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)


 

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.


 

As the Town prepares to consult the public on its 2014 budget, the ever controversial Councillor Maddie Di Muccio, sets out her own shopping list of cuts.

She wants to “eliminate the tax heritage rebate program”.

I am left wondering why. Seems to me like a good thing.

In 2012 – the last year for which we have figures – Heritage rebates cost the Town a modest $5, 377.

Compare this with the $106,642 given to owners of vacant commercial and industrial buildings. This  “vacancy rebate” mysteriously doesn’t rate a mention.

Of greater concern is Maddie’s determination

“to eliminate the $135,000/year grants handed out exclusively to business on Main Street. Some of these recipients have personal relationships that are too close for comfort with certain Council members”.

Whoa!

The statement, though carefully crafted, infers that some business owners on Main Street may be improperly receiving a financial benefit that arises directly from their relationship with (unnamed) Councillors.

If it is not her intention to leave this impression in the mind of the reader, then what precisely is she trying to say?

The names and addresses of people who receive grants are matters of public record. Members of the Newmarket Downtown Development Sub Committee are obliged to declare any conflicts of interest.

If she believes anyone is acting corruptly she should take her concerns in the first instance to Bob Shelton, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer and, if needs be, the police.

Until then, she should break the habit of a lifetime and steer clear of smearing people.


King George School

Now that the Committee of the Whole will be considering the proposed Heritage By Law on 26 August, it is time for an update on King George School on Park Avenue, just up the road from Newmarket Library.

The school – which is just outside the Heritage Conservation District – was built in 1912-13 and is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The Town’s 1986 By Law says it is

“a well preserved example of early twentieth century public school architecture”.

The property was purchased from the York Region District School Board on 15 November 2011 by the numbered corporation, 1569121 Ontario Limited, for $1,275,000.

The owner of Ontario Corporation 1569121, Chrisula Selfe, is based in Toronto.

My spies tell me that the owner has been working on a plan that retains the existing building but with an additional two stepped back floors on top of the existing roof. There would also be a westerly extension added to the building.

People in the immediate neighbourhood obviously have their concerns. But we all want to know the developers’ intentions.

The site is designated for institutional use so any departure from this would require an Official Plan amendment and a zoning by law amendment. (Such amendments are ten-a-penny.)

This historic building has already been empty for too long. It should not be allowed to decay and crumble by neglect.

That way lies demolition and wholesale redevelopment.

And we don’t want that.


 

Planning staff are recommending councillors adopt a By Law designating Lower Main Street South as a Heritage Conservation District when the Committee of the Whole meets later this month.

This is good news.

The full report can be accessed here.

Download the Committee of the Whole agenda for 26 August 2013 and scroll to item 13.

The battle for the future of Newmarket’s Glenway neighbourhood started in earnest today and I am here to chronicle the tale as it unfolds.

Marianneville Developments wants to shoehorn a staggering 730 new residential units of assorted shapes and sizes onto the former fairways and greens of the Glenway golf course which closed for business in October 2011.

The developers bought the open space in 2010 for a trifling $10 million. Their plans involve building on 61% of the open space they purchased with the remainder being set aside for a nine hole “executive” golf course.

This morning, I am in the Council Chamber at Mulock Drive observing the polite formalities of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) pre-hearing that will set the timetable and agree the modalities for the hearing proper which is pencilled in for eight long weeks starting on 3 March 2014.

The Mayor is here, sitting at the back, keeping an eye on things and I see Chris Emanuel, Jane Twinney, Tom Hempen and the elusive Joe Sponga.

We are here because the Town of Newmarket hasn’t yet come to a view on whether building on the old golf course is a good thing or not. We learn this slothfulness prompts the developer to appeal to the OMB.

The planning lawyer, Ira Kagan, who last appeared in Newmarket for the Slessors, is again acting for the developers.

And he follows precisely the same script.

He tells OMB adjudicator, Jason Chee-Hing, that Marianneville will make a “without prejudice” settlement offer (just like Slessor Square) which, he says, will be submitted “within a week or so”.

He intones: “It is my hope that the Town planning staff will be able to report on the offer in a public report.”

Kagan is a sly old fox!

This tactic worked with Slessor Square, where pusillanimous councillors retreated at the first whiff of grapeshot, so why not try the same formulation again?

He has it all mapped out. The Town staff could have their recommendations ready by October and, he says, we could reconvene in November to find out what the Glenway Preservation Association thinks.

The anticipated second pre-hearing could then be turned into a settlement hearing. Straight out of the Slessor Square play book.

Now calendars are consulted. Diaries are checked.

The Town’s Lawyer, Esther Armchuck-Ball, shakes her head and tells us the planners will not be able to report until late October.

Why on earth so long? They are not deciphering the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Where on earth is the sense of urgency?

When she suggests a decision on the date for the full OMB hearing could be postponed until December she is given short shrift by Kagan and the Chair who both say no, smiling.

Jay Feehley, the lawyer acting for the Glenway Preservation Association, questions whether an eight week full hearing is required. He says it is unnecessarily long but his protestations too are steamrollered.

Now the Adjudicator has to decide who gets Party status (which brings full rights to cross examine witnesses) and who has to settle for being a Participant.

Participants say their piece and then sit at the back of the class, mute thereafter.

Now Feehley announces that the Glenway Preservation Association seeks Party status (no surprises there) but also wants to appeal against the Town’s failure to reach a decision on the Marianneville proposals.

Kagan leaps to his feet, announcing theatrically that such a manoeuvre would not be legal! He has checked the Act! Only the Minister can do something or other.

I am waiting for Feehley to respond with a quick one, two to Kagan’s chin. But Feehley stays seated. He is not inclined to trade punches. 

(I thought the brothers-in-law were supposed to share such information beforehand.)

Now a rather intense Jeff Brown steps forward. He represents the Glenway Community Group and seeks Party status.

Bizarrely, he accuses the Glenway Preservation Association of being run by Liberals, with a capital “L”. What relevance has this to anything?

The difference between the GPA and his group is that he seeks compensation should the development be given the green light.

He says he wanted a planning advisory committee set up in 2010 when Mariannville bought the golf course but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The proposed development has progressed without proper oversight.

He says it is unreasonable not to compensate people who will lose money as a result of any development. And, to rub salt into the wounds, he and others are faced with a tax burden to defend Glenway against the developer.

He wants to appeal to the Courts against any adverse OMB decision.

Brown is given participant, not Party, status. The Adjudicator tells him that compensation is not a proper planning consideration.

Now Jane Ross from the York Region district school board asks for participant status. She wants an elementary school considered “as part of the site”.

Someone from Mosaic Homes, with a development next door to Glenway, also gets the OK to appear. 

The whole process is enormously drawn out with, it seems, half of Ontario going to the OMB with appeals against developments of one sort or another.

The OMB is creaking under the strain.

And so is our entire discredited planning system.

We now wait nervously for the planners’ recommendations on the settlement offer, no doubt chiseled on tablets of stone. 

But it doesn’t have to be like this.

Our elected officials should demand to know the planners’ thinking even before they put pen to paper.

And, if necessary, our councillors should grill the planners at length, and in public, on their reasoning and conclusions.

I know I would.        

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