First off, it is simply scandalous that the results (5 panels times 5 tables of attendees) of the well attended (66 participants) public meeting of January 30th, 2013 – or exercise in so-called dotmocracy – were never posted on the web, either by Planning Alliance or the City’s Planning Department, whereas even brown napkins with writing from the prior public meeting of November 7th, 2012, made it to slides and the web. This scandalous disregard for public input was further aggravated by the fact that several Councillors (Schulte, Di Biase, Rosati) and the Mayor all asked, in at least two meetings (Committee of the Whole of March 5th, and April 9th) for the panels from the January 30th meeting to be made available to the public on the web, and that various such requests made by members of the Concord community during the summer months met with no response or the response that these results would be posted “soon”. In the last meeting of the Steering Committee, on October 29th, 2013, Planning Alliance claimed this was the responsibility of the City, which again promised to put them up. Yet until last night, no one from our community had seen them – and nowhere on the web could they be found. Then last night, just before we filed this response and after queries to the City about this matter went unanswered once again, there appeared on the web a copy of the presentation from the subsequent Public Open House in which we found tiny images of the panels that resulted from that January 30th meeting, made at such low resolution that nothing could be read in them, however high the magnification.
In what follows, therefore, we will use the Schedules of the submitted Draft and our collective memories of what was the majoritarian public input at that January 30th meeting – and we stress “majoritarian”, not just because it involved 4 out of 5 tables, but because one cannot compare an entire living community to a few stakeholders who want to make very big bucks, and even less to an imaginary community of some 8,000 to 10,000 people (for 4,000 units) who, by provincial dictate, exist on paper as a constituency that requires the Concord GO hub.
In point of fact regarding these imaginary communities, principle 4 of the submitted Draft states that we intensify in order to support the plans for the “transit hub”, but on p. 15 of the same Draft it says that the present plan is predicated on the transit hub (the construction of a GO station), while on p. 16 one learns that a GO station is not currently being planned. Ergo, if no hub is planned, then there is no reason to intensify on the Concord Floral lands, and there is even less reason for the City not to ask of the province to be given these greenspace lands that should belong to the river valley, are the natural complement of the tributaries’ junction, are an integral part of the flood plain, have been the traditional greenspace of Concord West and Glen Shields residents, are Crown land, public land, and belong by jus natura to the Bartley Smith Greenway, there where it is strangled the most.
In April 2013, with our community’s support, Council enlarged the study area – which should have indeed allowed a more comprehensive assessment of the emplacement of the transportation hub and the development planned by Liberty Development Corp on the Concord Floral lands, and afforded true protection for the river valley, the Bartley Smith Greenway and the Concord West greenspace. Instead, it was something quite different that turned out to become comprehensive – a chance for the planned development of the Concord Floral lands to spread even further north to Ortona Drive, east to the river valley and west to Bowes road (and why not south to appease those anxious stakeholders?)…
One more remark about the analysis that follows. Council and the City’s Planning Department may feel that by concentrating on the Schedules, we are unfairly disregarding the City’s comments in the “Implementation” section (#8) of the Draft – comments which in several instances were inspired by the criticisms and demands that Concord West has repeatedly made with respect to the proposed developments. We would like to clearly state that we do appreciate those comments. However, their character and tone is much too mild for the task at hand and the overt commitment of Council, and the fact that the expression of these ideas has been restricted to the Implementation section of the document, rather than being clearly reflected in the Schedules, makes their value highly dubious in our eyes. It is the Schedules, not the commentary within the rest of the document, that in the final instance represent the planners’ intent for the area. Much as we may be warmed by some of the formulations the City has crafted in the Implementation section, they seem to us – in view of the fact that none of this warmth has found its way into the actual plans being proposed via the Schedules – akin to a sweet glaze on an otherwise indigestible cake.
Summarily, however, we cannot but note how glib are some of the guidelines in this Section 8. Take section 18.104.22.168.e, which states that commuter surface parking is discouraged. This is fine, but where is the parking for the high-density development of the Concord Floral lands in the present application before you? Are all 10,000 people going to be effectively forced to use public transit? That is a pipedream. What about “the incorporation of transit facilities and amenities into private development” (22.214.171.124.h), where is that shown, for a fact, in the Concord Floral plan before you today? And should that incorporation not include planning for a potential transitway station? How about the City’s desire to advance with twin tracking of the Barrie GO line (clause 126.96.36.199.a) – why does it not state clearly that this should only be north of Highway #7, not south, where it will affect the only residential community in the contemplated double track? And why do sections 8.2.1 and 188.8.131.52, 184.108.40.206.b, 220.127.116.11.i and 18.104.22.168.b not state that the GO Rail station will be built to the north or on the north side of Highway #7, and will employ only the northern quadrants? Likewise, why do not clauses 22.214.171.124.f and 126.96.36.199.g not mention directly that the “space contiguous with the valley system” includes as its most important member the Concord West greenspace, and that connection should be made to it from both the Concord West community and the future Concord Floral community?