Maddie Di Muccio

Newmarket Councillor - Ward Six

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Wish List vs. Reality

Posted on September 12, 2014 at 12:05 AM




You’re likely reading about it everywhere. As candidates and incumbents are gearing up for campaigns to vie for the thousands of seats up for grabs on municipal councils across Ontario, they’re promising you the world.

Everything from water parks, arts and sports centres, hockey rinks, and even a circus complete with hot air balloon rides. A vote for the right person will get you something in exchange, apparently – even if a petition needs to be started.

Forget that these wonderful things cost money (yours, to be specific) and that pushing these items through actually require support from other members of council and a capital budget supporting it: the naivety and/or spin I’m seeing in some campaigns is mind boggling.

The reality is that as our operational budgets across Ontario increase in size, so do your taxes – which leaves very little room for capital expenditures.

And of the little room leftover, I believe we can all agree that essential infrastructure, such as roads, safe drinking water, storm water maintenance, excellent recreation, and senior services need to take precedence.

It’s not sexy, and it doesn’t look as appealing on campaign literature, but it’s a truth that taxpayers need to know.

In Newmarket, our operational budget actually exceeds the amount of revenue we bring in. That leaves little space for capital expenditures, despite the grants and money received from other governments and developers. When council oversees an annual budget, we collectively decide what projects money should be allocated to.

But that doesn't mean we shouldn't enjoy water parks, services for seniors, or excellent recreational infrastructure. It just means that until we have a serious conversation about allocating our budget to the things we want to see by changing the philosophy of spending, these things don't have a place in our future.

In this term, Newmarket council took part in an exercise during the budget process called a “Wish List.”

The “Wish List” was exactly that: a list of infrastructure items all ward councillors wanted to see in their own wards. Some of these items included splash pads, hockey rinks, and other assorted wonderful things we would all love to see in our neighborhoods.

For his role, Mayor Tony Van Bynen wanted to allocate a few thousand to each ward so that every councillor could use that infrastructure money on what their constituents wished.

Alas – none of these “wishes” saw the light of day. They were doomed even before they were created.

That’s because during a budget exercise, optics are important. Making it look as though water parks, hockey rinks, and basketball courts take priority over other projects that benefit a few is all about politics and not people.

If you’re wondering, as a taxpayer, why your ward doesn’t have these wonderful things, here’s why:

In this term alone, council spent millions taking from our reserves to fund cost over-runs on an Old Town Hall, bailing out a poorly managed private sports league, fighting a development battle that they knew was doomed from the beginning, funding driveway extensions for a select group of homeowners upset with a new sidewalk, putting in a state-of-the-art dog park after a capital budget was passed to fulfill a councillor's campaign promise, and so many others – because there was no room from the capital budget.

On the other hand, money for projects allocated from the capital budget (will) include: a preposterous multi-million dollar “broadband” infrastructure that might create a handful of jobs, pumping money into certain Main Street businesses (some of whom donate to the mayor’s campaign – this is all publicly accessible information); and re-building a new Town Hall that, after over 4 years, is still in the works.

When you see the number figure, in the high millions, you realize how so many of those capital dollars could have gone into the wonderful things we all want to see: beautiful parks, neighborhoods with sports pads, ice rinks, splash pads, etc.

For the record, during the budget process, most council members (including myself) brought forward their very own “Wish List” for their constituents.

None of these items were implemented in any ward.

And for the record, every single council member turned down my $1 million+ recommendations on simple operational budget saving measures in order to see that wish list - including their own - come to fruition.

The next time you’re at the ballot, ask yourself which candidate is serious about making things happen.

Talk is cheap, especially during an election.

Actions – through our records on the other hand, speak very loud.


Broadband, Mr. Mayor? How about taking care of taxpayer infrastructure needs first?

Posted on September 9, 2014 at 11:35 AM




The last two months of Newmarket council has been an interesting experience. I say this because as incumbents head into elections, certain campaign promises have been inexplicably plowed through despite passing our 2014 capital budget a year ago.

One of these was a dog park promised by Regional Councillor John Taylor and ward 3 councillor Jane Twinney. (See here: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42530768-how-your-tax-reserves-are-going-to-the-dogs)

And last night, after distributing campaign literature on “bringing broadband to Newmarket” to create a handful of jobs (a strategy based entirely on a theory), the mayor and his dutiful council allies attempted to convince the public that directing staff to request an RFP (Request for Proposal) was something that simply couldn’t wait 7 weeks from now.

After a term of spending your taxes on questionable projects that truly benefit a few – and as we struggle with gridlock and increased population – this council has now decided that millions should be allocated to becoming your next Internet Service Provider, using your taxes to fund an initiative installing broadband cable in a pilot project along Main St, Davis Drive East, and Leslie Street.

Forget that none of the major providers such as Rogers and Bell have expressed interest (including so-called partner Southlake Hospital, who states the “gigabite community isn’t a specific driver for the hospital”;): the mayor believes he knows best.

He wants to use your taxes to fund a risky, expensive initiative so that he can bring in a handful of jobs to Newmarket because a report commissioned by an American company, who promotes broadband and uses examples of success in places such as Kansas City, Singapore, Amsterdam and London, says it might be a good idea.

