"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King
8:05 Indeed new technology is initially not cheap. I remember paying $2000 for my first computer. A computer today with 100 times the capacity is 25-30% of the cost. Remember also what it cost to make a long distance phone call or get your photos developed 25 years ago. People now take thousands of photos and develop them in an instant. Many don't make phone calls but instead email or text. We never thought it possible 25 years ago.
Generally, technology is expensive when it is new but it declines in price as the technology advances. This will happen with hydro and water. Even today there is ample technology to treat water in your home. People in rural areas use various filters and ultra violet light to name a few. The cost of municipal water is in the testing and to a lesser degree the treatment. The commodity itself comes free from the ground or a lake. We will still likely need the infrastructure to deliver water but not in its present day quality.
Hydro is now a publicly traded company (and soon to sell more shares) which is all the more reason it will have to adapt just as Bell has done. When was the last time you saw the distinctive Bell service truck and repair man in your subdivision? Bell survived and pays its shareholders a nice dividend. We all know what would have happened if they thought the future was in land lines. Every day it has to look over its shoulder to see what Rogers and others are doing to keep a competitive edge.
Hydro and its shareholders may expect returns but those returns will likely be based on a different business model at some point in the future.
If we follow this logic the town is a philanthropic society with an inexhaustible source of funds . Essential difference being the source is not voluntary. People's pockets can be picked at will.
The view above is obviously shared, not least by members of this, the last and previous to last Council.
It started with the traffic control plan for the north-east "Heritage quadrant" which the Mayor of the day described obsequiously as " a special neighbourhood"
When the the bid of $ 311.thousand, to build obstacles, with road reconstruction,sidewalks and lighting, Council was stunned. Consultant estimate was $100 thousand.
Staff were directed by the Mayor to knock on doors in the quadrant and warn residents the bid could be rejected.
At the following meeting , the Council chamber was jammed with furious and determined residents.
A parent brought a photo of his child and insisted Council was responsible for his security.
One after another, Councillors caved under the pressure managed by the chair, and approved the
After the next election and defeat of the Mayor,her chief cohort and two others, $89 thousand were expended to remove the chicanes but the elaborately dead-ended streets remained closed.
Shades of things to come.
The abiding principle of road design is for traffic to flow smoothly and efficiently. The town spent $311.thousand to achieve precisely the opposite.
Stuff like that kept happening. Staff responsibile to provide professional advice were shown the door and replaced with others who perceived their role as political rather than professional.
To the point of paying outside legal counsel for political chicanery.
The electorate eventually ruled the conduct unacceptable. A new Council was elected.
Unfortunately little else changed.
Practices established by the 2003/7 Council proved politically convenient to the new.
Foolish schemes and devious aims proliferated.Councillor Gaertner's philosophy of giving "the peoplewhat they want " was a definite direction.
Growth is the business of an urban centre . Assesment is the meat and potatoes of municipal finances. Millions are budgeted for professional management ...function being to promote growth in an orderly fashion and within planning law.
Buying land specifically to prevent development is not one of the rules.
Neither is leasing a valuable property at a loss to another level of government for some airy-fairy notion of status.
Nor is forking over more than half a million dollars to the same sharp-shooters for a contaminated building.
To say nothing of some Johny-come-lately cockamamie notion of almost a million dollar purchase of culture like it's a manufactured product.
It is sort of different from refusing to have your neighbourhood singled out with special by-laws.... Expecting the town to buy a neighbourhood an enormous, expensive, un-needed park space strikes me as being 'way over the top. It could still happen given the way some issues just keep coming back onto the table,
It already has happened in the Mavrinac neighbourhood. Council even asserted moral righteousness
by going tocourt to "stand up for the town's contracts"
Saints preserve us.,
Now it's a vacant lot, completely serviced by town infrastructure; roads ,water,sewers,street lights, parks ,schools, police and fire protection , administrative costs, and consultant studies in all manner of shapes and sizes.
It contributes not one red cent to reduce the tax burden.
