Yesterday (16 December 2013) Newmarket’s Committee of the Whole decided to postpone until January any decision on whether or not to engage in mediation on the future of the Glenway lands.
This was the right thing to do.
At the end of the pre hearing on 10 December, the OMB adjudicator, Jason Chee-Hing, strongly recommended all parties consider mediation before the hearing proper starts in March.
He indicated that, having read all the papers and listened to the submissions, the parties should seriously think about mediation – about what precisely he did not specify. What was in his mind when he said this?
Perhaps by January we shall have a written note from Chee-Hing setting out his formal decisions together with his reasoning. We need to understand where he is coming from.
The OMB is not a Court of Law but the impact of its ruling can be just as far reaching in its own way as a decision handed down by judges.
That is why he is under an obligation to explain his reasoning.
The first part of the Glenway Hearing starting on 17 March 2014 will examine the so-called “principle of development”. This will settle the main question: Should any development be allowed on the Glenway lands? How on earth is it possible to mediate on a question that is, in Chris Emanuel’s words yesterday, so black and white?
The first thing to make clear to Mr Chee-Hing is that Ruth Victor does not speak for the Town.
True, she was engaged by the Town to work on the Glenway file and she has written reports and expressed her “planning point of view”. But it is just that. Her view. Not the Town’s.
Victor’s recommendation at the Glenway meeting in Newmarket Theatre on 25 November 2013 to keep talking to Marianneville was rejected unanimously.
Yesterday, ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, told the Committee of the Whole that everyone needed more time, including the Glenway Preservation Association who will be bringing a deputation to Council.
The Town’s solicitor, Esther Armchuk, told councillors mediation is entirely voluntary and that, crucially, all parties would have to agree to participate and be clear on the issues they want to mediate. In a further twist, parties might agree to mediation but choose not to take part, reserving their decision on what eventually comes out of the sausage machine.
We learn that the OMB has mediators available as we speak.
We are told that all discussions in mediation process are confidential and cannot subsequently be used at the OMB. Councillors would not be present but would delegate authority to staff who would engage in mediation following a brief given to them beforehand by the Town. She said staff would be looking for authority in advance of mediation setting out how far they could go. Staff would then bring a mediated settlement back to Council for ratification.
Personally, I think mediation is a complete waste of everyone’s time. Every ounce of energy should be directed at establishing the GPA’s position – which is now also the Town’s – that the Glenway lands should not be developed. Anything else is, for the moment, a complete distraction.
Councillors have a few questions about process.
Now they are discussing whether the January discussion should take place just at Council or also at the Committee of the Whole.
John Taylor memorably says “two thought points” might be better.
Seems to me a second "thought point" is OK. So long as there are no second thoughts.
The Town must stick to Glenway like glue.