The Statutory Public Meeting on the proposed Clock Tower development on Newmarket's historic Main Street will take place at 7pm on Monday 3 February 2014 in the Council Chamber at 395 Mulock Drive.

Anticipating Council approval, the developer, Bob Forrest, issued eviction notices to the tenants of properties adjacent to the Clock Tower whose land is needed for the development. He acquired the properties last year. 

The underground car park for the proposed development encroaches on Town owned land.

The development, if given the go-ahead, would involve the demolition of historic commercial buildings, the permanent loss of renowned vistas and sight-lines and the destruction of Newmarket's historic conservation district in Main Street South. 

It is the worst kind of speculative development imaginable. It has no redeeming virtues whatsoever.

It is a classic example of the new brutalism in architecture. It is completely out of place in Main Street South. It will ruin the historic skyline and destroy the essence of the neighbourhood in which it is located.

The Town's Heritage Advisory Committee is strongly against the proposed development.


I tune in to Rogers (Monday 13 January) to watch the debate on land use policy and I get, instead, a load of garbage.

To my surprise and delight, Newmarket’s councillors have summonsed the Town’s garbage collectors, GFL (Green for Life), to give them a dressing down in public for the service they have (not) been providing. The councillors are on good form.

We learn that GFL bought the Town’s previous garbage collection company, Turtle Island, in December 2011 and things have been going steadily downhill since.

GFL’s District Manager Craig Nelson and Brian Kent, taking notes, are in the ducking stool. It is impossible to feel sorry for them.

First, they apologise for the delayed collections blaming the weather, truck breakdowns and “labour issues” in that order.

We are told five garbage trucks “went down” on 24 December and GFL had to bring in back up vehicles from all points of the compass and they too had problems.

We learn a staggering 25% of the refuse collectors are down with injuries.

Craig Nelson assures us things are going to be better “going forward”.

He tells us Newmarket can expect 7 recycling and 5 garbage trucks. In addition there will be spare vehicles and spare staff on hand. Going forward, he assures councillors his team will have the necessary resources.

Concluding his apologia, he says he is now “looking forward” to mending the relationship with the Town.

Chris Emanuel is first up with questions. He recites a series of earlier service failures in Ward 7, predating by months the catastrophic collapse in collection over Christmas and New Year. Nelson tells us injuries and broken down trucks were to blame.

Now an apoplectic Tom Vegh demands to know why his Christmas tree has not been picked up.

Nelson tells him: “We made a collective decision that garbage was more important than Christmas trees.”

Adding: “And we made that decision at 11.30am today.”

This infuriates the normally mild mannered Vegh even more. “Trees not picked up is not a good sign.”

Jane Twinney is the first to get to the heart of the matter when she says there aren’t enough people out there to get the job done.

She asks about one-man operation. She asks if one man driving the truck, getting out, picking up the garbage and getting back in the truck again can possibly be safe. There must be health and safety issues. Is this industry practice?

We are asked to believe that one man operation is OK so long as the garbage or recycling is going into the side of the truck rather than the back and the route is 40 km or less. Sounds like a load of old bollocks to me.

Tom Hempen expresses his concerns in his usual measured way. He wants GFL to help with the spring clean up in Ward 4. (We hear them say they will.)

Now a volcanic Joe Sponga erupts with fury.

He is concerned about regular staff being replaced by temps. He dismisses the alleged truck breakdowns as a cock-and-bull story. He explodes:

“I am not going to accept your apology. Pick up the garbage and don’t come here and waste my time!”

I think to myself, I don’t want to get on the wrong side of this guy! What a temper! What a dressing down! What a performance!

Now it is the turn of a sceptical Maddie Di Muccio who scolds the company before telling us:

“I love the principle of private garbage collection. It saves taxpayers millions of dollars.”

But her real target (as always) is Newmarket staff who, apparently, failed to check on the contractor despite numerous warnings. She won’t name names. They’ll know who she means.

Dave Kerwin, in full magisterial mode, weighs in. He tells us the company is treating its workers in an “almost inhuman” way, forcing them to pick up garbage in the late evening. “You’ve got a great labour force but you’ve got to treat them better.”

He warns GFL that if they overpaid for Turtle Island that’s their issue. They don’t make things balance out by cutting service levels. The old teacher in him is still alive and kicking. He is very effective.

