The Town of Newmarket has now agreed Terms of Settlement with the Clock Tower developer, Bob Forrest, which means the OMB Hearing scheduled for August 2018 will no longer go ahead.  

It is likely that the application coming before the Superior Court later this month on who owns the contested land in Market Square will also be pulled.  

Earlier today (3 May 2018) Forrest’s lawyer Ira Kagan told the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (the successor body to the OMB) that Forrest and the Town of Newmarket had agreed the terms of a settlement which resolved the appeals currently before the OMB. Kagan says the Town and Forrest want the OMB Appeal due to start on Tuesday 7 August 2018 to be adjourned indefinitely.

“I can further advise that subject to the Town fulfilling certain obligations as per the Minutes of Settlement, that my client will ultimately (but not presently) be withdrawing its appeals. I would be grateful if you would advise the Parties (Forrest’s Main Street Clock Inc, the Town of Newmarket and the Heart of Newmarket Citizens’ Group) of the Tribunal’s decision on this adjournment request.”

Settlement terms still a mystery

The Town has settled with Bob Forrest but we do not yet know on what terms. What are the obligations the Town must fulfill? We shall find out tomorrow afternoon according to Bob Kwapeese.

Should we be celebrating?

If Forrest's Clock Tower project is now stone cold dead, never to be resurrected, we should all give thanks.

But the question in my mind is this: what is Forrest getting from the Town in return for pulling out of the OMB Hearing? And what is he getting for dropping his opposition to the Town's application to the Superior Court on the land ownership issue (if that is, indeed, what is happening.) 

Personally, I thought the Town was in a pretty strong position even if it lost in the Superior Court on the Market Square land ownership issue. (The Town’s deal, some 15 years ago, with Michael Bryant - who sold his Main Street properties to Forrest - was never formally closed by the Town. It was and remains a stellar example of Newmarket Council’s ineptitude.) 

Kagan was poised to argue at the Superior Court that if the Town hadn’t gotten round to closing the deal after so many years it was no longer operational. Anyway… all this stuff is for the lawyers.

What's the deal?

I suspect the Town has thrown Forrest some kind of lifeline, allowing him to walk away with something.

But this is speculation on my part. Unlike the leaky Councillor Kwapeese I am not privy to the details.

It is enough to say that today we learn the OMB Hearing is off.

Tomorrow we shall find out what the real deal is.

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Tonight I emailed the Town to ask when and where the "big announcement" will happen. I wanna be there.

Ward 5 councillor, Bob Kwapeese, tells us we can expect a big announcement concerning the ward on Friday afternoon. But he is not prepared to tell us what this big announcement is all about. 

Bob knows something the rest of us don’t know!  

"I will not be commenting or acting on matters concerning the Clock Tower..."

What a tease!

Yesterday, diners in the Maid’s Cottage overheard Bob boasting about the big announcement. He can hardly contain his excitement. But, shsssssh, he can’t tell us more because that would mean breaking a secret!

So, what is the nature of this big secret that he is telling – or not telling - the world about?

I think it could be something about the Clock Tower – but, then again, who knows? 

Apart from Bob.

On Monday (30 April) the Committee of the Whole had a closed session on the Clock Tower. Our councillors could have been getting their steer from senior staff on the Market Square land ownership issue which is coming up before the Superior Court in less than a fortnight. Or it could be about the OMB meeting in early August which will decide on the planning merits of Bob Forrest’s palsied Clock Tower project. Or it could be about Bob Forrest himself.

Rumours have been flying around for ages that Forrest is in financial difficulties. That sounds fanciful. After a quick Google search I did come across a glancing reference to one of Forrest’s companies in the Panama Papers – Jungle Fever Team Inc – but that happened a long time ago and I won’t dwell on it. 

Clock Tower’s 2.9 FSI is false and misleading

Since the Clock Tower is in his patch, I recently asked Bob Kwapeese if he could put a simple question to the Town’s Director of Planning, Rick Nethery. I wanted to know when Rick Nethery first realised the 2.9 Floor Space Index of the Clock Tower was false

Three weeks ago Kwapis told me:

“I appreciate your diligence and your interest in all levels of politics and for sharing your point of view on various topics of interest for many residents. The Clock Tower development is currently in the process of getting ready for the OMB Hearing. The OMB will be reviewing all the evidence and make their decision based on facts. I will not be commenting or acting on matters concerning the Clock Tower until the OMB final decision is made, therefore I need to decline your request in this matter. Thank you for your understanding.”

