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Vaughan ratepayer group fears Milanis’ controversial development bid once again

Residents feel it's a ploy that a person is representing a group with no proof of its existence to fulfil developer's agendas
Jan. 29, 2020
Dina Al-Shibeeb

Robert Kenedy, president of the 600-member MacKenzie Ridge Ratepayers Association in Vaughan, says people in his neighbourhood are “incensed” about a letter sent by another resident, who claims he represents residents with a different stance on a controversial development.

Antony Niro, presenting himself as president of the unregistered Maplewood Ratepayer Association, has sent a letter to the City of Vaughan, urging council to back a proposal to build 526 units on land owned by local developers the Milani family and to extend Kirby Road from Bathurst Street to Dufferin Street.

Niro's letter comes with many issues, according to the MacKenzie association.

It’s bringing back a proposal that was rejected in 2015 by about 200 people, who are members of Maplewood association.

The MacKenzie association members aren't convinced Niro represents a group of more than 60 people. Kenedy says there is at least one other example of a previous development battle in the Dufferin Street and Rutherford Road area, where the president of a ratepayer association -- who didn’t live in the area -- “didn’t consult with anybody,” but supported the Milanis application for a controversial development in the area. Some residents of that neighbourhood formed a group, known as the “Friends of Grand Trunk,” to fight the proposed development -- arguing that having a person claiming to represent area residents is a tactic employed by some developers.

In a nutshell, Kenedy says he has no qualms if Niro is representing himself as an individual expressing his own stance. But he takes issues with his claim of representing others.

Kenedy also questioned the Maplewood Association, which is currently a “nonactive” group.

“He doesn’t even write in the letter that he represents 60 people,” said Kenedy, who wants a proof or at least the list of names of the people who are backing the project.

Robert Aaron Kenedy, president of the MacKenzie Ridge Ratepayers Association, stands in the Maplewood Ravines area. -- Justin Greaves/Torstar

While Niro didn’t supply a list of names of people backing the project, he said in an interview with the Vaughan Citizen that it's "incorrect" to say the majority of people living the neighbourhood oppose the development.

“There are many neighbours who want the development to go through as soon as possible,” said Niro, who previously opposed the development.

Niro said that since a heated 2015 public meeting, chaired by Maplewood Ratepayer Association president Frank Stadler, “my association has decided to no longer hold open meetings.”

“The public bullying and shaming conducted in that meeting was appalling,” Niro added.

“For the record, my 20 years' experience representing the adjoining neighbourhoods surrounding the Milani lands has taught me that, as a ratepayer president of an association, I don't represent the views of 'all residents' in those neighbourhoods -- nobody does.”

During the 2015 public meeting, Stadler said Niro was “the sole person” who “stuck up his hand in a group of 100 to 200 people” where he made it clear that “we should ... listen to the developer and consider his proposal.”

While Stadler said the community isn’t against development, the Milanis plan is “very intensive” and “was explicitly what we did not want.”

But Niro said the development must go through, “So that we can shut down the gravel pit.”

“This has been my position since 2002,” he added.

“About 200 acres of the pit, it’s environmentally unstable as a functioning pit. So the best thing for those lands would be for it to be rehabilitated and become residential.”

It’s the Milanis who own the licence to operate the pit.

Kenedy shared a notice from the Municipal Affairs and Housing minister from 2015, following the Milanis' request to rezone the property from agricultural land to residential.

While the minister’s order designated the land as a future urban area zone, it didn’t permit the development and requested more zoning amendments.

The minister’s order also said if the land is developed, it has to be “low density residential” with a valley and stream corridor.

Kirby Road may be extended as an “arterial road,” but subject to an environmental assessment.

The ministry also said any future development should be to the satisfaction of the city and affected agencies.


So far, the Miliani family, owners of Rizmi Holdings, argues their 350 acres of land “are NOT subject to the Greenbelt or Oak Ridges Moraine due to transitional applications from 1990s,” hence their drive to push for development.

That has been their position for more than a decade and led the Milanis, in 2008, to file a $150-million lawsuit against the City of Vaughan. In the lawsuit, they claimed the city acted negligently when it closed down two development applications to have their lands rezoned from agricultural to residential; an important step to start building.

Cam Milani said the case was “dropped” with the “aggregate approvals in exchange for the (Municipal Affairs and Housing) Minister Zoning Order on the first 100 Acres at 11333 Dufferin St.”

He added, “The balance of the lands (250 additional acres) is approved for aggregate pits, with tens of millions of tons of aggregate to extract.”