Back Story: The grasping and calculating developer, Marianneville, wants to build 74 Town houses on the site of the former club-house. This is the first in a long series of applications which will change this quiet residential neighbourhood out of all recognition. They are turning their attention to the adjacent Glenway West lands which will, if they have their way, be developed too.
It is Monday 2 February and the Council Chamber is an oasis of calm as councillors decide how best to handle the continuing hot potato that is Glenway. The atmosphere is very different from the histrionics that marked the last Council term.
We are listening to Christina Bisanz, the recently elected councillor for Ward 7 and former chair of the Glenway Preservation Association (GPA). In a measured and matter-of-fact way, she tells councillors what she expects of them. The Glenway Preservation Association’s briefing meeting to update residents is on 12 February and the community will be looking for specific answers to specific questions.
People want specific details
She lays her cards on the table. She wants to know about any previous discussions the council may have had about buying the Glenway lands. People have concerns about compatibility between what is proposed and what is already there. They want to know about the Glenway West lands. The Committee report that councillors have in front of them is, she says, good so far as it goes but people will be expecting more specific details.
The Mayor, always most comfortable when strapped into a procedural straightjacket, suggests the GPA could send a deputation to appear before the Committee of the Whole as part of the lessons learned exercise. (I don’t think so.)
Regional Councillor John Taylor has his own ideas. He is worried about the number of meetings being proposed and the potential for confusion. He loves process issues and is in his element. He wants a letter to go out to residents setting out the schedule giving people the opportunity to go to the meetings on topics they are interested in.
Taylor also wants to discuss with the community the future of the Glenway West lands. He also wonders aloud about the best format for the “lessons learned” meeting. And he wants a date for it to give people as much notice as possible. He suggests it should be separate from the Committee of the Whole. Maybe a broader facilitated public meeting where residents have an opportunity to participate.
Christina Bisanz, without missing a beat, says it is important to have a facilitated discussion. Clearly, this is crucial to avoid people skilfully avoiding questions and, generally, wasting time by ski-ing off-piste.
The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton cautions against asking for too much detail on 12 February. There will inevitably be gaps in the material going to the GPA meeting. The lessons learned meeting will be “more fulsome”.
“My one concern is that the meeting that is scheduled for next week would not have enough complete information. So I could see that as being more administrative but with a bit of an overview. But the “lessons learned” meeting would be one that could be more fulsome…”
Advance notice of questions
He says it would be useful to know the kind of questions people are posing and these can be addressed in the lessons learned meeting. This is an invitation too good to miss. I am already sharpening my pencil.
“Perhaps the GPA meeting could focus on what questions do they want answered in that upcoming format so that we have a clear understanding. And that would be in a more controlled environment, if I can use that word, in terms of whether it is in the Chambers or live streamed for those who cannot attend. But we would have advance (notice of the) questions the GPA are looking to be answered and one I heard referenced is one on property considerations. If we know what these questions are there may be the need to have a closed session with council to look at what has happened chronologically in terms of property issues and get Council direction in terms of where we go from here in that regard.”
Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, supports Christina Bisanz. He is concerned about infill in established neighbourhoods. Would the experience of Glenway have lessons for other infill areas? The Mayor says a lot of work has been done already on infill policy but Glenway is different in scale. He is saying there is no read-across.
Clearly, the Mayor sees Glenway providing ammunition for his treatise on OMB reform. But, inconveniently for His Worship, it wasn’t just the OMB that screwed up. The OMB delivered a decision. It did not get to the truth.
We should all learn the lessons of Glenway says Bob Shelton
Now it’s Bob Shelton again, tip-toeing through the tulips on the “lessons learned” process.
“I am just going to deal with the point that the councillor (Joe Sponga) indicated relative to applying any lessons learned to other developments etc. That is the approach that is used in a continuous improvement environment and so, if there are any lessons that can be learned, and learned by all parties involved in the process, those lessons can be applied to other developments so I think it would be premature until the lessons learned exercise takes place to determine what the lessons are and how they should be applied and where they should be applied. So I suggest that should be a follow-up to a lessons learned exercise.”
The GPA’s Dave Sovran and Brian Gard are seated in the front row of the public gallery and, unexpectedly, after a request by Taylor, they are invited to speak. Brian Gard steps forward with some refreshingly blunt unscripted remarks. His frustration with the whole Glenway debacle is palpable.
He says it is not just about timeliness or about process.
“We’d like to discuss everything. Even the $1,000,000.”
Glenway is - and always has been - a Town-wide issue. He wants staff and councillors to be part of a panel discussion, taking questions at next week’s GPA meeting.
Shelton can’t let the reference to Glenway costing the Town $1,000,000 pass without comment. We learn a report is being finalised and should be ready shortly. He says less than $600,000 is related to the “OMB component” of the Glenway costs.
This doesn’t satisfy Dave "I'm ten years older than the Mayor" Kerwin who has a bee in his bonnet about Glenway. He wants to show how the whole episode cost the Town an arm and a leg. He demands that Newmarket staff time is factored in.
Ever the showman, he says this for dramatic effect. He has been on the council since the dawn of time and knows, as much as I do, that planning staff (unfortunately) do not use time sheets, logging the amount of time spent on individual development applications.
Now Kerwin is chirruping on about his lovely home being open to members of the public who want to discuss things. Or they could meet him at the Newmarket Public Library from 9.30am til noon on Saturday. We hear people are dropping in to see him from all over Town. “They are becoming quite popular” he says, modestly.
Now Taylor clambers back into the driving seat again. He wants his letter to be prepared by staff showing milestones…
“A road map of where we are going.”
This will be useful for those residents of Glenway who have already been to hell and back.