Newmarket Theatre is bursting at the seams as I arrive for the Glenway meeting just before 7pm.
The doors are barred.
No more room!
We are ushered to the overflow room, the cavernous High School cafeteria, which is filling up rapidly.
Glenway people are turning out in force for this “Statutory Public Meeting” called to discuss the future of their neighbourhood.
The rapacious Marianneville Developments Ltd are up first and outline their plans to a disbelieving and resentful audience.
The developers want to shoehorn into Glenway a further 292 apartment dwellings, 219 condominium townhouse dwellings, 54 condominium one storey dwellings, 165 residential detached dwellings and a commercial block.
Understandably, Glenway people are up in arms about this.
They believe their neighbourhood will be utterly transformed, without their consent.
Marianneville claim their plans are consistent with Town and Regional plans and policy statements. Developers always recite this, as a fact. They could hardly say otherwise.
Marianneville say the new development will be compatible with what is already there. They describe this as “same-to-same”.
The developers are heard in respectful but seething silence.
Next up is the Ward 7 Councillor, Chris Emanuel.
He has already made it clear he is against the proposed development which is not needed to meet the Town’s growth targets. (more about that later)
He wants more detail from the developers on their thinking.
His colleague, Tom Hempen, tells us he heard concerns from residents about traffic and density at an earlier meeting on 18 June. He wants to know how the plans have changed to address these concerns. (Hmmm…. Not a lot)
Now it is the turn of Ron Kassies who speaks for the Glenway Preservation Association. His workmanlike presentation receives a rapturous reception.
It is clear Glenway wants Mariannville as much as a dose of anthrax. (my words not his)
Next up is Anne Leroux with a clear and confident message to go with her Powerpoint presentation.
The development would impact on important wildlife corridors. And it would destroy the green spaces that urbanising areas need if they are to stay healthy.
Deborah Jane Pope is now at the rostrum.
A terrific presentation. Clear as a bell. The development of Glenway is not needed to meet the targets flowing from the Places to Grow Act.
She says, in as many words, that the whole consultation has been a farce. And that Marianville’s strategy has been to divide and conquer, playing off some residents’ concerns against others.
Glenway, she declaims, is not a lot waiting to be filled. It is already filled… with homes and people and friends…
The Town, she says, should put residents’ interests ahead of developers.
Dave Hanson steps up to the plate, picking up the theme that the developers want to divide residents.
He warns people not to believe they will be safe just because their home will still back on to open space after the infill development is complete.
Marianville’s plans for a 9 hole “executive” golf course may never materialise. We learn there is no market out there for “executive” 9 hole golf courses.
He predicts the developers will sneak back after a few years with plans to build over what is left of open parkland.
Now it is the turn of Michelle Price who talks about preserving the quality of life at Glenway. Many subsequent speakers echo her concerns.
Now the meeting is thrown open to contributions from the floor.
So far, no-one has spoken in favour of Mariannville’s vision of the new Glenway.
A self declared senior, Betty, laments it is too late for her to start over. Her landscaped property is the product of 26 years work. She says the Town’s Official Plan doesn’t seem to matter.
Now a terrific contribution from a Mr Oloya (?) who wants to know what will happen next. He wants a referendum.
The Mayor passes the ball to Richard Nethery, the Town’s top planner. He waffles on about opportunities to make your views known. Contributions will be listened to… Possibly taken on board…
The Mayor says he hopes this answers the question.
No it doesn’t, cries Mr Oloya.
Now the discontent is beginning to bubble to the surface.
The next speaker wants to know how on earth councillors ever allowed the development to get this far. He is incredulous.
An exasperated Tim Parker wants meaningful and complete answers from the developers. Some questions are only half answered, if at all.
Now it is the turn of Stuart Hoffman who tells us he paid a premium for living in Glenway with its open space. It puts it at $100,000 - $150,000.
His home backs on to a pond. For him, there will be no “same-to-same”
He wants to know if he and others in the same boat are going to be compensated.
To gales of laughter, the developer says there will be no comment on this tonight.
A stream of residents take to the rostrum, all of them angry at the loss of open space and amenity.
A spirited contribution from Nadine Gaudette (?) labels the developer’s approach “extremely distasteful”. She accuses them of refusing to answer questions and telling lies.
This is strong stuff but the language matches the mood.
She demands to know the views of all councillors.
The Mayor tells us it would be premature for councillors to comment.
They need to wait until all the reports are in. Then they can read them and weigh everything up. It is all about due process.
Personally, I find this proceduralism suffocating.
A few more contributions from the floor and now the Mayor is winding up the meeting, inviting the audience to give themselves a round of applause, presumably for being so restrained in the face of so much provocation from the developers.
This is toe curling.
Congratulating people for being good and “respectful” when they have every right to be outraged.
The Glenway people disperse into the night, uncertain of what happens next.
So, what did I learn from tonight?
More than ever, Newmarket people need a debate on what kind of town they want to live in.
But process and procedure is stifling the conversation we need to have.
Our councillors have to get off the fence and describe their vision of a future Newmarket.
Is it a pleasant town, growing and maturing, but still one built on a human scale?
Or will it be a city of high rise towers where developers call the tune?