- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Forrest Group - the developers who are determined to wreck Newmarket's historic downtown by erecting a condo on the iconic Clock Tower site - will be addressing a special Committee of the Whole at 1.30pm on Monday 17 June in the Council Chamber, 395 Mulock Drive.
The agenda, which is yet to be posted on the Town's website, will appear here later today (Friday 14 June).
I find it astonishing that meetings to consider important and controversial matters are sprung on the public with next to no notice.
The developers are being enthusiastically backed by Jackie Playter, a member of Newmarket's Heritage Advisory Committee, whose letter of support for the Forrest Group is part of the agenda. She appears to be writing in a private capacity.
In April, the Heritage Advisory Committee voted overwhelmingly to reject the Forrest Group's proposal.
Seems to me that members of the public should be able to address the Committee of the Whole on Monday after the Forrest Group's presentation but I suspect that would be ruled out of order.
It will be fascinating to see if the developer's Project Manager, Chris Bobyk, makes a better fist of his presentation than he managed on 4 April when he unveiled his plans to Ward 5 residents and others at the Community Centre in Doug Duncan Drive. People were seriously unimpressed.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
The Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume has extended my vocabulary, introducing me to the word “facadomy”.
This is where historic buildings are torn down in the name of progress but the façade is retained.
He tells me the City of Toronto has often been party to this “mutilation” but things may be changing. City officials have decided that knocking down heritage properties without permission is no longer OK.
“The owner of a heritage building at 267 Queen Street East and the contractor who demolished it earlier this year have been served with a summons that could see them fined $1 million and spend a year behind bars.”
Excellent. This is precisely what is needed.
Anyway… The story gets me thinking about facadomy in historic Newmarket.
The Forrest Group is currently working up plans to redevelop the Clock Tower site in Main Street South (see earlier posts below).
In January 2011 the Clock Tower Inn Retirement Residence was offered for sale at $3,275,000.
On 1 March 2011 it was snapped up for $2,340,000 by 2259613 Ontario Inc.
Also known as Main Street Clock Inc.
Also known as Robert Forrest.
Unfortunately for Bob, he doesn’t own all the land required for the monstrous new Condo he wants to plonk down in the middle of Main Street.
He needs to buy out Michael Bryan, the owner of the row of historic buildings next to the Clock Tower. Forrest wants to demolish the buildings but retain the facades.
My spies tell me a very substantial pot of cash has been dangled before Mr Bryan’s eyes but the deal is conditional on Newmarket granting all the necessary approvals.
And these should not be forthcoming. No way.
Main Street is not for sale. Not at any price.
Newmarket councillors should take their cue from the Town’s own Heritage Advisory Committee which rejected the plan last month, saying it was unable to support the proposed building's mass and height.
Councillors have already designated the downtown area a Heritage Conservation District (although the concomitant By Law awaits) and that means preserving irreplaceable heritage buildings - and renowned views and panoramas.
In its Ontario Heritage Toolkit, the Ministry of Culture specifically addresses this issue.
“The significance of a Heritage Conservation District often extends beyond its built heritage, structures, streets, landscape and other physical and spatial elements, to include important vistas and views between and towards buildings and spaces within the district.”
Alas, despite all these fine words and reams of policies, Councillors can still side with the developer if they so choose.The Town’s top planner, Rick Nethery, tells me
“Proposals that do not necessarily conform to all aspects of a Heritage Conservation District plan, whether it is in full force or not, can continue to be approved by Council if deemed appropriate.”
Seems to me this gives councillors – and those who advise them – carte blanche to do whatever they please.
And it also gives encouragement to Bob Forrest who clearly believes the Town’s Heritage Conservation policies present no obstacle to his plans and, with a nod and a wink, he can navigate his way through them.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Mariannville Developments bought the Glenway lands for $9, 900, 000 on 21 January 2010 from Glenway Country Club (1994) Limited.
The sellers probably thought they were getting a good deal since the former golf course lands are designated as open space in the Town’s Official Plan.
But if the land can be developed its value, quite literally, goes through the roof.
To recap. Marianville wants to build on the Glenway lands a high density residential block with 292 dwellings, 219 townhouses, 54 one storey bungalows, 165 single detached dwellings and a commercial block.
On 7 December 2012, Mariannville took out a loan for $100 million from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. There is a charge for this sum attached to the Glenway land.
On Tuesday (21 May) Councillor Dave Kerwin quizzed the Glenway Preservation Association’s Dave Sovran about the purchase price but no figures were given. (see post below)
Dave tells me later it would be nice to know how much the land is worth.
