Debbie Schaefer’s Letter to Editor re: Marylake

The 2 3/4 year reign of Premier Ford has been characterized by surprises. The first was the edict that the Toronto Council should be cut in half at the midpoint of the 2018 election campaign. Another big surprise was the speed with which commercial contracts for wind power were torn up despite financial penalties. This was surprising as the Premier branded himself as a successful business person. A recent surprise was the amendment in Bill 257, purportedly about broadband infrastructure; the amendment requires Conservation Authorities to issue permits enabling destruction of wetlands if a Ministerial Zoning Order (MZO) has been issued.

None of these surprises is as clever as the latest: the approval of a large institutional development on the Oak Ridges Moraine. Without any involvement of King Council, Township staff or public consultation, The Ministry of LTC confirmed 140 new LTC beds for King City. Given previous discussions and presentations to Council, I am assuming the proposed located for this grand project is the redevelopment of the Marylake Property.

The development of 140 LTC beds, without any recognition of the ORM ridged guidelines for environmentally protected lands, is now a readily accepted solution for the current deficit of community based LTC in King Township. This has all the markings of a MZO, which Minister Clark has often vowed he would never do on the Greenbelt, but without any of the inherit components that traditionally guide the MZO process.

Two fundamental conditions are identified in the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan that permit the proposed development to occur. First, there needs to be a legal non-conforming institutional use, as of 2001, that can be expanded to meet realistic future needs and second, that any development would reflect the guidelines for environmentally protected sensitive zones defined by the ORMCP. With the exception of myself, King Council has accepted claims that The Marylake site can be 44 redeveloped — which was reported by Staff at the Council meeting held on February 8. This position by staff has provided the Ministry of LTC with the parameters necessary to allocate unrestricted development of 140 new LTC beds to Mariann House, currently not even a King City corporation.

I must acknowledge that there may be adequate evidence about “historic use” but it has been nearly 6 weeks that I and hundreds of citizens have been asking for the evidence. Suggesting that a modern 188-bed Long Term Care facility is an extension of what existed before 2001 needs to be vetted and proven by a fully qualified professional adjudicator–but at time of writing, I have not received any response that this will be implemented in the near future. I am willing to work with skilled and knowledgeable experts who can provide a solid assessment of the potential for LTC on the Marylake site as defined by the guidelines of the ORMCP.

I do not make the same acknowledgment regarding the development being “environmentally sensitive. ”In the report to King Township Council February 8th it is reported that TRCA did say that the proposed site was outside natural hazards, key natural heritage features (KNF) and their minimum vegetation and protection zones and buffers. Even though they were given erroneous information by Township staff, which makes these conclusions moot, I agree that numerous studies, 5 at minimum, would be required to demonstrate if this project would have significant impact on the “adjacent wetland features and their hydrologic and ecological features. ” I am very curious to see the site plan, which is apparently to be located on the footprint of the demolished Monastery , as it sits about 50 meters from the kettle lake, well within the minimum area of influence which is 120 meters as defined by the ORMCP.

Citizens, not just environmentalists, should be outraged. Yes, long term care capacity is desperately needed but at minimum, let’s understand the collateral damage. For the last 30 years citizens have advocated and fought for protection of the Oak Ridges Moraine but now approval for development is being rubber-stamped. Citizens of King Township have just renewed their desire for the northern urban boundary of King City to be the 15th Sideroad with the approval of the new Official Plan. This project would set a precedent that could affect the whole of the settlement area of King City. As part of this growth, the extension of municipal services for the proposed LTC facility will set the stage for more development at Marylake Monastery; we saw a “draft” of this in December when Council was requested to endorse a MZO to enable development including a hotel/conference centre, a seniors village and more at the Monastery.

Minister Lecce has announced that he is fulfilling one of his campaign promises to have a LTC facility in King. Why didn’t he come to the Council and identify his dream? Why didn’t he come to Council with those who own hundreds of hectares of greenfield lands in King and have been making applications for residential development. Most importantly, why did Minister Lecce not incorporate the functional building blocks of the ORMCP and the Greenbelt in his campaign promises and in the parameters that define new LTC beds in King City. Finally, why have my Council colleagues been so passive in accepting our Staff’s assessment of “historic use. ” Respecting the expertise and professionalism of our Staff does not mean rubber stamping recommendations. This could have been so different!