Newmarket Theatre is bursting at the seams as I arrive for the Glenway meeting just before 7pm.

The doors are barred.

No more room!

We are ushered to the overflow room, the cavernous High School cafeteria, which is filling up rapidly.

Glenway people are turning out in force for this “Statutory Public Meeting” called to discuss the future of their neighbourhood.

The rapacious Marianneville Developments Ltd are up first and outline their plans to a disbelieving and resentful audience.

The developers want to shoehorn into Glenway a further 292 apartment dwellings, 219 condominium townhouse dwellings, 54 condominium one storey dwellings, 165 residential detached dwellings and a commercial block.

Phew!

Understandably, Glenway people are up in arms about this.

They believe their neighbourhood will be utterly transformed, without their consent.

Marianneville claim their plans are consistent with Town and Regional plans and policy statements. Developers always recite this, as a fact. They could hardly say otherwise.

Marianneville say the new development will be compatible with what is already there. They describe this as “same-to-same”.

The developers are heard in respectful but seething silence.

Next up is the Ward 7 Councillor, Chris Emanuel.

He has already made it clear he is against the proposed development which is not needed to meet the Town’s growth targets. (more about that later)

He wants more detail from the developers on their thinking.

His colleague, Tom Hempen, tells us he heard concerns from residents about traffic and density at an earlier meeting on 18 June. He wants to know how the plans have changed to address these concerns. (Hmmm…. Not a lot)

Now it is the turn of Ron Kassies who speaks for the Glenway Preservation Association. His workmanlike presentation receives a rapturous reception.

It is clear Glenway wants Mariannville as much as a dose of anthrax. (my words not his)

Next up is Anne Leroux with a clear and confident message to go with her Powerpoint presentation.

The development would impact on important wildlife corridors. And it would destroy the green spaces that urbanising areas need if they are to stay healthy.

Deborah Jane Pope is now at the rostrum.

A terrific presentation. Clear as a bell. The development of Glenway is not needed to meet the targets flowing from the Places to Grow Act.

She says, in as many words, that the whole consultation has been a farce. And that Marianville’s strategy has been to divide and conquer, playing off some residents’ concerns against others.

Glenway, she declaims, is not a lot waiting to be filled. It is already filled… with homes and people and friends…

The Town, she says, should put residents’ interests ahead of developers.

Dave Hanson steps up to the plate, picking up the theme that the developers want to divide residents.

He warns people not to believe they will be safe just because their home will still back on to open space after the infill development is complete.

Marianville’s plans for a 9 hole “executive” golf course may never materialise. We learn there is no market out there for “executive” 9 hole golf courses.

He predicts the developers will sneak back after a few years with plans to build over what is left of open parkland.

Now it is the turn of Michelle Price who talks about preserving the quality of life at Glenway. Many subsequent speakers echo her concerns.

Now the meeting is thrown open to contributions from the floor.

So far, no-one has spoken in favour of Mariannville’s vision of the new Glenway.

A self declared senior, Betty, laments it is too late for her to start over. Her landscaped property is the product of 26 years work. She says the Town’s Official Plan doesn’t seem to matter.

Now a terrific contribution from a Mr Oloya (?) who wants to know what will happen next. He wants a referendum.

The Mayor passes the ball to Richard Nethery, the Town’s top planner. He waffles on about opportunities to make your views known. Contributions will be listened to… Possibly taken on board…

The Mayor says he hopes this answers the question.

No it doesn’t, cries Mr Oloya.

Now the discontent is beginning to bubble to the surface.

The next speaker wants to know how on earth councillors ever allowed the development to get this far. He is incredulous.

An exasperated Tim Parker wants meaningful and complete answers from the developers. Some questions are only half answered, if at all.

Now it is the turn of Stuart Hoffman who tells us he paid a premium for living in Glenway with its open space. It puts it at $100,000 - $150,000.

His home backs on to a pond. For him, there will be no “same-to-same”

He wants to know if he and others in the same boat are going to be compensated.

To gales of laughter, the developer says there will be no comment on this tonight.

A stream of residents take to the rostrum, all of them angry at the loss of open space and amenity.

