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. 


 

The developer who wants to erect a disfiguring 7 storey condo in the middle of Newmarket’s historic downtown has served repossession notices on the tenants of properties at 184-194 Main Street South (Lemon and Lime, the pizza place, Upper Crust Bakery etc) ordering them out by the end of March 2014 on the grounds that the buildings are to be demolished to make way for the huge new apartment block.

The owner, Main Street Clock Inc, (aka the Forrest Group) is terminating the lease, citing demolition and redevelopment as a reason, even though there is no certainty the Council will give approval to demolish.

On 26 August the Town adopted a by law designating Lower Main Street South as a Heritage Conservation District. Final approval of the by law is expected on 21 October 2013. At that stage notices will go out to property owners in the district giving them the opportunity to appeal against the designation.

Once the by law is fully in place, Council approval is required for demolition within the district’s boundaries.

In a related move, Bob Forrest has now officially lodged his plan with the Town for the huge out-of-place condo which, at 269 metres, dwarfs the iconic old Post Office Tower.

(See the planning application's page on the Town's website and scroll to Main Street Clock Inc at bottom of page)

He has reverted to the original proposal for 150+ apartments in a seven storey building (Forrest claims it is six storeys). He has abandoned the plan to lower the height of the complex by extending it towards the Library. This would have encroached on Town owned land.

As it is, Forrest’s redevelopment proposal still requires Town owned land for the underground car park.

A report on the application will go before councillors on 25 November at the earliest.

There would also be a public meeting on the proposed redevelopment.

It seems to me the developer is desperate to get under the wire, evicting the small business tenants and demolishing the properties before all the controls and heritage safeguards are in place.

The future of some of the downtown’s most enterprising small businesses is in jeopardy.

Seems to me the developers are out of control.

Time to rein them in.

Planning approval for a 280 unit 20 storey condo at the intersection of Davis Drive and George Street was granted in 2009 yet, four years on, the site is still a patch of bare sand and gravel.

In theory, there should be residential units there, offering housing choices for Newmarket people, but the developer, for his own reasons, chooses to sit on the land rather than build on it.

Why?

  The owner, Peter Czapka, (also known as 1858107 Ontario    Inc) bought the land on 12 October 2011 for $1,000,000 cash.

 Czapka is the President and CEO of Multimatic – an automotive components manufacturer. He reportedly made a mint working with Frank Stronach.

 Czapka is also into real estate in a big way.

 He runs Tricap Properties Inc, a Markham based private corporation that “owns, develops and manages commercial and industrial buildings in York Region and Simcoe County.”

 Tricap has an extensive land bank where sites can be offered up for development at a time when profits are likely to be maximised.

 

The problem with leaving land empty – especially when it has planning approval – is that it blights the surrounding area.

The millions of dollars of public money being poured into the Davis Drive rapidway will count for nothing if landowners along the corridor choose to sit on their hands.

Seems to me this is a perfect illustration of what is wrong with our broken planning system.

Once landowners get their planning approval from the Town Hall, they can sit on that approval indefinitely, waiting for the market to become favourable before developing.

This is not always in the public interest. There is a strong case for arguing that once planning approval in the form of a Zoning By Law amendment is received there should be an expectation that a site plan application to develop will be brought forward.

Just up the road from 39 Davis Drive lies another deserted development site, 22 George Street, that has approval for a 12 storey condo with 115 apartments. It, too, is owned by 1858107 Ontario Inc.

One simple way of stopping this blight would be to attach time conditions to planning approval.

Basically, use it or lose it.

If development has not started within, say, three years of approval being granted, then that approval expires.

Or a tax penalty could be applied to landowners who choose to wait. At  the moment, landowners now can apply for a tax rebate when their commercial or industrial properties lie vacant for a certain period.  Why not turn that principle on its head and tax, rather than reward, people for sitting on land where planning approval has already been given?

Every year since 2009 the owner of 39 Davis Drive, has been asked by the Town Hall when he intends to develop the land. And the answer always comes back, not now.

In the light of this, the water and sewerage allocation that would go to a major development on the Davis Drive corridor in the heart of Newmarket’s Urban Centre, will go elsewhere.

To Glenway, perhaps.


 

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