Last night, Newmarket Council gives the go ahead to the massive Slessor complex opposite Upper Canada Mall that will take up to a decade to complete. It sets the precedent for future development in central Newmarket.
One by one, the councillors give their reasons.
Personally, I find this compelling stuff as, even after all this time, I still don’t know what some of them really think about it all.
The dance of the seven veils begins…
An agonised Tom Hempen is desperately looking for a way out. He wants assurances from the traffic experts that everything will work out in the end. That way, he can vote for Slessor and look his Ward 4 constituents in the eye. He pleads with the Town’s traffic consultant to throw him a lifeline. More traffic studies are on the way. Phew! What a relief!
No surprises from Maddie Di Muccio. She is the developer’s friend. No need to guess whose side she is on. She reminds us we have long known intensification is coming. And now it has arrived. Get used to it.
Joe Sponga deserves a pat on the back for taking the trouble to engage with the issue. He asks probing questions rather than sit passively, saying nothing, like a lump of lard. He wants the Council to take the decision rather than leave it to the OMB which could, he says, land us with an even worse development than the one proposed. He says it is showing “leadership” to vote for Slessor.
Ward 7 councillor and Glenway champion, Chris Emanuel, realises he is between a rock and a hard place. Despite clear misgivings about the process he has got to choose. He votes for Slessor.
John Taylor tells us earlier he is leaning towards supporting the Planning Staff recommendations but he is upset that councillors may be cut out of future decisions. He worries that the developer and planning staff will decide things. It is another one of these process issues that conveniently divert discussion away from the central point which is, in this case, density.
But, eventually, he gets round to it.
If it were up to him he would go for a 25% reduction in density. Alas, he doesn’t have the power to insist on this. He has got to take this and that into account. And weigh everything up. It is all very difficult. He, too, votes for Slessor.
Now it is the turn of Jane Twinney. In a rare intervention she asks if it is true that the density of the development can change after approval in principle is given. Yes, says Marion. But there is a height cap. The developer can’t go above 21 storeys.
Dave Kerwin now launches into a long paean of praise for the Slessors. He is concerned that further delays could bankrupt the developer. It has already dragged on for two years. He is firmly in the Slessor camp. Always was.
Now I hear Tom Vegh extolling the new options for seniors that Slessor will provide. There is a lot of congratulatory stuff . Staff and councillors, working tirelessly right up to the wire, wringing concessions from the developer. Much back slapping.
Now it is the turn of the Mayor who reads something from a script prepared earlier. Then the roll call vote is taken. It is unanimous.
So what did they vote for?
Our councillors have given “approval in principle” to the largest development Newmarket has ever seen. But we don’t know the final density. That could change. We don’t know the number of apartments. Or the nature of the commercial and retail units that are integral to the complex. Or the traffic impact on the adjoining neighbourhood and town more generally. Or the phasing of the four stage development.
Earlier, in the afternoon session, Slessor’s Project Manager, Bob Forrest, sporting eye catching bright orange shoes, tells us he wants the retirement residence to be built first. Hmmm. I wonder how many older people want to spend their golden years in the middle of a construction site.
I’d take a bet on the towers going up first.
He tells councillors “We want the flexibility to build what can be built.”
And that means eliminating, so far as possible, public involvement. The developers don’t want to find themselves at some point, further down the road, calling for another zoning by law amendment.
“A by law amendment is often questioned by the public” says Bob.
If we just deal with the planning staff “there is no need to be nervous”.
Councillors are seduced by assurances from their own planners and lawyers that the multitude of outstanding issues parked in the so-called Holding Zone will be considered with meticulous care and that the Holds will not be prematurely lifted.
Innocents abroad, I’d say.
Anyway… all eyes now shift to the OMB which will convene in the Council Chamber at Mulock Drive at 10.30am next Tuesday for the so-called “settlement hearing”. The OMB is the “approval authority “ and it is up to them to decide what happens next. But with councillors, planning staff and developers all whistling the same tune, don’t expect any surprises.