This morning, I am off to Mulock Drive for the OMB hearing on Slessor Square, wearing a suit and a tie as befits the occasion.
The Town has approved the development in principle but the final decision lies with the OMB in the shape of the tie-less Mr Reid Rossi who moves things along at a brisk canter.
It is all very jolly in a slightly stilted way. Everyone seems to know everyone else. But Mr Rossi is the man who matters. His light-hearted jokes get the loudest laughs.
Slessor’s lawyer, the ebullient Ira Kagan, knows it is all over bar the shouting. He has lots to smile about but, first, certain boxes have got to be ticked for the sake of propriety.
He boasts that the Slessor’s Settlement Offer was made public so the Town could consult with the residents. This, he suggests, is virtually unprecedented. Most “without prejudice” offers would be kept under wraps until agreed between developer and Town. At that stage, he says, the public would be told what was going to happen.
Let’s hear a round of applause for the Slessors!
Now Kagan calls Brad Rogers to the stand.
Brad, from Groundswell, looks slightly flushed. Not totally relaxed. We discover that John and Peter Slessor approached him when their car dealership was closing. Brad tells them the land is deemed higher density and he introduces them to Bob Forrest who is now the project manager.
Kagan then rattles through a series of questions.
Does the development comply with the Provincial Policy Statement?
Does the development comply with the Regional Official Plan?
Does the Town’s Official Plan deal with the issues of compatibility?
Is the development good planning?
Is this development the greatest thing since sliced bread?
Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes says Brad. (I made up the last bit.)
Brad is programmed to agree with Kagan.
Brad says the development will have 818 suites in a total of four blocks. The towers on Yonge (blocks B and C) will be 19 and 21 storeys. The retirement residence (block D) 8 storeys and the other condo building (block A fronting George Street) will be 9 storeys.
And there will be publicly accessible open space in Yonge and George streets and in the internal courtyard. Whoooo!
Now Newmarket’s senior planner, Marion Plaunt, takes the stand. She is the consummate professional. She immediately corrects Brad. Block A is not a 9 storey maximum but 8.
How on earth is it possible for Brad to get something as basic as this wrong?
Now my friend Bill Chadwick is asking a series of questions while an indulgent Mr Rossi allows us to ski off-piste with some questions not strictly relevant to the matter at hand.
Bob Forrest takes the stand, apologising for having no tie. He didn’t expect to be called.
We discover that the underground car park, which is to extend below the entire site, is to be built in phases starting under what is to be the retirement residence at the southern end of the site.
There is to be no single gigantic hole in the ground, Rather a series of holes.
But, significantly, we learn there is no absolute commitment to build the retirement residence first.
When Bill presses Kagan on this, we hear the Slessor’s lawyer say he cannot give an assurance that the towers will not be built first.
So, we are all in the dark on phasing – except for one point.
The development, says Kagan, is too big to be built in a single phase.
In my mind’s eye, I see columns of dumper trucks queuing in residential streets in the early morning, engines idling in wintry weather, waiting for access to the giant construction site. Year after year.
Now I ask about Street A which bisects the development.
I have had a bee in my bonnet about Street A ever since I discovered no forecasts had been made of likely traffic volumes on this private street. The Slessors’ own traffic gurus, Cole Engineering, say they didn’t do any forecasts on the grounds no-one would use Street A to get from Yonge to George. Hmmm.
I want to know if this private street, maintained by the developer, will be a public right of way, in perpetuity.
We are told there will be no “Private Thoroughfare” signs. A clear answer to a simple question.
Now we turn to the question of Holds.
Brad tells us earlier “there are numerous holding provisions at every stage. And more than a dozen triggers for Holds to be lifted.”
But can we be sure the Holds will not be lifted prematurely?
We ask for non-voting participant status at the site plan meetings where these things are determined.
At this stage, it is best to be bold.
We want to be able to contribute to the conversation and engage in the debate rather than sit at the back of the class like potatoes, observing.
Mr Rossi says it is not a matter for the OMB but for the Town.
So we ask the Town’s top lawyer, Esther Armchuk-Ball, who says she is going to take our request away and get back to us.
In the meantime, the Town has cut a deal with the Slessors who have agreed
“to conduct a non statutory meeting with a maximum of four (4) representatives of the community (that represent those that have been a party or a registered participant at the OMB hearing) at each of the site plan stages in order to solicit public input.”
We say we are not in a position to select people outside our own group.
So, why not invite everyone?
No says Kagan. No way.
The number is not negotiable.
The message is quite clear.
Like it or lump it.
Just like Slessor Square.