On Monday 14 September 2015 at 6pm our councillors will meet at Mulock Drive in closed session to decide whether or not to allow a developer (292145 Ontario) to build 28 townhouses on protected meadowland near Silken Laumann Drive, an ear-shattering 45 metres from the GO rail track.

One councillor tells me the Council will be meeting in camera to receive legal and other expert advice. Councillors will than make a decision that will be explained in the open part of the meeting.

It is more likely there will be a long debate behind closed doors with the formal decision being taken in open session. But who knows? We are used to suffocating secrecy at Mulock Drive.

To recap. The original report of 20 August 2015 (see agenda item 18 here) tells us that planning staff are minded to recommend approval of the controversial development as they received

"additional reports, studies and additional material that indicates that most of the outstanding issues have been appropriately addressed”.

I ask for sight of this influential new material but I am told, astonishingly, I would need the permission of the developer as the matter is before the Ontario Municipal Board. (The matter is scheduled to be heard on 28 September 2015 at the Town’s Operations Centre here in Newmarket.)

Kagan Shastri again

A senior member of the Planning Department generously offers to contact the developer’s solicitor, Paul DeMelo, on my behalf and does so on 27 August 2015. Mr DeMelo works for Ira Kagan’s law firm, Kagan Shastri LLP. (Ira Kagan was, of course, the lawyer acting for the developers at Glenway and also Slessor Square.) By 11 September, Mr DeMelo had still not responded to the request from Newmarket Planning Department and I write to him directly, asking for permission to read the documentation that our planning staff found so persuasive. I am waiting to hear from him.

The original 20 August 2015 report to councillors makes it perfectly clear that

“the plan as proposed (by the developer) requires grading on to Town owned lands…” 

The Town is, of course, under no obligation to act as handmaiden to a developer, making its land available to facilitate a development which is plainly not in the best interests of the Town. Why do I say that?

(1) The 28 Townhouse development will encroach on protected meadowland, set out as such in the Town’s Official Plan.

(2) The development is alarmingly close to the rail track at 45 metres. It is of course the case that many people live and work close to railways all over Ontario but special care has to be taken for new residential developments to establish if the location is appropriate. Here, at Silken Laumann, the number of train movements is going to increase exponentially over coming years with all the noise and vibration that goes with it.

(3) The Town, on the recommendation of planning staff, has also earmarked Mulock Drive as the site of a new GO rail station although its precise location is still, I think, uncertain. How will the proposed development sit with this? Regional Councillor Taylor flagged up the Town’s Mulock GO rail station proposal at York Region’s Committee of the Whole last week, calling for the land to be safeguarded.

No need for Town owned lands - apparently

The original 20 August report seemed to suggest the development was conditional on getting Town approval to allow the use of Town owned land. But now I learn that the development proposal could be modified to remove any need for Town owned lands. The developer would lose two building lots on the north side. It would mean a smaller development than the one originally envisaged by the developer. I am left wondering when the “two lots issue” surfaced. If the planning department knew about this on 20 August 2015 why was this possibility (of the Town not making land available) not flagged up in the report?

As it is, the report clearly states:

“…as this plan is dependent on lands outside of the developer’s ownership as it relates to grading and a portion of the storm water management facility, discussions still need to occur regarding what additional public benefit contributions is prepared to offer the Town over and above the normal and usual contributions to trails, public art and other items under the servicing allocation policy.”

If the developer is prepared to sacrifice two lots to free itself of the need for Town owned land then, clearly, an amendment would be required to the proposed development as submitted to the Town. And where does that leave the OMB hearing?

Staff asks for authority to settle all outstanding issues with the developer

The ward councillor, Tom Vegh, is on record as being against the proposed development, reiterating his opposition as recently as 31 August 2015.

On Monday, councillors should reject the recommendation from the 20 August 2015 report authorizing “staff and legal counsel to continue to work with the applicant toward the settlement of all remaining issues, including the use of Town owned land, in advance of the Ontario Municipal Board hearing.”

Instead, they should make it clear that the proposed development is inappropriate and is in the wrong location.

I ask the always-helpful Town Clerk, Andrew Brouwer, if I can address the Council’s closed session at 6pm.  He tells me this closed session is to help Council understand the Town’s strategic and legal position before the OMB hearing. But he goes on to say the 20 August 2015 report now appears on the public part of Monday’s agenda and I can certainly bring a deputation at 7pm if I wish.

Perhaps.

The Eastern Meadowlark and the Bobolink need all the friends they can get.

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