November 26, 2010

[Informational bulletin, also distributed as a flier to the Concord West residents]

Background: At the General Meeting on August 25th, 2010, a General Assembly of the residents of Concord West, at Fontana Gardens, learned of an existing Plan of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (OMT) to locate a GO/Metrolinx hub and a parking lot on the greenland to the east of our community.  As most of you know by now, this is land owned by the Ontario Realty Corp (ORC), and the Concord West community has petitioned the Minister of Infrastructure twice, to have it transferred to the TRCA (Toronto & Region Conservation Authority) as part of the Bartley-Smith Greenway.

The General Assembly of the community unanimously rejected the OMT Plan, and unanimously approved an Alternative Plan for a GO/Metrolinx hub proposed by the Concord West Residents Ad Hoc Committee (AHC) as outlined and prepared by Dr. Paulo Correa.  The community also unanimously approved (1) sending another letter (sent on August 30th) to the new Minister of Infrastructure, Hon. R. Chiarelli, again requesting transfer of the ORC greenspace to the TRCA; and (2) calling for a meeting with the Ministries of Infrastructure (OMI) and Transportation (OMT), as well as York Region Rapid Transit (YRRT/Viva), GO/Metrolinx and the TRCA, to present them with the community’s Plan.

We have now come to report to the community on these and other efforts that followed since then.  Much more has been done by the AHC, but we will focus on the main efforts.

Work with Transportation officials: Invitations were sent to all concerned officials for a meeting with the community on September 14th.  On that date, Dr. Correa, with the support of our private planner, Elizabeth Howson (from MaCaulay Shiomi Howson Ltd.), presented the community’s Alternative Plan to George Ivanoff, Senior Environmental Planner for the Ministry of Transportation; G. Garron, Principal Senior Project Manager for Delcan; D. Albers, Chief Communications Officer for YRRT/Viva; M. Fenning, for TRCA and an assistant to to Peter Shurman, M.P.P.-Thornhill.  Metrolinx and the OMI failed to attend.  At this meeting, Ivanoff promised that the OMT would conduct a technical assessment of the community’s Alternative Plan.  Shortly after this meeting, the OMI informed us that its decision would depend entirely upon the OMT.

On September 27, a formal Submission of the Alternative Plan and the history of the petition, written by Dr. Correa and signed jointly with the CW Seniors Club (CWSC) and the Concord West Ratepayers Association (CWRA), was sent to the OMT.  After three queries, Ivanoff (OMT) finally informed us (AHC) on November 23 and November 26, that the technical assessment will be due in the last week of December, and performed by a private consultant, Delcan.

Given the community’s alternative location of the traffic hub on the north side of Highway #7, on September 22 the heads of the AHC, CWSC and CWRA wrote  to Premier D. McGuinty, requesting a temporary freeze on the sale of the ORC parcel B of the Concord Floral lands.

Meanwhile, on October 12, and in anticipation of opposition by Metrolinx/GO, Dr. Correa spoke with their VP of Policy Planning, L. Woo, who confirmed that they had no apriori objection to the location of the GO/Metrolinx hub north of Highway 7.  She promised a more detailed planning review of the matter, including our Submission.  After weeks of queries, her response finally came on November 22, and it cites that the preferred location for the Metrolinx/GO hub is on the south side of Highway #7 because that is the choice made by YRRT/Viva.  Together with the CW Seniors Club and the CWRA, the AHC responded (on November 26) that her conclusion was unacceptable, and requested a meeting with Metrolinx Chair and President.  YRRT/Viva was also informed of this.

Work with local politicians: On September 8, the CWRA sent out to all the candidates running in the Vaughan municipal elections a package containing background information and a single question prepared by Dr. Correa: whether the candidates would support in writing the 2 requests from the community – (1) the transfer of the ORC greenland to the TRCA and (2) the location of the GO/Metrolinx hub north of Highway 7.  On September 28, at the request of the CWRA, Dr. Correa presented a summary of the community’s Alternative Plan and an update for the community at the All-Candidates meeting at Fontana Gardens.  He also asked all candidates to write letters of support for both requests of the community. On October 2nd, the AHC website went on the internet.  As soon as this happened, signed letters of support from 16 of the 25 candidates came in rapidly.

Following the elections, J. Mastrodicasa and Dr. Correa obtained another letter of explicit support from Councillor-elect G. Rosati (on November 1st).  Along with the letters of the newly elected Mayor M. Bevilacqua, Regional Councillors D. Schulte and M. Di Biase and Local Councillor S. Racco, this gives us majority support in the new Vaughan City Council in favour of our 2 requests.  Councillors A. Shefman and M. Iafrate have also been contacted for support.

Work with environmental organizations: In late September, a turtle found and photographed by Archie Haslauer on the border of the petitioned ORC land was identified by Alexandra Correa as a Blanding’s Turtle, a protected species. In the following days, this identification was confirmed by the Curator of the Toronto Zoo and by Cristopher Edge, a foremost authority on Blanding’s turtles at the University of New Brunswick.  Archie entered the coordinates in the official Turtle Tally, and the Ministry of Natural Resources was immediately notified.  On October 25th, the formal report from the Toronto Zoo on the Blanding’s Turtle finding was received by our Committee and posted on the website.  All relevant officials were provided with this report.  On November 3rd, our struggle to preserve our greenspace received formal support from the Director of the Sierra Club Ontario.  The AHC is currently in contact with several environmental organizations that offer legal assisstance, in case this is needed.  A recommendation to list the petitioned ORC land under the “greenbelt system” is currently under way with the Greenbelt Alliance and Environmental Defence.  We will be filing for “greenbelt status” with the City very shortly.  Finally, on November 26, the Minister of the Environment, Hon. J. Wilkinson, was put on notice that we may file an appeal of the Environmental Assessment if the latter is not comprehensive.



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