Almost five months have elapsed since OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, found in favour of Marianneville, the opportunistic developers who intend to shoehorn 742 new dwellings into the heart of a quiet, stable residential neighbourhood in Newmarket.
On 27 March 2014, Ms Schiller, gave her oral decision at the conclusion of Phase 1 (on the so-called "principle of development") after hearing the closing submissions from Mary Bull on behalf of the Town of Newmarket and Ira Kagan for the developers. Her lightning-quick decision came after a short recess of about an hour. The OMB formally gave its seal of approval to the terms of the settlement agreed between the Town and the developer on 23 April 2014.
Ms Schiller didn’t beat about the bush. She was brisk and knew exactly what she was going to say. So why the prolonged delay in issuing her written decision? Almost five months between the oral and written decisions is simply inexcusable.
Most written decisions are published 45-60 days after the final Hearing. We are now on day 119.
If the OMB’s written decision is delayed into September the chances of organising a “lessons learned” meeting as agreed by the Town in April will disappear. With elections in October, the window is closing fast.
The decision in favour of Marianneville was clearly unsafe. On 1 May 2014, I wrote to the OMB’s Glenway Case Administrator asking that my letter setting out my reasons (below) be forwarded to the adjudicator.
The letter never did get to Ms Schiller.
The very next day (2 May 2014) the OMB case administrator for the Glenway file told me:
As the OMB has completed its hearing in this matter, an OMB adjudicator cannot receive communications submitted by a party, participant or members of the public outside an OMB hearing event as any communicative contact to an OMB adjudicator is to take place only within the confines of an OMB hearing event. Therefore, on this basis, the OMB will not accept your submission below and will therefore not forward it to the attention of Vice-Chair Ms. Schiller.
(Note. This blog was amended on 23 August 2014 to correct an earlier version which stated that Ms Schiller gave her oral decision on 23 April 2014. In fact the oral decision on the principle of development was given on 27 March 2014. The OMB Glenway hearing concluded on 23 April.)
Dear Ms Schiller
The OMB Glenway Hearing
I am writing to you as I believe your decision on Glenway may be tainted because various relevant matters were not put before you.
I attended the OMB Hearing throughout and followed things closely. I sought your permission to make a statement on the last day of the Hearing after Dave Sovran from the Glenway Preservation Association had spoken. I am not a resident of Glenway and I did not seek Participant status at the pre-hearing in December 2013 and I have no quarrel whatsoever with your decision not to allow me to speak.
During the Hearing much was made of the fact that a large part of Glenway was within 500 metres of the GO Bus Terminal and there was, in Mr Kagan’s words, “not a shred of evidence” that the Bus Terminal could be relocated. This is simply not the case.
On 21 March in giving evidence, the GPA’s planning expert, Nick McDonald correctly claimed the Town had not identified major transit areas and more work still had to be done. As you will recall, he wanted a Town-led study of the Glenway lands which would include the GO Bus Terminal which, he suggested, could possibly be relocated.
On 27 March, Marianneville’s Mr Kagan told you in his closing submission:
“When, through cross-examination, McDonald was asked to drill down and identify which other lands (beyond the Marianneville lands) he would recommend be part of the Town-led study, he advised he would include both the existing GO Transit bus terminal and the Upper Canada Mall but in both cases solely to determine whether or not to relocate the GO Transit bus terminal. This is simply not reasonable.
“There is not a shred of evidence that the Town, Region or GO Transit want to move this bus terminal. This terminal is identified in a variety of planning documents that the various witnesses reviewed and never once was it identified for relocation. Mr McDonald may think it should move but no-one else seems to agree with him. Even the ongoing OPA 10 study (ie the Draft Secondary Plan for Newmarket’s Urban Centre) is not proposing that the GO transit bus terminal be relocated. Accordingly, the addition of these two parcels to a Town-led study is not supported on the evidence.”
The Draft Secondary Plan and the possible re-location of the GO Bus Terminal
On page 59 of the Draft Secondary Plan we read that Newmarket will encourage Metrolinx to partner with the Town, Region and others “to prepare a Mobility Hub Area Station Plan for the area around Newmarket GO Rail Station” which would look at, amongst other things, “integration between the GO Rail Station, the Rapidway, the future GO bus services and the GO bus terminal.”
