage could go down three levels, rather than four. Now we are being told the four level parking is all above ground because of the soil conditions and the high water table.

I am gonna stop. I am disappearing into the weeds...

What's on offer?

This is what the developer says about the new proposal:

1) Does Redwood on Yonge have more density than Slessor Square?

* No, the approved density has not changed. 

2) Does Redwood on Yonge have a seniors residence?

* No, it will be purpose built rental with commercial at the base along Yonge Street. 

3) Is Redwood on Yonge higher than Slessor Square?

* No, the max height is the same at 21 storeys. 

4) Why is Redwood changing the site to have a parking podium?

* The soil conditions and high water table on the site do not allow for any more than 1 level of underground parking. Therefore a podium has been added to accommodate the parking needs on the site. It will be faced with residential townhouses and commercial retail.

5) Will adding a third tower make the site more of a visual obstruction than Slessor Square?

* No, Redwood on Yonge will be visually less obstructive. While Slessor Square had only two towers, it also had 8 and 9 storey slab buildings. Slab buildings of 8 and 9 storeys are significant visual obstructions. By removing these buildings and adding a more slender third tower, Redwood has improved the sight lines through the site.

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Note 1: The zoning of the Slessor Square site can be found here. Go to page 149 of the Comprehensive Zoning By-law for details.

Note 2: The parking is all above ground. I mistakenly wrote earlier that there would be one level of underground parking. (Update on 27 June 2017)


 

York Region councillors make no comment on their Code of Conduct

At long last a Code of Conduct is to be brought in to police the behaviour of members of York Regional Council. 

York Region is responsible for spending billions of dollars of public money but, curiously, doesn't have one. Its members never regarded a Code of Conduct as a top priority. The Chair, Wayne Emmerson (right), thought it unnecessary.

Last week, Regional Solicitor, Joy Hulton, outlined a raft of changes to the Municipal Act designed to keep the members on their toes. The measures - which include the mandatory appointment of an Integrity Commissioner - have long been resisted by members of the Council even when one of their own was behaving in a scandalous way.

Elephant in the room

At the Committee of the Whole on 22 June the elephant in the room is, of course, their  disgraced former colleague Michael Di Biase. No-one dares utter the words "Code of Conduct" or "Integrity Commissioner". Their silence on the core issue speaks volumes. Instead, they witter on about anything but.

Markham's Deputy Mayor Jack Heath opens with a confession. He has something very personal to say. First I hear a collective sharp intake of breath. Now I hear nervous laughter and chortling. What a tease!

He says with an air of faux embarrassment that if he gets re-elected next year and serves another full four year term he will be two weeks short of his 25 year long service award.

What can be done about this injustice?

"Round it up" cries a wag.

He asks about alternate members - where a local council can appoint one of its members to act in the place of a person who is a member of the Regional Council. As I am listening to Jack Heath my eye strays to the right to see Van Trappist gently snoozing.

Van Trappist and diversity

In two hours he makes one feeble contribution lasting around 15 seconds. He is talking about the application of the Retail Business Holidays Act. Some businesses are upset they are forced to close on certain days of the year. Van Trappist tells us we live in a diverse society and cautions against singling out Christmas and Easter and ordering retail businesses to shut up shop on these days.

I groan silently. No-one mentions employees forced to work on Christmas day. Not even a glancing reference.

Roll on Judgement Day

Now we are getting a presentation on the Court Services Annual Report. I learn it is the mission of Court Services

"to provide timely, quality and cost effective access to Justice."

As I am listening to this my mind drifts off to the case of Di Muccio v Taylor which, astonishingly, is still live and active.

The fragile former Newmarket councillor, Maddie Di Muccio, is demanding $5,000 from Regional Councillor John Taylor for defamation and hurt feelings. The case opened on 15 June 2015 and is 743 days old. The two day trial ended on 3 May 2017 and we are waiting for the Judgement to be delivered or "handed down" as they used to say.

No rush, M'lud.

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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


 

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