How useless is that from our gossip-in-chief?

It is a fact that the Director of Planning knew the 2.9 FSI was false when the Clock Tower report went up to councillors for decision on 28 November 2016.

Employees must not wilfully mislead

It is a fact that the Town’s Employee Code of Conduct says this:

“Employees must be professional, courteous and objective in all dealings with clients and the general public. It is every employee’s responsibility to ensure that all information they communicate is as accurate as possible. No employee shall withhold information or wilfully mislead Members of Council, other employees, clients or the public about any issue of corporate concern.”

In Newmarket, these are just meaningless words. 

Bob Kwapis is happy gossiping about big announcements in the Maid’s Cottage but doesn’t have the gumption or self-respect to ask the Director of Planning when he first realised the FSI of the Clock Tower was false. 

It is not a difficult question to answer. But, astonishingly, almost one year since I lodged my formal complaint against the Director of Planning with the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, we still do not have the answer. Once we have it - and we shall - all the other pieces will fall into place.

It is because of elected officials like Bob Kwapis - who cannot or will not hold senior staff to account – that I am taking the Clock Tower issue to the Ombudsman

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The statutory public meeting for the huge new development at 175 Deerfield Road comes and goes without the people living next door - who will be most affected - receiving the notice

The residents of 212 Davis Drive (built by the Rose Corporation, the same developer as 175 Deerfield) take it upon themselves to organise their own meeting in the little cinema they have on the ground floor. Good for them.

And they invite along Ward 5 councillor Bob “Jewel of the Council” Kwapeese and Regional Councillor hopeful, the veteran Newmarket councillor, Tom Vegh.

I wander along to hear what they have to say and settle down in the second row in a hugely comfy home cinema type leather armchair with holders in the armrests for drinks and a little table for snacks. 

It is a full house.

Now the organiser, Gloria, is telling Bob and Tom a bit about the venue, pointing to the pop-corn machine in the corner.

Tom Vegh quips:

“I can book this and bring my friends here?”

We all laugh in a slightly forced way. Now it’s down to business with Gloria taking charge:

“I don’t know which of you gentlemen will take the lead.”

Delicious! What skill she shows in setting them up against each other!

Pulling rank

Tom Vegh pulls rank and introduces himself as the candidate for Regional Councillor in the municipal elections in October. Bob, he says, is here as your ward councillor.

Now someone shouts out a question about the lack of visitors' parking.

Tom says this will be an important item going forward saying:

“I’m going to let Bob take the lead on that.”

Terrific! A not-so-subtle reminder of who is the top dog.  

Bob “the Jewel of the Council” Kwapeese has other ideas and steps into the centre of the room in front of the cinema screen. Tom is on the right, in the shadows, a spectator.  

Bob starts with an apology the residents weren’t consulted. This is good politics.

“Somewhere along the way communications were disconnected.”

Park Side!

Now he is telling us what the developer has in mind, jabbing at the photos in the hand-out. First one tower then another two. And there will be a new road all the way to Park View.

The audience cries out in unison:

“Park Side!”

Parking – and especially visitor parking – is an issue. Not enough spaces.

Bob concedes the number of parking spaces is a bit too low. He says the management company decided to designate some visitor parking for residents but this caused a huge kerfuffle and the visitor spaces have been reinstated.

Now I am listening to concerns about handicapped parking and the costs of parking – up to $90 a month.

Now we are on to the demography of 212 Davis Drive which was originally seen as a base for dynamic young professionals. But instead a whole bunch of seniors moved in.

From the sidelines Tom Vegh, clip board in hand, tells us that in the last ten years the number of seniors in Newmarket has gone up by 30%. He sounds just like a realtor:  

“This is an emerging market.”

If he doesn’t win in October I can see him with Royal LePage cold calling potential clients.

Now the questions are coming thick and fast. What about affordable housing? And subsidised housing? A 35 year old man at the back tells us he was on the waiting list for 15 years before he got a place at 212 Davis Drive.

