By e mail on 4 December 2012
Mayor Van Bynen,
I am writing to share a concern that Slessor’s lawyer may have placed the Town of Newmarket’s Council and staff onto a path that (without speedy action) could result in a “lose-lose” position for the town.
Allow me to provide a little background before I explain the risk. Since early this year there have been many meetings on this development, ranging from those between staff and developer, to public meetings, etc. During this time the developer has presented at least two new versions, the latest being designated as a “without prejudice” version. This version was introduced to several representatives of the “Shrink Slessor Square” residents group several weeks ago. At this meeting it was evident that extensive negotiations had taken place between the Town’s staff and developers on issues that are of secondary concern to residents (easement for Hydro, shading of the inner courtyard, etc). Meanwhile no progress had occurred on density, and the design’s height had regressed from the previous versions’ 16 floors to 20 floors. The negotiations between this version and the previous one had occurred without any direct involvement of our residents group.
In summary, close to a year has expired with no progress on density, and only a little “down and up” change on height.
At Friday’s OMB Pre-Hearing, Slessor’s lawyer proposed the Town Council makes a decision on whether to accept or oppose the “without prejudice” design by early February, to be followed by a mid February OMB Hearing (if the Council votes to accept this design). In this event, presumably only the residents group would be challenging OMB’s approval, so the likelihood is the “without prejudice” version would gain OMB blessing. Hence, a dangerous precedence will have been created. The “floodgates” would be open for developments throughout Newmarket to ignore zoning and long term plans, because the Council capitulated on Slessor’s obscenely oversized demands “without a fight”. It would be “open season” for developers to almost do what they wanted. Alternatively, If Council votes to oppose Slessor, you face an (un-budgeted?) expenditure for lawyers and experts that Councillors said may cost between $300,000 and one million dollars!…… Cancelling Council coffees will not pay for this…. Hence, you would be facing a “lose-lose” vote.
May I suggest the Town and staff needs to immediately launch intensive negotiations with the Slessor team to downsize density as a minimum. The residents group would like to be part of these negotiations, and I commit to seek expedient resident buy-in to a serious counter proposal that brings the density much closer to the often mentioned planning objective of 200-250 people+jobs/Hectare.
In addition, it seems prudent for Councillors and yourself to expediently approve the staff report paragraph that seeks approval to pursue outside expert help (an item that was postponed at the last Committee of the Whole). Otherwise the Slessor team will not be motivated to seriously negotiate.
Bill Chadwick on behalf of the Shrink Slessor Square concerned residents
Forsyth Road, Newmarket
Copies to all Councillors, Regional Councillor John Taylor, Senior Planner Marion Plaunt