Yesterday, the highlight of Day 4 of the Glenway OMB hearing pits Ira Kagan, the swaggering lawyer for the Evil Empire (aka Marianneville Developments) against Christina Bisanz, the Chair of the Glenway Preservation Association.
There are 38 members of the public present when she steps forward to give evidence. She will be quizzed first by the hesitant James Feehley, counsel for the GPA. She is composed and confident as she takes the stand, swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There is prolonged enthusiastic applause.
“I don’t think that applause was for you Mr Feehley” says the affable, on-the-ball Adjudicator, Susan Schiller. That much was never in any doubt.
She gently reminds us of Hearing etiquette. No more applause.
We learn that Christina Bisanz moved to Glenway in 1990 and then moved again within the neighbourhood in 1992, paying a $10,000 premium for having a golf course as her backyard. We are told that Glenway was the first such planned neighbourhood in the GTA.
Glenway’s clubhouse was the beating heart of the local community. And then the apocalypse. In 2008 it was announced that Glenway golf course was up for sale. Her case is that the new owners, Marianneville, presented their proposal for development of Glenway as a fait accompli. There was no opportunity for the community to respond collectively.
Kagan cross examines
Kagan, who has a reputation for not taking prisoners, now cross examines. Should the “subject lands” (ie the old golf course lands) be retained as open space? Preserving parks and open space – would that be the GPA’s preference?
Bisanz is not taking the bait. She says the likelihood of Marianneville retaining the lands as a golf course is minimal.
Kagan tries again. But what if the Board says the principle of development has been met and there should be some development? Would the GPA have nothing to offer, to add or to say on Phase 2? What would the GPA like to see in the way of development if that is going to happen?
Bisanz won’t be drawn. She has no mandate to go down that road. The GPA wants a Town led planning process. “It is premature to speculate on the use of the lands without a public consultation process.”
She tells Kagan she disagrees with the Town’s metronomic external consultant, Ruth Victor, that development of the Glenway lands could be done by way of a site-specific application. She recites endlessly the mantra that any proposed development requires first a comprehensive Town led review.
I see people around me nodding with approval. Bisanz is more than holding her own.
It is an accomplished, measured performance. There are no threats to lie down in front of the construction trucks to stop the development in its tracks. “Bulldozer Bisanz” is nowhere to be seen.
Now, clearly frustrated by the intelligent stonewalling, Kagan gets personal.
He starts by asking her why she considers it a privilege to live in Glenway. I could answer that. It is a nice place to live.
He wants to know if Bisanz and her family were golf club members. No she says. Now he is telling her in as many words that she can’t complain about the closure if she didn’t support it.
Kagan asks if she challenges the right of the golf course owner to do what they want with their own lands if they can’t make a go of the business. He wants to know if the Glenway Community made any effort to purchase the golf course lands or the Club House that everyone was so fond of. Bisanz says it was a closed bidding process so she has no idea if any Glenway people put in a bid.
Did the Town make a bid to purchase?
She doesn’t know.
Did anyone ever ask the Town to stop the demolition of the Clubhouse?
Kagan asks if the lands should be in public ownership if they serve the Town and not just Glenway. She says the course went from being private to public. It was used by people from all over town.
Now he is getting into property rights. “Do you believe residents have the right to use the lands without the current owner’s permission?
Kagan impertinently tells her that there is nothing in her property deeds that gives her the right of access on to the golf course lands “because we have checked”.
She says no one ever formally objected to public access. This line of questioning fizzles out.
Now we hear Kagan go through the chronology of meetings hosted by Marianneville. He is trying to show that Marianneville bent over backwards to engage the community and get their feedback. He wants to challenge the GPA’s view that Marianneville’s consultation with the public was inadequate.
Bisanz says the consultation meetings were not specific to the application. Marianneville were asking for views on the proposed “executive golf course”.
She says their strategy all along was to “bifurcate” the community, inviting groups of Glenway people to briefings, never getting everyone together all in one room.
Now we are hearing about meetings called by the Glenway people way back in 2011 where the Mayor, Chris Emanuel and other council notables were present. So what? Now we hear Kagan quoting from an ancient Chris Emanuel blog where he pledges to fight to the last breath to keep the land open space. Emanuel’s face splits into a gigantic grin. His blog has been officially recognised!
Kagan is trying to suggest that councillors’ minds were already made up even before the Marianneville application was lodged with the Town. So what? Seems to me they have every right to argue for open space to remain as such.
Now Kagan asks a bemused looking Bisanz about the GPA’s request for financial help from the Town to the tune of $100,000. Her face is blank.
We learn the request came from the Glenway Community Group which, says Bisanz, has nothing to do with the Glenway Preservation Association. The GPA is the only incorporated not for profit organisation fighting the Marianneville proposals.
We hear a loud hissing noise of air escaping from Kagan’s pricked balloon.
Still he gallops on, going through a long roll call of names asking if any of the people named have anything to do with the GPA.
No, says Bisanz. No. No. No. No. She is my neighbour. No. No. No.
What a damp squib that was! Poor research from Kagan, a lawyer previously lauded for his mastery of detail.
The Settlement Offers
Now he changes tack and asks about Marianneville’s settlement offers, made without prejudice, allowing the public to get engaged. He says the way these things generally work is that the settlement offer is made to councillors behind closed doors, a decision is made, and the public is cut out of the process entirely. (He used precisely the same script with Slessor Square).
He recites the long list of “concessions” offered by Marianneville and asks Bisanz what she thinks of them.
Again, she is not going down that road.
The promise of a golf course for 15 years on part of the Glenway lands with the Town being offered the first chance to buy is a good thing. Surely?
Bisanz dismisses this as speculative. No-one knows what position the Town is likely to take on the issue in the distant future. And, in any event, she tells us the GPA was uncomfortable with the settlement offer because it just looked at the western part of the so called subject lands and not at the impact of the 730 residential units on the rest of the Marianneville lands.
Feeble and meandering
Now Kagan ends his cross examination with a series of feeble, meandering and unfocussed questions about a public meeting held by the GPA in Crosslands Church just a few weeks ago where the Town’s solicitor spoke about the OMB process and procedures and took questions from the floor. The Mayor, regional councillor, and Chris Emanuel were on the platform.
If Kagan wanted us to see something sinister in this public meeting, he failed. His cross examination peters out.
Sensing this, the Chair calls a break and Kagan darts out of the room explaining loudly as he goes that he drank too much tea over lunch.
This is too much information.
I screw my eyes tight shut and think of putting greens and fairways and wide open spaces.