The OMB’s Glenway Hearing kicks off today and I am in the basement Conference Room of the Best Western Voyageur Hotel sharing the space with 33 members of the public, assorted highly paid lawyers, more modestly paid professional planners and a large number of huge lever arch files bulging with reams of documents.
The most important person in the room is Susan Schiller, the adjudicator, who has an easy manner and smiles a lot.
First up is Ira Kagan, the lawyer for Marianneville Developments. The acoustics are terrible and his clear-as-a-bell voice makes a huge difference. Counsel for the Town, Mary Bull, and James Feehley, should take a leaf from Kagan’s book and project their voices. This conveys confidence, even if they don’t know what they are talking about.
Kagan takes control
Kagan immediately takes control. He moves the centrally positioned lectern to the wall, telling everyone this will improve the sightlines for those at the back of the room. Now he puts his laptop on top of a cardboard box on the table in front of him. He runs through the history of the Marianneville application.
The developer’s case, he says, can be concluded within the first week (and the hearing is not sitting on Thursday 20th March).
He says that he will be calling four witnesses, including Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to handle the Glenway file. She is called “under summons” and we learn there is no witness statement but rather a “will say” statement. This is all new to me. The non-lawyers are all on a very steep learning curve.
Glenway not needed to meet intensification targets
Mary Bull for the Town now summarises her case. The Marianneville lands are not identified in the Town’s Official Plan for any intensification. She says there is an anticipated 12,000 increase in the Town’s population by 2031 and if Glenway gets the go-ahead it will contribute a whopping 16% of this. She says she will be calling Eric Chandler to give evidence. He is a recently retired top planner from Tecumseth.
Next up is the croaking James Feehley, representing the Glenway Preservation Association. He will be calling two witnesses. He is losing his voice so no opening statement. This is alarming.
Now the lawyers are trying to reconcile the numbering of the documents in their huge ring binders. They are losing their way. Some documents are out of sequence!
As they compare their numbered notes, the adjudicator tells the lawyers: “The back of the room is laughing at us now!”
Kagan replies: “With good reason.”
Facts not opinions
Now Kagan calls Richard Zelinka, his first witness, who is a planner retained by Marianneville in February 2010 to do the spadework and provide land use planning advice on the development of Glenway. His job is to provide facts on the proposed development, not opinions.
The developers bought Glenway in January 2010 yet the golf course remained open for business until October 2011. We are told there were only 40-50 memberships, about 5% of the community. The Clubhouse was removed in summer 2012.
We are told Marianneville bent over backwards to be fair to everyone.
Kagan asks if at any point Town staff advised him that the proposed development should await a Town led review. Answer No. And did Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to handle the Glenway file advise him so? Answer No.
Now Kagan tells Zelinka he is now going to use his laser pointer: “I shall try not to hit you.” At the time this remark seemed amusing.
Kagan’s brilliant red beam hits the Ray Twinney Centre. Zap! What’s this? And now moving to the GO bus station. And what’s this? We are told that 95% of the proposed new residential units will be within 400 metres of a bus stop. That’s where the questions are going. All this new development is within staggering distance of public transport.
Now Kagan coaxes us down into the big black hole of the Settlement Offers. Marianneville put these to the Town last year (unsuccessfully) in an attempt to close the deal. Mary Bull says these are irrelevant and should not be considered by the OMB. There is much lawyerly argument about this while the rest of us examine our fingernails.
Now we are hearing about the meetings requested by Marianneville that were turned down by the GPA on the grounds that no development should take place at all. This is designed to paint the GPA as absolutists, unwilling to compromise.
Now it is the turn of Ruth Victor, Kagan’s star witness.
She is sitting next to me in the body of the Kirk as she waits to be called to give evidence. She is looking at a webpage displaying a selection of lamps and light fixtures. I marvel at her insouciance! I find myself thinking about her taste in home décor.
Now she is called up front and is telling Kagan that she was retained by the Town on 20 April 2012 through the consultancy “I plan”. She says she was a “sub consultant”. Her contract ceased on 25 November 2013 when the recommendations that went to Council were not hers. (She wanted to refuse the Marianneville application on technical grounds, not on the principle of development.) However, she is still retained to advise the Town on Phase 2 issues – should we get that far.
Now matters turn comedic.
Kagan sends her witness statements from those who will be called to give evidence, but Victor chooses not to read them, explaining “I am here today under your subpoena.” She is not obliged to read anything Kagan sends her.
Kagan ties himself in knots
Kagan is now tying himself in knots, paraphrasing what these witnesses say and asking for Victor’s response. She delivers what he wants on a gold plate.
The Glenway lands are developable. The Marianneville application was not premature. There was no policy basis to deny development of the Glenway lands. Victor’s staccato delivery hammers each point home.
Now we are talking about population projections. The Town’s 2006 official plan anticipates a population of 98,000. York Region talks about 97,000. (Both grossly out-of-date.) Victor tells us: “These numbers have an element of fluidity to them.”
Too true. These are fairy tale projections. In a carefully tailored understatement, she tells us later that all the population numbers are “lifted” through OPA (Official Plan Amendment) 10 on the Secondary Plan. Newmarket could be growing to 130,000 and beyond.
Kagan asks us to assume a forecast of 98,000. He asks Victor if that number would cap residential development within the built boundary of the Town. No, she says. Forecast population numbers are not caps. There is more, much more, in this vein.
Planning babble re-surfaces
Now Victor is on a roll speaking with assurance and certainty. Planning babble starts to appear. We hear about “planning constructs”. Planners are there to promote the efficient use of land. Glenway is indeed developable. The only way to preserve the open space at Glenway is, she says, through some form of public ownership.
She sums up. The proposed development amounts to the intensification of existing residential. What is important is the interface between the new, proposed residential and the existing stable residential neighbourhood. There must be like-to-like and compatibility between the new and the old. But, at the end of the day, she tells us the development of the Glenway lands would assist in meeting intensification targets.
Now it is the turn of James Feehley, the GPA’s lawyer, to cross-examine. I am expecting great things but, alas, I am underwhelmed. He must get his voice back and raise his game.
Feehley tells Victor the Municipality should lead the intensification process. Victor looks bemused. The Town’s Official Plan allows for the intensification of lands that are within the built boundary.
She says this with a certainty that invites no contradiction.
Ruth Victor won’t be back. She has done her bit to sabotage the Town’s position.
Now the adjudicator wraps things up and we go home.