The report, titled Initial Stakeholder Meeting and Gigabit Corridor Economic Impact Statement can be read here: http://newmarket.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/cache/2/e53mjnazi0seo0px5vgrx2rf/1674609092014095501106.PDF

When council discussed this report last week, the mayor cut off my questions while allowing other councillors to speak in praise of the project. I’m not certain some of these members actually read the report. For example, Councillor Kerwin claimed it was a robust report that contained over 60 pages (it’s actually 30). The councillor, who doesn't own a website, insisted it would be "irresponsible" for us not to invest in this project.  

For his part, Councillor Vegh claimed it wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime (the report states it could be millions).

Others, such as Regional Councillor John Taylor and Councillor Chris Emanuel, attempted to impress they were experts in the field of economic partnerships with the private sector, insisting this project was collaboration of expert advice from “hundreds of businesses.”

The reality is the “evaluation team” consisted of 20 stakeholders (it wasn’t clear who they were), a “Community Collaboration Ecosystem Team” (not certain who they were either), one technology firm, and the hospital (who have stated this agenda is not an initiative that interests them). In all, just over “50 stakeholders” were involved in this project – some whom sit on the Newmarket Economic Advisory Committee and who contribute to Mayor Tony Van Bynen’s campaign.

If you take the time to read the report, you’ll see that in fact, some stakeholders provided feedback that I attempted to convey in council. Who would pay for such a project? What about the costs to infrastructure? There may be a necessity to borrow money from the bank for this initiative.

The report also goes on to say that it can only provide “general cost guidelines for the project; and that pricing is high level. “ In addition, “decision-makers (need to) take into account the large number of economic variables…that will influence the final economic output from any infrastructure investment.”

Yet council members were quick to defend the project, believing that despite the authors of the report recommending the idea start with a RFI (Request for Information), council instead decided a RFP (Request for Proposal - which usually signifies an intention) was a better idea.

The idea that council is contemplating spending a million or more on a gamble that might create a handful of jobs in Newmarket without public consultation; or fully understanding the scope of the project - with so many questions left unanswered - is staggering.

If Mayor Van Bynen and council believe this project is beneficial they need to take it to the 50,000+ voters – not a handful of stakeholders.

Let the October 27th election be a referendum on his job creation strategy.

We are at the end of a term. Laying a foundation for the next term is simply undemocratic.

Mr. Mayor, focus on our existing infrastructure. Develop our parks, our roads; invest in smart development.

The best economic plan is to lower business taxes and allow the free market to decide on what’s crucial.

For those of you watching the ward 6 race, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was pleased to see ward 6 candidate and mayor ally Kelly Broome Plumley attending her first council meeting as we discussed the broadband project. Like many of the councillors beside me however, I noticed she giggled when I asked questions about how taxes would be allocated to the project.

And even as those questions went unanswered, voters: take note. There’s nothing funny about wasting your money.


Street Safety in Newmarket: are we doing enough?

Posted on September 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM


For the past several years, York Region Police has identified speeding on residential streets in York Region as one of the top concerns among citizens in their annual surveys to the public.

As a municipal councillor, it’s one of the top matters among residents I hear as well. You might be surprised to learn that the majority of speeders live within 5km of the area, according to statistics.

Our lives and our neighborhoods contribute to this growing problem. As we grow in population, we also grow in challenges.

For example, municipalities will build schools close to homes – something that’s always made sense. But as we see an increase in development, we also see an increase in vehicles using residential streets, as arterial roads become blocked. In turn this might prevent some families from feeling secure in allowing their children to walk to school – which results in even more cars in a hurry to drop off their kids.

As you can see, it’s a vicious cycle. And my point is that it’s a very complex problem.

It’s a problem that is gaining more attention, however – and that’s a good thing. The Town of Newmarket is working closely with York Region Police to implement pro-active measures; from the town’s perspective engineering designs and from the police, enforcement. At the moment, we are in the midst of educating the public through several campaigns (this morning, York Regional Police were presenting “ABC” – Always Be Careful - at Clearmeadow Public School).

(For the record, York Region Police has been extremely pro-active with speeders; they’ve always responded to my requests for patrol cars in certain areas of ward 6 and encourage residents to use the Road Watch program: http://www.yrp.ca/roadwatch.aspx)

Additionally, the town of Newmarket is providing “slow down” signs to the public and encouraging residents to place them on their own lawns (you can contact me for one or ask the town directly). Please note, these signs were kindly donated and so are limited in number.

Currently, the town’s strategy of addressing the challenge of speeding on residential streets includes the use of a speed board to track speed (rotated among the wards) and working with the police to identify “hot spots” of speeding. If you think that’s not enough, I would agree with you.

Here’s what the town of Newmarket’s Engineering Department is currently proposing to council:

Earlier this summer, on July 16th, Engineering Services presented a report to council. You can see that council meeting here: http://newmarket.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=155&doctype=AGENDA

The report contained research on state-of-the-art and best practices in traffic calming, including education programs throughout North America and abroad. This report can be read here: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/townhall/resourcelibrary/2014TrafficMitigationStrategy-Subjecttofundingin2015.pdf

Based on that research, staff asked council to go forward with a proposal for a strategy to address traffic mitigation in Newmarket. Council accepted this proposal in principle – but it’s important to know that asking for a strategy isn’t the same as implementing one.

