Newmarket’s planners have posted on the Town’s website a new 114 page report on the Secondary Plan which looks at developments along the Yonge and Davis corridors.

As expected, it follows the template set out earlier, proposing high rise developments across central Newmarket ranging from 25 storeys at Yonge and Davis to 18 storeys at Yonge and Mulock and 18 storeys around the Regional Health Centre.

Personally, I’d prefer a lower height cap which would encourage development along the corridors and not just at these so called "nodes".

The planners are driving the whole process, saying they are reflecting back to us what we, the public, have been telling them.

Not so.

The professional planners have their own agenda, reshaping Newmarket into a form few of us would recognise.

To read the report go to the planning page on the Town’s website and scroll to the bottom of the page and open: Urban Centres Secondary Plan Directions Report (17 May 2013)

Focus Groups are meeting to consider the report on Thursday 23 May 2013 from 6.30pm - 9pm in Lounge 1 at the Ray Twinney Centre and again on 28 May from 9.30am - 12pm in Hall 4 at the Community Centre, Doug Duncan Drive.


Glenway

The Glenway saga finally reaches Newmarket’s Council Chamber. It is Tuesday 21 May 2013.

As always, the councillors divide into two camps.

On the one hand, our elected spectators, on $47,000 a year, who ask no questions, venture no opinions and say nothing about one of the biggest and most controversial developments ever to hit Newmarket.

And then, fortunately, there are the others.

After a clear, measured presentation by Dave Sovran, who speaks for the Glenway Preservation Association, Ward 7 councillor Chris Emanuel launches into a series of questions. Glenway is in his patch.

He says there is no need to go into camera today even though he understands why this may be felt necessary. People from Mariannville Developments are in the Council Chamber watching and it is not clever to receive your legal advice in front of the opposition. Fair enough.

But why not consider the legal advice in camera? And have the resulting informed debate in public. Councillors can then choose their words with care.

Chris wants the Glenway Preservation Association to have access to the planning consultant hired by the Town to advise on the Glenway file.

Rob Prentice, the head honcho on development and infrastructure matters, says “without prejudice” discussions are going on with the developer. But these, he says, are not in the public domain as was the case with Slessor Square. It is his way of saying no.

Everyone expects an OMB hearing later in the year but what if the OMB moves swiftly. Could there be an OMB summer hearing when the Town’s final report on Glenway may not be available before September? The Town’s trousers would be down around its ankles.

Now Maddie Di Muccio elbows her way to the front of the line, determined to have her say.

She doesn’t want to talk about Glenway in private session. She wants to get it all off her chest now.

She fumes that the Council voted, against her advice, to hire an outside consultant at $65,000 a year to advise on Glenway.

She says she wanted Glenway residents to have oversight of the whole process but her proposal was torpedoed by the Council.

Now it’s getting personal. She turns to look at Chris Emanuel.

They sit next to each other but, ideologically and temperamentally, they are a million light years apart.

An exasperated Chris Emanuel says he opposed, on legal advice, Maddie’s idea of an “ad hoc” committee.

Maddie is now getting very agitated and I am waiting for her to stomp out of the Council Chamber. Her performances are beautifully theatrical.

There isn’t anyone else who can affect indignation in quite the way she can. She is superb.

Now the Mayor is insisting she retract something or other. And she does, while protesting, as is her way.

It is as plain as a pikestaff they can’t stand each other.

John Taylor makes a few interventions addressing process issues. He says the 180 days specified in the Planning Acts that municipalities have to consider complex applications is unrealistic. Most appeals to the OMB by developers now cite the failure by councils to meet this impossible deadline. And, yes, he supports convening in camera to receive legal advice.

Now a touch of vaudeville as Tom Vegh waves a yellow sheet of paper in the air that, apparently, relates to the secret session on Glenway that comes up later in the agenda.

What if the Council votes not to go into camera? What, he asks, would be the status of this confidential report?

Robert Shelton, the top administrative man, intones that the report stays confidential even if the Council votes to discuss things in open session.

