The Draft Secondary Plan – which will guide development in Newmarket over future decades – looks set to be endorsed by councillors at the turn of the year.

At Monday night’s Statutory Public Meeting (28 October), there were no direct challenges by councillors to the underlying premise – that the Town has to accommodate 21, 000 residents in the Urban Centre (essentially the Yonge Davis corridors) by 2031 and 32, 000 at full “build out”.

Developments in the Urban Centre will have to meet height and density rules but the Plan allows these to be set aside by the Town if developers offer some kind of “public benefit”. Canny developers will do this as a matter of course and factor the costs into their calculations.

With this so-called "bonusing" the 20 storey “maximum” could rise to 30.

15 storeys could go to 25.

10 could end up at 18 and 6 storeys to 8.

I suspect these will become the new de facto maximums.

But who can predict with any degree of confidence what Newmarket is going to look like in the years ahead with this kind of elasticity built into the system?

Unfortunately, it will take a miracle for the Plan to be amended in a material way.

We will be told that too much time, effort and money has already been expended on the Draft Secondary Plan to start unwinding it all.

Councillors probably have no idea how much discretion they have in amending the draft, as presented to them.

Underscoring that very point, the top planner in charge of the file, Marion Plaunt, opens the meeting by reminding everyone that the Secondary Plan has got to be “in conformity” with the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe; Provincial Policy Statements; York Regional Plan and so on and so forth. I can’t immediately recall if the non statutory Metrolinx Plan was mentioned – but it is there in the Draft Plan.

Councillors and the rest of us need to know what is the minimum number of people Newmarket must absorb to be in conformity with this cascade of policy statements.

As yet, we do not have an answer.

It seems to me that in the absence of a compelling alternative vision, articulated by one or more of our councillors, the best we can hope for are some changes at the margins. 

Dave Kerwin is concerned there could be 8 storey buildings on Queen Street.

Jane Twinney is unhappy that out-of-scale developments could go up next to single family homes.

Chris Emanuel wants adequate transitioning where big new developments abut residential areas.

These are not easy issues to resolve.

Indeed, we learn from Marion Plaunt, that the boundaries of the new Urban Centre have, in cases, been expanded to create lots big enough to attract developers. Modest family homes sit on adjacent lots.

Tom Vegh gets marks for being candid. He is usually inscrutable, saying little, though in recent weeks he has been finding his voice.

The outside consultant brought in by the Town to help draft the Secondary Plan, Jason Thorne, is asked if the predicted 21,000 population increase will definitely happen.

No, says Jason. It is not a hard policy. It is the result of using our best judgement given the development sites coming up.

Tom says he doesn’t want another 21,000 people in the town centre – and he doesn’t think it will happen anyway. He tells us he is sceptical of the projections on usage of public transport.

John Taylor has some questions on bonusing, a policy with far reaching implications inserted into the Plan only a few weeks ago. He wonders aloud if approval for giant developments may mean they have less chance of getting built. Market conditions may never be quite right to justify the huge outlay if the returns are uncertain.

Now there is a brief exchange on the merits or otherwise of a 15 storey height cap across the Urban Centre as proposed by Taylor last year. Maddie Di Muccio, absurdly imagines this would mean a completely uniform streetscape, likening it to something out of the former Soviet Union. 

Ward 4 councillor, Tom Hempen, is on good form. He is more animated than I have seen him in a long time.

He comes across as mildly exasperated, telling us he is wading through the 11th version or “iteration” of the draft plan.

He tells us that the Slessor Square land is shown in the Plan as 15 storeys maximum (without bonusing) yet, earlier this year, the planners had recommended councillors accept a settlement offer from the developers allowing 19 and 21 storeys.  Why?

Marion, slightly flustered, says Slessor Square can’t go ahead unless all sorts of requirements are met.  She dives deep into planning babble, losing us along the way.

John Taylor reminds everyone there will be a separate vote on the key issues of height and density as part of the Secondary Plan approval process. He proudly proclaims authorship of this. In practice, I don’t think it will change anything.

