- Written by Gordon Prentice
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?
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.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
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.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
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.
The owner, Peter Czapka, (also known as 1858107 Ontario Inc) bought the land on 12 October 2011 for $1,000,000 cash.
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.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Mariannville Developments, the swashbuckling outfit that wants to build 730 dwellings on the fairways and putting greens of the former Glenway golf course, has published its “settlement offer”.
It is as toxic as a dose of anthrax and should be rejected.
Councillors should throw everything they’ve got, and more, into the marathon 8 week long OMB hearing scheduled for March 2014.
The settlement offer set out in the letter from Mariannville’s lawyer, Ira Kagan, could hardly be more disdainful or imperious in tone. (Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, who represents the Glenway neighbourhood, helpfully posts the details on his website.)
The blustering showman, Ira Kagan, who wants us to believe he has the whip hand, requires the Town to somersault at his command.
He insists Town staff present a report to councillors by November 2013 containing “recommendations” on whether or not to accept or reject the offer. A report without recommendations is not acceptable.
He stipulates that the Town must allocate sanitary sewer and water capacity for 730 units “forthwith” after approving this settlement.
There are other requirements and conditions too but these are secondary.
Kagan is making the “without prejudice” offer public to invite comments. So here is my pennyworth.
(1) Now that the final offer is public, councillors must declare their position. They should insist on retaining the open space at Glenway in line with the Town’s Official Plan.
(2) In the meantime, councillors must assert themselves. They should grill the planners at length before they (the staff) even put pen to paper. The planners are there to serve the interests of the Town, not the other way around.
(3) The staff report must recommend the settlement offer be refused.
(4) The Town should make it clear it will not hook up "forthwith" the proposed 730 residential units to the sewer network and water mains.
This last point is key. Development can only proceed if Mariannville gets all the necessary planning approvals and gets connected to the water main and sewers.
The Town has a servicing allocation policy, adopted by the Council in August 2009 (click Documents in the menu left and open Newmarket documents).
The latest report went to the Committee of the Whole on 29 April 2013. (Scroll to item 15)
Servicing capacity is limited and it is, in effect, rationed according to criteria set out. There is a clear hierarchy.
First call on water and sewerage goes to “applications within the Urban Centres” as shown on Schedule A of the Official Plan.
Then consideration is given to “providing allocation to those applications in the Emerging Residential Areas" as shown on Schedule A.
Only then should allocation go to developments in a Stable Residential Area – which is what Glenway is in the Official Plan.
The Town’s servicing allocation policy is designed to promote development in the Urban Centres in support of (a) Newmarket’s Official Plan and (b) York Region’s Centres and Corridors program and (c) the Vivanext bus rapid transit system.
What a terrible irony if the open spaces of Glenway are built over and Davis Drive remains a deserted wasteland.
(more on this to come)
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Councillors yesterday approved a staff recommendation to bring in a By Law designating Newmarket’s historic Main Street South as a Heritage Conservation District.
But, bizarrely, the two hour debate left unresolved the key question of finance and how the new By Law was to be resourced.
The Town’s Chief Administrative Officer, Bob Shelton, tells councillors that a soon-to-be-recruited Business Development Officer would provide support for the implementation of the Heritage Plan alongside planning staff already in post.
Shelton is quizzed by Regional Councillor, John Taylor, who says there never was any decision to allow staff to go ahead and fill the BDO post without first bringing a report back to councillors.
An impassive Shelton recalls a decision taken on 25 June 2012.
Now we are entering the theatre of the absurd as Shelton’s recollection is again challenged by Taylor. Now there are calls for the Minute Book to be brought up from the dusty old archives.
The Town’s top managers and the elected councillors seem to exist in parallel universes that collide at meetings of the Committee of the Whole.
How on earth is it possible for the report on the Heritage by Law to be written, circulated and debated in public without councillors, or at the very least the Mayor, discussing the financing and resourcing aspects beforehand with the report’s authors?
Now the councillors are zeroing in on Heritage Tax Rebates.
Rick Nethery, the Town’s Planning Chief, tells councillors “we don’t have a whole lot of take up”. (which must rank as the understatement of the year as the rebate cost the Town a meagre $5,377 in 2012)
Taylor fears there could be a huge increase in the number of applications from people living in the Heritage District that could cost the Town a fortune. He says it could be a tax break given to owners who don’t need the money to keep their properties in tip-top condition. He suggests a special heritage fund is created to help properties needing lots of love and attention.
Now an increasingly exasperated Taylor says the Town can adopt the Heritage By Law without necessarily increasing current staffing levels. (Sharp intake of breath from top managers present).
The Commissioner of Development and Infrastructure Services, Rob Prentice, tells an inquiring Maddie di Muccio, that, without resources, “it would be a challenge to do the work”.
Maddie asserts that too much of the Town’s money is being lavished on Main Street.
Jo Sponga, whose patch includes the downtown heritage district, says the most important thing is to press ahead and designate. Just do it.
Chris Emanuel agrees with Sponga. He says it is “imperative” the report is approved today.
With a municipal memory stretching back to Confederation, Dave Kerwin says the heritage issue has been left unresolved for too long and should be resolved now. No more delays.
The Mayor, who loves the paperwork, insists on another report on how everything is to be financed.
Tom Hempen, who declares an interest as his mother owns a property in the heritage conservation district, stays out of the debate.
Tom Vegh, a man of few words at the best of times, says nothing. (He really must learn to share his thoughts.)
After much huffing and puffing, councillors agree the By Law but leave the question of paying for it to a future meeting.
Maddie votes against.
So too does Jane “I’m not too sure where I am sitting on this” Twinney.
No surprises there.
The future of the OMB
At long last, a review of the dysfunctional OMB.
The power exercised by this unelected and unaccountable body is awesome - as people in Glenway may soon discover to their cost.
The Secondary Plan
If the Urban Centres Secondary Plan gets Council approval, Newmarket will soon be studded with huge high rise towers, some reaching 25 storeys.
I am not entirely sure Newmarket people are signed up for this but we shall see.
The Town will be holding a public meeting in October (date to be announced) when the latest draft will be unveiled.
Newmarket is going to grow. But who is going to shape it?
The developers and the "city builders" in the planning department or the people who live here.
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