The proceduralists are now tying themselves in knots.

Now an interesting question from Dave Kerwin.

He calls Dave Sovran back to the stand, so to speak, and asks him how much Mariannville paid for the Glenway lands.

Dave is unwilling to go down that road and bats the ball back to Kerwin.

But I am intrigued.

How is this relevant? And what was in Dave Kerwin’s mind when he asked the question?

He tells me later it would be nice to know how much the land is worth. It is all knowledge. Hmmm.

Seems to me that if Mariannville loses at the OMB they will be stuck with land they cannot develop and the Town, of course, is under no obligation to buy.

But Councillor Kerwin’s question gets me thinking.

Perhaps we do need to publicise widely the price paid by developers for land in Newmarket.

We could go further and unmask the developers who shelter behind numbered companies.

And we could report on political donations made by those very same developers to our elected representatives in Newmarket.

It is 13 May 2013 and Glenway residents are out in force again to hear Christina Bisanz and Dave Sovran set out the battle plan against Marianneville Developments who want to build on the Estate’s former golf course which they now own.

The lounge at the Ray Twinney centre is packed.

The Town’s official plan designates the Glenway land as open space. But it is private land, not public.

The audacious developer has now gone to the OMB, citing the Town’s failure to determine the planning application within the specified 180 days. They also say Frank Klees’ Private Members Bill has forced their hand, obliging them to act.

The fact that the developer can do this while refusing to answer a slew of legitimate questions posed by the public, demonstrates how hopelessly bankrupt the whole process is.

The easy mannered Dave Sovran, the Vice Chair of the Glenway Preservation Association, rules out any possibility of a meeting of minds between the developer, the Town and the residents. Mediation is a non starter. Clearly, this is a fight to the death.

Dave tells us he will be addressing the Town’s Committee of the Whole next Tuesday (21 May). Councillors will then convene in a closed session to consider a woefully thin report from staff on the Glenway issue. He expects the final report in September when the Town will take its formal position on the Marianneville application.

Now the GPA chair, Christina Bisanz, goes through an impressively long checklist, highlighting the things the Glenway executive has been doing.

They are supporting the Frank Klees Bill even though it has a vanishingly small chance of becoming law.

She says: “We are making Town staff very aware of what we feel.”

Seems to me that’s a smart move since the planners write the scripts that the councillors so often rubber stamp.

She tells us the Mayor stands with the GPA in defending the official plan.

Ward 7 councillor, Chris Emanuel, detects a “big desire” in other councillors to defend the official plan that wants to keep open space in Glenway.

Persona non grata is the unnamed councillor – presumed to be the acidic Maddie Di Muccio – who thinks it would be inappropriate for “taxpayers’ dollars” to be wasted on an OMB hearing.

Christina Bisanz is now rallying the troops, promising, if needs be, to lie down in front of bulldozers! 

She tells us: “This is NOT a done deal!”

Now we are talking about the Secondary Plan which is mapping out the future of Newmarket. Tiny numbers of the public are actively involved in the focus groups that form a key part of the process that is being steered by the all-powerful Town planners.

Christina urges everyone to get involved. “It’s a low investment in time for a high reward.”

Some people think the Secondary Plan is all stitched up. Not so, says Chris Emanuel, who is now steeped in an unnecessarily  long discourse on sewage and water capacity.

He moves on to talk about the Secondary Plan, reminding everyone it will look at developments in the Yonge Davis corridors, not Glenway. That said, its impact will be felt across the Town.

Now we are on to the nuts and bolts of the campaign to secure Glenway’s future.

Dave is tight lipped about how much has been raised. (Don’t understand the reticence myself.) But he says $150,000 is needed to hire a lawyer (six interviewed so far) and a planner. A five week hearing at the OMB doesn’t come cheap.

No lawyer is going to do the work for nothing.

A woman from the floor suggests an “investigator” should be hired as well to sniff out any evidence of corrupt dealings. I expect a gale of laughter.

Instead, people ponder.

