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The Enforcement of Newmarket By-laws

The Town of Newmarket has zillions of By-laws. And a report published last week tells us the Town is planning to beef up enforcement of some of them.

Woe betide anyone who flagrantly disobeys a By-law. Selling burgers from an unlicensed food truck? Making too much noise? Not keeping your property up to scratch? There will be a municipal enforcement officer knocking on your door before you can say “Tony Van Bynen”.

Sweet irony

It is a sweet irony that the Town is ratcheting up enforcement of some By-laws while it considers trashing By-law 2013-51 which regulates building height and other matters within the downtown Heritage Conservation District. The Mayor has already made his position clear on the seven storey Clock Tower development in an area where a three storey height cap ostensibly applies.

The Heritage Conservation District is zoned Urban Centre D1 or (UC-D1). The Zoning By-law 2010-40, consolidated in December 2013, stipulates a minimum building height of 2 storeys and a maximum of 3 storeys or 9 metres.

The Town’s Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, told me in May 2013 that:

“The By-law adopting a Heritage Conservation District is required to fully implement the (Heritage Conservation) District Plan and have it be in full force and effect. While we utilize the (Heritage Conservation District) Plan to assist in evaluating proposals, the passing of an adopting By-law gives the (Heritage Conservation District) Plan its Official status.”

That seems clear enough. But no. Nethery goes on:

“Proposals that do not necessarily conform to all aspects of a Heritage Conservation District Plan, whether it is in full force or not, can continue to be approved by Council if deemed appropriate.”

So no matter what the By-law says a majority of councillors can trump it. If it takes their fancy, they can vote for Forrest’s zoning By-law amendment.

Phoney rules and processes

This is what is so utterly fraudulent about our broken planning system and its phoney rules and processes. They are infinitely flexible and, as such, they are hardly worth the paper they are written on.

I told the Mayor at the Committee of the Whole on 18 April 2016, if he doesn’t like By-law 2013-51 he should repeal it and bring in another version more to his liking.

Why doesn’t he mandate a maximum height of 7 storeys in the Heritage Conservation District and allow the demolition of historic commercial buildings on condition the facades are retained? That would be the honest approach for a retired banker. Instead we all have to navigate our way through a hall of mirrors where things are not as they appear to be.

Public Love-in

As it is, the fate of the Clock Tower development is all going to come down to the crude counting of heads. We know that Tom Hempen will be abstaining in any vote because he owns a retail business on Main Street. That leaves 8 members of Council and one of them, Tony Van Bynen, has already shown his hand. Dave Kerwin’s public love-in with Bob Forrest at the same April 18 meeting also raises very serious concerns.

What about the others? Who knows?

They are, each one of them, a law unto themselves.

Quite literally.

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