Regional Councillor John Taylor wants to see a return to high levels of service but confesses he has his doubts. He wants to see “dollars flowing into this contract” with resources going into manpower and vehicle maintenance. Importantly, he also wants information on staffing levels. (This is an absolutely key point along with injury stats).

The Mayor wants a written plan of action, signed off by the top people in GFL.

Now it is back to Chris Emanuel. He thanks staff for their work in dealing with this crisis (They appreciate a few kind words.) Now the velvet glove comes off and I hear him calling for financial penalties against the company. I see everyone nodding in agreement.

All in all, a great performance by our councillors in holding GFL to account.

Ten out of ten.

Land Use Planning

Arguably the most important item on yesterday’s Committee of the Whole agenda was the one on possible changes to the system of land use planning in Ontario. The staff report on the Provincial Consultation Document should have provided a framework for a wide-ranging discussion on the failures of the current system and how it can be improved. Personally, I think the planning system is broken and needs a complete overhaul.

The deadline set by the Province was impossibly short and we learn that the Town’s comments have already been sent off. The Town’s Planning Director, Rick Nethery, explains

“staff provided comment but without the benefit of a Council endorsement”

I suppose that says it all.

John Taylor and Tom Hempen make a few comments about land banking but they sound listless. It takes Maddie Di Muccio to provide a spark.

She confesses candidly she doesn’t know what she will be endorsing if she votes for the report. (True. It is full of planning babble.) She says there should have been a workshop for all councillors, explaining issues in the report that are new and unfamiliar. She cites the “clergy principle” as a case in point. Her concerns are brushed off and she is offered a one-to-one with Rick Nethery.

She  doesn’t get any support from her colleagues even though the point she makes is a fair one.

Di Muccio has no friends on Council or, for that matter, staff. For years she has poisoned the well, drip by drip, so that when she asks for support it is simply not forthcoming.

Councillors duly rubber stamp the comments, post hoc, as expected.

Di Muccio votes against.

No debate. But then, in truth, I suppose I never expected one.


The Town will not consider mediation before the conclusion of Phase 1 of the Glenway hearing which will determine whether any development at all should get the go-ahead. This is good news.

Maddie Di Muccio and Dave Kerwin voted against the motion moved by Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, without giving reasons.

Newmarket Town Hall Watch

Curiously, has morphed into

The conceited content remains the same.



One month ago to the very day I received this email threatening legal action against me for a blog I had written linking her husband, the booming barrel chested John Blommesteyn, with the insufferably smug and self righteous blog, Newmarket Town Hall Watch (NTHW). 

From: Di Muccio, Maddie

To: Gordon Prentice;   Darryl Singer ( This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Dec 7 at 1:52 PM

Mr. Prentice,

I'm going to give you 24 hours to retract your blog insinuating my husband, John Blommesteyn, is the author of something he is not.

If you fail to do so, I fully intend to file legal papers against you.

Maddie Di Muccio

Newmarket Town Councillor, Ward Six

Seems to me that threats of legal action are best not made unless one is deadly serious about following them through. As yet, I have not heard from her lawyers but a letter may be in the mail.

It is alleged by NTHW that the John Blommesteyn/Newmarket Town Hall Watch Twitter account is a fake.

There is, of course, no easy way to tell with Twitter accounts whether they are fake or real. Even the company may not know but they will have a lot more information to go on. The account for Newmarket Town Hall Watch will have a gmail (or equivalent) address behind it but, again, only the people at Google will have fuller information.

Short of a Court Order compelling Twitter/Google to reveal more, linking an individual to a blog or series of tweets means relying on forensic linguistics or similar techniques.

As it happens, I received an unsolicited email from Eric Smith on the same day Councillor Di Muccio sent hers to me.

Smith, a long time Newmarket resident and commentator on local affairs, whose declamatory and opinionated letters appear from time to time in the Era Banner, told me:

Maddie’s husband is NOT the writer of NTHW. I know who is, but in the interest of her privacy I will not disclose her ID.

With that impressive display of iron certainty, it looks as if the matter can only be settled in open Court.

As soon as I receive the much anticipated letter from Councillor Di Muccio’s lawyers I shall post it here.


On 13 January 2014, at Newmarket‘s Committee of the Whole, councillors will decide whether or not to enter into mediation with the rapacious Marianneville Developers who want to build 730 new dwellings in the heart of the Glenway neighbourhood.

