Councillors yesterday approved a staff recommendation to bring in a By Law designating Newmarket’s historic Main Street South as a Heritage Conservation District.
But, bizarrely, the two hour debate left unresolved the key question of finance and how the new By Law was to be resourced.
The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, tells councillors that a soon-to-be-recruited Business Development Officer would provide support for the implementation of the Heritage Plan alongside planning staff already in post.
Shelton is quizzed by Regional Councillor, John Taylor, who says there never was any decision to allow staff to go ahead and fill the BDO post without first bringing a report back to councillors.
An impassive Shelton recalls a decision taken on 25 June 2012.
Now we are entering the theatre of the absurd as Shelton’s recollection is again challenged by Taylor. Now there are calls for the Minute Book to be brought up from the dusty old archives.
The Town’s top managers and the elected councillors seem to exist in parallel universes that collide at meetings of the Committee of the Whole.
How on earth is it possible for the report on the Heritage by Law to be written, circulated and debated in public without councillors, or at the very least the Mayor, discussing the financing and resourcing aspects beforehand with the report’s authors?
Now the councillors are zeroing in on Heritage Tax Rebates.
Rick Nethery, the Town’s Planning Chief, tells councillors “we don’t have a whole lot of take up”. (which must rank as the understatement of the year as the rebate cost the Town a meagre $5,377 in 2012)
Taylor fears there could be a huge increase in the number of applications from people living in the Heritage District that could cost the Town a fortune. He says it could be a tax break given to owners who don’t need the money to keep their properties in tip-top condition. He suggests a special heritage fund is created to help properties needing lots of love and attention.
Now an increasingly exasperated Taylor says the Town can adopt the Heritage By Law without necessarily increasing current staffing levels. (Sharp intake of breath from top managers present).
The Commissioner of Development and Infrastructure Services, Rob Prentice, tells an inquiring Maddie di Muccio, that, without resources, “it would be a challenge to do the work”.
Maddie asserts that too much of the Town’s money is being lavished on Main Street.
Jo Sponga, whose patch includes the downtown heritage district, says the most important thing is to press ahead and designate. Just do it.
Chris Emanuel agrees with Sponga. He says it is “imperative” the report is approved today.
With a municipal memory stretching back to Confederation, Dave Kerwin says the heritage issue has been left unresolved for too long and should be resolved now. No more delays.
The Mayor, who loves the paperwork, insists on another report on how everything is to be financed.
Tom Hempen, who declares an interest as his mother owns a property in the heritage conservation district, stays out of the debate.
Tom Vegh, a man of few words at the best of times, says nothing. (He really must learn to share his thoughts.)
After much huffing and puffing, councillors agree the By Law but leave the question of paying for it to a future meeting.
Maddie votes against.
So too does Jane “I’m not too sure where I am sitting on this” Twinney.
No surprises there.
The future of the OMB
At long last, a review of the dysfunctional OMB.
The power exercised by this unelected and unaccountable body is awesome - as people in Glenway may soon discover to their cost.
The Secondary Plan
If the Urban Centres Secondary Plan gets Council approval, Newmarket will soon be studded with huge high rise towers, some reaching 25 storeys.
I am not entirely sure Newmarket people are signed up for this but we shall see.
The Town will be holding a public meeting in October (date to be announced) when the latest draft will be unveiled.
Newmarket is going to grow. But who is going to shape it?
The developers and the "city builders" in the planning department or the people who live here.