Last month, in a gushing public tribute from a long-serving Newmarket councillor, we learned that Bob Forrest is a gentleman whose word is his bond. He is “absolutely transparent”.
So, as he takes centre stage on Monday evening, I know that Bob will be completely straight with us.
And I hope he will bring along a scale model of his proposed Clock Tower development so we can have a better understanding of how all the pieces fit together.
In Bob’s presentation on Monday (agenda item 19a) he will say he wants to separate fact from fiction (slide 23). He will say it is a fact that three and six storeys are permitted on Park Avenue. He is proposing seven. Bob is being economical with the truth.
The importance of zoning: how Bob gets to 7 storeys
The proposed development, above ground, falls entirely within the zoning classification Historic Downtown Urban Centre Zone (UC-D1) and goes right up to Bob’s property line. The underground garage extends beyond the property line into land owned by the Town of Newmarket and into another zoning classification – the Downtown Urban Centre Zone (UC-D2).
The Town’s Zoning By-law 2010-40 specifies a maximum height for new developments of three storeys (or 9 metres) in UC-D1 and six stories (or 18 metres) in UC-D2.
Bob uses the fact that he will be taking ownership of Town land in UC-D2 to justify his claim that six storeys are allowed for his Clock Tower development. It is a three card trick in all but name. (Bob told his colleages last year that he believed he could get approval for a seventh storey if the building were rental.)
Town makes its land available to Bob: but we don’t know the terms
Bob wants to enter into a strata ownership agreement with the Town which would allow for the underground parking area to extend beyond the site boundary. Town land would, therefore, be conveyed to Bob by way of stratified title. Crucially, the Town refuses to publish the details of the agreement-in-principle it entered into with Bob in 2013 telling me property matters must remain confidential.
I may be wrong about all this. In which case I shall be eating a lot of humble pie on Monday evening. But the upside is this. Even if I am wrong, honest Bob will have to tell us what he provisionally agreed with the Town on the land swaps way back in 2013.
Fact vs Fiction
Bob will tell us the objectives of his presentation are to (a) review the current Clock Tower proposal (b) address heritage considerations (c) distinguish fact from fiction and (d) answer questions.
On Thursday (5 May) I asked the Town’s planning people if they would comment on Bob’s presentation, giving us their professional planning view on whether Bob is correct on all the matters he states as fact on his slides. No. That would be a step too far. I am told we must wait for the forthcoming comprehensive report to a future Committee of the Whole and Council.
So, on Monday night folks, we, the public, are on our own. The Town will not be providing a commentary on Bob’s presentation nor offer any validation of the points he makes. Doesn’t really surprise me. After all, in a very real sense, Bob and the Town are partners. And the Mayor is the project's handmaiden.
Bob pours a quart into a pint pot
Bob uses his slide 6 to compare his proposal to the Town’s By-law. In an oversight, Bob forgets to mention that By-law 2010-40 specifies a maximum Floor Space Index (FSI) of 1.0 and his project comes in at 2.9. This is critically important. The FSI is the ratio of a building's total floor area to the size of the piece of land upon which it is built. Put simply, Bob is trying to pour a quart into a pint pot.
Bob’s own Planning Justification Report tells us the Historic Downtown Centre Zone (UC-D1) permits up to 80 residential units per net hectare and up to and including a 1.0 FSI. Yet the cheeky Bob wants a residential density of 430 units per net hectare and an FSI of 2.9.
Bob’s report justifies this by saying:
“While the proposed density exceeds the Official Plan policy requirements in Table 1, it must be recognized that the Proposal does not have the benefit of additional land for surface parking and landscaping.”
“The units per hectare value appears much higher due to the building footprint mirroring the property line and as such this condition must be taken into consideration when considering the appropriateness of the density.” (my emphasis)
Who says we must take this into consideration? The site, quite simply, cannot carry this scale of development.
Bob drafts the Town’s Zonong By-law Amendment
The ever helpful Bob has conveniently drafted a Zoning By-law Amendment for the Town of Newmarket. (You can read it at Appendix B in Bob’s Planning Justification Report).
Bob wants an FSI of 3.0!
And he wants the maximum building height to go from 9 metres or three storeys to 21.5 metres or 7 storeys.
Old buildings. I just love ‘em
Bob cherishes heritage buildings and tells us:
“the retention of historic buildings is important to us, and to the Town of Newmarket”. (Slide 12)
Bob loves these old buildings so much he plans to knock them down! The facades will be the only bits left to remind us of what was once there. The historic commercial buildings at 184,188 and 194 Main Street South will be a heap of rubble behind the smiley facades.
Four more parking spaces
Bob tells us there will be four more parking spaces than are currently available – after years of construction and mayhem.
Bob has been busy “collaborating with near neighbours” including Trinity United Church and Newmarket Public Library (slide 21). Trinity told the Heritage Advisory Committee it wanted to be indemnified to the tune of $10 million against any damage caused by Bob’s construction work. I don’t know what guarantees he has given.
Significantly, Bob does not mention the shadows that will fall across Trinity United Church. His Planning Justification report on page 15, risking an avenging bolt of lightning, concludes
“there is no significant impact from the proposed development on the enjoyment of surrounding land uses.”
We must all pray he is right. But the congregation will wish to see the evidence.
Bob's Tenants evicted. Retail units on Main boarded up for 18 months.
Bob tells us in his website that he is an honourable man, of conviction and tenacity. I wonder how his former business tenants on Main Street South view him?
They will, no doubt, have their own stories to tell. The leases all had demolition clauses which allowed Bob to terminate with six months notice. The business tenants met Bob a number of times as he was putting his plans together. He offered to extend the leases to nine months and then on a month by month basis. Bob told them this arrangement was conditional on them withdrawing all objections to his development proposals.
At the end of the day, they were all evicted before Bob had any Town approvals to redevelop the site.