Today I receive a package in the mail from Bob Forrest's lawyer, the silver-tongued Ira Kagan. It is about the OMB Pre-Hearing on Wednesday 3 May 2017. (See here. Scroll to bottom of page.)
People who attended the Statutory Public meeting on the Clock Tower and spoke or otherwise registered an interest will be getting a letter from Kagan, the doyen of planning lawyers and the developers' favourite consigliere.
Unfortunately, there is nothing at all in Kagan's bundle about the land swap without which the Clock Tower redevelopment cannot proceed. This is the elephant in the room. (Photo right shows Kagan at the recent OMB Hearing in Aurora, acting for the developers who want to build over the Highland Gate golf course.)
Our client's lands
On 29 November 2013, Kagan wrote to the then Town Clerk, Andrew Brouwer, telling him his client (Forrest) was appealing to the OMB:
"To the extent that by-law 2013-51 (the Heritage Conservation District By-law passed by the Town on 21 October 2013) creates any additional burden (procedural or substantive) to the redevelopment of our clients lands, our clients object and hereby appeal By-law 2013-51 to the Ontario Municipal Board." (My emphasis)
Kagan is now leading us into the theatre of the absurd. Forrest needs Town owned land for his Clock Tower development and he never got it.
The OMB considered Kagan's 2013 appeal letter and temporarily removed the Forrest lands from the Heritage Conservation District until the Town decided what it was going to do with the Clock Tower application.
The Committee of the Whole met on 28 November 2016 and rejected Forrest's application and this decision was endorsed by the full Council at its meeting on 5 December 2016.
It is perfectly clear there never was a binding agreement by the Town to make its lands available to Forrest.
Indeed, Forrest's angry letter to councillors on 28 November 2016 says:
"The private lands identified in Market Square are indeed owned by Main Street Clock Inc and they would form a portion of the land exchange."
So, if there wasn't a binding agreement between the Town and Forrest on the land swap was there an "agreement in principle"?
John Taylor doesn't seem to think so. In November 2016, he wrote:
"As many of you know it is unlikely for a development of seven or nine storeys to proceed at this location without the acquisition of Town-owned land (underground rights) for parking. This effectively should mean that the Town will have the final say on the proposed development without OMB intervention. Although one never knows for sure."
The Town won't say if there was some kind of "agreement in principle" entered into with Forrest.
This doesn't surprise me. It is another example of the suffocating secrecy we have come to expect from Van Trappist's administration.
If Forrest had negotiated a firm and binding agreement with the Town on the land swap - only to see his Clock Tower redevelopment application rejected - he would by now be jumping up and down in his bright orange shoes, crying foul, accusing the Town of leading him up the garden path and acting in bad faith.
I hope we see the details of the proposed land exchange before 3 May. But if not, it will all come out in the wash at the OMB Hearing.
It will be a moment of high drama.
The Land Exchange: Over a year ago, I was in touch with the Town Solicitor about this. On 23 February 2016, I was told:
1. Council received a land exchange request from the Clock Tower developer, but has deferred any final decision on that proposal until such time as the developer's application for zoning by-law amendment goes through the usual public planning process and receives development approval from the Council.
2. The details of the proposed land exchange are confidential at this point as they involve the potential acquisition disposition of Town lands.
3. If or when the developer's development application comes before Council, the details of the requested land exchange will likely become public information."
Later that same day (23 February 2016) it was confirmed:
Council last dealt with the matter in Closed Session on June 24, 2013.