The time to influence the professional planners was during the drafting stage, not at the tail end of a very long and drawn out process that has ground everyone down.

Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, who is increasingly cynical about the entire planning process, wonders what kind of Newmarket we want to live in and how big it should be.

Good questions.

Discuss.


22 George Street and 39 Davis Drive

The Statutory Public Meeting’s “Brass Neck Award” goes to the owner of 22 George Street and 39 Davis Drive whose representatives warned councillors that “early developers” could get a head start over others.

They were concerned that densities could be reduced for developments that are brought forward later on.

As we all know, planning approval was given for a 12 storey block with 115 apartments at 22 George in 1993. Approval was given for 280 apartments in 20 storeys at 39 Davis in 2009.

Once planning approval is given it “attaches to the land” indefinitely. In this case, still bare earth and gravel.

This is ludicrous and cries out to be changed.


Transportation Demand Management

As I tap this out, there is still no sign of the Urban Centres Transportation Study September 2013 on the Town’s website.

It is referred to on page 13 of the draft Secondary Plan and

“presents an operational analysis of the fine grain road network, the phasing of the identified improvements to the transportation network, recommended Transportation Demand Measures (TDM) and parking strategies that should be implemented to achieve (the) vision of the Secondary Plan. These recommendations have been incorporated were appropriate within the Secondary Plan policies.”

The draft goes on:

"… aggressive TDM, parking management, transit priority and other measures will be needed to encourage transit use."

I don’t necessarily disagree with any of that. But I’d like to read the study for myself. And it should have been made available before the Statutory Public Meeting.

Many people at the meeting expressed concern about the impact on their neighbourhoods of development in the Urban Centre. For this reason, if for no other, the Study should be published in its entirety on the Town website.


 

The Town’s historic Main Street South received heritage status at the Council meeting on 21 October despite an eleventh hour plea by Clock Tower owner Bob Forrest to defer the decision.

Forrest wants to demolish historic commercial properties adjacent to the Clock Tower to make way for his seven storey condo which would destroy the area’s character.

Full marks go to Bob Buchan, President of the Newmarket Historical Society but speaking in a personal capacity, and Athol Hart, chair of Heritage Newmarket, for their very effective appeal to councillors to press on with the heritage district designation and not to give in to Forrest's outrageous and self interested demands for more delay.

You can see the deputations and follow the debate on Rogers TV’s coverage of the Council meeting on 21 October.

You can also read the letter from Forrest to the Town’s Director of Legislative Services in Developers Documents (click panel on left).

In his letter to the Town, Forrest says:

Andrew, on September 24, 2013 we received the aforementioned notice indicating that a By-Law would be going to Council for final approval on October 21, 2013 to implement the Lower Main Street Heritage Conservation District Plan.

We have been in continuous dialogue with the Town of Newmarket staff, Heritage Committee members, community residents and Councilors for over one year regarding a redevelopment proposal for 180 to 194 Main Street South which falls within the boundaries of the Heritage Conservation District.

We have been working to design a building that respects the Town of Newmarket Official Plan for Heritage Conservation in advance of our Zoning By-Law Amendment (ZBA) application. The process has included many staff meetings, meetings with community members, the Heritage Committee, presentations to Committee of the Whole, and a public open house.

Following the outcome of the June 17, 2013 Committee of the Whole meeting, and based upon additional comments received, the building was redesigned yet again and the ZBA application was submitted on August 23, 2013. The ZBA application included the submission of a Heritage Impact Assessment with supporting justification for the development.

Given that on September 9, 2013 Council asked staff to bring a HCD (Heritage Conservation District) By-law forward and on September 23, 2013 the Town sent out a notice regarding the impending HCD By-Law at Council on October 21, 2013, soon after us making the ZBA application, it would appear on the surface that the By-law is being enacted in response to our ZBA application.

Despite our efforts to determine (through inquiries of staff and Council) whether there will be any additional impediments to the proposed development as a result of the HCD By-law, we have received only conflicting messages. This leads us to believe that the implications of the by-law are not fully understood. As we have yet to be provided with any clarity on this question (including whether or not the by-law will be applied to our current application), we respectively (sic) request that Council defer the HCD By-law until such time as a clear response is provided for the benefit of Council and the applicant. We also ask that we be notified of all reports, meetings and decisions respecting the draft Heritage By-law.

