My attention is drawn to an interesting piece in the Toronto Star about open space in Richmond Hill. The article asks the question: “How much money should developers have to put up for parks and green space if they want to build in Richmond Hill?”

Richmond Hill passed a by law in 2013 specifying the Town would require one hectare of land for every 300 units, or the cash equivalent. Developers are challenging this at the OMB, claiming it is too much.

As it happens, here in Newmarket an amendment to the Official Plan in August 2012 specified precisely the same one hectare for every 300 units yet there were no appeals to the OMB. In June 2014, Rick Nethery, told councillors that parkland and open spaces were next in the queue of issues to be addressed by the Town’s planners.

On 15 December 2014, an information note on “Alternative Parkland Dedication Scenarios” was circulated to the Mayor and councillors informing them a new By-law is in preparation.

The Town’s Parks Policy Development Manual adopted in November 2012 identifies “areas of park shortfalls” but leaves it to the Secondary Plan – now waiting approval by the Region - to address these in detail.

The Plan tells us Newmarket’s North West Quadrant (which is home to the much publicised Glenway) had 15.6 hectares of Neighbourhood Parkland in 2011. The plan forecasts an additional 22,000 people at build out (when there is no more space left to build) requiring another 15.4 hectares of Neighbourhood Parkland.

On page 76 we read:

“The Urban Centres do not contain sufficient land area to include larger Community Parks and Town Parks that facilitate active parkland uses; however, the Urban Centres will be planned to accommodate Neighbourhood Parks as well as Urban Squares and Plazas.”

And on page 78:

“Although additional Neighbourhood Parks and Urban Squares may be added through future development applications, it is anticipated that there will remain a significant shortfall of parkland within the Urban Centres to serve future residents. Therefore, improvement of existing parks and/or acquisition of new parks both within and in proximity to but outside the Urban Centres will be critical to achieving the vision for the Urban Centres. Opportunities need to be identified early in the planning process in order to ensure these spaces are secured for the future.”  (My italics)

Pity all this was overlooked by the Town’s external consultant on Glenway, Ruth Victor. There is no mention of “parkland” in her report to the Committee of the Whole on 25 November 2013 - when councillors voted to back the residents - and one glancing reference to it in her memorandum of 20 November 2013 which updated her earlier memo of 15 November 2013.

I hesitate to add another question to the long list for the forthcoming "lessons learned" meeting on Glenway.

But if open space is so important now why wasn’t it an issue then?

Correction on 28 February 2015: It was incorrect to say there is no mention of "parkland" in Ruth Victor's report to the Committee of the Whole on 25 November 2013. A glitch in the word search function on my iPad threw up "no matches" whereas, in truth, there are many.

And in her two memos of 15 and 20 November 2013, Ruth Victor wrote:

"Questions on matters such as parkland and school requirements were discussed and considered not only in the context of this specific site (ie Glenway) but in terms of the broader community requirements and the ongoing Secondary Plan process for the adjacent Urban Centre lands."  (my italics)


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