It’s crucial to note that the recommendations for the Traffic Mitigation Strategy Report are not in place yet and will only be possible if Council provides resources for such projects in 2015.

Thus it will be determined in a new term of council - after this election - if council will give the go-ahead for the budget and resources Engineering Services will require to implement an aggressive traffic calming plan for our neighborhoods.

Personally, I would not only welcome such a proposal, I would advocate for it. In this term alone, I’ve seen millions of our taxes wasted on projects that veered away from the municipal mandate of serving the majority of taxpayers. This includes millions wasted on unwinnable legal battles, an unprecedented soccer loan, and rejuvenating an Old Town Hall building that keeps going over budget. And just recently, council supported seeking a Request For Proposal (RFP) for a pilot project potentially costing millions to get into the business of broadband internet services.

I was encouraged last week when I spoke to our director of Engineering Services and our new Commissioner of Development and Infrastructure Services on the exciting initiatives proposed - initiatives that will include recommendations for public input and involvement.

In my opinion, the business of municipal council is to ensure taxpayers are enjoying a quality of life deserving of the taxes they pay.


The security of our children’s well-being is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. You can’t put a price-tag on that.

I encourage residents to pay attention to the next term of council’s approaches to this very aggressive and exciting proposal from Engineering to make our streets safe – as they’re meant to be.


How a reckless deal comes home to roost

Posted on August 23, 2014 at 12:50 AM

 

Last evening, I received notice that the Woodbine land owned by the Newmarket Soccer Club has been sold. This morning I learned it was sold far below it's appraised value that was presented to council last summer.

Yet the town's communication on this - just before an election - is being extolled as extremely positive for taxpayers.

My opposition to the Soccer Club bail out has been well documented.

To be clear, despite what others may say, I am not against the community group itself, nor any of its members. My only concern is for the taxpayers and the public money being used. In my opinion, this bailout was given without any consideration to how it benefits taxpayers.

The Mayor and Regional Councillor both placed ads in the paper boasting the supposed benefits (despite the fact that they refused to support my motion that would have made the background details of the loan available to the public). These gentlemen argued that the details could not be made public because they could adversely affect the sale price of the Woodbine property. Now that the property has been sold, I am curious to know what excuse they will use to block your access to the loan details.

What they did say in their advertisement last year in the local paper was that the loan was secured by the value of the Woodbine and Newpark (soccer centre) properties. Based on appraisals provided to Council by the Newmarket Soccer Club (and that these appraisals have been kept from the public), those lands were valued at either $4.5 million (according to Mayor Van Bynen) or $4.7 million (according to Regional Councillor Taylor).

Taxpayers should be concerned that the final sale price of the Woodbine property sold for 30% less than the appraised value.

The Town of Newmarket has proscribed procedures that require appraisals whenever buying or selling land. I asked for independent appraisals on these properties last year; but the Mayor and his allies refused. They bent the rules to expedite the loan - and today, taxpayers paid the price with 30% less than anticipated returns on the sale of the Woodbine property.

Naturally, this begs the question on the value of the Soccer Centre. I will be calling on the Mayor and Council to comply with our established procedures and immediately seek an independent appraisal on the Newpark property. We don’t want to be caught in a situation where the amount of the mortgage exceeds the value of the property.

Government compensation for Davis Drive businesses: Fact or Fiction?

Posted on August 7, 2014 at 1:00 PM




 

Earlier this week an allegation was made on Twitter that there was some type of government "compensation” for businesses on Davis Drive who presumably suffered revenue losses due to the ongoing construction of the VIVA NEXT bus lane. The tweet stressed that residents should “help get the word out” (without actually providing any details of this “program” when asked).

This claim was made by a key member of the Newmarket Economic Advisory Committee and a campaign supporter of both Mayor Tony Van Bynen and ward six candidate Kelly Broome Plumley. The individual referred to apparent "compensation" he was applying for his own Davis Drive business.

I was intrigued that such a program would exist – especially because if it did we wouldn’t be hearing the outcry of so many Davis Drive businesses (who are rightfully upset).

So I decided to make inquiries myself. I called Michelle Dudzik, Community Liaison, Business Support for VIVA NEXT and asked her if this program existed. She said it didn’t.

Then I called the Director of Capital Planning for York Region Government Salim Elibhei, who confirmed there was no such program from York Region either, partly because it would set a risky precedent for government to compensate all businesses in the Region affected by construction.

I personally have not heard of any program in Newmarket that gives compensation to the Davis Drive businesses that have been ravaged by the construction of an unnecessary bus lane. In fact, the only tax grants provided to Newmarket businesses comes from the $150,000+/year provided to Main Street. A council appointed committee – some of whom have donated in the past to several incumbent council members’ campaigns – are in charge of doling out these taxes to whatever businesses they chose.

