Why is the Clock Tower saga dragging on with no resolution in sight?
Almost two months ago, members of the public blew a giant raspberry at Bob Forrest’s plan to dump a nine storey condo in the middle of Newmarket’s historic downtown.
We were led to believe a staff report on the outcome of that Statutory Public meeting on 3 February 2014 would go to the Committee of the Whole this month (April).
Instead it has vanished into the big black hole that is Newmarket’s Planning Department.
We know it is impossible for Forrest to build his 9 storey condo without securing Town owned land. Forrest’s right hand man, Chris Bobyk, told the Statutory Meeting that, if they were to stay within the boundaries of their own land, the underground car park would have to go down four levels and the soil is too wet down there for the concrete to set. The alternative is to have a shallower but wider footprint taking them outside the curtilage of the land they own and this means doing a deal with the Town.
No date set for report back to councillors
I am told that the studies submitted by the developer – and matters raised at the Statutory Public Meeting - have thrown up issues that need to be examined by the Town’s planners and this accounts for the delay in reporting to the Committee of the Whole. As yet, no date has been set for a report to councillors.
No wonder people are thoroughly disillusioned with the whole, rotten planning system where developers simply refuse to take no for an answer. My spies tell me that Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, has been telling people that a decision on the application is likely to be delayed beyond the election on 27 October. And then he predicts Forrest will press ahead, hoping for a quick approval of his 9 storey monolith.
Sponga could derail these plans if he were so minded. In this election year, when he has a serious contender or two challenging him, why doesn’t he say publicly that he is against the nine storey condo? And why can’t he say he will not support any proposal to make Town owned lands available to a speculative developer whose project would make a mockery of the Town’s heritage conservation area?
The joke is on us
Unfortunately, our dysfunctional planning system allows developers to keep coming back with re-worked drawings and endless “iterations”. And the joke is on us because we, the taxpayers, are paying for this.
The Town’s professional planners must have spent a huge amount of time on the Clock Tower proposal – even before it was formally submitted to the Town as a complete planning application.
At the moment, our Town planners do not record on a time sheet the amount of time they spend on development proposals – both before and after any development application is submitted. This should be standard practice. And the client (ie the developer) should be billed, if only notionally. But, more importantly, this information should be made public.
Bob Forrest’s lawyer, the ubiquitous Ira Kagan, already has two significant Newmarket scalps on his belt – Slessor Square and Glenway.
We cannot allow the Clock Tower to be added as his third.
It is time for councillors to take the reins and lead on this issue rather than allowing the Town's Planning Department to negotiate yet more pointless iterations for a development proposal that should be killed stone dead.