Newmarket Council’s most talented flip-flopper, Tom “Pancake” Vegh, has been flipping again.
On Tuesday 21 May 2019 he declares he is in favour of selling Town land to the developer, Briarwood:
“I am in favour of Scenario 2 now because I think it is needed and it is a real opportunity and it is consistent with our Secondary Plan.”
Six days later on Monday 27 May 2019 Vegh says:
“I am going to be voting in favour of not selling the Hollingsworth site but holding on to it for future community use.”
Vegh is all over the place. He points approvingly to a story in the local press telling us he made a pitch for a library on Hollingsworth. He says:
“The debate over the need for a new library is long over. The only question now is where and when.”
Whoa! In October 2018 he told voters that if they elected him the new library would be at Hollingsworth Arena, presumably in the coming 2018-2022 term. At least that is the inference we were all invited to draw seven months ago.
On Monday he tells his colleagues:
“I have spoken frequently about a new library on this site.”
He didn’t say anything about a new library or seniors’ centre during the Council’s priority setting exercise despite being invited by the Mayor to say whatever he wanted to say. In fact, since the election in October he has been completely silent on how he would deliver on his promise.
What else did we learn from the Deputy Mayor’s 4 minute 15 second speech to his colleagues?
Vegh concedes there may never be a library at Hollingsworth
He now says there is no guarantee there will ever be a library at Hollingsworth.
“…the library must go through its own process that will evaluate and rank all the possible site locations in Town for a new building if that is the route that they choose to go. So there is no guarantee that going through that process the library will land on the Hollingsworth site and there is no guarantee we are looking at a library.”
He says a library is just one of the options. So why didn’t he qualify his promise to the voters saying he would push for a library at Hollingsworth if that’s what the Library Board wanted? That the decision wasn’t really up to him.
Seniors' Centre is forgotten
Vegh didn’t mention a new seniors’ centre at all. It was his very own senior moment.
He conveniently forgets the promises he made a few months ago that got him to where he is now.
Tom "Pancake" Vegh's remarks on Hollingsworth on Monday 27 May 2019:
Tom Vegh: “There was some discussion on this regarding the Hollingsworth Arena site and for those members of the public who may not be too clear about where it is or what the issue we are dealing with … was that Newmarket Council decided to decommission Hollingsworth Arena and leaving us with two options basically. One was to sell the site to be redeveloped as seniors’ housing and some sort of community space or hold on to the property for future community use.”
“The site itself is located at Davis and Patterson and most of the site is the old single use arena and parking lot. South west of it is the heath centre. South east corner is the Roxborough Retirement. There is a medical centre on the north west corner and the north east corner is vacant which was formerly a gas station and immediately east of the site, adjoining the site, is the parking lot for Huron Heights High School. At the north east corner, the former gas station, we’ll be building two condo buildings there.”
“The developer who is building those two large buildings offered to purchase the Hollingsworth site to redevelop it as seniors’ housing and community space and through our Secondary Plan the site is zoned for this type of mid-rise residential development. This is very attractive because Newmarket’s seniors population has grown by about 30% in the last decade and by 2026 there will be more seniors in York Region than youth.”
“The housing proposed by the developer for the seniors will be condos with probably some sort of assisted living component which is really important for some but, frankly, it would not be affordable to most so it would not be any type of affordable seniors’ housing. The other option was to hold on the property for some sort of future community use and with Newmarket being only being about 14 square miles land, particularly land that is already owned by the Town, is precious, precious to us. We know our population will grow and that we will have intensification and this makes the ownership of a good sized unfettered piece of property even more important for the residents of Newmarket.”
“The plan there is to eventually demolish the arena – because we have decided to decommission it – leaving us with a significant piece of land to redevelop for future community use. Regarding seniors’ housing, I do sit on the Board of Housing York Inc and I am actively working towards more affordable subsidised seniors’ housing and as I mentioned before the seniors’ housing proposal for this site would not be affordable to most seniors. And for those seniors who do have a little bit more money and can afford it we have other condos in development which are housing options for them.”
“Looking at this site – if we are holding on to it - there are many possibilities for this site and I have spoken frequently about a new library on this site. But before anything is done with this site we would be going through a full and transparent community consultation process. People who know our library know that it is about 40 years old and has not been able to change with the times as it needs to due primarily to its facility restrictions. The library is in an older building, multiple storeys and it just packed with books and not enough space. The building is not well suited for the functions of a modern library.”
“However – and this is a big however – the library must go through its own process that will evaluate and rank all the possible site locations in Town for a new building if that is the route that they choose to go. So there is no guarantee that going through that process the library will land on the Hollingsworth site and there is no guarantee that we are looking at a library.”
“There are lots of opportunities for that site to build facilities, build things that we will need for our growing population concerning the intensified area but the library is certainly one of the options for them. So I am looking forward to how we can redevelop this site for needed and exciting community uses and I am going to be voting in favour of not selling the Hollingsworth site but holding on to it for future community use. Thank you.”
Ward councillor Jane Twinney follows Vegh. She says there was no decision on a seniors’ building.
“Even though it was tabled as an idea we didn’t have any formal plans brought to us so we don’t know where it was gonna land, that particular building.”
Victor Woodhouse says it is important to have green space close to high density and that council has made an excellent decision to go for parkland.
“Certainly green space is a very scarce commodity and as we continue to grow it will continue to be a scarce commodity. I certainly support the concept that there be those breathing areas, close to the high density… when those two towers get built.”
Grace Simon says she now fully supports Council’s decision having originally voted with Vegh. Kelly Broome pays tribute to the work of ward councillor Jane Twinney and says she is looking forward to involving the community more and having them being a part of the process.
Summing up, the Mayor, John Taylor, mentions the developer’s contribution to parkland – in kind or in cash. He talks about competing interests and needs within the community for housing options, green space and recreation. He talks about intensification more generally. He thinks the decision on going for green space will hold up well over time. He concludes:
“The library board certainly will be involved and engaged in thought about the future of libraries in this term but ultimately the decision to build a library or a satellite or nothing is the decision of Council. And that would be our decision when that time comes.”
(Check against delivery)