I disclose Mariannville paid under $10 million for Glenway and he says it is “a fantastic buy”.
However, it is only a “fantastic buy” if the developers are allowed to build on the open space.
Otherwise it is a lemon.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
Newmarket’s planners have posted on the Town’s website a new 114 page report on the Secondary Plan which looks at developments along the Yonge and Davis corridors.
As expected, it follows the template set out earlier, proposing high rise developments across central Newmarket ranging from 25 storeys at Yonge and Davis to 18 storeys at Yonge and Mulock and 18 storeys around the Regional Health Centre.
Personally, I’d prefer a lower height cap which would encourage development along the corridors and not just at these so called "nodes".
The planners are driving the whole process, saying they are reflecting back to us what we, the public, have been telling them.
The professional planners have their own agenda, reshaping Newmarket into a form few of us would recognise.
To read the report go to the planning page on the Town’s website and scroll to the bottom of the page and open: Urban Centres Secondary Plan Directions Report (17 May 2013)
Focus Groups are meeting to consider the report on Thursday 23 May 2013 from 6.30pm - 9pm in Lounge 1 at the Ray Twinney Centre and again on 28 May from 9.30am - 12pm in Hall 4 at the Community Centre, Doug Duncan Drive.
The Glenway saga finally reaches Newmarket’s Council Chamber. It is Tuesday 21 May 2013.
As always, the councillors divide into two camps.
On the one hand, our elected spectators, on $47,000 a year, who ask no questions, venture no opinions and say nothing about one of the biggest and most controversial developments ever to hit Newmarket.
And then, fortunately, there are the others.
After a clear, measured presentation by Dave Sovran, who speaks for the Glenway Preservation Association, Ward 7 councillor Chris Emanuel launches into a series of questions. Glenway is in his patch.
He says there is no need to go into camera today even though he understands why this may be felt necessary. People from Mariannville Developments are in the Council Chamber watching and it is not clever to receive your legal advice in front of the opposition. Fair enough.
But why not consider the legal advice in camera? And have the resulting informed debate in public. Councillors can then choose their words with care.
Chris wants the Glenway Preservation Association to have access to the planning consultant hired by the Town to advise on the Glenway file.
Rob Prentice, the head honcho on development and infrastructure matters, says “without prejudice” discussions are going on with the developer. But these, he says, are not in the public domain as was the case with Slessor Square. It is his way of saying no.
Everyone expects an OMB hearing later in the year but what if the OMB moves swiftly. Could there be an OMB summer hearing when the Town’s final report on Glenway may not be available before September? The Town’s trousers would be down around its ankles.
Now Maddie Di Muccio elbows her way to the front of the line, determined to have her say.
She doesn’t want to talk about Glenway in private session. She wants to get it all off her chest now.
She fumes that the Council voted, against her advice, to hire an outside consultant at $65,000 a year to advise on Glenway.
She says she wanted Glenway residents to have oversight of the whole process but her proposal was torpedoed by the Council.
Now it’s getting personal. She turns to look at Chris Emanuel.
They sit next to each other but, ideologically and temperamentally, they are a million light years apart.
An exasperated Chris Emanuel says he opposed, on legal advice, Maddie’s idea of an “ad hoc” committee.
Maddie is now getting very agitated and I am waiting for her to stomp out of the Council Chamber. Her performances are beautifully theatrical.
There isn’t anyone else who can affect indignation in quite the way she can. She is superb.
Now the Mayor is insisting she retract something or other. And she does, while protesting, as is her way.
It is as plain as a pikestaff they can’t stand each other.
John Taylor makes a few interventions addressing process issues. He says the 180 days specified in the Planning Acts that municipalities have to consider complex applications is unrealistic. Most appeals to the OMB by developers now cite the failure by councils to meet this impossible deadline. And, yes, he supports convening in camera to receive legal advice.
Now a touch of vaudeville as Tom Vegh waves a yellow sheet of paper in the air that, apparently, relates to the secret session on Glenway that comes up later in the agenda.
What if the Council votes not to go into camera? What, he asks, would be the status of this confidential report?
Robert Shelton, the top administrative man, intones that the report stays confidential even if the Council votes to discuss things in open session.
The proceduralists are now tying themselves in knots.
Now an interesting question from Dave Kerwin.
He calls Dave Sovran back to the stand, so to speak, and asks him how much Mariannville paid for the Glenway lands.