Bob’s round staring eyes lock on to the guy at the back of the room:

“15 years is crazy!”

We need a new Library. 

"We have a shortage of sewage."

Gloria, meanwhile, is ski-ing off-piste, demanding a new library. 

Tom Vegh, who is on the Library Board, agrees the Town needs a “bigger and better” library and they are looking at finding space on the lower floors of the huge new developments that are expected to sprout along Yonge Street. By the time that happens most of the people in the room – including me – will be dozing in comfy armchairs in some celestial reading room. 

Now the audience wants to know about new tennis courts. Bob responds by talking about skate-board parks which doesn’t quite fit the demographic in the room.

Someone wants to know about the open land opposite 212 Davis Drive, next to Tim Hortons. Will the Council buy it and do something with it?

I’m a numbers guy

Hmmmm. Bob is concerned about the cost of buying land and its impact on the Town’s taxpayers. If the land opposite cost $2m then that would mean a 4% increase in taxes. I am wondering about this and then I hear him say:

“I always like to simplify things. I am a numbers guy.”   

Now Tom Vegh sneaks in another little put-down. He tells us it is not 4% and then confuses us all by going on about development charges and interest rates.

Our eyes glaze over and we turn to sewage – a topic we all understand.

Bob Kwapeese stuns us all by announcing:

“The bottom line is we still have a shortage of sewage.”  

Adding:

“Hopefully we will have plenty of sewage available to everyone.”

Tom Vegh says we could have an allocation in two years for the development.

Living in a construction site

Then an incisive comment from an older woman behind me. She wants to know how long she will be living in a construction site. Four or five years?

Bob can’t or won’t put a timeline on it. Four, five, six or ten years. Who knows? Now he is gone off at a tangent talking with great enthusiasm to his elderly audience about bicycle routes.

Someone asks if the developer has planning approval. Even I know the answer to that one. The Jewel of the Council hesitates and is rescued by Tom Vegh. No he says.

Now Gloria wants to know what they are going to do about the buzzing from the transformer that disturbs people during the night. Bzzzzzz.

They are on to it.

As the meeting closes, I turn to the woman on my right and ask her what she thought of it all.

“They did their best.”

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Read the Deerfield report at page 180 of the Committee of the Whole agenda of 9 April 2018 here.

I don’t think I’ve ever met Steve Hinder but, from time to time, I see his face smiling at me in photographs.  

Hinder was a police officer in Toronto for 30 years before joining Magna as some kind of community liaison person and general factotum. A few days ago he presented Christine Elliott with a copy of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce manifesto for the upcoming Provincial Election on 7 June.

Aggravated Assault

Now I see that former Aurora council candidate and businessman, Anthony Pullano, is bringing a private criminal prosecution against Hinder for allegedly assaulting him at the acclamation of Jane Twinney as the PC provincial candidate for Newmarket-Aurora over four years ago, on 20 March 2014.  A civil action against Hinder was brought by Pullano on 26 February 2015.

Pullano alleges Hinder punched him in the chest, dislodging his pacemaker and causing him to be hospitalised. The circumstances of the alleged assault are set out in compelling detail by Brock Weir in the Auroran of April 11, 2018. He writes: 

As a result of the alleged assault, Pullano claims he suffered injuries…  leading to a “deterioration” in health including “loss of heart function, loss of sexual function, a loss of right hand function, and chronic pain and inflammation in his right hand and/or right arm.”

Weir continues:

“The initial claims have been working their way through the civil courts since 2015 but jumped to the criminal courts after Pullano filed a pre-enquete motion which brings the matter before a Justice of the Peace to determine whether charges should be laid against an individual following a private complaint.”

Criminal Prosecution

I had never heard of this “pre-enquete” business before – I’m not a lawyer - but it intrigues me that a private individual can trigger a criminal prosecution. 

I learn that section 504 of the Criminal Code

“allows any person to initiate a private prosecution if he or she believes, on reasonable grounds, that a person has committed an indictable offence.”

This “pre-enquete” procedure is very rarely used. Most people who claim they were assaulted would go to the police and let the prosecuting authorities take it from there. But for those bringing their own private prosecution the first step is to persuade a Judge or Justice of the Peace to allow the criminal prosecution to go ahead. Not easy or straightforward but Pullano has cleared the first hurdle.