A spirited contribution from Nadine Gaudette (?) labels the developer’s approach “extremely distasteful”. She accuses them of refusing to answer questions and telling lies.

This is strong stuff but the language matches the mood.

She demands to know the views of all councillors.

The Mayor tells us it would be premature for councillors to comment.

They need to wait until all the reports are in. Then they can read them and weigh everything up. It is all about due process.

Personally, I find this proceduralism suffocating.

A few more contributions from the floor and now the Mayor is winding up the meeting, inviting the audience to give themselves a round of applause, presumably for being so restrained in the face of so much provocation from the developers.

This is toe curling.

Congratulating people for being good and “respectful” when they have every right to be outraged.

The Glenway people disperse into the night, uncertain of what happens next.

So, what did I learn from tonight?

More than ever, Newmarket people need a debate on what kind of town they want to live in.

But process and procedure is stifling the conversation we need to have.

Our councillors have to get off the fence and describe their vision of a future Newmarket.

Is it a pleasant town, growing and maturing, but still one built on a human scale?

Or will it be a city of high rise towers where developers call the tune?

One way to limit the size of Slessor Square is to make it more expensive for the developer to build and/or the future residents to purchase. It also becomes a bargaining chip for the town in their negotiations with the developer and/or the OMB when the appeal is filed. 

Traffic and density will not win the battle - the province wants more intensification and the developers want more profit per square foot - and frankly the township wants and needs more tax revenue. So increased density has been accepted as a necessary evil, and traffic is just an offshoot of that. 

Two issues remain that I think the developers and council have not considered yet, and which prove more fruitful as a solid justification for a smaller development. 

The first is the proposed mix of units - 1 bedroom and studios versus 2 and 3 bedroom units - which Slessor has not revealed yet either in their plans or their sales documentation. If Newmarket wishes to remain a family based community, they need to push for more 2 or 3 bedroom units which will reduce the traffic problem considerably, and minimize the number of units available for sale thereby driving the purchase price and reducing the demand for more height. One bedroom or studio units are out of place in Newmarket, as they attract a transient population reliant on public transit; which will not be adequate for their purposes as they want to live and work within walking distance like they do in downtown Toronto. Unless, of course, there is a major commercial development coming to Newmarket that Council is not allowed to speak about yet. 

The second is the issue of life-safety. Newmarket's official plan is based on 8 stories; Emergency services have been provisioned and capitalized based on that assumption. Any deviation from the planned height cap will require the township to review how they have provisioned for those services. If the developer wishes to grow beyond that cap, they should be paying for the extra height - and pass the cost onto the purchasers - not the residents of the town who have already agreed with the official plan. For example, fire trucks can be equipped to reach up to 120 feet or 10 to 12 stories; likely Newmarket has not equipped any of the existing firetrucks to reach that high. So that means new and/or more fire fighting equipment will be required - as well as the fire fighters will have to be trained in high rise fire suppression tactics. The physical conditioning standards for these fire fighters will have to enhanced as they will be required to potentially reach higher floors. 

The same exists for the ambulance service - specialized equipment will be required and potentially more and/or better trained attendants. Imagine having to carry out a person from the 26th floor who has just had a stroke or a heart attack and there is a power failure in the area. The attendants will need a special chair lift to extricate the victim and have to be in top physical condition to complete that task without causing further injury to the victim or themselves. 

Considering the development will be home to two seniors residences, the police services in York will be stretched thin if it ever became necessary for them to lock the development down to search for a missing senior. I spent five years with Metro Toronto Police Services, and was involved in a search for a missing women in Etobicoke. The police locked down and searched a single 16 storey apartment building with four external entrances and an underground parking garage, and it took 40 officers eight hours to execute the search. Imagine if you will the Slessor Square development with two seniors residences or approximately 500 resident seniors, interconnected with three floors of office and retail space, two large buildings and a recreation complex. I can only imagine the number of officers required to lock down and search such a large complex like that - 200, 300 maybe 400 uniformed officers. Given that York region only has 250 to 300 officers on duty at any time, I don't think our police force can handle a call like that. So additional officers will be required or lives may be lost. 

