This afternoon our councillors meet to consider a report on the terms of the agreed settlement between the Town of Newmarket and Marianneville Developments to concrete over large parts of Glenway, until now a pleasant and attractive place to live.
As I arrive in the Council Chamber I pick up a sheaf of papers, hot off the photocopier. A covering memorandum from Ruth Victor, the outside consultant brought in by the Town to handle the Glenway file, tells me a settlement has been reached “in accordance with Council’s directions”.
I’d like to see the details of these Council directions. The agreed settlement gives Marianneville 12 more residential units than before (from 730 to 742). I am left wondering if our councillors really expected their negotiators to give Marianneville more than they asked for.
So, what did the Town get?
The negotiators secured an additional 0.078 hectares of parkland. We are told that almost 25% of Marianneville’s development application area is protected as green space which is defined as including parkland, private amenity space and storm water management facilities and associated open space.
We are told all single detached units will be like-to-like. That the high density block will have a landscape buffer to make it fit in. There will be a “compatibility plan” to ensure new developments do not jar with what is already there. There will be fencing, height transitions and other worthy things lifted from the planners’ lexicon.
Now the Mayor calls the meeting to order and invites the excellent Dave Sovran to speak on behalf of the Glenway Preservation Association. After thanking Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, for all his efforts he states bluntly that the GPA is opposed to the negotiated settlement. Twice the GPA asked the Town to share with them their proposed approach to the negotiations with Marianneville. Twice they were rebuffed.
Sovran wants to know (a) how the GPA requests were dealt with (b) what is to happen with the West lands (c) what happened to their proposal for a green corridor (d) if the Town was prepared to purchase any of the lands and (e) whether this Committee meeting is going to be the last on the Glenway issue.
GPA completely ignored
He goes on to tells us the GPA feels incredibly let down and completely ignored. He wants a public meeting to brief residents and to bring closure. Ideally he wants a meeting before ratification of the agreed settlement.
Alas, councillors voluntarily gave up the option of ratification when they gave authority to their hired counsel, Mary Bull, to negotiate with Marianneville and agree the terms of settlement.
Now John Taylor is going on about the iniquities of the OMB, which is where the “majority of fault” lies. He says other municipalities are also affected. Newmarket is not unique. He trumpets the fact that the Town went to the OMB to test whether development at Glenway is permitted. But he omits any reference to the shockingly below par performance of the Town’s team at the OMB Hearing.
Taylor now bizarrely asks Sovran how he would define success given where we are. What would he like the Council to do at this point?
There is some talk about land expropriation and its feasibility but the Town’s solicitor, Esther Armchuk, gives a million and one reasons why this should be a matter of last resort.
Council directions - please amplify
Mary Bull, the Town’s negotiator-in-chief and legal expert, now sketches out the broad outlines of the agreement, reminding us all that it was done in accordance with Council directions. We learn the Glenway development cannot proceed until the servicing allocation (hooking up to the water mains and sewers) is agreed.
Now Maddie Di Muccio scents political advantage and is demanding a public meeting to consider the lessons to be learned. Bull is decidedly cool if it means fitting this in before the negotiated settlement is put to the OMB for approval. She tells us that way back in December at the pre-hearing the OMB ruled that everything had to be completed by this Friday, 25 April, the end of phase 2. (Bull is being economical with the truth in the way that lawyers are. The Hearing dates for Phase 2 which originally stretched into May were subsequently changed).
Now the Mayor is asking councillors for comments.
Progressive Conservative MPP hopeful, Jane Twinney, wants to know about expropriation and the criteria used. Armchuk whispers this should be discussed in camera.
Now Twinney tells us she always knew this would end in tears. Hesitantly, she says it was inevitable. Now I am listening to more worthless platitudes than I can take. Surely, as a prospective Member of the Provincial Parliament she can do better this this.
Chris Emanuel, the only councillor who comes out of this mess with his reputation intact, wants to know more about the process of the negotiated settlement. Was the green corridor discussed? How did things get on to the table?
The Town’s hired counsel, Mary Bull, tells us these matters must remain confidential. (If there had been an “issues list” exchanged between the Parties and available to the rest of us we would have known what matters were up for discussion). She tells us that the discussions she had with the developer must be private. If the details were later revealed it would run counter to public policy considerations where the objective is to facilitate a settlement. (This answer is simply not good enough.)
I tip my hat to you
Now it is the turn of Tom Vegh who speaks for all our councillors when he says he is disappointed at the outcome of events. He looks at the GPA people and says: “I tip my hat to you.”
But why, he asks Bull, don’t we go through the technical issues at the OMB Phase 2 Hearing rather than opting for a negotiated settlement? (It is a bit late in the day to ask this.)
Bull tells us there were very few technical issues remaining to be resolved. Vegh asks: Is anything outstanding?
No, says Bull.
Now Chris Emanuel is back, gnawing at the bone. Does the Municipality have the right to hear from Counsel (Mary Bull) on what she believed were the desired outcomes from the settlement negotiations? (Apparently it does.)
Now Bull is taking us through tomorrow’s agenda at the OMB at the Voyageur Hotel on Yonge Street. We learn that evidence will be given by Ruth Victor to the OMB adjudicator setting out “what has been achieved”. The Adjudicator, Susan Schiller, will make a decision there and then or, perhaps, reserve it for later.
Now it is the turn of Ward 4’s Tom Hempen who tells us it was a difficult decision for him to vote for the Town to provide funds to go to the OMB. He wants to know why negotiations cannot take place in open session with community groups involved. He wants to see more community engagement.
Too many people in the room
Bull, with commendable frankness, tells him that it is difficult to come to a settlement if too many people are in the room.
Chris Emanuel is rattling the bars of the cage again. He wants to know if the OMB Hearing can be delayed if the Council decides not to agree the negotiated settlement. Rob Prentice, from the Town’s Commissariat, weighs in. He reminds councillors of the status of the signed settlement agreement. If councillors want to reconsider things then they need to go into closed session to take legal advice. I scream silently at the proceduralism that is tying everyone up in knots.
Bull reminds councillors the negotiators reached a settlement with the developer following directions set by Council. (Please can we see those directions.)
Now we are in the middle of a long discussion about development in Markham where we learn the OMB decided not to intervene, leaving matters to the Municipality. This is in stark contrast to the OMB’s line on Glenway where the Town of Newmarket was hung out to dry. Why the inconsistencies in approach to Municipalities in the same Region?
Taylor gives Di Muccio what she wants
Now John Taylor makes a humungous mistake by referring to Di Muccio’s tweeting during the Committee meeting. All injured innocence, Taylor tells us she refers to her fellow councillors as hypocrites. Taylor’s intervention gives her the oxygen she needs to stay alive politically. Without it, she would be dead in the water.
This afternoon, Di Muccio has been more than usually inarticulate and incoherent, unable to string a sentence together without a thousand ums and ahs.
Now the Mayor steps in to keep the two apart and he does what comes naturally to him. He administers a soothing balm.
There is a process, he says.
It is appropriately administered and appropriately advised.
We have defended the planning process.
I am incredulous. I shake my head in disbelief at what I am hearing.