YorkRegion.com reporter Jeremy Grimaldi quotes Justice of the Peace Chantal Dube saying on 28 February this year:

“I am satisfied that the information before the court is valid and that the informant has presented some evidence on all of the essential elements of the (alleged) offence,”

Grimaldi continues:

Although charges have not been laid, they are expected. 

Neither Hinder nor his lawyer chose to comment on Dube's decision.

The Crown responded that the matter was “straight indictable”, meaning Hinder is to be charged and face a jury trial, despite York Regional Police investigating the matter and not laying charges.

Four years and counting

Pullano’s decision to bring a criminal prosecution so long after the alleged assault has me scratching my head – but, then again, I don’t know how long it took for the police to investigate and decide not to bring charges

Personally, I think it scandalous that serious allegations take so long to resolve. Apart from anything else, memories fade with the passage of time.

Who is to blame for this lamentable state of affairs? Our sclerotic courts where endless delay is built into the system or the aggrieved Anthony Pullano who, apparently, waited years before bringing his unusual criminal prosecution?

The curious case of Pullano v Hinder et al returns to the court in Newmarket on 15 May 2018.

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Newmarket is designated by the Province as a place to grow - so long as it doesn’t grow too fast and (there is no delicate way to put this) overload the sewage system.

Developments can get planning approval but if they can’t be hooked up to the sewers they can’t be built. 

A report put before councillors on Monday (16 April 2018) soberly tells them:

“Servicing capacity has become severely constrained and it is anticipated that this condition will continue for the foreseeable future, putting the Town in a challenging position to achieve its shared goals with the Region and Province for intensification in strategic areas.”

At the same time as the planners are fretting about servicing capacity, the marketing people in another part of the municipal forest are doing everything they can to sell the Town as the preferred location in the whole of the GTA. At some point these two realities will collide.

Urban Corridors Campaign

The economic development and marketing people are pushing Newmarket’s Urban Corridors Campaign, launched in February and designed to run over three years, enticing businesses to set up shop in Town.

“…the Town seeks to accelerate timelines for mid-to-high rise developments in the urban corridors, including multi-story residential and mixed-use developments.” 

We learn the Town has been working on:

“a detailed marketing strategy to attract further development in Newmarket's urban centres… Over the past year and a half, significant planning and work has been accomplished on both the strategy and tactics. The Town is now ready to implement this innovative marketing campaign.” 

At the risk of sticking a spoke in the marketing wheel, it is not true to say that

By 2031 the Davis Drive and Yonge Street corridors will be home to 33,000 people and 32,000 jobs, providing an engaged workforce and a complete, well designed community to call home.  

The sewers could never cope with that tsunami. It is going to take another 40 years for build-out to happen. By which time the North York Sewage Solutions Project will hopefully be up and running, doing what it is designed to do.

Sewage problems or not, the Town is on a mission and nothing is going to blow it off course. The Town's 2018 Budget lists as one of its top themes:

Marketing and developing the corridors (Yonge and Davis) to attract new residents, new businesses and new job opportunities.  

Sewage hook-up: who gets first shot?  

The Town’s planners say they have applications on file that, if approved, will require servicing capacity for 6,906 people of whom 2,637 would be living inside the so called urban centre (broadly speaking the Yonge/Davis corridors) and 4,269 people outside. They use various criteria to prioritise these applications. At the moment, developments on the corridors have first shot.

Some developers – such as Glenway’s Marianneville – are getting around these constraints by commissioning “infiltration and inflow reduction programs” which magically create additional capacity within the existing system. I don’t pretend to know how it works but we are told it does. (The developer borrows servicing capacity credits from the Town equalling the number of people who will be living in the proposed development. When the development is completed and occupied and the I&I is functioning the developer pays those credits back to the Town.)

We see infill development sprouting up all across Newmarket but the planners say:

“While these developments can also represent appropriate infill and good planning, staff does not recommend granting allocation to these developments at this time given its scarcity and their priority in the Servicing Allocation Policy.”

