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Aurora's Highland Gate gets the Glenway treatment

Aurora residents living next to the former Highland Gate golf club will soon be getting the Glenway treatment.

The golf club closed for good on 9 November 2014 and the old putting greens and fairways are to disappear, giving way to 159 single detached houses and a seven storey condo. Residents have been offered a trail system and some sweeteners. Trees and bushes will be planted in great quantities to soften the impact on the eye. The developer's counsel, Mark Flowers, ludicrously describes this as a win-win. 

Flowers was addressing the OMB Hearing in the Council Chamber at Aurora Town Hall on Thursday (1 December) explaining the details of the settlement that had been agreed with the Town Of Aurora. As he speaks, he dips into the settlement brief, an intimidating three inches thick.

Glenway

The planning opinion prepared for Highland Gate Developments Inc cited the Glenway precedent.

The excellent Aurora councillor, Tom Mrakas, battled mightily on behalf of the residents but ended up on the losing side when the Council voted 6-3 to settle with the developer, Highland Gate Developments Inc. I see him perched opposite looking down on the teams of lawyers and planners.

Flowers reminds us of the many public meetings where the developer and public clashed. He freely admits that upwards of 500-600 people vocally expressed their opposition to a development that would rob them of cherished open space.  

Mrakas said the residents were "beaten into submission".

I agree.

It's Kagan again!

Now I see in front of me at the lectern the silver-tongued lawyer, Ira Kagan, who also speaks for the developer. It was the ubiquitous Kagan who masterminded Marianneville's victory at Glenway where the old fairways are now being chewed up. They are crawling with bulldozers and heavy machinery.

The procedures at the OMB Hearing are now familiar. We all stand up when the adjudicator, Ian Roe, enters the Council Chamber. He is a lawyer with a degree in philosophy. Therefore he must think before he speaks.

Professional Planning Opinions

The planners swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when giving their professional planning opinion. What a pantomime!

It is as if their utterances are ex cathedra, unchallengeable by lesser mortals.

As it happens, Newmarket's Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, has recently been pronouncing on the OMB. 

In his piece in the ERA newspaper on 24 November 2016 he talks about the Glenway "lessons learned" meeting on 23 June 2015. 

Unfortunately, he never took the opportunity to tell us what lessons he had learned from the disaster. He simply thanked us for our attendance and said it was a  very valuable exercise.

However, in April this year the secretive retired bank manager dropped his guard and told the ERA newspaper:

"We've learned through Glenway that polarity doesn't help anybody."

Translated, this means his preference is always to do a deal with the developer. All that stuff we used to hear about "defending the official plan" is for the birds. That's yesterday's story.

OMB Summit

Van Trappist went along to the OMB Summit organised by Tom Mrakas but I don't know what he said or what advice he gave to his colleagues.

Before the last municipal election in 2014, Van Bynen promised to make OMB reform the priority of his administration. There is no evidence that he did anything at all, leaving all the heavy lifting to the then newly elected Ward 7 councillor, Christina Bisanz.

I discovered early on that Van Bynen is, for the most part, a spectator at events. Waiting for others to take the lead. Over two years ago I wrote:

"Mayor Tony Van Bynen has many fine qualities but leading from the front is not one of them. He is a process and procedure man above all."

That is still my view.

Indeed, last June, at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, veteran councillor, Dave Kerwin scolded Van Bynen in front of a packed public gallery:

"You never show leadership. And that's what's wrong!"

Who am I to contradict the considered view of the venerable David Kerwin, the longest serving councillor in the whole of Canada?

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2.9 update

The Town's planners have now confirmed that Bob Forrest "used the underground parking area as part of the calculation for land area."

On Monday 5 December 2016 The Council is expected to ratify the minutes of the Committee of the Whole on  28 November 2016 when Forrest's Clock Tower application was denied. See agenda item 8 here and scroll to minute 26.

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The Clock Tower and the significance of 2.9

A belated round of applause for the seven Newmarket councillors who voted against Bob Forrest's Clock Tower application. The Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, who is now well past his sell-by-date, eccentrically voted in favour.

I say "eccentrically" because the Clock Tower, even to the untutored eye, was a truly massive development that would have loomed over the old downtown. If approved, the development would have had the greatest density in the whole of Newmarket with an FSI of 4.279, eclipsing even the highest buildings in the Yonge and Davis corridors. 