From a business perspective , 69 acres of developable land, enveloped by municipal services and contributing nothing to their cost, is utterly preposterous.,
No business succeeds operating along those lines. None would even try.
The last ten years of Aurora's " management" has been a succession of such decisions.
Each one a precedent for the next.
Councillor Gaertner expresses the principle best. " We have to do what the people want" she regularly and confidently expounds with an obvious following.
When I was first elected, the first lessons learned was the slippery slope of precedent. It was the Clerk- treasure who advised ; "If you do that you will set a precedent"
"Do it for one ,you must do it for everyone"
He was sole director on the payroll.
Now we have a multi-million dollar administration and never hear a whit of advice of financial consequences from any. cOnsultants are used as a means of avoidance.
For example, how many millions of dollars of assessment revenue is forfeit when the town takes the golf course out of private ownership.
How many more millions in development charges are forfeit by rejecting the development
What rational argument can be presented at an Ontario Municipal Board hearing to oppose
development , where every single municipal service is available. Including public transit on Yonge Street,Mcurrently operating with massive deficits because of low ridership.
By any measurement, the idea of transferring that land from private to public sector, from revenue to liability columns in town book-keeping is utterly preposterous.
Yet not a whimper of financial advice do we hear from the source. We pay for a product we do neither invite nor receive.
ICouncillors can scream until blue in the face about an unelected Ontario Municipal Board making decisions in opposition to the will of the elected council.
They claim to defend the town's Official Plan.
Upholding Municipal Official Plans, legislated by the Province of Ontario, is the reason the Ontario Municipal Board exists.
Sometimes It's hard believe what we hear from American pundits. I know the competition among journalists is fierce but honestly, when the fury reaches its peak, I don't think they even hear themselves.
For weeks now the donald has been the name of everyone's lips.Then, in amazement, they declare him to be a phenomenon.
This week he was declared to be a genius. Within hours the word was repeated umpteen times.
"He knows what people are thinking " they said. "He touches a chord and those people in Washington don't have any idea what's going on"
What a parody.
Talking heads are framed in little square boxes; sometimes four, sometimes six. Each chosen from a separate segment of the political spectrum to ensure "balance"
No such thing.
Last we heard, the Ku Klux Klan is still alive and well and on the march in America.
The donald can be easily envisaged riding down the middle of Main Street,white sheet billowing and hair flapping.
There's nothing phenomenal about that.
He's just a common -or -garden yahoo redneck with a weird hairdo.
In the sixties ,Enoch Powell,made a name for himself in British politics and beyond with similar schtick and Hitler mustachios to define his face. He also had a following. As did Oswald Mosley a couple of decades earlier.
To suggest politicians in Washington don't know what's going on is ridiculous.
In the first place,every politician in Washington comes from someplace else.
If Trump was elected ,he would immediately be "from Washingtion"
And every politician everywhere knows he is tapping into fears and ignorance that exists everywhere and always have .
Everybody knows it's there . Responsible people know better than to stir it up.
Trump is no genius.
He's not even the quintessential product of modernity. He's old hat.
Councilor Mrakas has posted a response on Facebook to our analysis of the resolution approved by Council on the purchase of a golf course to accommodate a Ratepayer Association.
Written by staff, the resolution directs staff to reject the developer's offer to sell the golf course to the town for 98.1 million and notify the developer of the decision.
Ratepayers are encouraged to continue discussions with developers , with town staff facilitation,to a
I figured the resolution was written by staff.
The Councillor refers to two consultants giving planning definitions of Open Space.
No reference is made to the application for development or Council's position on that.
Councillor Mrakas is obliged to ask others for information. He can't be faulted for that. Any newly elected Councillor has to learn. Some are more up to it than others. The current issue is an opportunity.
The problem is with paucity of information received.
Planning consultants, in the business of selling expertise, tend to provide whatever will successfully woo the client.
An OP designation of Open Space can be different in different circumstances.
A functioning golf course in the country, like Westview, surrounded by fields, no road allowances or municipal services dead ending at multiple points around the course, like water and sewers, street lighting, police and fire protection, all the incidentals that come with an urban setting, has an Official Plan designation of Open Space.