They make an exception – Sundial – which is building just west of Upper Canada Mall. The developer says they’ve got the pipes in the ground and are ready to go with Phase 2. They just need the OK from councillors.

Councillors not responsible. 

On Monday morning (16 April) councillors gather to wrestle with these conundrums which are not of their own making. They are not responsible for sewage. (There is a tasteless joke in there somewhere.)

After the presentation from Planning Deputy Chief, Jason Ungar, John Taylor jumps straight in, presenting a very long shopping list. He wants the strategy to be further “refined” prioritising affordable housing as well as infiltration and inflow. And incomplete developments (like Sundial) should be completed. 

He says we’ve seen interest in purpose-built rentals but now he wants to do something to tempt developers into coming forward immediately with a condo or two. Maybe a guaranteed servicing allocation will do the trick. He’s thinking aloud. 

“Maybe we might just bump someone into action.”

Taylor on a roll

He wants a “condo incentive”. We do it now or wait five, six or seven years.

Our wonkish Mayoral hopeful describes his ideas as “policy directions”. 

Taylor is obviously on a roll, heaping everything on to the table. For good measure he throws in “inclusionary zoning”.   

“We’ve gotta be serious about it.”

Now Taylor is talking about rentals – claiming they are “inherently more affordable” than buying. I find myself thinking about the definition of “affordable”. It used to be the case that “affordable housing” - whether to rent or buy - never took more than one-third of post-tax take-home pay. Those days are long gone.

Affordability threshhold

York Region’s rental affordability threshold in 2016 was $1,496 per month or $17,952 annually. By my back-of-the-envelope calculation, this equates to a salary of about $68,000 gross or about $54,000 after-tax. What about those who don’t make that kind of money? Where can they “afford” to live?

Now Taylor is telling us we don’t have to put all our eggs in the intensification basket. He says we need to provide all sorts of built forms.

That was quite the manifesto.

Obsolete information

Now the Town sage, Dave Kerwin, pronounces, telling the staff he doesn’t believe their figures. You can get away with impertinent statements like that when you are his age. He shakes his head as he hears about the number of people living in detached, semi-detached, Town Houses and apartments. 

In his house there are four people. And even more in his neighbours’ homes. Residential neighbourhoods are being intensified too! Fewer empty nesters as grown-up children stay put.

“We get obsolete information.”

Now Christina Bisanz wants action on Sundial – across Davis Drive from her own Glenway patch. People are fed up with the noise and dirt of never-ending construction.

Newmarket's Jewel: Bob Kwapis

Now the Jewel of the Council, Bob Kwapis, is telling us millions of bedrooms are unoccupied across the GTA. What does he want us to do? Decant people into the spare bedrooms of elderly owner-occupiers? Van Trappist gives him a gentle rap on the knuckles for trying to take his colleagues down a blind alley. It is an issue but not one Newmarket on its own can solve. 

Infiltration and Inflow

Now we are on to a fascinating exchange between Christina Bisanz and Planning Deputy Chief, Jason Unger, and Infrastructure Supremo, Peter Noehammer on infiltration and inflow. She asks a series of questions about I&I and how it works. Terrific persistence. Now Taylor joins in. He wants to know how much of the original allocation that went to Glenway’s Marianneville is going to be re-paid. All or most or what? 

Jason Unger is now doing the math as we wait for the answer.

We learn 188 credits out of the 1,244 issued have been paid back to date.  

Taylor wants to know if the Town has enough servicing capacity for a ten-storey building. The Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, cemented into the job for decades, calculates they have enough capacity for two Phase ones on the corridors. This sounds like the phase ones of Deerfield on Davies and Redwood on Yonge. Clearly, the situation is dire.  

Taylor wants a memo on Glenway and more information on infiltration and inflow. What is the cost of I&I on a per unit basis? Good. Much better when he is being difficult. He wants to know when Marianneville will repay all the credits it got for Glenway as this will free up additional capacity.

Now we are back to Sundial. Will they get the extra servicing they need to complete their Phase 2?

Tom Hempen says:

“We are going to be in a tough situation for the next few years. We have no capacity.”

What will happen if an exciting new project comes along and we can’t approve it because our servicing allocation is gone?

He votes against. Everyone else is in favour. 

Presumably on the grounds that tomorrow will look after itself.

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