It is now 156 days since the end of the Glenway Hearing and a jaw-dropping 183 days since the OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, gave her quick-fire oral decision in favour of the rapacious developers, Marianneville, who, as I write, are preparing to transform the neighbourhood out of all recognition.

Ms Schiller’s delay in releasing her written decision is as shameful as it is inexplicable.

Her leisurely approach has serious knock-on consequences. With the election almost upon us there is now no chance of getting the “lessons learned” meeting that the Town promised on 22 April 2014.

Inevitably, councillors and the hopefuls seeking election on 27 October are stepping into this vacuum, telling us what went wrong at Glenway. But this doesn’t give us the whole picture.

Much of the information we need to fully understand what happened is kept under lock and key at the Town Hall.

Freedom of Information

So today (26 September 2014) I went to the Town Hall, paid $5 and put in a Freedom of Information request to examine a raft of confidential memorandums that were presented to councillors at the special meeting of the council on 7 April 2014 called to  discuss Glenway

I also want to examine the minutes of the Committee of the Whole (Closed Session) that met the same day and which gave directions to staff.

What instructions did our councillors give to the Town’s legal counsel and lead negotiator, Mary Bull, on the terms on which she could settle with Marianneville? Was she given a completely free hand? What conditions, if any, were attached? The OMB adjudicator gave her oral decision in March 2014 so why continue with this suffocating secrecy?

The Town’s Solicitor, Esther Armchuk, told me in May 2014 that:

Closed session discussions or directions given by Council in Closed Sessions remain confidential unless Council decides to make some or all of those discussions or directions public.

As I said back then, the way forward is to “declassify” these documents to allow proper informed debate.

Taylor blames the OMB, not the Town’s approach

Regional Councillor John Taylor pins the blame for the Glenway decision on the “highly flawed” OMB, not the Town’s approach. Not strictly true. Yes, the OMB has problems but, as important, the Town’s team was seriously underbriefed.

The Mayor, Tony Van Bynen, tells the Newmarket Era newspaper: “It (the decision to go to the OMB) wasn’t just defending the residents; it was defending the plan for the Town. The infrastructure we’re building is not going to be able to accommodate the additional homes in Glenway.”

If the Town’s hired legal gun, Mary Bull was supposed to be “defending the plan for the Town” her performance fell far short of what was required. In fact, it was lamentably inadequate. At one point in the OMB Hearing, the adjudicator asked the Town’s team when work started on the Secondary Plan. There was a long embarrassing silence. As it happens, I was the only person present who knew the answer but, as a member of the public sitting below the salt at the back of the room, I couldn’t speak.

I am left wondering if Van Bynen called for daily reports on what was happening at the OMB Hearing. If so, he would have realized that things were going off the rails in a pretty dramatic way. Did he ask why no-one from the Town’s Planning Department was present? And if not, why not?

Why didn’t the Mayor instruct the Director of Planning to show up once and a while if only to provide answers to the OMB Hearing that the Town’s counsel, Mary Bull, was incapable of doing?

Maddie Di Muccio challenges latest confidential memo on Glenway

In the latest twist, Maddie Di Muccio challenged the Town’s CEO, Bob Shelton, at this week’s Committee of the Whole (22 September) to explain why a confidential memorandum circulated to councillors relating to the Glenway West Lands couldn’t be made public. Without a single ally on Council, her animated protest fizzles out in the way they always do.

We are still none the wiser.

Newmarket’s municipal election: 32 days to go. 


My Freedom of Information request is for:

(1) the confidential memorandum dated 3 April 2014 from Ruth Victor, Ruth Victor Associates, regarding Application for Official Plan Amendment and Draft Plan of Subdivision Approval, Marianneville Developments Limited (Glenway)

(2) the confidential memorandum dated 3 April 2014 from Mary Bull and Johanna Shapira, Wood Bull LLP regarding Marianneville Developments - Phase 2

(3) the confidential memorandum dated 4 April 2014 from the Assistant Director of Planning regarding Marianneville Developments Limited

(4) the minutes of the Committee of the Whole (Closed Session) on 7 April 2014.


Metrolinx has confirmed the track will have to be doubled on the Barrie corridor to accommodate all-day two-way GO express trains, pledged by Premier Kathleen Wynne in her speech in April to the Toronto Region Board of Trade.

She said:

“Over ten years, we aim to phase in electric train service every fifteen minutes on all GO lines that we own. Doing that would mean moving the most people for the least cost. And it would help to unclog highways across the GTHA. We just know that that is a reality. And it would do for the region what subways did for Toronto back to the 1950s.”

In a presentation to last week’s Metrolinx Board meeting, the President of GO Transit, Greg Percy, said:

“We know one new track will be required pretty much along the full length of the corridor because much of it is single track today. We need to double track that corridor and it also includes quite a few road and rail grade separations along the way.”

