Shrink Slessor Square!

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Frank Klees

Does anyone out there know if Frank Klees supports the proposed Slessor Square development?

Maybe he has reservations?

Perhaps he thinks the plans can be tweaked? I dunno.

Just visited Frank’s website and searched for references to “Slessor”.


This surprises me because Frank is the Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket-Aurora at Queen’s Park and is the critic with responsibilities for transportation and infrastructure.

Love it or loathe it, Slessor Square will have a huge impact on Newmarket so politicians can’t sit on the fence on this one.

And, when he is so inclined, Frank does take sides on controversial planning issues.

For example, he opposes the Glenway re-development.

So today I resolve to write to Frank to ask for his views.

Last year in the provincial election, Frank used the former Slessor car dealership building as his campaign headquarters so he knows where the site is.

Putting Frank to one side for a moment (if I can put it that way) I do wish politicians – and that includes councillors – would give us their opinions and stop sniffing the wind.

People have a right to know what their elected representatives think about major planning issues that will impact on thousands of people.

Yet too many councillors keep their views under lock and key.

Getting some of them to speak out is hard work.

Community Engagement meeting on 23 April

Top marks for the Town’s Planning Department for setting up a “community engagement” meeting on Slessor Square on 23 April in the Council Chamber at Mulock Drive. (Venue to be confirmed)

There will be a presentation by Slessor’s Urban Planner, Brad Rogers, who will go over the controversial project and take questions.

Members of the Council have also been invited so it is a perfect opportunity to bend their ears, so to speak

The centerpiece of Rogers’ presentation is expected to be the view shed analysis that will show the visual impact of the development from various vantage points around town.

As I tap this out, I don’t know how many snapshots of the proposed development have been taken – nor from which location.

There will also be an opportunity to quiz the experts about traffic, construction timelines and so on.

We are waiting to hear if the event will be put on YouTube or, perhaps, live streamed. The technology is very straightforward and using it allows many more people to see the presentation and the Q&A afterwards.

Who should be interested?

* People who have signed the Shrink Slessor Petition who believe the proposed development is too big and too bulky.

* Those who live in the adjoining neighbourhood who will affected by shadows from the towers.

* Those who are concerned about the height and mass of the development and the visual impact this will have on the Town.

* Those who have worries about increased traffic and the environmental impact of the development.

* Members of local residents’ associations. (Brad Rogers addressed members of the Newmarket Heights Community Association on 27 March but said, on that occasion, he wasn’t there to talk about Slessor Square. This time he will, presumably, be talking about nothing else.)

* People who care about the urban landscape and how Newmarket will develop in future years

It will be a great opportunity to quiz the planners. 

15 storey height cap

On 30 April, the Committee of the Whole (Council), meets in the Council Chamber at Mulock Drive, to debate Regional Councillor John Taylor’s proposal that the Town should consider imposing a 15 storey height cap on all new buildings. This should be a sparky and lively meeting.

Everyone is welcome.

The mercurial Maddie Di Muccio is certain to bang the drum for the developers.

Because Slessor Square is already in the planning pipeline it will not, alas, be captured by this proposed height cap. But Taylor says it could influence the Slessor debate.


Before councillors give the go ahead for the giant Slessor Towers they must consider the impact of the development on nearby “settled residential neighbourhoods”.

Spare a thought, then, for the good folk living in Marlin Court and beyond whose homes and gardens will lie in the shadow of the towers.

An addendum to the developer’s “Shadow Study” shows the shadows of the towers penetrating deep into the adjoining neighbourhood. The shadows lengthen and shorten according to the time of year.

Go to the Town’s Planning Public Input page and scroll to "Addendum Shadow Study".

The study shows the impact of the shadows at the Fall Equinox (around 23 September) when it is still warm enough for people to be out on the deck or in the garden enjoying the weather.

I am left wondering what rights, if any, people have if they discover their sunny gardens are to be enveloped in shadow.  

It is a gloomy thought.

This is a question crying out to be asked at the “community engagement” meeting, pencilled in for 23 April.

But more about that later.

Taylor moves to ban corporate donations to election candidates

HEALTH WARNING. Shrink Slessor Square has no affiliation to Occupy Newmarket or to any other group.  Now read on…
A terrific meeting on Saturday at Newmarket Public Library when York University’s Professor Robert MacDermid shows how development industry funding shapes the outcomes of elections and, ultimately, our urban landscape.
It is gripping stuff.
He reveals the hidden wiring that connects developers and politicians in front of an audience that includes regional councillor, John Taylor, and councillors Dave Kerwin, Joe Sponga and Tom Hempen.
The professor tells us that developers make their money from the re-zoning of land. Its value can increase exponentially if the municipality gives the thumbs up to development.
Even if individual councillors may not realise it, their Councils are
  factories for profit generation for developers.
His authoritative research on campaign donations in the 905 area is jaw dropping. (His study does not include Newmarket.)
We learn of instances where developers co-ordinate their giving and even, in some cases, search out pliable, pro-development candidates, promising to fund their campaigns with a multiplicity of $750 donations.
In a glaring legislative loophole, we learn that developers can second staff to work for favoured candidates and this doesn’t count against candidates’ expenses. He describes this as a “huge loophole”.
Professor MacDermid says the tax base is too narrow, depending largely on property. Councils get money to do things by relying on development. But that only lasts for so long. Once areas are built out – as is now the case with Mississauga – that option is no longer available.
All across the GTA, the development industry provides a huge chunk of campaign donations. And, in return, they expect something back.
Developers do not neutrally support all candidates in an election race as a way of strengthening local democracy. Instead, they pick and choose their favoured candidates and channel funding to them. We learn that in 2006, all developers’ donations went to the winners in 52 out of 110 races. The 2010 figures are currently being number-crunched.
So, what is to be done?
Professor MacDermid lists a series of measures to reduce the stranglehold that developers have on our municipal politics. These include:
* Diversifying the tax base
* Establishing a GTA wide planning body
* Getting the public more involved in local politics
* More “citizen journalism” focussing on what is happening in local areas
* Tightening up ethics rules and, perhaps, establishing a register of councillors’ interests where meetings with developers would be logged and made publicly available.
* A ban on corporate funding of candidates seeking election. (In the City of Toronto these corporate donations are now prohibited)
Our councillors get stuck into the discussion sparked by Professor MacDermid’s lecture.
Councillor Kerwin, with more than three decades of municipal service under his belt, congratulates Occupy for setting up the meeting. But he says the issue is not just about developers. Individuals, too, can be very persistent in pressing their case.
John Taylor pitches in with a promise to bring forward a motion to Newmarket Council to ban corporate funding of election candidates.
I think this involves a formal request to the Province to amend the Ontario Municipal Elections Act to allow Newmarket to do this. The Province can kick the ball into touch – as they have done with similar requests from other 905 municipalities.
I am not clear on the details and I need to check this out further.
Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, arrives after the presentation saying Saturday is a working day for him and he got here as soon as he could. No problem.
He gets a great reception when he asks to stay and participate in the general discussion after the formal meeting had ended.
He stoutly defends Newmarket Council and the way in which it deals with planning matters. It is good to hear the case put with such conviction from someone who describes himself as a “rookie councillor”.
He gets great credit for engaging with the issues.
We mention various points from Professor MacDermid’s earlier lecture including the Professor’s astonishment that major decisions on development are often nodded through council meetings without a recorded vote.
Where is the transparency or accountability in that?
Without missing a beat, Tom responds.
 If you want me to call for a recorded vote on any development issue, I’ll do it.
I see lots of nods of approval.