As an example of special pleading, Forrest’s letter will take some beating.

Given he now faces an uphill struggle to get the permission he needs to demolish historic buildings in the heart of the Heritage Conservation District, he should withdraw the eviction notices slapped on his small business tenants a few weeks ago.


 

Slessor Square has been sold.

Bob Forrest, Slessor's project manager, told Newmarket planners earlier this week that "his team has conditionally sold their site".

The sale is conditional for 60 days.

The buyer is, we think, Greenwin.

More to follow...


 

The draft of Newmarket’s Secondary Plan, which guides future development in the Yonge Davis corridor, is up for discussion next Monday, 28 October at a special Statutory Meeting to be held at 7pm at the Municipal Offices at 395 Mulock Drive.

This issue has never been about the principle of intensification, but only its sheer scale and form.

Personally, I think we are creating a monster that will, in time, devour the Newmarket we know, replacing it with huge towers and residential neighbourhoods clogged with traffic.

Astonishingly, we still do not know how many people the planners expect to be living in Newmarket in 2031 – the planning horizon for zillions of studies.

Despite the gaps, omissions and question marks, the chances of the draft being fundamentally re-written are, for all practical purposes, close to zero.

Everthing in the planning toolkit has been used to get us to this unhappy point. We’ve had focus groups, concepts, directions, drafts and iterations until they are coming out of our ears.

Unfortunately, the planners have not been listening.

The basic template – a high rise City of Newmarket – hasn’t changed one iota.

No councillor put forward an alternative vision and campaigned for it.

Instead they have for the most part parroted the script written for them by the professional planners.

Eighteen months ago Regional Councillor John Taylor briefly floated the idea of a 15 storey height cap. But nothing happened. It was quietly buried.

In June 2012 councillors agreed a staff recommendation leaving any possible new height restrictions to the Secondary Plan. Which is where we are now.

That 2012 report reminded councillors that

the Town of Newmarket’s Zoning By Law 2010-40 currently permits a range of maximum building heights from 4-8 storeys in the Urban Centres

Now the draft Secondary Plan holds out the prospect of huge 30 storey towers that, ironically, the planners recommend as a height cap.

Who on earth wants these giant towers?

New “bonusing provisions” unveiled for the first time at the Council’s Open House on the Secondary Plan on 10 October 2013, will allow developers

 …increases in building height and/or development block density in the Urban Centre without amendment to this plan

The rules would be relaxed if developers offered various so-called “public benefits”. The Plan cites community centres, parks and public art as examples. Developers are going to be falling over themselves to commission “works of art” with a local theme. (Arty automobiles for Slessor Square immediately springs to mind.)

The Plan envisages 21,000 residents shoehorned into the Urban Centre (basically the Yonge Davis corridors) by 2031. In the longer term, the Plan sees the Urban Centre as home to 32,000 residents.

The Plan wants 35% of the housing units to be “affordable”. How is that going to be delivered?

York Region’s current affordability threshold is an eye watering $417,000. This is way too much and should come down. But, either way, how will the developers respond to this 35% requirement? By designing ever more compact apartments?

Whatever happens on that front, the turbocharged population growth planned for Newmarket will have huge implications for existing residents who could see their quiet suburban roads turned into frantic rat runs.

The traffic report looking at this and other issues (Town of Newmarket Urban Centres Transportation Study Phase 2 report, September 2013) is quoted in the draft Secondary Plan on page 13 but, as I write, it has still not been posted on the Town’s website.

The planners tell us they want an “iconic skyline” at Bell Corner (the proposed new name for the Yonge/Davis junction).

That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. They are, after all, building a new city.

But I prefer Newmarket on a human scale.

It seems this is not on offer.


No review of the OMB

News today (Thursday) confirms the Ontario Government is to embark on a review of land use planning in the Province, but it stops short at reviewing the OMB itself.

