I see that Newmarket Town Hall Watch is authored by Councillor Maddie Di Muccio's husband, John Blommesteyn.

How curious.

In a post dated 26 November on Glenway he confides he was disappointed with the unanimous vote. He writes: "I expected at very least an 8-1 vote."

The conversation between Maddie and John, over breakfast the morning after, would have been fascinating to observe.


Next month, Newmarket councillors will consider the draft Secondary Plan which guides future development in the Town’s Urban Centres – broadly speaking the Yonge/Davis corridors.

But before rubber-stamping the plan, they should ask themselves some simple questions. How fast do they want Newmarket to grow? And how big should it be at so called “build-out” - when there is no more land left to develop.

The Town’s future population is still surrounded by a huge amount of uncertainty and that number drives everything else.

Our Regional Councillor, John Taylor, who chairs York Region’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, as recently as October, had to press Newmarket’s planners in public for more clarity. And Taylor has an army of number crunchers and long term planning people employed by the Region to call on. If he doesn’t know what’s happening, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Fantasy figures

The Town’s 2005 Official Plan anticipated a population of 98,000 at build out in 2026. That projection is now woefully out of date.

Despite this, the Town will not be amending that figure before the Region has reviewed its own plan to bring it into line with the Province’s new population forecasts (2012) which are set out in the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Until then, the planners say

“it is premature to establish the projected population to 2031 in the Secondary Plan; and amend the current projected population in the Newmarket Official Plan for 2026.”

In a memorandum to the Mayor and councillors dated 28 October 2013, the Town’s planning staff tell us they expect Newmarket’s population to stabilise between 125,000 and 127,500 at build out, a 50% increase on where we are now (85,453). (Read the memo by clicking “documents” on the menu panel on the left and navigating to Newmarket documents. Open “Population Projections”)

Within the Town’s Urban Centres the population is expected to increase by a staggering 1,152% from 2,555 last year to 32,000 at build out. Elsewhere in Newmarket the planners anticipate a more modest increase of 12%-16% to build out. This equates to another 10,000 – 13,000 new residents.

Personally, I think these figures are for the fairies. They seriously under-estimate likely growth.

The 28 October memo from Newmarket’s Planning Department tells us that

“although the detailed planning undertaken through the development of the Secondary Plan, has forecast approximately 21,000 people and 20,000 jobs within the Newmarket Urban Centres by 2031, it is premature to include these figures until the (York) regional review is complete and their plan has been amended.”

York Region’s forecast population

Meanwhile, the Province’s Ministry of Infrastructure has pulled new growth forecasts out of its hat.

The Ministry believes there will be 1,590,000 people in York Region in 2031 – 90,000 more than the previous forecast - but it is not going to ask the regions and municipalities to bring their own plans “into conformity” with theirs because this would cause the most humungous upheaval.

So, in the Alice and Wonderland world of planning there are now two forecasts for York Region for 2031 (a) a phoney forecast predicting 1,500,000 people and (b) a revised real forecast of 1,590,000.

York Region’s Director of Long Range Planning, Valerie Shuttleworth, told regional councillors earlier this year that

“maintaining the current 2031 forecast (1,500,000 people) will ensure the continuity of work that municipalities have undertaken to bring their official plans into conformity with the Growth Plan.”

Newmarket’s forecast population

The draft Secondary Plan for Newmarket initially forecast a population of 107,500 in 2031 but this figure is now going to be dropped from the text. It mistakenly excluded growth in the Town outside the Urban Centres.

Newmarket’s outside Planning Consultant, Ruth Victor, who was engaged to work on the Glenway file, told councillors in a memo dated 20 November 2013

“Town staff has advised that for 2031, the projected growth is estimated at 116,521 people as per the secondary plan currently in progress.” (see documents section, panel left, open Newmarket documents and navigate to Population and Growth)

The 2031 population forecast is separated into two categories – those living (a) outside and (b) within the urban centres. By 2031, it is expected that an additional 9,004 people will be here living outside the urban centres and this number will grow to around 12,000.

And 21,000 people will be living within the Urban Centres by 2031. The developments housing this huge number of people will be

“received, approved and built prior to 2031.”

This assumption “is based on discussions staff has held with land owners within the centres related to their development plans and timing”.

I’d like to see that information.

Methodology and Assumptions

The methodology that got the planners to the 21,000 people living within the Yonge/Davis corridors is set out in the Draft Secondary Plan Directions Report (Appendix 2, Approach and Methodology).  The planners looked at land available for development and a

“hypothetical development was assigned to each parcel (of land) based on an application of the proposed minimum and maximum heights and densities, the application of the urban design principles set out in the draft policy directions, and a consideration of the parcel dimensions and adjacent land uses.”

It goes on:

“Between 2021 and 2031 development is anticipated to increase considerably… The 2031 demonstration (development?) concept was derived by making a series of assumptions regarding the most likely medium term development sites from the standpoint of complexity of parcel fabric, location, proximity.”

