Last week (Tuesday 18 February) our councillors met to be briefed on the draft Secondary Plan that will guide development in Newmarket over coming years.

As I watch the presentation and listen to the questions the thought takes hold that we should elect the planners – or, more specifically, someone to take charge of the planning department. Alas, this option is not on offer.

Such an election would, by its very nature, offer the voters competing visions and different choices.

Instead we have had endless “iterations” of the planners’ “city-building” template.

Most of the people who were involved when the Secondary Plan process started have since dropped by the wayside. Few have had the stamina to stick with it. We have policy making by attrition.

I feel councillors, like the rest of us, have been ground down by the process.

Important issues are not being addressed head on. We have policy making by stealth.

The draft Secondary Plan, published in September 2013, refers to the completed Phase 2 report of the Urban Centres Transportation Study carried out by GDH. We learn that the number of people taking transit as opposed to using their own cars falls far short of what York Region wants. The September draft Plan says:

This suggests that aggressive Transport Demand Measures, parking management, transit priority and other measures will be needed to encourage transit use.

Five months on, we are told it (the Phase 2 study) “will be out shortly”. When Ward 4 councillor Tom Hempen raised the issue of car use we were treated to a folksy little tale from the planning director, Richard Nethery.  He tells us if we are stuck in a traffic jam we are part of the problem. He should have been telling councillors the details of the aggressive traffic management that will be needed as part of the corridor development strategy. After all, he has had the information for months.

That would have triggered a lively debate.

How big should Newmarket be?

The central question is the same now as it was at the beginning of this exercise. What are the Provincially mandated population growth targets that we must hit?  And how big should Newmarket be when there is no more land left to develop?

Regional Councillor John Taylor says 32,000 jobs in the Yonge Davis corridor, envisaged by the Plan, is going to be hard to achieve. He says we are growing at around 400 units a year – which translates into 1,200-1,600 people or around 2% a year. He wants a projected trend line showing how the town is going to grow in future. This is indeed what we need.

Tom Hempen thinks we are 10-15 years away from seeing significant height and density. Tom Vegh, likewise, does not believe we are going to see a spurt in development tomorrow.

Chris Emanuel wonders what are the consequences for the Town’s revenues if there is a slow down in growth. The Town’s Senior Planner in charge of the Secondary Plan file, Marion Plaunt, admits there could be spikes in development. She says the Town has tools to smooth things out if needs be through, for example, the allocation policy for water and sewerage.

The Mayor says investment strategies that gave us the Magna Centre and the Town’s Operations Centre were predicated on a population of 98,000. He wants population forecasts for the town. Why hasn’t he insisted on all this before now? He should be leading the process, not acting as a disinterested commentator.

Boundaries

The boundaries of the Secondary Plan area are being expanded in three areas. In one, a whole row of housing at Walter Avenue (near the junction of Longford and Davis Drive) is to be sucked into the new Centre. We are told this is required to give more depth to allow development. The planners picture a nice quiet Townhouse block.

Taylor cries Whoa! This is a bit late in the process to be adding substantial parcels of land to the urban centre. What about the people living there? It is a pretty big change even though the land may never be redeveloped.

Now we are into a long discussion on heights, density and bonusing policies which will transform the look and feel of Newmarket as we know it.

The draft gives three options with developers being allowed to go above the maximum height if they offer the Town some kind of public benefit (bonusing).

At the high end, options 1 and 2 allow a maximum height of 25 storeys with bonusing. The “medium high” variation allows for 20 storeys; the “medium” variation has a 15 storey maximum and low, 8 storeys. All these are with bonusing.

Option 2A reduces heights with bonusing to 20 storeys (high) 15 (medium high) 10 (medium) and 6 (low).

The planners tell us that bonusing is intended to be the exception and not the rule – but it is at the discretion of the Council. I suspect keeping a cap on heights would be difficult given pressure from developers and the tempting offer of some public benefit.

