Why are Newmarket’s planners recommending councillors approve a new housing development just west of Silken Lauman Drive slap bang in the middle of protected meadowland within a stone’s throw of a GO rail track? The short answer is I don’t know.
In the report going up to councillors on Monday 31 August, staff says since the OMB pre-hearing on 26 March 2015
“the applicant has been providing additional material to departments and agencies for review. Staff have now received additional reports, studies and other submission material that indicates that most of the outstanding issues have been appropriately addressed.”
We are told the remaining issues are considered minor.
So I ask the planning department for sight of this additional material that had such a persuasive influence on the Town’s planners.
Earlier this week I am told this is no problem. Then, later, I am told that because the Town is in litigation with the developer at the OMB there could be a problem. Astonishingly, I am told I must first get the consent of the developer.
A senior member of the planning department generously offers to contact the developer on my behalf but I am still waiting to hear if I can see these important documents. I am assuming our councillors have not seen them either – but I could be wrong.
Planning staff recommendations are, in practice, decisions
The OMB Hearing is scheduled for 28 September 2015. If councillors reject the staff recommendation to approve the meadowlands development, where does that leave the Town at the OMB? Will the developer tell the OMB that Newmarket staff saw no objections to the development and their considered views were, perversely, rejected by elected officials?
If Glenway is any guide, the OMB will side with the developer and the Town’s own planning staff. And the mayor will mumble something about defending the official plan and challenging the developer at the OMB was “the right thing to do”.
The promised review of the OMB cannot come a moment too soon. It cannot be right that the views of our elected officials – including our Mayor, Tony Van Bynen – count for so very little.
When it comes to planning, our councillors are increasingly a decorative part of our Municipal constitution. The real power lies elsewhere.
PS The Ward councillor, Tom Vegh, has previously spoken out against the proposed development.