Diplomatically, Dave rules this out while conceding the obvious.

“We know developers have strong relationships with politicians.” 

(A statement both true and, importantly, not actionable.)

In the audience I sense a huge scepticism about the OMB and its impartiality. Lots of people believe it is in the pocket of developers.

Now it’s back to fundraising and an impressive range of money-making events over the next few months.

We learn that if everyone living on Glenway donated $250, the campaign would be home-and-dry. But that’s not the way of the world. Even in this neck of the woods.

Dave Sovran will be speaking at the Town’s “Committee of the Whole (Council)” next Tuesday, 21 May 2013, at 1.30pm.

It meets in the Council Chamber at 395 Mulock Drive.

Just received a reassuring email from Rick Nethery, Newmarket’s top planner, about the Town’s historic Main Street which is currently being sized up by drooling developers.

The Town has a policy on the Historic Conservation District dating from 2011 but it is not yet embedded in a By Law.

Here Rick Nethery explains:

Thank you for your e-mail regarding the implementation of the Lower Main Street South Heritage Conservation District. Mayor Van Bynen has asked me to respond to your e-mail on his behalf.

Council has directed that the Heritage District bylaw be approved however,  administratively the Town has not been in a position to do so due to lack of human resources to fully administer the Plan.   Staff will bring the matter of the implementation of this plan forward as part of the 2014 Budget deliberations. 

We can assure you that in the interim, any applications that are received by the Planning Department for redevelopment within the district boundaries will be reviewed against the policies of the plan, including consultation with the Town’s Heritage Committee, Heritage Newmarket as well as requiring Heritage Assessments as appropriate.

Furthermore, the normal and usual Planning Act processes are still required for any significant development proposals in the area. This may include site plan approval and/or zoning by-law amendments which require Council approval. Through these processes, Council can, among other things, consider the compatibility of any proposal with the surrounding uses.

Thank you for your continued interest in Newmarket’s growth.

This is very encouraging but it does beg one or two questions.

If the Heritage Conservation District policy stands on its own, buttressed if needs be by the usual Planning Act processes, why is a By Law needed?

Put simply, what does the By Law do that the policy on its own does not do?

And does it matter to the Forrest Group that there is, as yet, no By Law?

A draft By Law which would protect Newmarket’s historic downtown from developers has been sitting on a shelf at Mulock Drive for two years, gathering dust.

Meanwhile, a developer with designs on Main Street, the Forrest Group, is methodically putting together plans to redevelop the Clock Tower site and demolish irreplaceable historic commercial buildings in the heart of the old downtown.

Councillors know this, yet they are sitting on their hands, waiting for the application to be filed, rather than putting in place immediately a By Law that would safeguard some of the Town’s most historic buildings and preserve unique vistas and panoramas.

The Mayor has today been urged to act (see letter below).

The draft Heritage Impact Assessment prepared by Goldsmith Borgal and Co Ltd Architects for the Forrest Group concedes on page 15:

… the proposed development does not meet the Town’s policies and objectives related to heritage such as

  1. Maintaining the historic scale in the Historic downtown at two, two-and-one-half, or three stories.
  2. Protecting heritage by retaining and restoring existing buildings

The developer's heritage impact assessment says nothing about the obliteration of sight-lines and vistas which are celebrated in the Town’s Heritage District Conservation Plan 2011

This Saturday why not join a walk of historic Newmarket and see what is threatened?

Adrian Cammaert, a planning professional, will be leading a “Jane’s Walk” of historic Newmarket this Saturday, 4 May at 11am starting out at the foot of Main Street. All welcome.

The walk is in honour of Jane Jacobs, the urban thinker, writer and activist. Adrian explains:

 “Jane’s Walk” is a very large, international event whereby participating communities host walks with the intent of getting people out and actively experiencing the places in which the live and work.   

Hope to see you there.


30 April 2013

Dear Mr Mayor

Heritage Conservation District on Main Street South

I am writing to ask you to take immediate steps to bring forward a By Law to create a Heritage Conservation District on Main Street South.