I think during an election year especially, it’s important that Mayor Tony Van Bynen’s team provide facts to taxpayers.

And if there is some type of "grant" that we don't know about for Davis Drive businesses - a claim made by a Davis Drive business owner, committee member of the Town's Economic Development board, and campaign supporter of Mayor Tony Van Bynen and his ward 6 candidate Kelly Broome Plumley, we should know about it.

We deserve nothing less.


How your tax reserves are going to the dogs

Posted on July 29, 2014 at 5:40 PM




A few weeks ago, the Newmarket Era wrote a stunningly lukewarm, half page, ho-hum article about what was arguably Newmarket council’s most pressing agenda item this term – an item that took staff 4 years to put together and involved several council workshops. That was the passing of a growth plan (the Secondary Urban Plan) that will change the face of our town forever; forcing population densities above what Mississauga and Brampton are today. The writer didn’t bother to explain it was an 8-1 vote and my reasons on why I voted against it, making it seem like council was united in a future of bursting population complete with gridlock on par with Toronto. (Here’s why I voted against it: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/42415695-how-4-years-can-change-council-s-tune)


Yet last week, the same paper wrote about a less pressing issue: Newmarket’s first dog park. The article made a point to explain an 8-1 vote while pointedly leaving out why I was the sole vote against the park.


These tactics don’t surprise me. The Newmarket Era are friends of mayor Tony Van Bynen, enjoying hundreds of thousands of dollars in town advertising and frequent lunches with Van Bynen via your tax dollars. The mayor likes these folks so much that he even gets them to sit on various town committees and groups.


It’s an election year in the middle of gridlock hell as development and bad planning becomes the norm, and those politicians responsible are treated with kid gloves by their friends.


I'd like to explain why I was the sole vote against Newmarket’s first dog park, since there seems to be some confusion about the funding.



The dog park was not part of the 2014 capital budget and was passed quickly during an election year, funded by your reserves.



A staff report claims that a $50,000 private sponsorship funding request for a dog park exceeded expectations and doubled in number. It was so terrific, in fact, that staff decided to double the amount of spending for the park that council originally authorized, claiming we should have a park with all the bells and whistles. It wouldn’t be a problem, they said, since sponsors would pay for most of it and an additional $50,000 would be covered through development fees (fees that normally cover core services, such as the parks for children we’re seeing less of).


And yet the same report asked council to authorize the entire park to be funded through our reserves – despite this sponsorship.


It didn’t make sense.


So I asked staff whether we had collected an actual cheque from the sponsors.


This was difficult for them to answer. That’s because Mayor Van Bynen continually interrupted my questions in an attempt to re-phrase them himself. The Mayor often answers questions for staff. But after several run-arounds, it was finally admitted that the money in fact WASN'T collected by the sponsors and that it was simply a "commitment" only.


You can watch the video here: http://newmarket.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/mtgviewer.aspx?meetid=289&doctype=AGENDA


And that's precisely why we had to raid our reserves. It's the same way we raided our reserves for the $3 million soccer loan. It was based on a promise of being paid back. Most taxpayers don't even realize that the soccer club hasn't paid us back a dime of what we loaned them yet. It is due to this history of "commitments" that I couldn't support the park. As a councillor tasked with full accountability of public funds, I couldn't support a commitment on a contract I haven't even seen yet.


Mayor Tony Van Bynen (and his friends on council) wants taxpayers to believe that it’s apparently not “unusual” to raid our tax reserves and then get a promise of repayment through sponsorships and/or loans. But here’s the record: so far, we haven’t seen a single dime for the $500,000 of sponsorships for the Old Town Hall, the $2.8 million for the Soccer loan, and now, the $100,000 for the dog park.


All of these have been paid for by using tax reserves meant for core services.


Here’s the reality: the costs associated with the dog park doubled from what was initially asked because this council can't help but spend more money than they need to. In addition, staff admitted that maintenance costs suggested ($25,000) could be higher than what was estimated.


Taxpayers are fully subsidizing the use of an expensive dog park with no user fees to dog businesses and owners and yet kids and families have to pay to swim and skate. Does this make any sense?


Here’s another reality: when you hear council cry the joys of sponsorship commitments that actually haven't been collected, ask yourselves why your taxes keep going up every year.


Certain Newmarket Councillors have been lobbying for a dog park while targeting and collecting emails from those interested parties in time for an election campaign.


These kinds of decisions and projects during an election year are completely unacceptable in my mind.



 




How real accomplishments sometimes hinder an election year

Posted on July 14, 2014 at 3:35 PM




On June 3rd, at the request of another member of Newmarket Council, town staff released an internal email listing our accomplishments at Council for the term of 2010-2014.


It was not a bad suggestion from whoever had initiated it; I felt the list would give us a perspective of what we offered taxpayers and how we used our time in council to benefit residents.


Some of the items included the opening of the "Dave Kerwin Trail" (Kerwin is a member of council); the approval of the Old Town Hall (a $10+ million project); a budget consultation with the public; a mayor and staff delegation to Finland, various proclamations and awards - among other things.


What didn't make the list, to my sincere shock, was an initiative so unprecedented and beneficial to taxpayers, that Newmarket is the only municipality in York Region to have undertaken it.