On 28 April 2014, the Town called a special meeting to consider a further revision of the draft Secondary Plan.
In answer to questions from Ward 7 councillor Chris Emanuel (Glenway is in his Ward) and Regional Councillor John Taylor on the possibility of relocation or co-location of transit stations, the senior planner in charge of the Secondary Plan file, Ms Marion Plaunt said:
“One of the considerations in (the Mobility Hub study) is how do we as we plan forward integrate the bus station and the GO train station; whether they should be naturally be joined at some point, at one location. That is part of the analysis identified within the Mobility Hub Study criteria.”
Urban Centres Transportation Study and the possible relocation of the GO Bus Terminal
On 2 April 2014, after the Glenway OMB Hearing had finished, Phase 2 of the Urban Centres Transportation Study, prepared by Consultants GDH for the Town, was posted on the Town’s website. References to this study can be found in the first version of the Draft Secondary Plan published in September 2013.
On page 5 of the 360 page Urban Transportation Study (Section 2.4 York Region Transit), we read:
Based on consultations with GO/Metrolinx throughout the course of this study, the current vision for the existing GO Transit / YRT bus terminal south of Upper Canada Mall is to remain in its current location. However, it is expected that YRT will gradually supplant GO Transit bus routes, which will be relocated outside of the Secondary Plan area to the East Gwillimbury GO Transit station, and/or the Bradford GO Transit rail station.
The planned Viva Blue (Yonge Street) and Viva Yellow (Davis Drive) bus routes include one-way loops via Eagle Street, Davis Drive and Yonge Street. These routes will likely contribute to additional congestion at some locations, such as the Yonge and Eagle Street intersection due to high pedestrian activity. However, should the bus station be relocated to the UCM site, the volume of associated buses should not significantly impact future operations compared to leaving the station in its current location. Furthermore, the relocation of the bus station to the UCM property may even serve to reduce future net effects, given potential reductions to pedestrian crossings of Davis Drive. The impact of such a change in operations has not been specifically modeled in our study, so any bus station relocation should include an evaluation of localized transportation impacts and requirements.
Clearly, consideration was given to relocating the bus station if only to conclude that, for the moment, it is not part of the “current vision”. The meaning of this phrase was never explored at the Hearing.
I wrote to Ms Plaunt, on 11 October 2013 asking for sight of the Urban Transportation Study (September 2013) which was specifically referred to in the September 2013 Draft Secondary Plan. I wanted to brief myself for the then upcoming Statutory Public Meeting on the Draft Secondary Plan which was to be held on 28 October 2013.
On 18 October 2013, Ms Plaunt told me: “The September 2013 (Urban Transportation Study) has not been posted as there were some edits to the report. We hope to post it shortly.”
I chased the matter up on 7 November 2013 and received this reply from Ms Plaunt by return: “Regional and Town staff are currently reviewing the final draft before it is posted as the final document. Once it is finalised it will be posted on the Town’s website. We are aiming for the mid to end of November.”
I wrote for the final time on 1 April 2014 and was told by Ms Plaunt the Study would be posted on the Town’s website on 2 April 2014 – as I say, after the conclusion of the Board’s Glenway Hearing.
Mr Kagan, in his closing submission to you painted Mr McDonald’s position on the possible relocation of the GO Bus Terminal as being eccentric and that “no-one else seems to agree with him”. That was very wide of the mark.
If the September 2013 Urban Transportation Study had been published alongside the September 2013 Draft Secondary Plan and not six months later then Mr Kagan would not have been able to ridicule Mr McDonald for taking the position he did.
Furthermore, as you may know, throughout the Hearing not a single Town Planner from Newmarket’s Planning Department was present. It would have been very difficult for Ms Plaunt or any of her senior colleagues to sit through Mr Kagan’s closing submission without at least passing a note to Ms Bull setting out the true position.
I appreciate the die is cast but I felt it important to let you have my views before your written decision is put into the public domain.