yorkregion.com has posted an artilcle about the fist public meeting of Settlers Park Residents Association (SPRA) on May 30, 2012
by Kim Zarzour May 31, 2012 – 3:09 PM
Thornhill councillor Howard Shore stormed out of a meeting last night after residents who organized the gathering to save their endangered greenspace told him they did not want him commandeering the podium to defend the town’s plans.
The hastily organized meeting, a first by newly formed Settlers Park Residents Association, was arranged to brainstorm ways to fight Markham’s proposal for a four-year pilot project, abutting Settlers Park, on the former Sabiston landfill — a site that is now laced with walking trails and wildlife and one which the community has come to view as parkland.
The town, along with the Ontario Centres of Excellence, Seneca College and groundwater consulting firm SPL Beatty, wants to install new aerobic technology on the site and the mayor, Mr. Shore and staff called a meeting to discuss the idea with residents at the Thornhill Community Centre.
But as opposition to the plan swelled, less than 48 hours before the meeting was to be held, it was abruptly cancelled.
Mr. Shore told some residents the last-minute change was due to the fact the town hoped to include the environment ministry and “external agencies”.
But not everyone was aware of the cancellation and residents went ahead with the meeting at the community centre. The newly formed residents’ group paid for the venue and as their children drew pictures of the deer, fish and rabbits they’ve seen on the land, the adults talked about why they believe the initiative is a waste of money and harmful to the environment.
Organizer and local resident Kimberly Seymour said she invited Mr. Shore to speak earlier, but when he did not respond to her invitation, she removed him from the agenda.
When he indicated, as the meeting started, that he would like to make a presentation after all, the group gave him the microphone but appeared to lose patience when he exceeded his allotted time and began defending the town’s position.
As he argued that he was not finished yet, residents shouted him down, telling him that it was their venue, they’d rented the space, and asking him to leave the podium.
Mr. Shore exited the room with a door slam.
“I don’t think we were rude,” Ms Seymour said later.
“He was disrespectful of the time he was using when a tightly approved agenda had to be adhered to. Despite saying he only wanted to speak for a few minutes he probably spoke for over 15 minutes.”
Mr. Shore told the group the town’s communication with residents was “not what I would have liked” and said he was disappointed with the decision to reschedule.
He offered to “advocate on behalf of the community” to lower assessments — currently at a premium because the land is considered greenspace — to reflect that the homes back onto landfill, but residents told him they do not want the stigma attached to their homes.
Mr. Shore also reiterated his desire to have the town re-designate the land as a natural habitat preserve.
But even with a “nice name”, he said, the green space is still sitting on top of garbage and it is still a landfill.
About 100 residents from the Don Mills and Steeles area attended the one-hour meeting to hear from Bob James, who described himself as a scientist and environmentalist who frequently bikes through the park.
Mr. James described a reluctance on the part of town consultants to talk about methane emissions. Instead, he said, residents at a March public meeting have heard a sales pitch for the technology.
“We didn’t get the straight scientific facts, we got what might charitably be called a distorted, skewed view of the facts … statements downright intended to deceive.”
He produced a graph showing that methane emissions from landfills peak at 12 years, then steadily decline. The site has been closed 37 years as a landfill and after numerous attempts, he said he finally received information from the town showing emissions were negligible and declining rapidly.
This shows there is no need for the $500,000 pilot test, he said, and no reason to expand it to include the entire 20-acre site.
“There is no environmental benefit in this scheme. This experiment is a total farce,” he said.
“Without wanting to be too glib in assigning motives, the only motive I can personally think of is someone’s going to make quite a few bucks out of this.”