You can see the video here. Percy talks about the Barrie corridor 40 minutes 30 seconds into the presentation.

Every weekday, GO trains make 14 trips along the Barrie corridor, carrying 17,000 people.


Percy’s statement clears up earlier confusion about whether a second track would be required anywhere in Newmarket.

Paula Edwards, the Director of Customer Care at Metrolinx, replying on behalf of CEO Bruce McCuaig, told me on 24 June 2014 that:

“Our planned improvement of the Barrie corridor is not solely based on twin tracking. Although twin tracking may be required in some areas, it is doubtful if it will be needed for the entire route.”

GO rail station at Mulock Drive

In the same letter Edwards told me there are no plans for a new GO rail station at Mulock Drive even though one is pencilled in to Newmarket’s Secondary Plan (which goes up to York Region for approval early next year).

Clearly, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to hit Kathleen Wynne's 10 year target for all-day two-way GO trains.

It is impossible to listen to Greg Percy and not come away with the conclusion that Metrolinx is only now moving forward – and from a standing start. True, work on electrification options was done back in 2010 but it seems little has been done on how to accommodate the 340km of new second tracks that will be required across the system.

Percy told Board members that land acquisition would be required. This is not something that happens overnight.

Davis Drive

In Newmarket, road and rail separation will be required at Davis Drive and probably elsewhere given that trains will be whizzing past at speed every 15 minutes. Percy says the average cost of road rail separation is around $25m but it could fall anywhere within the range $15m - $80m depending on the complexities of the engineering.

The Metrolinx Board will be getting an update on the work programme at its next meeting on 11 December 2014. I would like to know what work has already been done on the Barrie corridor and what is outstanding. And those matters where it is too early to say.

Percy laid great stress in his presentation on keeping everyone informed. One of the four key elements in his Work Plan is “Engagement – identifying the work necessary to engage stakeholders that include the public, municipalities and elected officials.”

That’s what I like to hear.

My enthusiasm is, however, tempered by the fact that I am still waiting for answers to questions I put to Bruce McCuaig over four months ago.

I hope Chris Ballard – who made his first speech at Queen’s Park on the GO train service – is listening.


The King George School on Park Avenue – a stone’s throw from Newmarket Public Library – has been empty for years. The front steps are now beginning to crumble.

People in the immediate neighbourhood and elsewhere in Ward 5 are understandably curious about the owner’s plans for this fine building that is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The owner, Chrisula Selfe, bought the property on 15 November 2011from the York Region District School Board for $1,275,000.

The tax classification of the old school is “commercial” and has an assessed value of $762,500. By my back-of-the-envelope calculations the annual property tax payable is $15,489 give or take a dollar or two. To most people this would be quite a bundle of cash to fork out every year just to keep the building empty.

Of course, the owners may qualify for a “vacancy rebate”.

I am told by my spies in the Town’s Finance Department: “If the property is vacant and the owner meets the criteria then the owner would be eligible to apply for a vacancy rebate for 30% of the taxes.” To qualify, the entire building must have been empty for 90 consecutive days. If the building is partially used then other criteria apply.

However, all this is a tad academic as we don’t know who has applied for - and been granted - a vacancy rebate. This information is confidential. But why? If people choose to keep a property empty and claim a vacancy rebate the rest of us pay more.

Earlier this year the local developer and self styled entrepreneur, Bob Forrest, disclosed he had been in touch with Chrisula Selfe’s husband, Neil Selfe, in the hope he (Forrest) might relocate some of his business tenants on Main Street South to the old school with the idea of making it some kind of “community hub”. (This was before he decided to cut his losses and put the Clock Tower and the adjacent properties up for sale.)

According to Forrest, the owners are in no rush to do anything with the school. But, intriguingly, Forrest says Neil Selfe - whom he dubs a “Bay Street financial type” - has some very set ideas about what he wants to do there.

Perhaps it is time for the owners to stir themselves and tell the voters of Ward 5 what they have in mind. They have had years to think about it.


Chris Campbell’s campaign launch is a jolly affair.

No sign of any Newmarket councillors. I am on the look out.

But, inevitably, Darryl Wolk, is here, pressing the flesh with one hand, cell phone in the other.

Campbell paces up and down the stage at the Canadian Legion at Srigley Street, speaking confidently and fluently for over twenty minutes without a note in his hand. You can see it here.

As he fires his first barbs at Tony Van Bynen, my first reaction is one of relief. Thank goodness there is a credible challenger, someone who can have an intelligent debate with the incumbent about his stewardship and where the Town is going.