Here's some background:


After years of debate, votes, and discussion, staff finally implemented a motion I had introduced back in June of 2011 to record all council votes and make them easily accessible to the public. Along with what I termed a "Transparency Motion", our Committee meetings (meetings at which we make our decisions as we discuss town business) were to be recorded, live streamed, and archived for later viewing for the public: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/7458953-transparency-motion-on-newmarket-council


In addition, council expenses were to be posted online and published on the town's website on a quarterly basis.


It wasn't easy to get this passed - especially because all 8 of my colleagues originally voted against it; and were pressured to adopt it when I lobbied both the media and the public for support.


Regardless, although it took over two years to implement what I consider to be a simple initiative, it finally was.


More importantly however, York Region taxpayers should know that none of the 9 municipalities that make up York Region have implemented such a system. In fact the Region of York, a level of government in charge of over a $1.2 billion capital budget (and a $6.6 billion ten year term capital budget) of your tax dollars doesn't even have a system of recorded votes of their politicians; nor do they archive their meetings for public consumption.


When I tabled a resolution - despite some opposition - a few years ago in Newmarket council, for York Region to live stream their meetings for the public, they eventually did so. But what they didn't do is archive them for later viewing. A ludicrous decision and a telling one.


Transparency and open government is forefront to our system of a successful democracy. Our records in office gives voters, especially at election time, a picture of what we stand for.


In the 21st century, there is no excuse for not having this technology.


Displaying our records should be an incredible - and proud - accomplishment unto ourselves and on behalf of taxpayers.


Unfortunately, it didn't make the list.





 

 

How 4 years can change council's tune

Posted on June 24, 2014 at 2:10 PM




Last night, in an 8-1 vote, Newmarket council ratified an aggressive growth plan that will put Newmarket's population density higher than what Mississauga or Brampton is today. To get a better vision of this, understand that Mississauga's size is 292.4 sq km versus Newmarket's 38.3 sq km and you'll see how reckless this vision is.









In fact, one councillor, Jane Twinney, suggested I was "irresponsible" to vote against the plan. That's because Mayor Van Bynen needs as many allies as possible on council to plow this type of aggressive development in our town over the next term.

By the year 2041, Newmarket council's plan will have created a population density of 3400 people per sq km, well exceeding that of current Mississauga.

I couldn't support this plan - not because, as one councillor suggested, that I was anti-growth. In fact my record shows that when it comes to growth, common sense should be the deciding factor - not what a bureaucrat tells you to do.

Increasing our density by a whopping 60% in one of the smallest size communities identified under the Places To Grow act is simply foolish.

Every five years, the province of Ontario requires municipalities to create a "Secondary" urban plan and identify areas of intensification. In 2005, the Liberal government identified Newmarket as a target for the "Places To Grow" Act - thereby forcing a small sized community of 38.3 sq km and a population of 80,000 to grow to 96,000. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newmarket,_Ontario


A year later, the town of Newmarket, with both Mayor Van Bynen and Regional Councillor John Taylor at the helm, endorsed that plan for a population of 96,000 Source: http://www.newmarket.ca/en/townhall/resources/5233_1037705_NM_ComReport08_final.pdf

But in 2013 our politicians felt that number wasn't big enough. They decided to expand York Region's numbers by nearly 20%. For Newmarket, that meant an increase from 96,000 to 130,000. Source: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/3885930-york-region-adjusting-plans-for-amended-population-projection/


I would be remiss if I didn't give Georgina Mayor Rob Grossi credit, who challenged his colleagues at the region to "simply say no to the revised population and job numbers."  http/www.yorkregion.com/news-story/3885930-york-region-adjusting-plans-for-amended-population-

Last night though, both Mayor Tony Van Bynen and Regional Councillor John Taylor defended those numbers, insisting intensification was good for us and we couldn't do anything about it anyways.

Remember election year, 2010? Those same members of council tried to convince a theatre of voters that they would fight to preserve our neighborhoods (Glenway) and the growth the province insisted on. In fact they spent hundreds of thousands of your tax dollars to prove it to you. At that time, we had a council that was determined to challenge the province's legislation - even supporting then MPP Frank Klees' private bill (although flawed) that set out to preserve our existing neighborhoods.

But yesterday, these same members of council decided your community wasn't worth fighting for after all.

And we need less of those types of politicians.




 

How Council can help the Newmarket Soccer Club

Posted on April 29, 2014 at 10:25 AM





In yesterday's council meeting, it was revealed that despite a $2.8 million loan taken from the town's reserves, the Newmarket Soccer Club still owes outstanding fees to other organizations.

Contrary to what some believe, the deal council gave to this club stipulates that the Newmarket Soccer Club is not required to back the $2.8 million dollar loan until the Woodbine lands are sold. Currently, the NSC is only paying interest on this loan.

The agreement made with the NSC was that the club would begin loan payments as soon as the Woodbine lands were sold. Our agreement with the club stipulates that if these lands were not sold within 6 months from when the property was listed for sale, the town could become a more active participant.

