Last week, I learn from Stephen Fung, York Region’s Water and Wastewater expert, that the sewage capacity constraints that hold back development in Newmarket will be lifted in 2020. By then, a huge new pipe, buried somewhere under our feet, will carry all the sewage away.

But let’s not dwell on that detail.

At present, Newmarket gets an annual water and sewage allocation from York Region. (To see what I am talking about, go to the Committee of the Whole agenda here for 29 April 2013 and scroll to agenda item 15.) So even if a developer gets planning approval to build, the project is stymied until the Town allows the development to be hooked up to the water mains and sewers. The Town can direct the allocation to areas where it wants development (for example, Davis Drive) and away from more problematical neighbourhoods (such as Glenway).

This subtle way of regulating the pace and location of development will soon be gone. There will be no need to ration water and sewage allocations. Once planning approval is granted by the Town, developers can press ahead.

York Region is currently updating various plans and last week’s Open House invited credulous members of the public to come along to the Riverwalk Commons Community Centre to tick boxes and fill in forms with the promise that, by the very act of participating, they can change things. 

As if!

York Region staff and paid consultants are absolutely everywhere, easily outnumbering the public. There are colourful graphics illustrating the issues. This is all part of the great planning industry merry-go-round where people are earnestly invited to give their views - which are then quietly filed away.

I am soon talking to a little knot of planners and hear myself making the case for a publicly funded Planning Advocacy Service funded by the region or, perhaps, a consortium of regions. In my animated way, I remind my audience that we are living in the fastest growing area in North America where the interests of deep-pocketed developers, municipalities and communities will, sooner or later, collide.

Not all neighbourhoods have the money or expertise to defend their own interests and make a persuasive case. A small, modestly funded, Planning Advocacy Service, staffed with skilled professionals, some of whom perhaps doing pro bono work, could be on call, if requested, to offer local communities the help they need to ensure their voice is heard.

I see heads nodding.

But in my head, I hear the sound of a filing cabinet being quietly closed.