In the last Mayoral election in 2010, a truly feeble candidate, Michael Cascione, nevertheless took 19% of the vote against Van Bynen’s 81%. Campbell is poised to do much better this time. But it will take considerable skill and effort to prise the old barnacle from the rock to which he has been attached for so long.

Campbell’s speech has some good lines. He tells us being an elected representative is not an entitlement. And that it is time to take back our Town! These sentiments resonate widely.

He is fizzing with indignation when he gets on to the Newmarket soccer controversy which he claims was an inside deal initiated by the Regional Councillor (John Taylor).

He pledges to put a vote to Council “to rescind that stinking deal!”

I gasp at the ferocity of the language. WooHoo!

What does he know that the rest of us don’t?

Personally, I don’t have a problem with councils helping out local organisations, be they sports clubs or theatres or something else – providing always the terms of the deal are out in the open. Councils should be able to act in the wider interests of their communities so long as they do so within their powers. Plainly, the soccer deal was legal otherwise it would never have got off the ground in the first place.

Campbell is on much stronger ground when he criticises Newmarket’s addiction to closed council meetings and the obsessive secrecy that marks this Council term. There is a whole raft of stuff on Glenway, for example, still to get into the public domain.

And it will.


Almost five months have elapsed since OMB adjudicator, Susan Schiller, found in favour of Marianneville, the opportunistic developers who intend to shoehorn 742 new dwellings into the heart of a quiet, stable residential neighbourhood in Newmarket.

On 27 March 2014, Ms Schiller, gave her oral decision at the conclusion of Phase 1 (on the so-called "principle of development") after hearing the closing submissions from Mary Bull on behalf of the Town of Newmarket and Ira Kagan for the developers. Her lightning-quick decision came after a short recess of about an hour. The OMB formally gave its seal of approval to the terms of the settlement agreed between the Town and the developer on 23 April 2014.

Ms Schiller didn’t beat about the bush. She was brisk and knew exactly what she was going to say. So why the prolonged delay in issuing her written decision? Almost five months between the oral and written decisions is simply inexcusable.

Most written decisions are published 45-60 days after the final Hearing. We are now on day 119.

If the OMB’s written decision is delayed into September the chances of organising a “lessons learned” meeting as agreed by the Town in April will disappear. With elections in October, the window is closing fast.

The decision in favour of Marianneville was clearly unsafe. On 1 May 2014, I wrote to the OMB’s Glenway Case Administrator asking that my letter setting out my reasons (below) be forwarded to the adjudicator.

The letter never did get to Ms Schiller.

The very next day (2 May 2014) the OMB case administrator for the Glenway file told me:

As the OMB has completed its hearing in this matter, an OMB adjudicator cannot receive communications submitted by a party, participant or members of the public outside an OMB hearing event as any communicative contact to an OMB adjudicator is to take place only within the confines of an OMB hearing event.  Therefore, on this basis, the OMB will not accept your submission below and will therefore not forward it to the attention of Vice-Chair Ms. Schiller.

(Note. This blog was amended on 23 August 2014 to correct an earlier version which stated that Ms Schiller gave her oral decision on 23 April 2014. In fact the oral decision on the principle of development was given on 27 March 2014. The OMB Glenway hearing concluded on 23 April.) 

Dear Ms Schiller

The OMB Glenway Hearing

I am writing to you as I believe your decision on Glenway may be tainted because various relevant matters were not put before you.

I attended the OMB Hearing throughout and followed things closely. I sought your permission to make a statement on the last day of the Hearing after Dave Sovran from the Glenway Preservation Association had spoken. I am not a resident of Glenway and I did not seek Participant status at the pre-hearing in December 2013 and I have no quarrel whatsoever with your decision not to allow me to speak.

The issue

During the Hearing much was made of the fact that a large part of Glenway was within 500 metres of the GO Bus Terminal and there was, in Mr Kagan’s words, “not a shred of evidence” that the Bus Terminal could be relocated. This is simply not the case.

On 21 March in giving evidence, the GPA’s planning expert, Nick McDonald correctly claimed the Town had not identified major transit areas and more work still had to be done. As you will recall, he wanted a Town-led study of the Glenway lands which would include the GO Bus Terminal which, he suggested, could possibly be relocated.

On 27 March, Marianneville’s Mr Kagan told you in his closing submission:

“When, through cross-examination, McDonald was asked to drill down and identify which other lands (beyond the Marianneville lands) he would recommend be part of the Town-led study, he advised he would include both the existing GO Transit bus terminal and the Upper Canada Mall but in both cases solely to determine whether or not to relocate the GO Transit bus terminal. This is simply not reasonable.