In that context,the designation is not the same as the Highland Gate Development Inc./ Club Links property enclosed completely by aforementioned urban services.
The resolution fails to deal with the development application. Or town responsibility under the Planning Act to process an application within three months of receiving .Or reasons why the property cannot or should not be developed.
Or denial of the legal right of a private property owner to make an application for a change in use.
It appears the legal process has not been followed.
Seems the town's mintention has always been to relieve the owner of ownership at a price agreeable to the town.
Ratepayers may have been encouraged by Council to believe acquisition of the golf course was
Even without reference to the Town's Master Recreation Plan or without property owners legal expertise on hand, I suspect the town's argument will fall short of persuasion at an Ontario Municipal Board Hearing.
Maybe the only hope left is Ratepayers will exercise better judgement than Council and acknowledge the unlikely possibility the OMB will order the property owner to sell the land at an affordable price to them.
I think the owner has made a simple offer. It is for sale. The price, in my view, seems realistic. Surrounding homes command almost a million dollars.
So, the owner is going to sell at market value or develop it. How it's developed might be the subject of further discussion. But the discussion will be along the lines of less detached on bigger lots here or more semis/towns/condos there.
The OMB will have clear jurisdiction should the matter be put in front of it. The town is not going to buy it and the owner(s) is not in the business of gifting land for dog parks. The province is not going to get involved as there is no need to.
The town might whisper to the ratepayers' association it is last call - realistically spell out how you think it should be developed. If a realistic presentation is received the town could bless it and see if the owner can accommodate it. Otherwise, the ratepayers' association can bring the matter to the OMB on its own dime.
It will be exciting to see our councillors duck and weave as they try to avoid a decision; send it back to staff, more review, send a memo to the province demanding it get this hot potato off its plate and direct the OMB to do the "right thing".
I have a question, please. sorry if it is something I should know It says that the town should hire the legal person/firm. whatever to represent it for the OMB hearing Now, does that mean the ratepayers' group would not have their own representation ? What I think i would like to know is if the town is an active participant or just an observer.
Nothing...absolutely nothing ...will negatively impact property values in a stable residential neighbourhood in Aurora. The suggestion is bogus.
If the Ratepayers Association purchased the golf course, an unlikely possibility, cost would be distributed among benefitting residents, like a retail business improvement area.
Home values would move into another bracket and perhaps be slower to sell because of a smaller market . Cost of maintaining the property would drive many current homeowners to sell.
Assessment would increase several times and taxation accordingly.
Of course , if Council can be persuaded to buy the golf course, the residents have it made in the shade at the expense of all everyone else in the community.
Town staff are directed to inform lawyers for the the developer, the town rejects the offer.
The news story quotes the Ratepayers' President the neighborhood is having to re-think their
position due to higher than anticipated cost. It could mean the neighbourhood recognizes
how inappropriate such a purchase would be.
The resolution encourages the Ratepayers to continue meeting with the developer with town staff available to "facilitate" the discussion.
What exactly does that mean?
The Developers are obviously at the point of recognizing Council has agreed to be completely political. The objective is to compel someone else to make the decision. They will cover their arses all the way.
We are watching a blatant, clumsy, unprincipled exercise of marshaling the entire Town of Aurora administration to that end ?
The clauses in the resolution makes it difficult to come to a different conclusion.
I wish I was wrong. We are all degraded.
The answer to the first question may be easier.
The Planning Act requires a municipality to make a decision within three months of an application.
Failure triggers the automatic right to an Appeal to the OMB.l
This proposal started prior to the election. Ratepayers had already retained legal counsel by the time of the campaign.
It appears Club Lknk and Highland Gate Development Inc had an advantage because the two,are one and the same.
Nevertheless a subdivision agreement must be approved and signed for development to proceed.
The clause in the resolution "requesting" the developer not to "address" encroachment matters" until OMB decisionI is final . It appears Highland Gate has the right to "encroachment".
Why else would the town " request encroachment matters not be addressed."
A municipality maintains a one foot reserve to control access to public roads and services.
