Newmarket councillors tonight (Monday 25 November) unanimously backed residents against a predatory move by Marianneville Developments to build 730 dwellings in the heart of the Glenway neighbourhood.
Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, tells hundreds of supporters in a packed Newmarket Theatre that the issue is all about excessive development. "It shouldn't be about navigating the technical issues and saving money at the Ontario Municipal Board."
He says to loud cheers that if the Town doesn't fight the developers "we are sending a signal the Town's Official Plan is not worth the paper it is written on."
"It is not a Glenway issue it is a Town of Newmarket issue."
The developers and their sidekick, Brad Rogers of Groundswell, and their calculating lawyer, Ira Kagan, sit silently brooding throughout the meeting while residents and others queue up at the microphone to denounce them and their "divide and conquer" tactics.
Glenway's lead spokesperson, Dave Sovran, speaks of the frustration he feels that the Town's Planning Department had not felt able to accept the argument articulated by the GPA on the so-called principle of development. Should there be any development at all? A long line of speakers follow him to the microphone, savaging the tactics of the developers. The atmosphere is tense.
Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to handle the Glenway file speaks to her report. Though she speaks confidently, she is clearly nervous. Soon she descends into planning babble. I hear the (clued up and intelligent) people directly in front of me ask each other what she is talking about. Like them, I have no idea.
Now Regional Councillor John Taylor is about to give his view. He seems to be reading from a pre-prepared script. He tells us Marianneville gave no ground. "Not once did the developers reduce the unit count by one." He empathises with those who would lose their back yards to housing. If it were happening to him, he tells us he would be outraged. He is backing Glenway.
The Mayor upholds the integrity of the Official Plan. He won't be supporting Marianneville either.
Now it is the turn of a confused Joe Sponga. He is all over the place. He tells us that when he arrived this evening he still hadn't made up his mind what he was going to do. Oh dear!
He says he is a very pragmatic sort of person. He recognises the passion that the Glenway people have shown. And he is concerned about the OMB and what is going to happen there if we throw the Town's beleaguered Planning consultant, Ruth Victor, overboard.
Jane Twinney makes one of her better speeches though it too is scripted. What is the point of having councillors? What is the point of having an official plan if developers call the shots? A good point. I am warming to her.
Tom Vegh will support the Glenway residents. He tells us the proposed development would fundamentally alter the nature of the Glenway community.
Now it is the turn of an animated Maddie Di Muccio who, like Sponga, is here, there and everywhere. She is by temprament the developers' friend but she senses the atmosphere and how highly charged it is.
She reminds us she was the only councillor who voted against the appointment of Ruth Victor as Glenway Consultant. She wanted a "task force" from the Glenway community to oversee the developer's proposals. Her message is: the Town screwed up in its choice of consultant but she is not to blame. She now asks a series of process questions about what happens next if the Town tells Marianneville to get lost.
She asks how much the OMB hearing will cost. Rick Nethery, the planning chief, blinking incessantly, says up to $800,000 for an 8 week hearing.
She tells us she is practical and thinks the Town will lose. But, despite this, she votes to back the Glenway residents. She gets a round of applause.
Dave Kerwin backs the residents. He says he has swamp land behind his house and he has to fight off mosquitos, not developers. This gets a laugh.
Tom Hempen closes by telling us he finds it all very difficult. He says elliptically, that when he supports Glenway "it is a cost to my ward".
Why can't people think about the Town as a whole and not just their little corner of it? I live in Tom's ward and I don't have a problem supporting the Glenway people.
There is a palpable feeling that the whole system is rotten.
And that the planners are running the show, marginalising our elected officials.
This may be about to change. I hope so.
But, all in all, a good night's work.