“There is not a shred of evidence that the Town, Region or GO Transit want to move this bus terminal. This terminal is identified in a variety of planning documents that the various witnesses reviewed and never once was it identified for relocation. Mr McDonald may think it should move but no-one else seems to agree with him. Even the ongoing OPA 10 study (ie the Draft Secondary Plan for Newmarket’s Urban Centre) is not proposing that the GO transit bus terminal be relocated. Accordingly, the addition of these two parcels to a Town-led study is not supported on the evidence.”

The Draft Secondary Plan and the possible re-location of the GO Bus Terminal

On page 59 of the Draft Secondary Plan we read that Newmarket will encourage Metrolinx to partner with the Town, Region and others “to prepare a Mobility Hub Area Station Plan for the area around Newmarket GO Rail Station” which would look at, amongst other things, “integration between the GO Rail Station, the Rapidway, the future GO bus services and the GO bus terminal.”

On 28 April 2014, the Town called a special meeting to consider a further revision of the draft Secondary Plan.

In answer to questions from Ward 7 councillor Chris Emanuel (Glenway is in his Ward) and Regional Councillor John Taylor on the possibility of relocation or co-location of transit stations, the senior planner in charge of the Secondary Plan file, Ms Marion Plaunt said:

“One of the considerations in (the Mobility Hub study) is how do we as we plan forward integrate the bus station and the GO train station; whether they should be naturally be joined at some point, at one location. That is part of the analysis identified within the Mobility Hub Study criteria.”

Urban Centres Transportation Study and the possible relocation of the GO Bus Terminal

On 2 April 2014, after the Glenway OMB Hearing had finished,  Phase 2 of the Urban Centres Transportation Study, prepared by Consultants GDH for the Town, was posted on the Town’s website. References to this study can be found in the first version of the Draft Secondary Plan published in September 2013. 

On page 5 of the 360 page Urban Transportation Study (Section 2.4 York Region Transit), we read:

Based on consultations with GO/Metrolinx throughout the course of this study, the current vision for the existing GO Transit / YRT bus terminal south of Upper Canada Mall is to remain in its current location. However, it is expected that YRT will gradually supplant GO Transit bus routes, which will be relocated outside of the Secondary Plan area to the East Gwillimbury GO Transit station, and/or the Bradford GO Transit rail station.

The planned Viva Blue (Yonge Street) and Viva Yellow (Davis Drive) bus routes include one-way loops via Eagle Street, Davis Drive and Yonge Street. These routes will likely contribute to additional congestion at some locations, such as the Yonge and Eagle Street intersection due to high pedestrian activity. However, should the bus station be relocated to the UCM site, the volume of associated buses should not significantly impact future operations compared to leaving the station in its current location. Furthermore, the relocation of the bus station to the UCM property may even serve to reduce future net effects, given potential reductions to pedestrian crossings of Davis Drive. The impact of such a change in operations has not been specifically modeled in our study, so any bus station relocation should include an evaluation of localized transportation impacts and requirements.

Clearly, consideration was given to relocating the bus station if only to conclude that, for the moment, it is not part of the “current vision”. The meaning of this phrase was never explored at the Hearing.

I wrote to Ms Plaunt, on 11 October 2013 asking for sight of the Urban Transportation Study (September 2013) which was specifically referred to in the September 2013 Draft Secondary Plan. I wanted to brief myself for the then upcoming Statutory Public Meeting on the Draft Secondary Plan which was to be held on 28 October 2013.

On 18 October 2013, Ms Plaunt told me: “The September 2013 (Urban Transportation Study) has not been posted as there were some edits to the report. We hope to post it shortly.”

I chased the matter up on 7 November 2013 and received this reply from Ms Plaunt by return: “Regional and Town staff are currently reviewing the final draft before it is posted as the final document. Once it is finalised it will be posted on the Town’s website. We are aiming for the mid to end of November.”

I wrote for the final time on 1 April 2014 and was told by Ms Plaunt the Study would be posted on the Town’s website on 2 April 2014 – as I say, after the conclusion of the Board’s Glenway Hearing.

Mr Kagan, in his closing submission to you painted Mr McDonald’s position on the possible relocation of the GO Bus Terminal as being eccentric and that “no-one else seems to agree with him”. That was very wide of the mark.

If the September 2013 Urban Transportation Study had been published alongside the September 2013 Draft Secondary Plan and not six months later then Mr Kagan would not have been able to ridicule Mr McDonald for taking the position he did.

Furthermore, as you may know, throughout the Hearing not a single Town Planner from Newmarket’s Planning Department was present. It would have been very difficult for Ms Plaunt or any of her senior colleagues to sit through Mr Kagan’s closing submission without at least passing a note to Ms Bull setting out the true position.

I appreciate the die is cast but I felt it important to let you have my views before your written decision is put into the public domain.

Yours sincerely

Gordon Prentice