Could be Highland Gate a has a right of access to roads services , or "encroach"so to speak.,
Quotes in The Auroran indicate the R.A. President may be the $98.1million dollar price tag is a little rich. Even if the town is the potential buyer.
If the option was to buy the land rather than oppose the development at an OMB hearing....
and buying the land is no longer an option...opposing the development may no longer be the option of choice.
Despite time already wasted the fight may be over before it begins.
And that my friends, may be the real reason for Councillor Mrakas anger and the vote split.
The Mayor and his faction did not vote to reject the developers offer to sell the land to the town.
He wants it kept open for negotiation.
if the Ratepayers decide they don't want to waste more time and treasure pursuing a will-o'the wisp the town will be compelled to defend their non-decision on the applications.
A somewhat difficult task for legal counsel and other experts.
Now it's just a matter of how much more they are willing to spend to save face and blame the OMB for the decision that has to be made.
We never did hear the professional advice on the merits of the plan. Like legal and planning opinion.
That the Dec 4 2015 offer to the town to purchase lands known municipally as 21 Golf Links Drive,
Aurora put forward by Highland Gate Developments Inc., be rejected ;and
That Highland Gate Developments Inc be requested to hold off on addressing any encroachments until such time as the OMB matter of appeal has been fully decided; and
That the town solicitor be directed to retain legal counsel and necessary experts to represent the town in the appeal by Highland Gate Developments Inc., and
That Highland Gate Developments Inc and Highland Gates Ratepayers Association be encouraged to continue their dialogue to resolve this matter with facilitation by town staff ; and
That town staff continue to update Council regarding the outcome of any such future discussions;and
That Town staff respond to the lawyers for Highland Gate Developments Inc. and inform them of Council's direction and position on this matter .
No complaints please about information overload.
I tried and Stephanie tried to copy Councillor Mrakas' resolution from Facebook to Blog and it simply would not budge.
I had to go back and forward to transpose the copy. That takes a lot of patience. Patience I did not know I possessed.
There were recorded votes on various clauses of the resolution but the first passed with a majority of five. Councillor Gaertner was absent. The negative votes were for continuing negotiations.
The Auroran reported Councillor Mrakas was angry and said the town and residents should be insulted by Highland Gate Developments Inc. offer to sell the golf club for $98.1 million.
The offer was made at a meeting held on Dec.4th. Friday.
I'm not sure why "residents" should be insulted . I'm not. It merely illustrates foolishness to contemplate such a purchase.
I am concerned that if it was town business, that's a bit murky, there appears to be no record
of a public meeting.
If the meeting was between Ratepayers and developer ,then obviously it's not our business.
Any more than how much the Ratepayers spent to pursue their objective.
If that was the objective, why did the town host all those meetings ,renting space and stretching the issue out for so long?
What exactly was that about? We're the meetings advertised to talk about buying the golf course or developing the golf course? There is a difference.
Now we have Councillor Mrakas reaction and the resolution. Nothing prepared us. I wonder when were they were planning to let the rest of us in on the plot.
Seems there never was an intention to work together to make the plan acceptable and it was all a sham and a colossal waste of time.
Except of course for leaning on the developer to abandon his rights and plans to develop and surrender the property to the RTepayers or the town.
Not clear which.
Not exactly kosher.
My reason for transposing the resolution is to read it together.....once,twice,three times for clarity.
Which escapes me.
Staff are directed to inform the developer the offer is rejected. Which offer? The offer to sell or the price? doesn't seem to be the development.
The developers are "requested" to hold off on "addressing" the "encroachments" until th OMB decision is made on the appeal.
A request to the developers seems like seeking a favour. Hardly appropriate in the circumstance of hostilities declared.
Staff are directed to retain legal counsel and necessary experts to represent the town in the appeal.
In what way are they to represent the town ? Is it about rejecting the offer to sell the property for the price? Or about rejecting the application to develop on the basis of what? Neighbourhood opposition?
And finally developer and ratepayers are "encouraged" to keep talking with town staff present to facilitate matters. To what end? To haggle the price of the land down ?
