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How the Glenway OMB Hearing ended up being seriously misled

Back story: The GO Bus Terminal at Davis Drive West figured prominently in the Glenway OMB Hearing. The Terminal is next door to Glenway and much of the neighbourhood is within 500 metres of it. This close proximity is, in planning terms, highly significant. Ira Kagan, the developer’s lawyer, told the OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, in his closing submission on 27 March 2014, there was not a “shred of evidence that the Town, Region or GO Transit wanted to move this Bus Terminal”. 

In fact, the revised and final version of Newmarket’s Urban Centres Secondary Plan, adopted by the Council on 23 June 2014, which goes up to York Region for approval in the new year, allows for this as one of a number of options to be studied as part of a separate, wide-ranging transit and transportation review. On completion, this review will, by amendment, be folded into the Secondary Plan and become part of it.

The earlier version of the Secondary Plan – put before the OMB Hearing and dissected by Kagan– was silent on this crucial issue.

The Glenway Preservation Association’s professional planner, Nick McDonald, told the OMB that Marianneville’s application to develop Glenway was premature. Major transit and transportation issues still had to be addressed. He called for a Town led study which would include the GO Bus Terminal and the Upper Canada Mall site. He was ridiculed by Kagan for suggesting such a thing.

“Mr McDonald may think it (the bus station) should move but no-one else seems to agree with him.”

If the Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, and the Town’s senior planners had revealed their intentions earlier, (that the Upper Canada Mall study would look in detail at transit integration) it would have fundamentally changed the dynamics of the OMB Glenway hearing.

The OMB Hearing, reportedly costing the Town over $700,000, was boycotted throughout by Newmarket Planning staff.

The Chronology in outline

September 2013. Newmarket planning staff receive the GDH Transportation Study which the Town had commissioned to inform the Secondary Plan. Section 4 of the Executive Summary talks about the possibility of relocating the Bus Terminal but that “the current vision for the existing GO Transit/YRT Bus Terminal south of Upper Canada Mall is to remain in its current location”. It goes on:

“If the bus station is relocated to the UCM site, the volume of associated buses should not significantly impact future operations compared to leaving the station in its current location. Furthermore, the relocation of the bus station to the UCM property may even serve to reduce future net effects given potential reductions to pedestrian crossings of Davis Drive. The impact of such a change in operations has not been specifically modeled in our study, so any bus station relocation should include a detailed evaluation of transportation impacts and requirements.”

The GDH Transportation Study was eventually put into the public domain six months later, on April 2, 2014 - after my third request for it to be published and after the OMB adjudicator had made her decision in favour of the developer.

November 25, 2013 Councillors vote unanimously to back Glenway at the OMB.

March 2014. With the OMB Glenway Hearing under way, Newmarket’s Draft Secondary Plan is circulated for comment. (See Urban Centres Secondary Planning Process at www.newmarket.ca) It mentions two “Mobility Hubs” – one at the Tannery (a so-called Gateway Hub) and another at Yonge and Davis (a so-called Anchor Hub). The Gateway Hub is identified on the Secondary Plan’s maps with a giant circle. The Anchor Hub is represented by a tiny red dot. There is reference to a study of the Upper Canada Mall site and in paragraph 5.3.4 (ii) (e) it talks blandly of the “integration of transit into the site and between the site and the Yonge Davis Rapidway Station.”

March 27, 2014. In his closing submission to the OMB Hearing, the developer’s lawyer, Ira Kagan, ridicules Nick McDonald, the professional planner hired by the Glenway Preservation Association to put their case to the Board.

McDonald says Glenway shouldn’t be looked at in isolation. He argues for a wider study going beyond the Glenway lands, taking in the GO bus terminal and the Upper Canada Mall site. McDonald tells the Hearing that the Town had not identified major transit areas in its draft Secondary Plan and that more work was needed.  In view of this he says “it would be premature to consider the Marianneville application in advance of a Town led process”. 

Kagan tells the adjudicator:

“There is not a shred of evidence that the Town, Region or GO Transit want to move this bus terminal. The terminal is identified in a variety of planning documents that the various witnesses reviewed and never once was it identified for relocation. Mr McDonald may think it should move but no-one else seems to agree with him. Even the ongoing OPA 10 Study (ie the Draft Secondary Plan for Newmarket’s Urban Centre) is not proposing that the GO bus terminal be relocated. Accordingly, the addition of these two parcels of land to a Town led study is not supported on the evidence.”

