It is now 156 days since the end of the Glenway Hearing and a jaw-dropping 183 days since the OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, gave her quick-fire oral decision in favour of the rapacious developers, Marianneville, who, as I write, are preparing to transform the neighbourhood out of all recognition.
Ms Schiller’s delay in releasing her written decision is as shameful as it is inexplicable.
Her leisurely approach has serious knock-on consequences. With the election almost upon us there is now no chance of getting the “lessons learned” meeting that the Town promised on 22 April 2014.
Inevitably, councillors and the hopefuls seeking election on 27 October are stepping into this vacuum, telling us what went wrong at Glenway. But this doesn’t give us the whole picture.
Much of the information we need to fully understand what happened is kept under lock and key at the Town Hall.
Freedom of Information
So today (26 September 2014) I went to the Town Hall, paid $5 and put in a Freedom of Information request to examine a raft of confidential memorandums that were presented to councillors at the special meeting of the council on 7 April 2014 called to discuss Glenway
I also want to examine the minutes of the Committee of the Whole (Closed Session) that met the same day and which gave directions to staff.
What instructions did our councillors give to the Town’s legal counsel and lead negotiator, Mary Bull, on the terms on which she could settle with Marianneville? Was she given a completely free hand? What conditions, if any, were attached? The OMB adjudicator gave her oral decision in March 2014 so why continue with this suffocating secrecy?
The Town’s Solicitor, Esther Armchuk, told me in May 2014 that:
Closed session discussions or directions given by Council in Closed Sessions remain confidential unless Council decides to make some or all of those discussions or directions public.
As I said back then, the way forward is to “declassify” these documents to allow proper informed debate.
Taylor blames the OMB, not the Town’s approach
Regional Councillor John Taylor pins the blame for the Glenway decision on the “highly flawed” OMB, not the Town’s approach. Not strictly true. Yes, the OMB has problems but, as important, the Town’s team was seriously underbriefed.
The Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, tells the Newmarket Era newspaper: “It (the decision to go to the OMB) wasn’t just defending the residents; it was defending the plan for the Town. The infrastructure we’re building is not going to be able to accommodate the additional homes in Glenway.”
If the Town’s hired legal gun, Mary Bull was supposed to be “defending the plan for the Town” her performance fell far short of what was required. In fact, it was lamentably inadequate. At one point in the OMB Hearing, the adjudicator asked the Town’s team when work started on the Secondary Plan. There was a long embarrassing silence. As it happens, I was the only person present who knew the answer but, as a member of the public sitting below the salt at the back of the room, I couldn’t speak.
I am left wondering if Van Bynen called for daily reports on what was happening at the OMB Hearing. If so, he would have realized that things were going off the rails in a pretty dramatic way. Did he ask why no-one from the Town’s Planning Department was present? And if not, why not?
Why didn’t the Mayor instruct the Director of Planning to show up once and a while if only to provide answers to the OMB Hearing that the Town’s counsel, Mary Bull, was incapable of doing?
Maddie Di Muccio challenges latest confidential memo on Glenway
In the latest twist, Maddie Di Muccio challenged the Town’s CEO, Bob Shelton, at this week’s Committee of the Whole (22 September) to explain why a confidential memorandum circulated to councillors relating to the Glenway West Lands couldn’t be made public. Without a single ally on Council, her animated protest fizzles out in the way they always do.
We are still none the wiser.
Newmarket’s municipal election: 32 days to go.
My Freedom of Information request is for:
(1) the confidential memorandum dated 3 April 2014 from Ruth Victor, Ruth Victor Associates, regarding Application for Official Plan Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision Approval, Marianneville Developments Limited (Glenway)
(2) the confidential memorandum dated 3 April 2014 from Mary Bull and Johanna Shapira, Wood Bull LLP regarding Marianneville Developments - Phase 2
(3) the confidential memorandum dated 4 April 2014 from the Assistant Director of Planning regarding Marianneville Developments Limited
(4) the minutes of the Committee of the Whole (Closed Session) on 7 April 2014.