I am in the cavernous Crosslands Community Church to hear at first hand what lies in store for the residents of Glenway whose lives will soon be turned upside down.
As I enter, I see Brad Rogers of Groundswell whose face is creased in a huge grin. As loyal lieutenant to the developer, no doubt he will be getting his share of the multi-million dollar jackpot.
There are lots of empty seats - quite unlike the earlier meetings where it was standing room only. The atmosphere is subdued. I sense a feeling of resignation in the air.
The agenda is all about the nuts and bolts of how Glenway will be developed. Bob Shelton, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, runs through a series of slides briefing us on the “Interface Compatibility Plan” and the “Tree Location and Planting Plan” and so on.
Alongside Shelton sits the softly spoken Peter Noehammer, the newish Commissioner for Development and Infrastructure Development who has been with the Town for five months. He does not have the long institutional memory of, say, the Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, who, like Macavity, is nowhere to be seen. Joining them on the platform is Ward 7 councillor, Christina Bisanz, Regional Councillor John Taylor and His Worship, Tony Van Bynen.
Down below the salt, in the audience, I see councillor Dave “it’s pointless to consult the public” Kerwin; Tom Vegh and, at the very back, Tom Hempen.
The GPA’s Dave Sovran is MC for the evening and Brian Gard, the Deputy Sheriff, takes us through the chronology, explaining how we ended up in this sorry mess.
Who is the Glenway “go to” person?
Dave Sovran wants to know who the Glenway “go to” person is at the Town now that Ruth Victor has gone. Peter Noehammer clearly doesn’t have a clue and wanders up hill and down dale before suggesting the “planning department”. Oh dear! Alternatively, people should contact the ward councillor, Christina Bisanz, who will direct them to the appropriate staff member.
Now the meeting is being opened up to questions from the public.
What’s going to happen with the Glenway West lands, also owned by Marianneville?
Shelton tells us it is too early to say but the developer had a pre-consultation meeting with the planners on 20 January but “there are no specifics of what they propose”.
Let’s have a dialogue
The Mayor, applying the soothing balm for which he is famous, tells us some concessions may be negotiated – providing everyone is “reasonable”. The word is left undefined. “Let’s have a dialogue and see if we can come up with a reasonable compromise.” It is all totally meaningless.
Now we hear someone ask if the Town would consider purchasing the land. Soon we are engulfed in Mayoral waffle of the highest quality. The Town is considering 40 properties and pieces of land and might purchase some if it is the right fit… blah blah blah. Now Van Bynen gives one of his beaming smiles and says to the questioner: “How’s that for a non-answer?”
There is no outrage. We are in a Church, after all.
Now an earnest Eric Smith, dressed in combative red, submerges himself in a series of questions about aquifers or artesian wells and the threat to people’s basements from water penetration as a result of the proposed development. He conjures up a picture of the planned Regional Building – which he dubs the aquarium – slowly sinking into a swamp. He is heard in silence as befits someone who gives the impression of knowing what he is talking about.
Worryingly, this is all news to Noehammer who is on safer ground when asked about construction dirt and noise. We learn the wind comes from the west and dirt will blow directly into folks’ houses. Will there be some kind of barrier? Don’t fret says Noehammer. The residents are to be protected by 130 conditions that developer will have to comply with before getting the go-ahead. Ah!
Now an interesting question about servicing – hooking up the new houses to the water mains and sewers. Bob Shelton, with all the skill of an old pro, says staff will, in due course, be making a recommendation to Council about when the hook up should take place now that the OMB has made its decision.
Shelton, more delphic than usual, tells us the question to be asked is this: “What is the fit across the municipality?” He could have told us the priority areas get hooked up first. That’s the Davis Drive and Yonge Street corridors and, more generally, the urban centre. Everything else waits in line. But he didn’t.
We feel bounced around
Now the Mayor fields a question about the OMB and how the Town handled things. “There was never, ever a compromise of process.” (Meaning he wants us to believe the Town did things by the book.) “We feel as bounced around as you do.”
Now he is being asked a question about the GO Bus Terminal and the Mobility Hub, matters which figured so prominently in the OMB Hearing.
The Hub, he says, is focussed on the Tannery. “That’s all I’m aware of.”
Is the Mayor seriously asking us to believe that there will be no Mobility Hub study of one of the busiest intersections in Newmarket, Yonge and Davis, where explosive growth is promised with 13,500 new residents and 10,100 jobs?
The Secondary Plan, endorsed by the Town last June and now waiting for Regional approval, reminds us that Metrolinx wanted two Mobility Hubs – one at the Tannery and another at Yonge/Davis. The one at the Tannery has a huge circle on the map, denoting its status. The one at Yonge/Davis a small red dot – identified in the document nevertheless as a “mobility hub”.
The text explains that a Regional Shopping Centre Study Area is planned for the Upper Canada Mall site and this will involve “mobility hub study considerations.”
Why the self defeating and obfuscating semantics? Is Yonge/Davis a mobility hub or not?
A Tale of Two Circles
Intriguingly, the Secondary Plan has another giant circle at Mulock Drive denoting the site of a planned new GO Rail Station. Yet Metrolinx told me last September:
"While the Town of Newmarket supports a new station at Mulock Drive, GO Transit has no plans to build a station in this location.”
As we all know, Metrolinx urged the Town to delineate the study area of the Mobility Hub at Yonge and Davis but this was rejected by the Director of Planning. Why?
A line on a map would inevitably have had to include the GO Bus Terminal, adjacent to Glenway. This would have made it difficult for the developer to maintain there was not “a shred of evidence” that the Bus Terminal may, at some stage, be moving.
What other explanation is there?
But if there is one we should hear it, in person and in detail, from the Director of Planning, Rick Nethery.
Update on 14 February 2014: Read the GPA Question and Answer document that was handed out at the meeting on 12 February 2014. Click "Documents" in the panel above left and navigate to "Glenway". Click on GPA Q&A 12Feb14