The hearing proper will be in two phases. The first is scheduled to begin at 10am on 17 March 2014 in the Ontario Room at the Best Western Voyageur Place Hotel in Newmarket and will consider whether any development at all should be permitted. The second follow-on hearing will look at the details of the proposed development of Glenway.

At the pre-hearing conference on 10 December 2013, the OMB adjudicator, Jason Chee-Hing, said:

 “The Board strongly encourages the Parties to consider mediation to potentially resolve some or all of the issues.”

The Delphic Chee-Hing, unfortunately, gives no indication of what was in his mind when he said this. Is he asking councillors – who have only recently voted unanimously against any development at Glenway - to set this to one side and to start thinking about what, in extremis, might, just possibly, be acceptable?

Is the OMB Adjudicator seriously expecting councillors, in advance of Phase 1, to give direction to staff on Phase 2 issues? Council staff will be doing the mediating but they will need to know the parameters within which they are operating. They need to be told how far they can go in trying to reach a settlement with Marianneville (which would, of course, need to be ratified subsequently by councillors).

Details of the Council’s negotiating and fall-back positions could even leak into the Twitterverse.

Mr Chee-Hing is also coy about whether he would rule on the principle of development after hearing the arguments on Phase 1.

“The Board, at its sole discretion, may issue a decision following the completion of Phase 1 or proceed to hear both Phases before making a decision in these matters.”

This is an absurd way to proceed.

Mr Chee-Hing should have made it clear that he will issue his ruling after Phase 1. At that stage, if he decides that some or all of the proposed development should be allowed, he can then invite the Parties to enter mediation.

There is simply no point asking the Town and the Glenway Preservation Association to sit down with Marianneville. They are poles apart.

If the Town and GPA make concessions and move away from their principled “no development” position, even marginally, the whole Glenway coalition, painstakingly built up over the last two years, will fall apart.

The OMB is wedded to mediation as a way of getting parties to settle, often by splitting the difference. But, sometimes, it doesn’t work.

“If mediation does not resolve the issue, then the OMB will schedule a public hearing. Similar to a Court proceeding, an OMB hearing requires that parties must swear to tell the truth. A different member than the one who guided the mediation will be assigned to hear the matter. Nothing relating to the mediation, except those matters that have been agreed to, can be revealed to the Board Member presiding at the hearing.”

Mediation suits the developers. They want to know how many sweeteners they need to offer in order to win councillors over to their pro development position.

If one breaks ranks (and the rabidly pro development Maddie Di Muccio is, surely, a likely candidate), others may follow.

There is absolutely no point in the Town or Glenway showing their hand to the developers at this stage. Instead, they should formally advise the OMB that mediation is something that should only be contemplated after Phase 1 has been decided.

And, in the absence of further elucidation from Mr Chee-Hing on what he meant when he “strongly encouraged” the parties to enter mediation, I would ask the OMB for a new adjudicator to preside over the main hearing.

It seems to me that Jason Chee-Hing has already made his mind up. 


[1]            At this pre-hearing conference (“PHC”), the Board dealt with a motion brought by the Town of Newmarket (“Town”) for the adjournment of the hearing and to phase the hearing.  The hearing of these consolidated appeals had already been set down for March 3, 2014 for approximately eight weeks.

[2]            Specifically, the motion sought a Board Order to:

a.       Phase the hearing into the following phases:

I.    Phase 1 – Principle of Development

II.  Phase 2 – Details of Development

b.       Adjourn the commencement of Phase 1 for five weeks and amend the Procedural Order (“PO”) to make appropriate changes to the exchange dates.

c.       Alternatively, an Order of the Board to adjourn the commencement of the hearing to June 2014 and amend the PO to make the appropriate changes to the exchange dates (Exhibit 1).

[3]            The Glenway Preservation Association (“GPA”) supported the Town’s motion. The Region of York took no position. Marianneville Developments Limited (“Proponent”) was opposed to the motion. The proponent summonsed Ruth Victor who is the Town’s external planning consultant. Motion and response to motion filings were received by the Board.

