Background: The proposed redevelopment of Newmarket’s historic downtown at the Clock Tower on Main Street cast a dark shadow over the last term of Council.
The then Mayor, Tony Van Trappist, was the only elected official to support Bob Forrest’s plans to build a huge condo in the heart of the Heritage Conservation District, blighting it forever. Fortunately, Van Trappist couldn’t persuade councillors to follow his lead. The Town’s ineffective Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, knowingly misled the public when he allowed a report to go up to councillors for decision on 28 November 2016 which contained information on the development’s purported density which he knew to be false.
Forrest’s development application was rejected by the Town and, after a series of backroom manoeuvrings, the Town entered into an agreement with Bob Forrest’s Main Street Clock Inc (MSCI) on 2 May 2018 which allows Forrest to redevelop his lands while safeguarding heritage buildings which would not be demolished. We were told that a “New Development Concept” would be worked up by Bob Forrest and made available to the Town and to the public “very soon”. We are still waiting to see it.
Yesterday, the Town’s Planning Department (Information Report 2018-48) told us the Minutes of Settlement, solemnly entered into by the Town and Main Street Clock Inc eight months ago, now require “clarification”.
It is an amendment pure and simple.
The Minutes of Settlement state at paragraph 26:
“In the event that MSCI chooses to convert the upper levels of the Main Street Buildings (ie those Main Street buildings that Forrest owns) to office uses, the Town hereby grants MSCI any required permission to demolish the single storey additions at the rear of the Main Street Buildings in order to create ten (10) new private parking spaces... A demolition permit is required for the demolition which will be provided to MSCI on an expedited basis upon receipt by the Town of the requisite material and the completion of the regular process.”
The Planners now tell us the demolition of the rear portions of the historic commercial buildings owned by Forrest should be permitted:
“regardless of the use of the upper levels”
The Terms of Settlement at paragraph 36 says:
“No additional parking (over that which is currently provided) shall be required if grade level of the Main Street Buildings is used for retail or office purposes nor if the upper grade levels of the Main Street Buildings are used for residential purposes.”
The Planners now say these ten private parking spaces would alleviate parking pressures in the area and that demolition of the rear parts of the historic commercial buildings should not be tied to the uses allowed on the upper floor – office or otherwise. They’ve done a somersault. Why did they change their position?
Did they get it wrong first time around?
Who asked for the “clarification”? Why was the office use stipulated and agreed to by both parties in the first place? What is the status of the clarification? Does it amend the crystal-clear wording in paragraph 26 of the Minutes of Settlement?
Has the Heritage Advisory Committee been consulted? And if not, why not?
I recall the Chair of the Committee, Athol Hart, telling me the rear of 184 Main Street South had great heritage value. This was where the first female druggist in Ontario, Anne Mary Simpson, lived behind the apothecary.
Or should we believe Era Architects – brought in by the Town to give a second opinion on heritage matters – who say:
“the rear elevations of the buildings at 184, 188 and 194 Main Street South are secondary elevations that appear to have been modified over time...these elevations do not have cultural heritage value…”
There was of course no public consultation on the terms of the agreement struck between the Town and Bob Forrest on 2 May 2018. It was sprung upon the public as a fait accomplis.
And now it has to be clarified. Will there be more tweaks, amendments or “clarifications”? Perhaps on the start date which is now less than a year away?
We are told construction “will commence no later than December 15, 2019”.
Personally, I think Bob Forrest should now unveil his “New Development Concept” without any more ado.
Maybe then everything will slot into place.
Canadian Oxford Dictionary: Clarification (noun): The action of making a statement or situation less confused and more comprehensible.
The Information Report was signed off by the Commissioner of Development and Infrastructure Services, Peter Noehammer, and the Director of Planning and Building Services, Rick Nethery.
They believe the clarification “is consistent with the intent of the Minutes of Settlement and the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District Plan”.