This afternoon Newmarket councillors voted to refer Bob Forrest’s controversial Clock Tower development to a public meeting. No date was specified.
The Committee of the Whole heard terrific contributions from Main street business owner, Anne Martin, whose powerful slide presentation showed the huge negative impact of a six storey development at Yonge and Centre Street in Aurora. It towers over the adjacent residential neighbourhood. She tells us this shows the impact a seven storey block would have on Main Street.
Glen Wilson from the Main Street District Business Improvement Area Board of Management tells councillors the Forrest proposal was comprehensively rejected. Any development should respect the three storey height cap set by the 2013 heritage conservation district by-law.
Siegfried Wall - with a background in real estate – calls on councillors to respect their own heritage by-law.
“The current Clock Tower proposal is not in compliance with the Council’s own vision statement, contradicts it, and is, therefore, a misfit. It does not conserve. It does not enhance. And a seven storey high new development in an existing two to three storey neighbourhood is not homogeneous and does not contribute to the district’s historic character.”
Newmarket Heritage Advisory Committee chair, Atholl Hart, whose Committee earlier this month also rejected the Forrest plans, spoke movingly and eloquently about the heritage district and its place in Canadian history.
Ward 4 councillor Tom Hempen declared an interest as he owns a Main Street business. He abstained in the vote today as he did at the Advisory Committee. It looks as if he will not participate in any future committee discussions or votes on the Clock Tower.
For my part, I raised the key issue of predetermination and bias (see below) and called on the Mayor not to chair the forthcoming public meeting. Personally, I believe his position is utterly compromised and he should take advice before voting on the Forrest plans.
After addressing the Committee I lodged a Freedom of Information request for sight of the agenda and minutes and any supporting papers regarding the land swap at Market Square which was discussed in closed session on 24 June 2013 and where "approval in principle" was given.
The Committee also heard from Councillors Jane Twinney and Kelly Broome Plumley on their meetings with the developer. The Mayor and other councillors separately told me of the nature of their contacts with Bob Forrest and/or Chris Bobyk.
You can watch the video here. (Starting at 1hr 7mins in)
Deputation to the Committee of the Whole on the Clock Tower Development 18 April 2016
Good afternoon. I want to read this into the record if I may.
I am very grateful to be given the opportunity of addressing the Committee on the Clock Tower application and specifically whether private or one-to-one contacts with the developer took place in meetings or whether the contact was by email or phone conversations.
I thank those members of council who responded to my request for these specifics. I have now heard from 7 members of the council and I am waiting to hear from the remaining two. I hope to get comprehensive information from everyone before the next public meeting on the application. One councillor has promised to give me an update once all records are checked.
Your response to me, Mr Mayor, was incomplete. For example, I asked if you had any phone conversations with Bob Forrest or Chris Bobyk. Can I write to you separately about this?
In a municipality with a lobbyist register all this information would be in the public domain. But Newmarket does not have one. Yet.
Now, I want to address my remarks solely to you, Sir, Mr Mayor.
In December you told us you believed in “absolute transparency” in relation to the garbage collection contract. I think we all want the same kind of transparency on the Clock Tower.
You told the Era last Tuesday that
The clock tower is a great example of the intensification we need.
You went on to say
There may need to be some fine tuning on how we get there
This is the kind of invigoration Main needs if it truly intends on being sustainable in the longer term.
I said to you on Thursday evening in the public meeting at Trinity United Church these remarks showed predetermination and bias.
You crossed a red line.
You may go through the motions but you will not weigh and balance what you have heard, or will hear, as your mind is set.
The Forrest application is for seven storeys and your own by-law mandates three. That’s a tremendous difference and is incapable of being “fine tuned”.
If you want to change the permitted height then repeal the heritage conservation by-law and bring in another mandating some other height.
Otherwise the precedent is set and we could see a rip-tide of proposed new developments on Main Street breaching your own By-law.
Mr Forrest boasts in his website.
“By leveraging our strong reputation and existing relationships with municipal staff and politicians we have successfully achieved results for both simple projects and those that present complex structural and environmental challenges.”
What does this mean in practice?
One further point if I may concerning the land swap without which the Forrest Project cannot proceed.
You, Sir, gave approval in principle to the land swap at a closed session meeting of the Council on June 24, 2013. I am lodging a Freedom of Information request today for all papers related to this swap to be put into the public domain.
In conclusion, in my view you have disqualified yourself from chairing the public meeting.
And I believe you should not vote on the application - but you will want to take advice on this.
Thank you very much.
I shall do my best to answer any questions you may wish to put to me.