If there is one part of our dysfunctional planning system that invites derision and/or hostility it is the OMB.

To exclude the OMB from a fundamental review of our land use planning system is a colossal mistake.


Car Park vs Condo

A presentation by Viva Next at Tom Hempen’s Ward 4 residents’ meeting earlier this week confirms the land behind Shoppers and the LCBO at the corner of Davis Drive and George Street is being laid out as a car park.

Nothing remarkable about that, you may think.

However, the owner has been sitting on a planning approval for years allowing him to redevelop the site and put up a 20 storey condo. For his own reasons, he chooses not to build.

The car park requires permission from the Town. But I assume this is a mere formality. I didn’t see Tom, the Mayor or regional councillor John Taylor shaking their heads or jumping up and down saying she got it wrong.

It is indeed a curious state of affairs that planning approval for a condo once given can be banked and held in reserve until the owner decides the time is right to develop.

And in the meantime, the land can be used as a car park or, presumably, for all sorts of other things, Council permitting.

Perhaps a fun fair would be an appropriate use?

After all, a planning system that allows landowners to sit on planning approvals indefinitely is a bit of a joke.

Perhaps this is something for Kathleen Wynne’s review of land use planning.


 

Last night’s open meeting on Glenway at Crossland Church was a bit of a disappointment.

People had turned up hoping for clarity and straight answers to some simple questions but, instead, they got an overdose of planning babble and evasions.

The evening starts with a presentation from Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to work on the Glenway file. She describes the process in detail, explaining how the proposed Glenway development ended up at the OMB.

Facing us, the councillors and senior staff, strung out in a line at the top table, give the impression they are crushed by process and procedure. There is no rousing call to arms.

The Marianneville people are in the hall, taking notes.

Thank goodness for Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, who quickly gets to the heart of the matter.

He states bluntly that the Glenway redevelopment is not required for the Town to hit the growth targets mandated by the Province.

He says that with the growth already in prospect for Newmarket

        "we are going to be blowing the mandated growth numbers out of the water”.

So, what exactly are these growth targets that Newmarket must meet?

Last week, during the public Q&A at the open house on Newmarket’s draft Secondary Plan, I was told by one of the Town’s senior planners that Newmarket’s population would be 107,000 in 2031.

This is plainly incorrect.

It looks as if the planners are simply adding the projected growth in the Davis Yonge corridor (21,000) to the Town’s current population of around 86,000.

Clearly, there is going to be development elsewhere in the Town that must be factored in.

Why is it so difficult for the planners to provide growth projections for the Town as a whole, within the urban core and outside it?

The answer, at least in part, is that York Region, Metrolinx and a constellation of other agencies are taking initiatives and working on plans that could impact hugely on our Town.

We need a single sheet of A4 setting out (a) the growth target we must hit to comply with Places to Grow and (b) projections of the growth in Newmarket outside the Yonge Davis corridor and (c) estimates of the growth that could be unleashed by a Secondary Plan that allows for towers up to 30 storeys and major intensification around transport hubs.

If the city builders in the Town’s Planning Department get their way, Newmarket will soon be a town on steroids.  

Too often, our councillors come across as bystanders who have ceded control to the professional planners. They must roll up their sleeves and get involved. If they don’t like the advice they are getting from staff they should say so, if necessary in public.

Glenway’s own planning expert, Nick McDonald, from Meridian Planning was a breath of fresh air. He put in a solid performance, gently criticizing the Town for focussing on the technical aspects of the Marianneville application while neglecting to review its own Official Plan, involving local people.

Newmarket’s plan runs to 2026 (when Newmarket’s population is expected to hit 98,000) and it needs to be extended to 2031 at the very least.

He repeats the central charge: Glenway is not needed to hit the growth targets.

Glenway chair, Christina Bisanz, gets a round of applause when she complains the community was shut out of the discussion between Marianneville and the planners on the so-called “without prejudice” offer. She too wants a review of the Official Plan and with community involvement.

In the hall, I sense most people are deeply unhappy and are far from being reassured. They feel that after all their efforts Glenway could still be hung out to dry.

