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Newmarket residents, town officials meet to discuss 'lessons learned' from Glenway battle

50 residents suggest ways Newmarket can improve processes in future
June 24, 2015
by Chris Simon

Newmarket may have misstepped on some of its public consultation efforts surrounding the Glenway battle, the town's mayor says.

Tony Van Bynen made the comments following the anticipated Glenway 'lessons learned' meeting at the Seniors' Meeting Place Tuesday night. About 50 people attended to express concern over the way the Marianneville Developments project was handled by the municipality, and provide input on how the town can improve its processes in the future.

Specifically, the municipality should change its public consultation method on similar projects. Instead of large meetings with hundreds of people in attendance, smaller facilitated workshops may be more beneficial, Van Bynen said.

"It was a productive discussion," he said of the meeting. "There were some good ideas about how we may approach things a little differently, in terms of how a more collaborative and productive dialogue could be achieved throughout the process. That's my biggest takeaway. It's future focused on how we can get better at this."

There were some concerns expressed regarding the amount of information released to the public surrounding the fight, and the town's ability to purchase the land years ago. However, negotiating strategies do need to take place behind closed doors, Van Bynen said.

"It's something that needs to unfold as the dialogue progresses," he said. "The rationale for making a decision not to buy the golf course, people still want to know what that was. That's something council still needs to deal with, in terms of how that process can be brought forward. If the municipality wants the space to stay green, the municipality needs to buy it. There needs to be an understanding whether it makes sense to buy it. We do have a parks master plan now. That's going to help guide any future acquisitions, so we're in better shape."

Once constructed, the project will include a 742-unit subdivision. The municipality also spent several hundred thousand dollars unsuccessfully fighting the project at the Ontario Municipal Board.

"The development is going ahead; the important thing now is to make sure it happens in a way that is respectful of the neighbourhood," Ward 7 Councillor and former chair of the Glenway Preservation Association Christina Bisanz said. "This is one of the largest, most significant infill projects this town has ever had. It's now about how we move forward and work with the developer and community every step of the way so there are no surprises."

Bisanz says there was value in the larger community consultation meetings.

"I don't think public consultation rests with any one method or format," she said. "They were necessary at certain stages; they had a place. However, there's other means to engage in meaningful dialogue. Trying to get more citizen engagement and consultation is ... something I will continue to be a strong advocate for."

A third-party, independent facilitator will be tasked with summarizing the session and related recommendations, and a report will be presented to council within the next few months.