Another Twist in the Road: The Impact of Bonusing

The draft Secondary Plan will allow for gigantic increases in the size of developments through “bonusing” but this was not taken into account when forecasting the 2031 population figure.

With bonusing, 20 storeys can go to 30 storeys; 15 storeys can go to 25; 10 storeys can go to 18 and 6 can go to 8.

To qualify for bonusing, canny developers with very deep pockets will tempt the Town with a desirable public benefit. Perhaps some kind of community facility, new or upgraded. 

The cumulative impact could be enormous as councillors, over the coming years, find themselves taking ad hoc decisions on ever bigger developments that are presented to them for approval.

If, as the planners concede, no assumptions were made about the extent and impact of bonusing (on the grounds it would be too hypothetical) then the 21,000 figure looks very conservative.

“This (impact of bonusing) has not been calculated and would be a very hypothetical as it is difficult to anticipate if the development industry is prepared to provide the public benefits identified in the bonusing section of the Draft Secondary Plan.  Also, and as indicated in the Draft Secondary Plan, it is at Council’s sole discretion to approve density or height under the proposed bonusing provisions.”

People are waking up to the fact that Newmarket – trumpeted as the 10th most desirable place to live in Canada - will be a construction site for years to come as the planning professionals, frenzied city builders and developers transform Newmarket out of all recognition.

The people who live here also deserve to be heard.

I suspect they don’t want Newmarket to look like Richmond Hill.

Maybe they want a mid rise Newmarket, built on a human scale, and with a commitment to grow that is not totally open-ended.

I know I do.


Bob Forrest’s plans to build a seven story condo on Main Street South, demolishing historic commercial properties in the process, could be stopped dead in its tracks if the Town refuses to make land available for an underground car park which is an integral part of the development.

The Town’s chief planner, Richard Nethery, submitted a report to yesterday’s Committee of the Whole (25 November) correcting an earlier report that suggested the developer, Bob Forrest, would have to secure an easement to allow his proposed underground garage to extend onto Town owned property.

We are now told

The applicant is proposing that the underground parking arrangement be by way of stratified title and hence would be a conveyance, not an easement.

The report was noted. No questions. No comment. What does it all mean?

The councillors just receive the report.

I suppose this is all part of the Mayor’s “due process” that he goes on about all the time. 

Personally, I don’t want the Town to allow any part of Forrest’s proposed development to encroach on to Town owned land. Not if the consequence will be the destruction of irreplaceable panoramas and vistas and the blighting of our historic downtown.

Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, asks about the proposed public meeting to discuss the Forrest development. Why is it needed?

Sponga says we know everyone is against the development because of its mass and scale. Heritage Newmarket doesn’t like it and that is not going to change.

Richard Nethery says a public meeting gives agencies and others an opportunity to make considered comments on what is being proposed.

The Mayor says this is due process. Property owners have rights.

I say that is a load of old cobblers!

The condo development is in complete discordance with the Downtown Heritage Conservation By Law just adopted by the Town.

Why is it so difficult for councillors to say so?

It would be stating the obvious.

Elsewhere... Newmarket Public Library is running an IdeaMarket this evening on Development vs Heritage. Is Newmarket Growing Too Fast?  It is from 7pm - 9pm in the Library's multi-purpose room 


Newmarket councillors tonight (Monday 25 November) unanimously backed residents against a predatory move by Marianneville Developments to build 730 dwellings in the heart of the Glenway neighbourhood.

Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, tells hundreds of supporters in a packed Newmarket Theatre that the issue is all about excessive development. "It shouldn't be about navigating the technical issues and saving money at the Ontario Municipal Board."

He says to loud cheers that if the Town doesn't fight the developers "we are sending a signal the Town's Official Plan is not worth the paper it is written on."

"It is not a Glenway issue it is a Town of Newmarket issue."

The developers and their sidekick, Brad Rogers of Groundswell, and their calculating lawyer, Ira Kagan, sit silently brooding throughout the meeting while residents and others queue up at the microphone to denounce them and their "divide and conquer" tactics.

Glenway's lead spokesperson, Dave Sovran, speaks of the frustration he feels that the Town's Planning Department had not felt able to accept the argument articulated by the GPA on the so-called principle of development. Should there be any development at all? A long line of speakers follow him to the microphone, savaging the tactics of the developers. The atmosphere is tense.

Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to handle the Glenway file speaks to her report. Though she speaks confidently, she is clearly nervous. Soon she descends into planning babble. I hear the (clued up and intelligent) people directly in front of me ask each other what she is talking about. Like them, I have no idea.

Now Regional Councillor John Taylor is about to give his view. He seems to be reading from a pre-prepared script. He tells us Marianneville gave no ground. "Not once did the developers reduce the unit count by one." He empathises with those who would lose their back yards to housing. If it were happening to him, he tells us he would be outraged. He is backing Glenway.

The Mayor upholds the integrity of the Official Plan. He won't be supporting Marianneville either.