[4]            The Board, after considerable arguments put forth by the Town and the Proponent, ruled that the Proponent’s “without prejudice” settlement offers and settlement discussions detailed in its motion filings were admissible in these proceedings as these settlement offers were discussed publicly by Town staff. The Town chose to put in the public domain its analysis of the settlement offers. The Town’s position was that these settlement offers were subject to settlement privilege as they were made “without prejudice” by the Proponent and as such should be inadmissible. In the Board’s view, the settlement offers and discussions were clearly in the public domain and did not meet the tests of settlement privilege discussions.

[5]            After much debate and following the testimony of Ms. Victor, the Parties eventually reached a resolution on the Town’s motion. There will be two Phases to the hearing within the ambit of one hearing. The appeals remain consolidated. The hearing will commence on March 17, 2014 at 10 a.m. and will be for approximately six weeks. The overall hearing length has been reduced by two weeks. The issues list for Phase 1 has been revised. The timelines for the exchange of witness lists, witness statements and responding witness statements are detailed in Exhibit 6. The Parties will modify the PO in accordance with the agreement and submit to the Board forthwith.

[6]            The Board, at its sole discretion, may issue a decision following the completion of Phase 1 or proceed to hear both Phases before making a decision in these matters.

[7]            Lastly, the York Region District School Board (“YRDSB”) requested and the Board granted party status in these matters. The YRDSB had, at a previous PHC, requested Participant status. The YRDSB proposes to locate an elementary school within the subject lands.


[8]            The Board orders that the Town’s motion is granted in part and the hearing start date and the PO are amended in accordance with the resolution found in Exhibit 6 and provided as Attachment 1.

[9]            No further notice is required. This panel of the Board will continue with the case management of these matters but is not seized of the main hearing.

[10]        The venue for the hearing remains the same.

[11]        The Board strongly encourages the Parties to consider mediation to potentially resolve some or all of the issues.

“Jason Chee-Hing”




Has Slessor Square been sold?

On 25 October 2013 I was told by Newmarket planning staff that:

“Bob Forrest, the proponent of the Slessor Square Development has informed staff this week that his team has conditionally sold their site. We understand the sale is conditional for 60 days.”

If the site was sold conditionally on Friday 25 October 2013 and Bob Forrest told the Town on the same day, we are now on day 59.

There could of course still be an offer and acceptance between the buyer and the seller. But the sale only goes through when it is officially registered with the Province’s Land Registry. And that hasn’t happened yet.

The Land Registry record shows that Dwight Slessor Holdings Limited owned the former car dealership site. On 6 December 2011, PACE Savings and Credit Union paid the Slessors $4,500,000. A second payment was made by PACE to the Slessors on 22 January 2013, this time for $1,800,000. There are now, in consequence, charges on the property totalling $6,300,000, a tidy little sum.

The billboard on the Slessor Square site declares that financing for the development is provided by PACE Credit Union.

If the sale does go through – or even if it doesn’t - the Slessors will be walking away, laden down with sacks of cash.

In February of this year the OMB gave the OK to Dwight Slessor Holdings to erect twin towers at 21 and 19 storeys and two other buildings at 8 storeys.

Unfortunately, Newmarket councillors capitulated at the first whiff of grapeshot and accepted the Slessors “settlement offer”, avoiding the need for a long drawn out OMB inquiry.

Our councillors gave “approval in principle” but with a huge number of key issues left unresolved. These are known as “holds” which must be lifted by the Town before the development can get started.

Last month, with no signs of anything much happening, the OMB requested an update. (Earlier, on 8 July 2013 the OMB reminded the Slessors’ lawyer, Ira Kagan, that the OMB had withheld its final order on the draft plan of subdivision until it received the conditions of draft plan approval.)

On 13 November 2013, the OMB asked Kagan

Can you please provide a status update with respect to the conditions of draft plan approval? 

On 14 November, Kagan, replied:

My client is still working with Town and Regional staff to come to agreement on the conditions of draft plan approval.  If we are unable to do so then we will request that the Board hold a hearing to deal with the conditions

And, without a hint of irony, Kagan continued:

We are hopeful that this can be avoided as we appreciate how busy the Board is these days.   Thank you.

The OMB has now told Kagan it expects a “further status update” on 24 March 2014.

This, as it happens, is in the middle of Phase 1 of the OMB’s Glenway Hearing where the ubiquitous Mr Kagan, wearing yet another hat, will be appearing on behalf of Marianneville, the hard-nosed developers who plan to rip the heart out of the Glenway community.