The Town's Secondary Plan, adopted in 2014, imposes a maximum FSI of 3.5 in the areas of high density (coloured orange on the Schedule, right). But there is, in addition, a discretionary maximum FSI of 4 with bonusing. This would be for major buildings of 20 storeys. So, in terms of density, the Clock Tower development would have dwarfed them all, squeezing the proverbial quart into a pint pot.

Even the 15 storey rental apartment building now going up at 212 Davis Drive comes in with an FSI of 1.836 and is deemed to be "medium density".

So what's the big deal about FSI?

According to planners from the City of Toronto Floor Space Index and Gross Floor Area

"are devised, in part, to regulate the size and massing of structures on a given lot".

To calculate the FSI the gross floor area is divided by the lot size.

According to the developers' own figures (in his Planning Rationale Report) the gross floor area is 11,059 sq m and the lot area is 2,655 sq m. This should give an FSI of 4.279.

But that is well above the 2.9 FSI which appears throughout Forrest's documentation.

Cheeky Boy!

It seems as if Forrest cheekily added the underground car parking area (1,183 sq m) to the surface lot (2,655 sq m) and came up with 3,838 sq m.

To calculate his bogus FSI he divides the Gross Floor Area 11,059 by 3,838  and gets an FSI of 2.88 which is the figure (2.9) he has been is relying on. 

So Bob relies on the underground parking space - largely owned by the Town - to get his FSI down from an eye-watering density of 4.279 to the (relatively) more modest 2.9.

Sleight of hand

Yet no-one picked up on this sleight of hand. Not the so-called and much over-rated "heritage professionals" nor it seems our own planners. And this is despite the fact that the Town's own Secondary Plan (Office consolidation 25 October 2016. Section 6.4.5 xii) stipulates:

"The calculation of gross floor area shall not include the floor area of underground and above grade parking structures, bicycle parking, or public transit uses, such as stations or waiting areas."

Other major cities adopt the same approach.

Ottawa says the Gross Floor Area means the total area of each floor whether located at or below grade... but excluding:

(c) bicycle parking, motor vehicle parking or loading facilities.

Magic Box

I may have missed something and got this completely wrong. There may be a straightforward explanation. Perhaps there is some trick in the planners' magic box of which I am unaware. Maybe it's "density transfer" or some other hocus-pocus. I am not a professional planner, nor am I a conjurer.

I have asked the Director of Planning, Rick Nethery, to tell me how he verified Bob's FSI of 2.9

I hope to hear an explanation at the Council meeting on Monday (5 December) when the Clock Tower decision will be ratified by the full Council.

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Di Muccio v Taylor trial set for 7 December 2016

The much anticipated action for defamation brought by Maddie "death stare" Di Muccio against Regional Councillor John Taylor will come to trial on Wednesday 7 December 2016 at the Small Claims Court in Eagle Street, Newmarket.  

On 26 October 2016 the fragile Di Muccio dropped her libel action against Taylor. She says in an affidavit lodged with the Court:

"Even though I assert that the Defendant's comments published in the Newmarket Era were libellous I do not believe my complaint would be successful due to the Limitations Act."

Instead Di Muccio claims Taylor is guilty of

"misfeasance and malfeasance of public office, abuse of power, targeted malice, intentional infliction of mental suffering and injurious falsehoods, breach of confidence and breach of privacy."

Wow!

This guy Taylor sounds like a real monster!

In a delightful twist to the tale, Di Muccio has cited the 2012 case of Morris v Johnson "et al" which she believes is relevant.

The "et al" in the case citation above includes a certain William "Bill" Hogg.

Bill Hogg is, of course, seeking the nomination to run for the Progressive Conservatives in Newmarket-Aurora in the next Provincial election in 2018. Also vying for the nomination is the irrepressible Matilde Di Muccio whose vaulting ambition knows no bounds.

Di Muccio was blocked from contesting the nomination in 2014 by former PC leader, Tim Hudak, on the grounds that she didn't cut the mustard.

I may see the diligent Bill Hogg in Court, making notes.

If so, he too will get the death stare.

Guaranteed.

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Note: Get briefed for the big event here

The earlier trial date, set for 28 October 2016, was postponed as Taylor was unwell.