In light of the fact that we are now going into month 6, I had made some suggestions in yesterday's meeting that could help council and the NSC meet their target in selling off this property.

Step 1: when granting the $2.8 million loan, the town bypassed its policy of hiring our own separate appraiser (against my advice) and instead used a 2010 appraisal from the NSC for the Woodbine lands. Yesterday I explained that by getting the ball rolling on our own appraisal, we would have a better idea of what these lands are worth. This appraiser needs to be experienced specifically with pricing farmland.

When the loan was granted, staff insisted (and council defended) that it would take 3-6 months to sell the Woodbine property - land that is marked for agriculture. We are now in month 8.

By now, it's quite clear that the 2010 appraisal does not reflect current market conditions, or else the property would have been sold already.

Step 2: ensuring we retain the services of a real estate agent experienced in selling farmland.

Step 3: I received more information from a news article than I did from our own NSC quarterly report. I asked staff to be more thorough in the next update. It was unfortunate that Mayor Van Bynen stated that the quarterly report should only include questions from council. This is not the definition of a quarterly report.

A report should include:

-how many new registrants for the 2014 year (it was explained that numbers would exceed this year);

-any outstanding debts;

-volunteer numbers;

-etc.

Staff promised they would "look into" a plan with the club next week after I expressed my concerns.

I think it goes without saying that the behaviours from both mayor Van Bynen and especially regional councillor John Taylor in yesterday's meeting while discussing the NSC report highlighted their end game.

For example, Taylor mistakenly believed a detail I revealed was in fact an in-camera item. Even as he was proven wrong, he continued to defend the secrecy around the deal and attack my integrity instead.

Mayor Van Bynen - for his role - insisted that discussing the quarterly report was unnecessarily "re-hashing" the issue.

It's truly stunning that certain members of this council continue to push the idea that spending $2.8 million of your money can be decided in secret and arrogantly pushed aside in public.


Yesterday's meeting can be viewed here: http://newmarket.siretechnologies.com/sirepub/mobilemtgviewer.aspx?meetid=135&doctype=AGENDA


 

 

Setting the record straight on Glenway

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 1:30 PM



"2010, Election Year: Councillor Emanuel, Regional Councillor John Taylor and Mayor Van Bynen make it clear to over 400 residents in a packed theatre they will do whatever it takes to fight on behalf of Glenway residents. They're greeted with cheers and applause." -Nov 26th, 2013, "Glenway: Victory or Defeat?" www.maddiedimuccio.com



This morning the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and Town of Newmarket met to present documents for the settlement with Marianneville at the scheduled public hearing, which took place at Best Western Voyageur, on Yonge Street, Newmarket.

With the exception of councillor Emanuel, council voted to settle with the developer and to allow the development of 742 units (including single detached, townhouse condos, apartments and 'live-work' units) on lands once used as a golf course that backed onto private residences.

The town's "Land Use Designation" in our official policy as it pertains to the Glenway golf course lands has thus been changed from "Parks and Open Space" to "Stable Residential, Emerging Residential and Commercial."

A town staff memo indicates "The amendment facilitates more intensive residential development in the vicinity of Davis Drive and particularly within walking distance of a major transit station, the Newmarket GO Bus Terminal."

Increased park land designation has also been included with the settlement, which is a terrific win.

Residents of Glenway have advocated for years to protect the land from development and a committee was formed called the Glenway Preservation Authority (GPA). The Authority worked with staff and council and applied their philosophy of careful development to all development projects in Newmarket - not just the one affecting their homes.

Yesterday, on behalf of the GPA, Dave Sovran stated the group felt "abandoned by council" and that they "saw no evidence of how (their) input was addressed in these negotiations."

There isn't any doubt tensions were high on council yesterday as we broke the news on the settlement with Marianneville. In one bizarre moment, for example, Regional Councillor John Taylor suddenly interrupted the meeting because he didn't like my twitter feed explaining my thoughts on his (and other colleague's) record regarding the Glenway file.

There have been many rumours about councillor's intentions via gossip, innuendo and flat-out falsehoods. I fully believe certain council members are behind this nonsense. This is unacceptable because it turns a legitimate issue into a political one. And when this happens, stakeholders lose out.

Which is why it's extremely important to highlight each councillor's record on this file and to provide the facts. It's important because while councillors Twinney, Emanuel, and Taylor pontificated about how they will continue to do whatever they could to protect green space lands in Newmarket during yesterday's meeting, the only thing they actually contributed was reading from prepared statements and stonewalling proposals that would have ensured Glenway residents had a seat in the negotiations that I had tabled over the years.

Council wants you to believe they care deeply about the atrocity of the Glenway development. Here are their records:

Council meeting, September 27th, 2011:

I tabled a motion for the "creation of a (Glenway) task force consisting of two council members and five members of the public to oversee the actions of the consultant, review the final report and advise council on the recommendations in the planning report."

All of my colleagues, including councillor Emanuel, voted against this: http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1456426-no-glenway-task-force-yet/ and http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=70&sid=3183&gid=85155 and
http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/8999505-my-resolution-for-transparency-on-the-newmarket-glenway-issue-lost

Result: Yesterday the GPA stated to council "none of the issues of Glenway residents appear to have been in the settlement issues. As of today, we're left with a feeling of abandonment by council."