The Council approved the Heritage Conservation District Plan for Lower Main Street South at its meeting on 30 May 2011 but the enabling By Law has never been implemented.

The matter is now urgent. As you know, developers are knocking at the door with plans to transform the Heritage District and, in the process, ruin precious sight-lines and vistas.

At the Committee of the Whole yesterday, you received the 5 March 2013 Minutes of the Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee when a presentation was given to Committee members on the proposed Clock Tower redevelopment which would involve, amongst other things, the demolition of historic commercial buildings.

You also received the Minutes of the Main Street District Business Improvement Board of Management held on 19 March 2013. We are told Councillor Sponga “provided a descriptive chronicle of the property issues and former ownership” before informing members that the owner would be outlining the proposed redevelopment at a meeting on 3 April 2013.

You were present at that April meeting (along with Regional Councillor Taylor and Councillors Hempen, Sponga, Emanuel and Twinney) and you would have heard Chris Bobyk, on behalf of the Forrest Group, tell the audience that he hoped an application for the redevelopment of the Clock Tower site would be lodged with the Town in the next few months.

Now that we know what is in the developer’s mind, the Town should take immediate steps to protect the integrity of the historic conservation area and entrench in a By Law the existing Council policy which is set out in the 2011 Heritage District Conservation Plan.

If matters are allowed to drift and the developer, at some point in the future, goes to the OMB, the absence of a By Law could be of material importance.

I am copying this to Regional Councillor Taylor and all Town Councillors and to Athol Hart, the Chair of Heritage Newmarket Advisory Committee.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Prentice

 

In 2011 the Town published a Heritage Conservation plan for Lower Main Street South, showing how best to preserve Newmarket’s wonderful historic downtown. It is council policy but, curiously, I am told this important document awaits the By Law that would put it into effect.

This casual oversight should be remedied without delay.

It is impossible to read the Plan without concluding that the people behind the proposed Clock Tower redevelopment – the Forrest Group - are taking us all for fools.

Chris Bobyk (see below) and his colleagues want us to believe it is possible to dump a huge condo in the very centre of the Town’s famous Main Street without fatally damaging the historic environment.

The Era Banner reports that Ward 5 councillor, Joe Sponga, “is confident the public and the developer will be able to agree on a design that will benefit the area as long as the lines of communication are kept open.”

Personally, I don’t share Joe’s confidence.

The gap between the developer and the rest of us is, quite simply, unbridgeable. The Forrest Group’s proposals run directly counter to the policies set out in the Heritage Conservation plan.

Joe understands this although he seems strangely reluctant to say so. He sat on the Project Steering Committee Group that vetted and then approved the draft Plan.

The agreed final version of the Plan tells us

“Main Street South below the crest of the hill to Water Street is arguably the most historic street in Newmarket… Because of its topography and the scenic views that it creates, Lower Main Street South is one of the most identifiable main streets in the Toronto region.”

And later

“The narrowness of the roadway, the humanly scaled street wall enclosures, the rise in elevation, the four landmarks (the Christian Baptist Church, the Clock Tower on the old Post Office, Trinity United Church and the Old Town Hall) and the wealth of views make Lower Main Street South one of the most visually interesting main streets in the Toronto region.”

The Clock Tower redevelopment would ruin sightlines. The long distance view of the iconic Clock Tower from Lorne and Park Avenue would be blocked.

Panoramic views of the historic district would be wrecked.

The Plan makes it clear that building heights of two to three storeys on Main Street should be maintained. So the developers ingeniously try to get round this by retaining the facades of the commercial buildings in the Clock Tower block and demolishing everything behind.

When the sledgehammers start swinging we will lose a wealth of irreplaceable period features. The old wooden floor in Lemon and Lime, lovingly restored, would be destined for landfill. And much else besides.

Councillors can keep the lines of communication open for as long as they like.

But if they buckle and crumple, as they do, and give the go-ahead to the Forrest Group they will be committing an act of unparalleled civic vandalism.

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