It's all very confusing. Not the least transparent.
Nothing in the Municipal Act gives a municipality the right to wrest a man's land away from him at a price he is unwilling to accept for a purpose that is not in the public interest and hasn't even been discussed with the community at large.
It may be people have a right to be angry and insulted. It's just not clear who they should be angry with or insulted by.
Anonymously in the past few days, some silly-Billy has been anxious for a contest in terms between myself and Mayor Dawe.
The comment above illustrates the irrelevance. In four years, the golf course development issue will long be forgotten.
I was elected in 1967, the first two year term of office. Until then, elections were held every twelve months. In 1973 I became Mayor... served again in 75/76.
Issues never had time to get stale
The population was about fifty-five hundred people until the subdivisions in the south and north end were built. Aurora Heights and Regency acres increased the number to seventy-five hundred in two years. There were no development charges . The impact of the tax bill for education alone was
Immediate and clearly recognized.
The taps ran dry several times at supper time in the summer. Former city dwellers knew nothing about reservoir capacity.
The arena had burned down and wasn't replaced for several years.
We weren't much concerned about pie-in-the-sky. Problems were real the means were meagre.
Increasing taxes on hard-pressed families to build reserves of millions would not have made any more sense then than they do to me now.
Clerk- treasurer ,Bill Johnstone was as well-known in the community as any Councillor. hJa responsibility to keep things running on an even keele was even better recognized and respected.
The town hall was mid- block on Yonge Street.Any information needed could be obtained two steps in from the sidewalk. The post office was next door where we all went to collect our mail.
Times were different. In many ways better. But times change. I was part of the change and glad to have had the privilege.
Comparing the Office of Mayor then to today with the massive bureaucracy, provincial controls , multi-million dollar budgets, billions at the Region, plans and master plans and studies coming out of our ears, and development charges to buy every municipal toy ever conceived of, is an entirely useless exercise and contributes nothing to the debate.
Unfortunately, council encourage the Highland neighbours by letting them think that that massive list of things they did not like about the plan would be considered, A few critical details, even large ones,might have been negotiated but the whole darn thing ? No. Cllr Mrakas has only to look at what happened with Newmarket.
Aurora's Official Plan must accord with provincial law. The Region of York approves and adopts it.
When Councillor Mrakas claims authority in town planning and the Ontario Municipal Board should be so governed, he displays a delightful innocence in planning reality.
The Ontario Municipal Board exists to protect property owners from the fickle finger of municipal
politics. The Board 's responsibility is to enforce municipal official plans.
A development plan costs 20million dollars to prepare. The market value of property reflects use that can be made of it, according to an official plan.
The Planning Act sets out, in law , duties and requirements of the municipality.
The OMB requires pre-hearing conferencing to resolve disagreements. The intent being to obtain a lawful decision without a hearing and the OMB making the decision.,
The process is like a Rubik's Cube.
As we have seen, cost is no small consideration.
Add land transfer tax, federal and provincial sales tax on building materials , municipal development charges, regional development charges, education development charges. Land required for schools, parks, roads , conservation and storm water retention ponds, all contribute to spiralling cost of building a housing unit.
I did the research a number of years ago. Cost of processing a plan to the point of a housing unit completed at the time, was conservatively close to half the sale price.
Without a light switch ...a door knob ...nor a roofing tile ..of value added.
The home is assessed at market value and the property owner pays taxes on taxes forever and a day.
Both parents must work to provide shelter.
Child care is required. Children are wakened in the dark on winter mornings, taken from their beds and dropped off by a parent to be cared for by strangers.
When and how does nurturing happen? Is it also a product for sale?
When a toddler is surrendered by a parent into a group of twenty, to fend for him/ herself, what do they learn?
In their minds, how do they get a sense of their own worth?
In answer to the initial question,appeals are filed to the OMB by developers when a Council refuses to abide by its own Official Plan.
Because some neighbours are opposed and Councillors are compelled to make promises difficult to keep.
So they don't .
No matter what it costs or who they blame.....the show must go on.