A front page story in today’s Toronto Star under the headline TEED OFF tells us

“GTA homeowners seething as developers gobble up golf courses and turn them into massive subdivisions”

The story focuses on Highland Gate in Aurora but the threat of losing valued open space to predatory developers is happening everywhere. Glenn Abbey in Oakville – which hosts this year’s Canadian Open - is slated to be turned into a subdivision with 3,000 homes.

The sclerotic Ontario Municipal Board will adjudicate on Highland Gate in March next year, further evidence, if such is needed, on how the planning process is completely silted up.

A spokesman from the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing tells the Star the Provincial Government “hopes to launch a review of the OMB this spring.”

In theory, the Mayor of Newmarket, Tony Van Bynen, is well placed to challenge the developers and campaign to retain open space in urban neighbourhoods. But to believe that is to misunderstand the man and how he operates. By his silence and slothful inactivity he has ceded leadership to Tom Mrakas, a councillor in Aurora, who has been energetically putting together a coalition of municipalities who are determined to reshape the OMB and our planning laws.

Van Trappist has never given an honest account of what happened at Glenway; what he knew, when he knew it and what he did about it. Instead he mouths platitudes.

He won the Mayorality on a platform promising reform of the OMB. But, since then, he has said nothing of any consequence on the issue. In 2014 he promised voters:

“Bringing reform to the Ontario Municipal Board and the Planning Act to ensure our residents have a say in shaping their community will be a priority in the next term.”

So, specifically, how does he intend to give residents a say in shaping their community?

It is not a trick question.

We may get the answer vicariously from Glenway councillor, Christina Bisanz, who pledged last month to bring motions to the Council on OMB reform.

But I am interested in Van Bynen’s detailed views which are about as difficult to access as one of his old bank vaults. He doesn’t need to keep his thinking under lock and key.

Why not inform the debate by having a council workshop beforehand, open to the public, dedicated to OMB reform? The Town’s planning chief, Rick Nethery, can brief us from his perspective as a professional planner. The Mayor can tell us how his thinking has evolved over three council terms and what lessons he learned from Glenway. And everyone can consider the issues likely to be raised in the forthcoming Provincial review.

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Update on 3 April 2016: Readers' letters in today's Sunday Star. "OMB not protecting the public interest."


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