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Who seriously believes we are going to learn lessons from Glenway?

The long awaited Glenway “Lessons Learned” meeting, penciled in for 23 June, could end up being a very damp squib.

The Commissioner for Development and Infrastructure Development, Peter Noehammer told Newmarket councillors last week that the format will be highly constrained with the aim of producing a “respectful dialogue” where any recommendations will be determined “as a group through consensus”.

This format begs a number of questions. How is this group going to be constituted? The Information Report that was posted on the Town’s website indicated that the facilitator, Glenn Pothier, would be inviting members of the Council

 “to meet individually with him to provide any initial thoughts on the subdivision’s processing through the Town and OMB”. 

The Report goes on:

“Glenn will also initiate contact (and make himself available for individual meetings) with key staff involved in the process, members of the Glenway Preservation Association, the developer, and the consultants hired by the Town throughout the entire process.”

Those absent from this list include former councillors Chris Emanuel and Maddie Di Muccio (who suggested a lessons learned meeting in the first place), the consultants engaged by the Glenway Preservation Association, and, crucially, members of the public living in Glenway or, indeed, elsewhere in Newmarket.

Glenway is a Town-wide issue

The GPA has said for years that Glenway is not solely a matter for those living in the neighbourhood – it is a Town-wide issue.

This being the case, surely anyone with a point of view who is interested in the Glenway issue should be part of the process. There is absolutely no reason for separating the sheep from the goats in this way. The whole point of the exercise is to determine what happened and why and to make sure – insofar as this is possible – that nothing like it can happen again. Of course, the passage of time takes its toll. Memories fade. There is no official transcript of what happened at the OMB. But, there is one constant; hundreds of people in Glenway and beyond are going to have their lives turned upside down for years to come.

Reviewing the agenda

It is against that background that Newmarket staff will be asking the facilitator “to review the proposed agenda for the Lessons Learned session”.  Councillors, too, should be asked to review and approve it.

So, what is required?

(1)  The Town should extend an open invitation to all those who have a view on what happened at Glenway to register for the Lessons Learned meeting.

(2)  The Town should ask people to submit questions to the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, in advance. (This was floated as a possible way forward by Bob Shelton himself earlier this year.)

(3)  We should avoid ambushes at the Lessons Learned meeting. The meeting is not about scoring points. Insofar as possible, the facts of what happened and any corresponding explanations should be circulated in advance.

(4)  The Lessons Learned meeting should be streamed and taped.

The Lessons Learned meeting comes at a time when the future of the OMB is itself under scrutiny. Mayor Van Bynen made the reform of the OMB a key priority in his election platform and Glenway is, in many ways, an ideal case study. It is in his patch and happened on his watch and demonstrates how not to make major planning decisions. For these reasons the lessons learned process should be documented and the meeting taped.

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What was said on 4 May 2015

At the tail end of the agenda of the Committee of the Whole on 4 May 2015, Ward 7 councillor, Christina Bisanz, raised a series of questions about the proposed Glenway Lessons Learned meeting (which appeared under the umbrella item, “Outstanding Matters”). The exchanges are set out below.

Christina Bisanz:  “…What are some of the defined outcomes that we are hoping for? Obviously “lessons learned”, but we had talked about using this process, however it unfolds, to certainly help assess how we got to where we did but also to look at informing our position, or the development of a position, we may take as a Council, on OMB reform.”

Commissioner Noehammer: “We intend to retain the services of Glenn Pothier as a facilitator for that session. He looks like he is available in mid June to conduct that session. We will finalise a date and as part of this session he will be undertaking some interviews with various stakeholders before the session including members of council, members of staff, members of the GPA (Glenway Preservation Association) just to get a broader sense of perspective.  And our discussions with Glenn to date have been very positive in the terms, in the sense, that he has a good understanding what the outcome should be, meaning not only to facilitate a discussion and a respectful dialogue of the various issues by phase of the application leading right up to the OMB decision, but also to come to a consensus as to what the next steps (are) or what to do with the information.”

“And that will be determined as a group through consensus. So I got a very good sense from Glenn - he is very experienced in that regard - and he will lead a very respectful discussion, dialogue, on the whole process with an outcome and as a Group determine what the next steps should be.”

Christina Bisanz: “So, at this point, I’d like to share this with the GPA to advise them this is coming and that there will be an opportunity directly for members of the Executive to provide input.”

Mayor Tony Van Bynen: “If I may, there is one other item we should give thought to and that is feedback on OMB reform and what the timelines are for input relative to that. I was under the impression that might be the end of May and I don’t know whether or not our planning staff are putting together a position paper.”

“I know they will be looking for some information from the Region as well and I think the sooner we have that so we can individually if we wish provide some additional input into that process as well… do we know where that would be at Mr Noehammer?”

Commissioner Noehammer: “Yes Mr Mayor. Staff are bringing forward that comprehensive review of the four Provincial documents for the May 25th meeting of the Committee of the Whole. You are quite right. It does only leave a very short time between when comments have to go back to the Province. But such is the way that this process has panned out in terms of the short time frame that stakeholders have been given.”

“The Region is also going to be reporting through Regional Council on the same matter and so, within a very short time frame, the Regional and Newmarket Councils will have the benefit of staff reports reviewing those documents.”

Mayor Tony Van Bynen: “That’s relative to Places to Grow, Oak Ridges Morraine and the Green Belt. But is there not a separate evaluation of the effectiveness of the Ontario Municipal Board?”

“I’ve kind of lost track of that. I am just wondering, not now, but if you can zip around an email what the timelines are if there’s some prep time that’s needed. I know there are people who want to provide input on OMB reform.”

Commissioner Noehammer: “Certainly I can follow up with that Mr Mayor.”

(These exchanges can be viewed on the video of the Committee of the Whole on 4 May 2015 starting at 3.32)


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