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Taylor sidelined by Town staff over Secondary Plan strategy

In one of their last meetings before Christmas, Newmarket councillors agreed the final modifications to the Urban Centres Secondary Plan that now goes up to York Region by the end of March to get its official imprimatur. The policies will then be chiseled in stone.

However, Regional Councillor John Taylor’s “binding implementation strategy” for the Plan  – announced with a great fanfare last June - was comprehensively ignored by paid officials.

You can read the report on the agreed modifications here at item 2 on the Special Committee of the Whole on 15 December 2014. (The Secondary Plan was approved by the Council on 23 June 2014.)

Some of the changes are minor. Others beg a whole series of new questions. Among these are:

A separate master plan is being developed for Upper Canada Mall, led by the owners, Oxford Properties, who have already expressed serious concerns about the possible adverse impact of the Secondary Plan on the Mall. There is no timetable for the completion of this Master Plan which is supposed to be incorporated into the Secondary Plan at some time in the future, by amendment. The Master Plan was being talked about years ago. What is happening?

A far-reaching study is to take place around the GO Rail Station at the Tannery (the Mobility Hub Station Area Plan) and another around the hospital (the North/South and East/West Network Study). These are supposed to begin in 2016 and 2017 respectively and could take two years or probably more. Metrolinx is currently looking at how to introduce all-day, two-way trains on all the rail corridors – including the Toronto to Barrie line. This is a huge exercise - involving twin tracking and grade separation – and it will be happening smack bang in the middle of the Secondary Plan area. Councillors should insist on regular and frequent reports on how the Metrolinx studies are progressing and how it all ties in with the work the Town is doing.

The modifications report refers to the future Mulock Drive GO Rail Station. Metrolinx told me last year there are no plans for a new station at Mulock Drive.

Solid Blueprint

When the Secondary Plan was approved by the Town in June 2014, Regional Councillor John Taylor told us it provides a “very solid blueprint for the future”. But he told his fellow councillors he wanted a separate report on the “sequencing of development” to allay the fears of those in Newmarket who felt the Town might be growing unsustainably in a helter-skelter fashion. I blogged about it at the time. 

Taylor wanted his sequencing report brought back to councillors before the Secondary Plan went up to York Region for final approval. This is not going to happen.

Taylor’s “binding implementation strategy” came apart at the seams last month when it became clear planning staff had ignored the resolution moved and carried unanimously by Council 9-0 on 23 June 2014.

“It wasn’t done on purpose.”

The Director of Planning, Rick Nethery apologized and told Taylor “it wasn’t done on purpose”. Well, he could hardly say otherwise. There was, apparently, confusion about what Taylor meant. (I’ve looked at the report and the minutes and it all seems as plain as a pikestaff to me. Taylor insisted he wanted a report prior to Regional approval of the Plan)

Why didn’t Nethery get back to Taylor and ask him what he really meant by his motion? Why didn’t Taylor find the time over the past six months to ask the planners how they were getting on with the “binding implementation report”?

This episode is a perfect case study of what is wrong with policy making in our Town. Councillors act like visitors at Mulock Drive, deferring to the paid staff. 

The elected and unelected officials clearly don’t talk to each other (beyond the usual pleasantries) outside the formal structures of Council and Committee meetings. What other explanation can there possibly be?

Silo mentality

It was precisely this kind of silo mentality that allowed the Glenway fiasco to happen. Staff and an outside consultant were left alone to work out the Town’s policy. And when councillors realized they didn’t like the result, it was too late.

So, back to Taylor. After getting the unelected officials over a barrel for “overlooking” his motion, Taylor, sadly, capitulates, telling Nethery at the end of the exchanges, that he is in no rush to get the report he previously insisted was required before Regional approval of the Town’s Secondary Plan.

No rush!

I would have given Nethery a fortnight.

In the end, after Taylor’s protestations, it all fizzles out.

But it gets me thinking. What about all the other assurances we were given about the Secondary Plan? What about the one making it “OMB proof”?

I wonder where we are on that? 

(You can read the verbatim exchanges between John Taylor and the planners on 15 December 2014. Open Documents on panel on left and navigate to Newmarket Documents and click “Taylor vs Nethery”.)


Glenway: the ball starts rolling

The first concrete steps to transform the quite residential neighbourhood of Glenway happens this afternoon, Monday 19 January 2015, when the rapacious and calculating developer, Marianneville, presents an application for Site Plan Approval for 74 townhouse units.

You can see here what is being proposed.

The meeting in the Council Chamber at Mulock Drive at 2pm is open to members of the public.


 

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