From the floor, an incredulous Stuart Hoffman, demands the Council stop working with Marianneville to resolve issues in advance of the December hearing of the OMB (as recommended by staff).

Quoting the staff report, he says the gulf between the developer and the Town is too wide to be bridged. So what is the point of further discussions? (apparently it is all about "scoping" for the OMB. More planning babble)

Another sceptic from the floor asks if there is anything to stop the developer repeatedly coming back with new, revised applications if the present application fails at the OMB.

John Taylor makes a few comments about the rights of property owners before passing the ball to Mariannville’s lawyer, Ira Kagan, who is sitting in the front row.

Keeping a straight face, Kagan says he hasn't discussed this with his client.

Many people in the audience appear to be deeply alienated from their own Council.

They feel the Town is too ready to accommodate predatory developers.

And is not vocal enough in defending its own Official Plan.


Mayor misunderstood misogyny jibe says Maddie

Last month, the acidic Ward 6 councillor, Maddie Di Muccio, called Newmarket’s Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, a “misogynist”.

This jibe sets off a remarkable train of events.

The Mayor, who sees himself as an avuncular type, demands an apology but Maddie refuses. Not to be outdone, she demands an apology from him for allegedly orchestrating moves to undermine her in the eyes of the public.

The Mayor has been poked in the ribs a million times by his tormentor but this time she’s gone too far. He tells us his wife and daughters are hurt by the accusation which they know to be untrue.

He wants to bring in the Integrity Commissioner to find out if Maddie’s insult has breached the Council Code of Conduct.

Today’s Committee of the Whole (Tuesday 15 October) opens with a toe curling statement from Maddie.

She tells us that when she called the Mayor a misogynist she was not using the 17th century definition, apparently meaning a “woman hater”.

Instead she was relying on the contemporary usage. She tells us a misogynist is someone with a prejudice against women.

If the Mayor took her insult the wrong way (ie the 17th century way) then, she says, she will apologise.

Though comic, it is painful to watch.

Newmarket’s councillors sit there, listening impassively.

Now the Council moves on to consider the Mayor’s motion to refer the whole matter to the Integrity Commissioner. At this point he hands over the reins to regional councillor John Taylor who now takes the Chair.

Maddie gathers up her papers and strides towards the public gallery, joining her husband (I presume) who is sitting directly behind me. They exchange whispers.

Ward 1 councillor, Tom Vegh, has felt the lash of Maddie’s tongue before. In a previous dust-up she accused him of being “less than a man”. I doubt he’s forgotten the remark but now he adopts a serious and measured tone. He expresses concern about the costs of the Integrity Commissioner falling on Newmarket’s taxpayers.

He wants complainants to foot the bill if the Integrity Commissioner finds against them. I see councillors nodding in agreement.

Jane Twinney – recently branded a stooge by Maddie – supports the amendment. So too does Joe Sponga and Tom Hempen.

Chris Emanuel, forever dubbed a drunkard by Maddie, says nothing.

Dave Kerwin is absent.

Now it is the turn of regional councillor John Taylor whose carefully crafted demeanour suggests he is acting more in sorrow than in anger.

He too is concerned about the cost of the Integrity Commissioner but he warns the cost of doing nothing would be much, much greater.

He talks of the damage done to the Newmarket brand.

He recalls “less than professional moments” and says is time to insist on certain levels of decorum.

He says we must stand up for a proper, respectful, work atmosphere.

He goes on at length in this vein while Maddie, behind me, whispers.

The motion to bring in the Integrity Commissioner is carried nem con.

Now it is Maddie’s turn.

Theatrically, she marches down to her place in the hemisphere to move her own motion, denouncing the Mayor and his apparatchik, Jackie Playter (who is sitting in the front row of the public gallery).

Despite all the hype, Maddie’s motion fizzles out when she cannot persuade any councillor to second her motion.

It requires skills of a very high order to alienate every single one of her Council colleagues.

She can’t find a good word to say about any of them.

And now they have reciprocated. 


 

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