Now it is the turn of a confused Joe Sponga. He is all over the place. He tells us that when he arrived this evening he still hadn't made up his mind what he was going to do. Oh dear!

He says he is a very pragmatic sort of person. He recognises the passion that the Glenway people have shown. And he is concerned about the OMB and what is going to happen there if we throw the Town's beleaguered Planning consultant, Ruth Victor, overboard.

Jane Twinney makes one of her better speeches though it too is scripted. What is the point of having councillors? What is the point of having an official plan if developers call the shots? A good point. I am warming to her.

Tom Vegh will support the Glenway residents. He tells us the proposed development would fundamentally alter the nature of the Glenway community.

Now it is the turn of an animated Maddie Di Muccio who, like Sponga, is here, there and everywhere. She is by temprament the developers' friend but she senses the atmosphere and how highly charged it is.

She reminds us she was the only councillor who voted against the appointment of Ruth Victor as Glenway Consultant. She wanted a "task force" from the Glenway community to oversee the developer's proposals. Her message is: the Town screwed up in its choice of consultant but she is not to blame. She now asks a series of process questions about what happens next if the Town tells Marianneville to get lost.

She asks how much the OMB hearing will cost. Rick Nethery, the planning chief, blinking incessantly, says up to $800,000 for an 8 week hearing.

She tells us she is practical and thinks the Town will lose. But, despite this, she votes to back the Glenway residents. She gets a round of applause.

Dave Kerwin backs the residents. He says he has swamp land behind his house and he has to fight off mosquitos, not developers. This gets a laugh.

Tom Hempen closes by telling us he finds it all very difficult. He says elliptically, that when he supports Glenway "it is a cost to my ward".

Why can't people think about the Town as a whole and not just their little corner of it? I live in Tom's ward and I don't have a problem supporting the Glenway people.

There is a palpable feeling that the whole system is rotten.

And that the planners are running the show, marginalising our elected officials.

This may be about to change. I hope so.

But, all in all, a good night's work.


On Monday 25 November at 7pm the Town’s councillors will meet at Newmarket Theatre to consider a report by planning staff recommending they reject Marianneville’s plans to build over huge swathes of the former golf course at Glenway.

Back in August, the developer made a few tweaks to the original application and submitted a “settlement offer” that, for all the bluff and bluster, amounted to little more than some changes at the margins. It was just as toxic as the original.

Instead of wading through reams of planning reports focussing on the technical shortcomings of the application, the Glenway Preservation Association want councillors to raise their eyes from the small print and planning minutiae and ask the question: should any development at all be permitted? The GPA thinks not – and for compelling reasons.

Now, at the eleventh hour, Marianneville’s lawyer, the loud and brash and over-confident Ira Kagan, has submitted a second settlement offer to the Town which, he says replaces the original (and appealed) application.

Surprise! Surprise! There are to be 730 dwellings - exactly the same as before. The revised plan of the sub division is here.

The latest proposal went in to the Town Hall yesterday (20 November) and takes the form of a crude bribe to credulous councillors who fret about the cost of defending Glenway (and the Town’s Official Plan) at the OMB.

Kagan tells us with every ounce of lawyerly sincerity he can muster that the revised offer will save everyone mountains of cash and is a

 “sincere effort to avoid the substantial costs and resources of this hearing (about half of which will be borne by the taxpayers)…”

Translated, this means the developers are getting worried. If the Town and GPA team up at the OMB against Marianneville, the developer is toast.

Kagan addresses the doubters saying “many of the staff’s technical concerns are in fact entirely resolved by virtue of the revised development”. Ah!

The developers are even reserving land for a school next to the GO bus station in case it is needed.

We learn that Marianneville (who bought the Glenway lands for $10 million) will grant a ten year option to the Town to buy 57 acres of land owned by the developer but surplus to requirements for $5,500,000, a price fixed for the decade. During this option period the land would be retained as “passive open space” and maintained as such by Marianneville.

The developer will plant a few trees and fix some fencing. Whoo!

Now I read that Kagan impertinently wants the Town to re-designate Glenway as “emerging residential” from “stable residential” and hook up the water mains and sewer pipes in phases as the development gets built. If the Town sticks with the stable residential designation Kagan says this should not be used to deny the developer the servicing allocation required.

Finally, Kagan warns us that another avalanche of reports is heading our way, addressing various technical concerns.

This begs the question: how long can this process go on? Are we going to get a third settlement offer if councillors reject the second?

Any why on earth should planning staff be expected to devote time and energy on successive variations of an application that deserves to die?

On Monday, councillors should throw out the original application and first settlement offer, team up with the GPA, and take their case to the OMB on 10 December.

The Clock Tower

A report on Bob Forrest’s Clock Tower development that will blight Newmarket’s historic downtown comes up before the Committee of the Whole on Monday 25th November.

If we are going to stop bending the knee to developers, there is no better place to start.

Download the agenda for 25 November and scroll to page 110.