Dave is unwilling to go down that road and bats the ball back to Kerwin.
But I am intrigued.
How is this relevant? And what was in Dave Kerwin’s mind when he asked the question?
He tells me later it would be nice to know how much the land is worth. It is all knowledge. Hmmm.
Seems to me that if Mariannville loses at the OMB they will be stuck with land they cannot develop and the Town, of course, is under no obligation to buy.
But Councillor Kerwin’s question gets me thinking.
Perhaps we do need to publicise widely the price paid by developers for land in Newmarket.
We could go further and unmask the developers who shelter behind numbered companies.
And we could report on political donations made by those very same developers to our elected representatives in Newmarket.
- Written by Gordon Prentice
It is 13 May 2013 and Glenway residents are out in force again to hear Christina Bisanz and Dave Sovran set out the battle plan against Marianneville Developments who want to build on the Estate’s former golf course which they now own.
The lounge at the Ray Twinney centre is packed.
The Town’s official plan designates the Glenway land as open space. But it is private land, not public.
The audacious developer has now gone to the OMB, citing the Town’s failure to determine the planning application within the specified 180 days. They also say Frank Klees’ Private Members Bill has forced their hand, obliging them to act.
The fact that the developer can do this while refusing to answer a slew of legitimate questions posed by the public, demonstrates how hopelessly bankrupt the whole process is.
The easy mannered Dave Sovran, the Vice Chair of the Glenway Preservation Association, rules out any possibility of a meeting of minds between the developer, the Town and the residents. Mediation is a non starter. Clearly, this is a fight to the death.
Dave tells us he will be addressing the Town’s Committee of the Whole next Tuesday (21 May). Councillors will then convene in a closed session to consider a woefully thin report from staff on the Glenway issue. He expects the final report in September when the Town will take its formal position on the Marianneville application.
Now the GPA chair, Christina Bisanz, goes through an impressively long checklist, highlighting the things the Glenway executive has been doing.
They are supporting the Frank Klees Bill even though it has a vanishingly small chance of becoming law.
She says: “We are making Town staff very aware of what we feel.”
Seems to me that’s a smart move since the planners write the scripts that the councillors so often rubber stamp.
She tells us the Mayor stands with the GPA in defending the official plan.
Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, detects a “big desire” in other councillors to defend the official plan that wants to keep open space in Glenway.
Persona non grata is the unnamed councillor – presumed to be the acidic Maddie Di Muccio – who thinks it would be inappropriate for “taxpayers’ dollars” to be wasted on an OMB hearing.
Christina Bisanz is now rallying the troops, promising, if needs be, to lie down in front of bulldozers!
She tells us: “This is NOT a done deal!”
Now we are talking about the Secondary Plan which is mapping out the future of Newmarket. Tiny numbers of the public are actively involved in the focus groups that form a key part of the process that is being steered by the all-powerful Town planners.
Christina urges everyone to get involved. “It’s a low investment in time for a high reward.”
Some people think the Secondary Plan is all stitched up. Not so, says Chris Emanuel, who is now steeped in an unnecessarily long discourse on sewage and water capacity.
He moves on to talk about the Secondary Plan, reminding everyone it will look at developments in the Yonge Davis corridors, not Glenway. That said, its impact will be felt across the Town.
Now we are on to the nuts and bolts of the campaign to secure Glenway’s future.
Dave is tight lipped about how much has been raised. (Don’t understand the reticence myself.) But he says $150,000 is needed to hire a lawyer (six interviewed so far) and a planner. A five week hearing at the OMB doesn’t come cheap.
No lawyer is going to do the work for nothing.
A woman from the floor suggests an “investigator” should be hired as well to sniff out any evidence of corrupt dealings. I expect a gale of laughter.
Instead, people ponder.
Diplomatically, Dave rules this out while conceding the obvious.
“We know developers have strong relationships with politicians.”
(A statement both true and, importantly, not actionable.)
In the audience I sense a huge scepticism about the OMB and its impartiality. Lots of people believe it is in the pocket of developers.
Now it’s back to fundraising and an impressive range of money-making events over the next few months.
We learn that if everyone living on Glenway donated $250, the campaign would be home-and-dry. But that’s not the way of the world. Even in this neck of the woods.
Dave Sovran will be speaking at the Town’s “Committee of the Whole (Council)” next Tuesday, 21 May 2013, at 1.30pm.
It meets in the Council Chamber at 395 Mulock Drive.
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