Council meeting, September 27th, 2011:

In a 8-1 vote, I opposed staff's recommendation to hire an outside consultant for the Marianneville development application on the following principles, copied here from my blog written October 19th, 2011 :

"1) There is no oversight of the consultant. The consultant would be expected to review the application free of any influence from staff (Council previously rejected my proposal to have oversight by a committee of residents and Councillors too). What this means is the independent consultant’s final recommendation on the application is his/her own to make. One possible outcome would be the consultant, while referencing the Growth Plan and the Places to Grow Act (2005), recommending approval of the Kirbel application.

2) If the Town’s consultant recommends approval of the Kirbel development application, there can be no conceivable way that we can take this matter in front of the OMB. Our case would be undermined by our own “expert witness.” In other words, by hiring this independent consultant, without oversight, we may be engineering our defeat with the Glenway development."

At that council meeting, 3 years ago, Regional Councillor Taylor defended the consultant and went further by explaining that "I have no business sticking my nose into something that doesn’t involve Ward 6."  Councillor Emanuel stated I was playing "political football." Here is the televised recording of that meeting: http://www.rogerstv.com/page.aspx?lid=237&rid=70&sid=3183&gid=85943

You can also read my blog from October 19th, 2011, which discusses that meeting and vote: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/9620484-why-i-voted-against-a-glenway-consultant-

Result: Council approved the hiring of a consultant - against my recommendations - whose report ultimately approved the Marianneville development.

 

Council meeting, May 2013:

Staff explains to council that Marianneville Developments Ltd launches their first OMB challenge. Previously, council approved staff's recommendation asking for more funding made available for the consultant (now exceeding over $100,000) and to replace the existing one for Ruth Victor. I opposed that too in another 8-1 vote. Here's the blog on that: http://maddiedimuccio.webs.com/apps/blog/show/26499079-glenway-residents-get-politics-over-transparency

Result: Consultant Ruth Victor's report supported the Marianneville application. Council votes to accept a settlement with the developer that includes more units than was originally proposed.

Yesterday in chambers, after a special meeting had been arranged to discuss council's decision on settling with Marianneville, many members expressed their disappointment in the choice they were forced to make. Some read prepared statements, others vowed to continue "the battle."

I didn't have any prepared statement but I did use my job as an elected official to do two things:

1) I asked the Glenway Preservation Authority to provide the Clerk with a written copy of their statement to council because our recording equipment was not working. Yesterday's meeting was unfortunately not live streamed. I think it's only fair that residents are able to hear the position from a group that has put in incredible hours, resources, and personal funding for a fight they deeply believed in. I will be posting this deputation shortly.

2) I tabled a motion directing staff to organize a public consult about what we have learned throughout the process of Glenway; the effects of future development and its impact to Newmarket residents. This public meeting will be held over the next few months.

And this time, council didn't fight me on that.

Smart move.

UPDATE: The following is the deputation from the Glenway Preservation Authority presented to Council:


DEPUTATION - APR. 22, 2014

Glenway Preservation Association

Dave Sovran, Vice-Chair

To start with, the Glenway Preservation Association and its members would like to express our

appreciation to Ward 7 Councillor Chris Emanuel for his efforts at trying to defend our

community, and applaud his hard work and tenacity over the last 3 years in familiarizing himself

with the development process, the current applications and for his efforts at championing our

needs to Council to gain the support needed to protect our community.

Next, the GPA is opposed to the negotiated settlement as proposed.

As we prepare to enter what little remains of Phase 2 in the OMB Hearing, we feel it is

nonetheless important to state for the record, the Glenway community’s observations, reactions

and feelings regarding what we’ve endured.

First, we’d like to comment on the approach to Phase 2.

The Town decided their approach in camera (twice) and did not share with us what was to be

negotiated with Marianneville, despite our request in the last deputation we made, for the Town

to work together with us to mitigate the damage imposed by the Board’s decision to allow an

amendment to our Official Plan. We were given very limited time to provide input to the Town

staff for Council’s consideration, but nevertheless offered specific elements to consider. This is

the second time we have requested the opportunity to be involved in the negotiating process,

the last being the without prejudice discussions the Town had with Marianneville.

We see no evidence of how our input was addressed in these negotiations; in fact, in spite of

being accused of refusing to negotiate, we are left with looking at a final agreement where the

number of housing units has now climbed from the original applications (730) to its current 742

units to be built on these lands!

So, despite providing some recommendations of matters to be included in the negotations (and

recognizing that Council would have had to make a decision about some limited land

expropriation to get there), we are left with the following questions:

1. How were our requests dealt with as part of the negotiations?

2. What will become of the west lands? Will they, as one councillor suggested in private,

simply become another 400+ housing unit application in the near future?

3. What about the ‘green’ corridor we requested from the proposed park to the storm water

ponds? This represented a logical opportunity to link the community with the planned active

transportation corridors being contemplated in the Secondary Plan.

