Later today, Newmarket councillors will be getting a presentation from the Town’s legal people on the ins-and-outs of the municipality buying and selling land and property. It all comes under the rubric of “strategic property”.
I am left wondering, yet again, if the Town of Newmarket ever considered buying the Glenway lands? Was there any discussion at all at Mulock Drive about whether the Town should acquire these lands? Did the Mayor ever contemplate the Town buying the Glenway lands? Maybe the question will arise in some form in the closed part of the meeting today.
We have it on the authority of the longest serving councillor in Canada, Dave Kerwin, that, a few years ago, “we had the opportunity of purchasing the land and we didn’t.”
This could mean (a) the seller made a direct approach to the Town or (b) the Town approached the seller or (c) the Town was simply aware that the golf course lands were on the market.
In any event, in her written decision on Glenway, issued on 18 November 2014, the OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, observed:
“In early 2010, the Town initiated studies as part of Official Plan Amendment 10, the Urban Centres Secondary Plan. The evidence before the Board is that by the time these studies were initiated the Town was well aware that the subject lands were no longer in active use as a golf club and golf course and were available for development.”
“There is no evidence before the Board that the Town took any steps to acquire these lands for public open space and public park purposes.”
We know the Town put out some feelers about the Glenway West lands last year. But we are still in the dark about the so-called “subject lands” – the land that is about to be built over.
Some may say this is all water under the bridge. Dave Kerwin has already made his position crystal clear:
“The sooner we move forward with this, the sooner we put the last four years behind us… I just feel we should move on at this time and not exacerbate the situation and bring up old issues that we’ve already dealt with.”
The problem with this beguilingly simple approach is that a lot of issues have not been dealt with and, if they are not addressed, there is little chance of learning lessons for the future.
I always thought the Town’s planners and legal people were constantly scanning the horizon; on the look out for land and property that might be needed to fulfil the Town’s policy commitments.
But if elected and unelected officials had no discussions whatsoever with the Mayor (or, indeed, other councillors) about the possibility of acquiring the Glenway lands then why not say so?
Regional Councillor John Taylor set out his own thinking on the disclosure of information on 29 September 2014:
"Every Municipality has confidential memos and confidential reports. This is an absolute necessary tool, protecting the interests of residents in our communities. We have often conversations or negotiations or litigation or decisions that sharing them publicly would harm the residents’ interests in a financial way and in other ways.”
“…but in-camera discussions go through a process and most of them eventually, if not all of them, eventually, come out of camera. You go through a process that takes time and staff review it and they report back to us how to bring it out in its entirety or partially and at what stage.”
“At the end of the day there will still be matters that we simply cannot and will not disclose because it is not in the best interests of residents and I think it is very important that we discuss that and people understand that principle and that there are elected officials willing to stand by that principle.”
Fair enough. But information should not be withheld simply because it may cause embarrassment. At some point, people will want to know if the Town considered buying the Glenway lands and, if not, why not?
A “Glenway Process Report” will be coming up to the Committee of the Whole on 2 February 2015.
The Glenway Preservation Association is holding a community meeting on Thursday 12 February 2014 at 7pm at Crosslands Church where local people will be briefed on latest developments.