The OMB Adjudicator rules in favour of the developer, Marianneville.

April 22, 2014 Councillors Maddie Di Muccio and Chris Emanuel call for a meeting to consider the lessons to be learned. The motion is carried without opposition:

“That Council direct staff to organize a public meeting after the Ontario Municipal Board releases its written decision and within this term of Council, on what has been learned about the Official Plan Amendment, Zoning By Law Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision for Marianneville Developments Limited (Glenway) process and the effects of future development as York Region prepares for growth.”

April 28, 2014. In its response to the March draft of the Secondary Plan, Metrolinx specifically asks the Town to show in the Schedules the area to be covered by the Yonge/Davis Mobility Hub study. It seems to me unlikely a study of the proposed Mobility Hub area at Yonge and Davis would exclude from it the GO Bus Terminal, a stone’s throw away.

In its comments on the March draft Secondary Plan Metrolinx says:

“The four plans in Schedules 3 (land use), 4 (height and density), 5 (street network) and 6 (parks, open space and natural heritage) identify the two Mobility Hubs within the Newmarket Urban Centres and the conceptual Mobility Hub Station Area Plan Study Area for the Newmarket GO train station. It is recommended the conceptual Mobility Hub Area Plan Study Area for the Anchor Hub at the intersection of Yonge Street and Davis Drive be detailed on the Schedules.”

This recommendation is rejected.

On the very same day (28 April 2014) Marion Plaunt, the senior planner with responsibility for the Secondary Plan file, tells councillors at a meeting on the revised draft Secondary Plan:

“One of the considerations in (the Mobility Hub study) is how do we, as we plan forward, integrate the bus station and the GO train station, whether they should naturally be joined at some point, at one location. That is part of the analysis identified within the Mobility Hub criteria.”

June 9, 2014. At the Council Workshop to update councillors on the revised draft Secondary Plan, Marion Plaunt tells councillors that while Metrolinx believes the mobility hub principle should apply to Yonge and Davis:

  there is not going to be a circle on the map”.

Regional Councillor John Taylor quizzes Ms Plaunt on the Mobility Hub issue but doesn’t follow up with: Why not?

The answer is straightforward. A line on a map showing the Mobility Hub study area would inevitably have to include the GO Bus terminal.

June 23, 2014. Newmarket councillors agree the revised draft Secondary Plan which now goes up to the Region for final approval.

Instead of a Mobility Hub study area delineated on the Schedule maps, as requested by Metrolinx, we have a Regional Shopping Centre Study Area focused on the Upper Canada Mall site. Paragraph 5.3.4 (ii) says:

A Master Plan for the Regional Shopping Centre Study Area as identified on Schedules 3 (land use), 4 (height and density), and 5 (street network) will be prepared by the landowner(s) in co-operation with the Town, York Region, Metrolinx and other relevant partners to address, as a minimum, the following:

(e) mobility hub study considerations including, but not limited to, integration of transit into the site and/or between this site and the Yonge Davis Rapidway, the GO Bus Terminal and GO train station in accordance with the Metrolinx Mobility Hub Guidelines.

The words in bold show the changes from the earlier March draft.

The 174 page Mobility Hub Guidelines, for example, talk of integration and seamless mobility with:

 “clear, direct, and short transfers between transit modes and routes, including accessible conventional and specialized transit, by minimizing walking distances and removing physical and perceived barriers within transit stations.”

A Mobility Hub at Yonge and Davis on the UCM site north of Davis Drive West with the GO Bus Terminal on its existing site on the South side of Davis Drive West is unlikely to be considered “seamless”.

What does all this mean in practice? The study requested by Nick McDonald, and dismissed by Ira Kagan as fanciful, will go ahead - but without the Glenway component. The irreversible transformation and blighting of a quiet and peaceful Newmarket neighbourhood is about to begin. 

Meanwhile, in another part of town…

While there is no big circle at Yonge and Davis on the Schedules, there is one at Mulock Drive which, according to the final version of the Secondary Plan, is the site of the proposed new GO rail station.

Hmmm.

Metrolinx, told me only last week: “While the Town of Newmarket supports a new station at Mulock Drive, GO Transit has no plans to build a station in this location.”

You really couldn't make it up.

 


 

 

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