The Shrink Slessor Square Residents Group is proud to launch an online auction today.

For the success of our cause we need your participation!

Click here to browse the items, then scroll to the top of the page to register to bid.

If you have problems with this link, cut and paste this to your browser: http://www.charityauctionorganizer.com/auction/ShrinkSlessorSquare then select “Catalog” to browse.

Please share this note and spread the word!

Still looking for a gift for that someone special?

Use the ‘Buy Now’ option and you don’t have to wait for the auction to close on Saturday January 5th at 4pm.

No need to use your credit card.No payment until the service or item is delivered.

Bookmark this link, and check back frequently for new items!

Here is a sample of services and items on offer:

* Three hours of expert tutoring

* Free labour to paint the walls of one room

* A 4 wheel electric scooter

* Three hours of help from a skilled “handyman”

* Nordic Track Ski trainer

* Three hours of coaching on Word, Excel, or Powerpoint

What talents or “valuables” can you donate?

Or do you have any questions on this event?

Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 905 853 0955

Now lets have some silent auction fun by clicking here.

Last night, Newmarket councillors gave the go-ahead to staff to engage outside legal and planning experts to help the Town resist plans by the Slessors to develop the site of their former car dealership, directly opposite Upper Canada Mall.

You can read the report from the Town’s solicitor, Esther Armchuk-Ball, here. Open the Council agenda for 17 December 2012 and scroll to the Corporate Services Report – Legal Services (item 11).

The Slessors are going to the Ontario Municipal Board, claiming the Council has been dragging its feet, unable or unwilling to make a decision on the matter. The Slessors original planning application for 29 and 26 storey towers will be decided by the OMB if an alternative proposal, proposed by the Slessors at the eleventh hour, is rejected by the Town.

The alternative – the so-called settlement offer - is just as bad as the original.

The Slessors are trying to squeeze as much as they can onto their tight 4.6 acre site. There is next to no difference in density between the original application and the settlement option.

Last night, Newmarket councillors made the right decision (to commission outside experts to help prepare the case against the Slessors’ monster development) but the debate was conducted in camera, behind closed doors, at the request of Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel.

We were told this was to allow councillors to get candid legal advice from the Town’s top in-house lawyer before moving to the vote.

After an hour, the Council reconvened in open session but there was next to no debate on the substantive issue – the merits or otherwise of the Slessor development.

Instead, councillors unanimously carried a motion directing legal counsel and staff to represent the Town of Newmarket at the OMB hearing starting on 19 February.

A second motion, authorising staff to engage outside experts if the Slessor application goes to a full OMB hearing in April, proved to be more controversial with Dave Kerwin and Maddie Di Muccio voting against.

Cllr Kerwin did not let us into his thinking why he was voting against.

Maddie Di Muccio is never so coy. She tells us she doesn’t want the Town to get to a full OMB hearing. She complains she hasn’t been briefed on the substance of the application.

So she would be voting against.

No surprises there.

So, what next?

We shall be calling another meeting in January to update everyone on the latest developments.

And, in the meantime, we shall be preparing our own critique of the two Slessor applications, outlining reasons why, in both cases, they should be rejected.

Postscript:

Earlier, Maddie Di Muccio votes against allocating a further $38,000 to the existing $65,000 Glenway Development Applications Planning Consultant Budget.

This support from the Town is crucially important to Glenway residents and will help them defend their neighbourhood against the predatory outfit, Marianneville Development Ltd, who want to build on the fairways of the old golf course and change utterly the character of the area.

When it comes to the interests of developers and the interests of residents we know whose side Maddie is on.

Newmarket Council will be considering its approach to Slessor Square tonight (17 December) at 7pm in the Council Chamber, Municipal Offices, 395 Mulock Drive.

The meeting is open to the public.

The more the merrier.

Bill Chadwick, speaking for the Shrink Slessor Square Residents' Group, will be addressing the Council at 7pm on the dot so come along and show your support.

The agenda for tonight's meeting can be found here. Go to Reports of Committees and Staff, item 11 on page 2.