4. Was the Town prepared to purchase any lands as part of the discussions? Could an

investment in these lands not have at least salvaged some of the required park space that the

increased population from the town’s secondary plan initiatives could benefit from as the Town

continues to grow?

5. Is the intention of Council to make this COW meeting the only public notification that would

terminate this three year process? The majority of the community is still expecting some sort of

negotiation in Phase 2 - especially given the previous discussions atCouncil regarding the need

for a long 6 week Hearing process with all the associated expense. This has now has shrunk to a

perfunctory 3 hour timeframe, where the intention will be to simply announce, as your external

law firm noted in their letter to the OMB, that they are ‘pleased that an agreement has been

arrived at with Marianneville on all Phase 2 settlement issues.’

In other words, none of the issues of the Glenway residents appear to have been considered

‘settlement issues’ and the case is closed.

As of today we are left with a feeling of abandonment by Council and are being asked how to

represent ourselves - alone - at the Phase 2 meeting on Wednesday. We read to our great

surprise in the Era Banner that the GPA had abandoned its OMB challenge because we had

released our lawyer and planner. That is certainly not the case. We released our planner and

lawyer for financial reasons, because, as we promised our community, we would focus our

efforts on Phase 1. To that end, our community donated significant funds to allow us to wage

that battle, but it did not allow us to budget for an indeterminate Phase 2 Hearing. Mr. Mayor

you were also quoted as saying that the agreement ‘needs to have balance between the interests

of the municipality and the developer’s interest’. No mention of the interests of Glenway, and

no longer, as before, any linking of the interests of the broader Town of Newmarket with this file,

as it loses track of its own Urban Growth Plan and loses, more importantly, significant and much

needed open park space as the Town works towards an aggressive intensification over the next

15 years.

As we have said on many occasions, we appreciate that Council voted to unanimously support

us in fighting against the principle of this development. But now it appears that Council is fasttracking

a ‘settlement’ just to get this over with and that, quite frankly is angering many

residents. We acknowledge as well that within the settlement there are holding provisions

intended to attempt to control the way in which the development will occur, but this offers little

solace given the scale of the change that is to come.

The Town is continuing to work on and invest in the Growth Plan. We still feel that a great

opportunity exists to include some of these lands in a green corridor, and that some of the West

Lands can be salvaged from what will surely be a near future development application. As the

elected leadership of this wonderful Town, we know that was not your vision to have happen.

But as our Town’s leaders, You can still do more.

At a recent meeting on Planning and OMB issues, the chief planner for Toronto, Jennifer

Keesmat was quoted at a dec 13 OMB panel meeting as follows:

“Settlement...... Far from ideal, we’re not achieving great city building if a large, substantive number

of our approvals are being achieved through settlement. We often settle as a city, we’re very motivated

as a city to settle, because it’s extremely costly for us to go to the Ontario Municipal Board. We have a

fraction of the resources that our competitors do at the Ontario Municipal Board, so a settlement is in

our best interest most of the time. Which means, are we happy with the outcome we get? Not usually. Is

it great city building? Not usually. But we settled, because we have the Ontario Municipal Board,

which creates a culture, which makes it really difficult for us to actually achieve our larger city building

objectives.”

The article continues.....’Keesmaat did not limit her criticism of the Ontario Municipal Board to the

number of settlements she believes it encourages. She said she finds board decisions to be inconsistent,

and that the decisions of elected officials should hold more sway.’

We have to say that at this point, there is no way to avoid feeling incredibly let down. The way

these applications are being settled......nobody should be happy with this, not our community,

not the other residents of Newmarket and especially not this Council.

For that reason, we believe there is still time and opportunity for Council to look for something

good out of this issue.

As far a vision goes for Newmarket, as far as good planning and city-building is concerned, we

have ALL taken a hit. This ‘settlement’ with Marianneville does nothing for Newmarket and in

fact, detracts from its focus and efforts at effective planning for the community we planned on

creating.

At this time, we respectfully request a public meeting in order to bring some sort of closure to

Glenway residents; a meeting where the settlement can be explained and questions answered as

to why the negotiations ended the way they did, before it is ratified at Council. We believe the

Town owes it to the residents to fully brief the community on what they are getting.

Because right now, from a community perspective, our feeling is that in the final stages of this

process we were completely ignored...and from a town’s perspective, control of the planning process,

and the opportunity for salvaging some critically important green space has been lost...

To the OMB, if the objective is to basically ignore the well-intended initiatives of citizens to

work with their elected officials to create the communities they best see fit their municipal

visions, then that sentiment of being pushed to the side has been fully experienced - and not

appreciated.

This does not mark the end of either the GPA, or of future challenges to the planned future of

Newmarket. The lesson of this is that without better planning, preparation and political will, we

will continue to be run over by the existing provincial planning processes in place. And while

we could just blame these processes that are allegedly outside of our control, there remain

aspects within our control that we need to work towards addressing in order to prevent further

and future disasters such as this from befalling our community.

As such, we request in the near future an opportunity to lead a discussion around lessons

learned from this experience and highlight where the planning process failed us, and what is our

responsibility and duty to work together to change so this result doesn’t happen to us again.

Thank you for your time.






 

 

 


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