Tom Vegh is in favour of option 2a which he says will accommodate our targets for growth.

The Town’s outside consultant from the Planning Alliance, Jason Thorne, says all three options can carry the projected population numbers. The built form can either be “tall and skinny” or “shorter and fatter”.

Taylor is on record as being in favour of lower height caps. His October election opponent, Darryl Wolk, would let the market decide. A crucial difference between the two.

Burying hydro

Ward 5’s Joe Sponga focuses on undergrounding hydro. This will involve developers dedicating land to the Town. He fears law suits and wants the region to have a role. We learn that York is not interested and is content to leave policy on undergrounding hydro to the municipalities.

Much discussion follows on “triangular and angular planes” in the context of protecting low rise established residential areas from new, higher, developments alongside.  Councillors focus on Queen Street in particular and development around the hospital. Taylor is particularly exercised by the thought of five or six storey buildings cheek by jowl with single family dwellings.

Dave Kerwin wants them all to go on a site visit before making decisions.

The planners warn that there is only so much you can put in a Secondary Plan before it becomes too prescriptive.

Flexibility seems to be the watchword.

Perhaps we do need to elect the planners after all.

 

Jane Twinney, the sole remaining candidate in the race to follow Frank Klees as the Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket Aurora, is inviting the Party to consider suspending the nomination process until the Police have completed their investigation into alleged threats and intimidation against Stephen Somerville and his family.

She tells me that, while she doesn’t have any authority over the nomination process, she will put the request to suspend the nomination process before the Newmarket Aurora Riding Association President and before the Chair of the Nomination Committee at Party Headquarters. As it stands, nominations close on 6 March.

Jane Twinney deserves a huge round of applause for doing this.

Somerville pulled out on 19 February fearing for the safety of his family.

When the Police identify the person or persons responsible for issuing threats against Somerville and this leads to a successful prosecution, I would like to see a fairly lengthy prison sentence.

Update 14.25 Sunday 23 February: Jane Twinney wants to make it clear that she is not personally in favour of putting the selection process on hold on the grounds that the police investigation could take months and that the PCs could be left without a candidate in the event of an election. She confirms she has passed on concerns about the selection process to the Riding Association President and to the Nomination Committee at Party HQ.


 

The PC Riding Association in Newmarket Aurora should put the MPP nomination process on hold until the police have completed their investigation into the alleged threats made to Stephen Somerville and his family which persuaded him to pull out of the race to succeed Frank Klees.

This is Canada not Albania, and the process for selecting a candidate for political office should never, ever, be polluted by threats and intimidation.

I read that Somerville has been in and around politics for many years and is, we must assume, not afraid of his own shadow. The threats must have been serious and believable for him to take the drastic action of withdrawing from the race.

The PCs choose their candidate on 20 March and nominations close on 6 March.

At the moment, there is, literally, one candidate still standing, Jane Twinney. How many other brave souls, if any, are going to step forward in this climate of fear?

Was the threat specific to Somerville and his family? And what was its precise nature?

Jane Twinney says she has not so far been threatened.

And she tells the Era Banner:

“My heart goes out to him and his family… I wish Stephen and his family all the best. A lot of people are very shocked.”

In striking contrast, Maddie Di Muccio, whose candidacy was blocked by Tim Hudak for reasons as yet unexplained, maintains radio silence on the Somerville threat.

I find this curious as she told the Era Banner

(a)   she did not know who was responsible for the YouTube ad that portrayed her as a scheming opportunist and

(b)   the press release she issued on 11 February in which she referred to “a fellow candidate” being responsible was misinterpreted. She explained the references to he “were in a general sense and not directed at a male”.

Perhaps I am doing her an injustice and she has expressed her concerns to Somerville privately. I certainly hope so.

In any event, it cannot be business as usual.

This is not a trivial matter where we all shrug our shoulders and get on with things. Threats and intimidation degrade and coarsen our politics and undermine our democracy.

