To Mulock Drive for the first Committee of the Whole for the new term.
Mayor Tony Van Bynen is back from his leisurely river cruise on the Rhine. In an earlier unguarded moment, he tells me he has never had three weeks away from his desk before. He looks refreshed and ready for new challenges but the problems confronting him are, alas, old and very familiar.
We start with a long debate about parking problems in downtown. Joe Sponga, champion of the farmer’s market, is animated. He points to perfectly good parking bays that are fenced off by the Town and are out-of-bounds. Why? He complains about lack of enforcement of parking regulations.
The longest serving councillor in the Western Hemisphere, the irascible Dave Kerwin, is in full contrarian mode. He says he never has any difficulty finding somewhere to park. And the staff has (modest) safety concerns so he is going to back their recommendations – to the letter. Kerwin says he doesn’t want to be held liable if there is an accident and he didn’t back the staff.
Oh dear! So cantankerous yet so timid.
John Taylor states the obvious. Parking is an issue that will never be fully resolved. It will always be, in some sense, work in progress.
Now we are on to the proposed stormwater management rate, a new levy the Town is considering imposing on residents to cover the cost of controlling and treating storm water run-off. At the moment, the costs come out of our property taxes. The Town will shortly be consulting the public on various options.
A curmudgeonly Kerwin tells us he collects his rainwater which goes from his eavestroughs straight into a rain barrel. The water then goes onto his garden. Our green fingered model citizen says he deserves to pay less than people whose run-off goes straight into the Town’s waste water system. We learn he doesn’t generate much garbage yet he pays the same as those who throw out mountains of trash. He is outraged by the unfairness of it all!
Now we skip past agenda item 14 with no debate. This is all about a big development in Kerwin’s ward. Staff want to go out to public consultation on a proposal by the developer, Newmarket Cemetery Corporation/ 2394237 Ontario Inc (Forest Green Homes) to re-zone cemetery and other land, west of Leslie Street and north of Mulock Drive, to accommodate 91 freehold townhouses, 27 stack townhouses, 78 condominium townhouses and two mid rise apartments. By any measure, this is a big development. The Mayor is silent. No talk of defending the Official Plan.
The developer’s eyes and ears, Brad Rogers of Groundswell, is sitting a few feet away from me. As soon as it is clear there will be no debate on his client’s proposal he gets up and leaves. Job done.
The oldest house in Newmarket
The proposed development is next door to the wooded Bogart Trail with its attractive private lake. John Bogart House, the oldest house in Newmarket, is inconveniently situated on land the developer wants for other uses. So it is to be moved to a new location a short distance away.
The clapperboard house was constructed in 1811 and has been designated for its historical and architectural significance. John Bogart was a Quaker pioneer from Pennsylvania, who had a saw mill on the nearby creek. It is one of the first two storey residential buildings constructed north of Toronto. To me, this is quite a big deal.
Dave Kerwin might have told us the old house is open to the elements at the back with a non existent window letting in rain, snow and goodness knows what else. This bit of Newmarket history needs a quick repair job asap.
Silken Laumann and Town-owned land
Now we are on to Silken Laumann. The ward councillor, Tom Vegh, sounds as if he is reading from a prepared script. But that doesn’t bother me providing he is saying the right thing. And he is. He says he does not support the proposed development to build on meadowland, a stone’s throw from the railway. He says the developer needs Town owned land to proceed. The councillors decide to seek legal advice (which will be given at the end of the meeting today in closed session) and return to the issue at the next Council meeting on 14 September. Fair enough.
Now things are moving along at a rapid clip.
Ward 7 councillor, Christina Bisanz, asks what the public can expect from the forthcoming review of the councillors’ code of conduct. Andrew Brouwer, the on-the-ball Town Clerk, tells us there will be public consultation at 7pm on Wednesday 16 September at the Town’s Operations Centre at 1275 Maple Hill Court, Newmarket. It will look at a zillion things including the use of social media. Then councillors will chew the cud in a workshop and consider how to take things forward.
Bisanz calls for a staff report on Glenway
Now Christina Bisanz is on to one of the big issues on the agenda – Glenway. It has been hanging over this council for years and the councillors have a hang-dog expression, weary at the thought of yet another discussion on Glenway.
Bisanz wants a plan of action drawn up by staff – based on Glenn Pothier’s lessons learned report – identifying priorities for action within the next 90 days. Her motion is seconded by John Taylor.
Bisanz is in good form. She wants staff to go back to the Pothier report and see what was recommended and bring forward ten of the most critical things that have to change – she wants them to look at the process, the dialogue, the discussion, the engagement of the public and the timeframe.
Kerwin says no
Now it is open for debate. Pitifully, no councillor wants to engage in a discussion about what happened. Taylor’s remarks are perfunctory. I sense they all want to move on.
They vote to back Bisanz with only Kerwin against. His arm bolt upright.
Now the Mayor is moving seamlessly into waffle mode. I hear about the Smart Growth for Communities Bill. There’s the First Reading and the Second Reading coming up. And this. And that. He could win a Pan Am medal in waffling.
Forget about the Province. This is the man who refuses to give answers to even the simplest and most straightforward questions about his role in the Glenway fiasco.
When did he first know that Ruth Victor, hired by the Town at a cost of $129,000, was going to recommend that Glenway golf course be built over? What did he do about it? When did he first learn that the Town’s own planners were going to boycott the Glenway OMB Hearing? What did he do about it?
I suspect we are never going to get the answers to these and other questions from the former banker, Van Bynen. He is just not wired to be open and straightforward. It is not in his DNA.
Nevertheless, the book isn’t closed on Glenway. It is important as a case study when the Province, finally, gets around to reforming the Ontario Municipal Board.
In this context, the Mayor’s continuing silence speaks volumes.