Monday night’s Statutory Public Meeting on Bob Forrest’s proposal to dump a nine storey condo in the heart of Newmarket’s historic downtown was a watershed moment.
People turned out in droves and made their views known.
In the Council Chamber there is standing room only.
And our councillors, led by an impressively forensic Chris Emanuel, get straight to the point.
The Forrest redevelopment, involving the demolition of historic commercial buildings, can only proceed in its present form if Town owned land is sold to the developer or if there is some kind of land swap.
Chris Bobyk, the developer’s mannequin, tells Chris Emanuel that, for technical reasons, the underground car park could not be built solely under the land that Forrest owns.
Staying within the curtilage of the land that Forrest owns, they would have to go down 4 levels and that’s way too deep. The soil down there is simply too wet.
We learn the car park would go down two levels but would have to be “spread out” and would, therefore, inevitably encroach on Town owned land.
This is the silver bullet that kills this monstrous speculative development stone dead.
The Town is not compelled to sell its own land to a speculative developer or trade it in some other fashion.
Bobyk tells us a development with fewer than 150 units wouldn’t work. He is unable or unwilling to tell us how many of these units will be two bedroom or one bedroom. This is something for later.
Regional Councillor John Taylor says he wants to see something happen in this location but he laments that the developer is not listening. He says developers always insist it has got to be done their way or they can’t make money. He sees the pattern repeating in Slessor Square, Glenway and now the Clock Tower.
Dave Kerwin, a Newmarket councillor since Confederation, innocently asks if the success of the project depends on a land swap. Yes, is the mumbled reply.
Our councillors worry about the impact of the proposed development on parking in the downtown. We are told the development is short of 90 parking spaces. Where would the condo people park?
Tom Vegh, a member of the Newmarket Public Library Board, says the proposal is comical. The Library would be the new condo’s next door neighbour. Parking, he says, is difficult enough now.
Maddie Di Muccio, typically the developer’s friend, comes down against Forrest’s nine storeys.
The increasingly garrulous Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, is, once again, all over the place talking at inordinate length about modern kitchens in old buildings, property values and wet basements. But he too comes to the conclusion there are problems with the developer’s proposals.
Now it is the turn of residents to have their say and every shade of opinion is represented. Although no vote is taken, I sense a clear majority against the Forrest development.
For me, two contributions in particular stood out.
Bob Buchan, President of the Newmarket Historical Society, but speaking in a personal capacity, powerfully reminds us of Main Street’s central place in the Town’s history.
And Athol Hart, chair of Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee, tells us he is not against the development, as such. It is simply in the wrong location.
Athol, too, spoke in a personal capacity and this perplexed me as there is no reason for him to do this. Seems to me it would have been helpful for people to have been told that his Committee is formally charged with advising the Town on all built heritage matters - and that it has formed a clear view on Forrest’s condo.
The Minutes of the Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee of 17 December 2013 tell us that the Committee is recommending to the Town Council
(a) That the three storey structure limit on development projects in the downtown core be upheld according to the Town of Newmarket Official Plan and the Heritage Conservation District Plan;
(b) And that the application for the Zoning By-Law Amendment as submitted by Main Street Inc. be rejected.
Terse and to the point.
And all the better for that.