The police have an obligation to complete their investigation quickly and, in the meantime, the Newmarket Aurora PCs should put their candidate selection on hold.

It beggars belief they would do otherwise.


 

Jaw-dropping news that Stephen Somerville has pulled out of the race to succeed Frank Klees as Progressive Conservative MPP for Newmarket Aurora leaving Jane Twinney as the only candidate remaining.

In an astonishing statement released earlier today, Somerville explains he is withdrawing because of threats made to him and his family.

We are told the police are investigating.


 

Maddie Di Muccio has withdrawn her accusation that PC MPP wannabe, Stephen Somerville, was responsible for the YouTube ad that portrayed her as a scheming opportunist.

A hyperventilating Di Muccio described the ad as “filth”

@MISSISSAUGAMUSE @JonPukila agreed. The ad attacked my children. Its filth and so is anyone who defends it.

9:15pm - 10 Feb 14

In her press release of 11 February, she said she was shocked and saddened that “a fellow candidate” had targeted her with an “ugly, negative attack ad”.

he knows my message is resonating with PC members, he knows I can win this nomination, so in response he’s resorting to attacking my character with a negative ad. It’s sad; it’s shocking; it’s wrong”

At that stage, apart from Di Muccio, there were two other candidates in the race for the nomination. Stephen Somerville (a he) and Jane Twinney (a she).

If we rely on ordinary English usage, it is as plain as the nose on your face that Di Muccio was blaming her arch rival for the nomination, Stephen Somerville.

But now, on impeccable authority, I am told that the dissembling Di Muccio told local journalists:

the references to “he” were in a general sense and not directed at a male

Oh dear! Oh dear!

She was then asked if she knew who was responsible for the You Tube ad. She said she did not know.

Does she seriously expect anyone other than the most feeble-minded to believe this hokus pocus?

And yet she has the audacity to tell her Twitter audience that liars are destroying good people in politics.

@LeitchDoug @TicknerSafety liars are destroying good ppl in politics! Agreed.

9:52am - 26 Jan 14

Di Muccio’s press release attacking Somerville as the person responsible for the You Tube ad has now been air brushed out of her narrative of events – as if it never happened. On the Sun News Network, in two long interviews, here and here, it was not mentioned once. Nor did it get into the front page story in the Newmarket Era Banner.

After she had been dumped, Di Muccio tells her Twitter followers that only she had the popular support to keep Newmarket-Aurora blue.

@flutterbye146 @gaylebg @sunlorrie @Dleebosh @timhudak I truly believe I was the only cand't that could hold riding. Popularity scares some.

9:27pm - 12 Feb 14

Now she is back undermining Somerville, highlighting the irony of a candidate who, apparently, makes money selling windmills while cynically opposing them.

@DougGillespie7 @dmbman0077 @RayHeard @SodbusterRick irony: a candidate who makes $$$ selling wind mills & opposing them at the same time.

6:48pm - 14 Feb 14

But her real contempt is reserved for Tim Hudak. He cannot take honest criticism from someone paid to comment on Ontario politics. (ie Di Muccio)

Di Muccio re-tweets this from a follower that says comments made while wearing her media hat shouldn’t be held against her.

@MaddieDiMuccio @horsesandbeer - sure you did. Things said/done while columnist were done in line of duty. Shouldn't be held against.

1:15pm - 15 Feb 14

Di Muccio says that is why Tim Hudak blocked her nomination.

@BarbaraBierman @horsesandbeer *I agree* But Hudak didn't agree. And that's why he blocked me.

1:16pm - 15 Feb 14

Having observed Di Muccio’s style of politics over the past few years, I think the real reason is more prosaic.

Hudak probably concluded that Maddie Di Muccio is a nasty piece of work who is better off at the Sun News Network rather than soiling Queen’s Park.

Stephen Somerville may well agree.


 

 

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