June 3, 2012
Dear Mayor Scarpitti and Honorable Regional and Ward Councillors,
I am writing in response to a few emails I received this past Friday that were also copied to you, regarding the Settler’s Park Resident’s Association and our meeting regarding the proposal to install a new aerobic technology in the former Sabiston landfill. I believe there were some misunderstandings due to miscommunications and I am expressing my concerns around these matters. I believe that proper communication is the key to resolution.
Our newly formed S.P.R.A. held a meeting on Wednesday May 30, 2012 at the Thornhill Community Center from 7pm to 8pm in response to the cancellation, with less than 48 hours notice, of the Town Meeting that was supposed to have been held at the same time and venue. First of all, as you know, the first meeting on this subject, since being overwhelmingly rejected by the public in 2006, was on March 19, 2012 at the Town of Markham Civic Centre. Residents expressed many concerns and questions and the town promised to schedule a follow up meeting.
Then a limited number of residents had a formal invitation for a Town meeting on May 17, 2012 that was abruptly cancelled and residents did not get a formal cancellation notice, causing confusion and frustration. We still do not know what this meeting was about.
The follow-up meeting was scheduled for May 30, 2012. Some residents received formal invitation and others did not. It was not listed in the Markham section of the Liberal that week. With less than 48 hours notice, this meeting was also cancelled; some people received a cancellation notice, others did not. For example, no one on my street received a cancellation notice and we abutt this green space. In response to this, the SPRA was very concerned and decided to re-book the venue on Tuesday to meet on Wednesday as we felt a number of residents would show up not knowing the Town meeting was cancelled and we decided to host an SPRA meeting instead.
I know this sounds very confusing and it was, so therefore we would like to work to improve our communication with Markham. At our meeting, we booked the venue for one hour, not the two hours that Markham had booked. When I found out that Councillor Shore was going to be able to come to T.C.C. that night, I emailed him to see if he would like to be added to the agenda to speak. Since he did not have a chance to reply to my email he was removed from the agenda assuming that he was not interested in speaking at our meeting. Our committee then proceeded with a full pre-approved agenda. We had very little time to prepare. When Mr. Shore arrived and asked to speak we were surprised. We were more than welcome to have our councillor address the audience. Mr. Shore said he would speak for a few minutes. He presented many new ideas on a number of topics. Although we wanted to hear these ideas we were not able to allow Mr. Shore to use up all the time planned for other speakers and given our strict time constraints, I suggested we schedule a later meeting. I had pressure from my committee to keep to the schedule and pressure from the venue, as their staff warned us we had to be out at 8pm sharp to set up for Ping Pong.
I was not happy with how things turned out and have apologized to Mr. Shore for having to cut him off, after a few warnings, as we unfortunately did not get a chance to listen to all of his ideas. Had we have known, we would have booked the space for an extra hour to schedule time for Mr. Shore to present. I don’t think Mr. Shore realized we did not have the venue for the full two hours.
We do have a few suggestions for improving communication. At the meeting Mr. Shore agreed that he has not been impressed with Markham’s communication of late. Some suggestions for improvements are: To give residents at least two weeks of written notice of any future town meeting related to this subject and actually four weeks is preferred as many people who work shifts have to rearrange their schedule and also find childcare. It is very difficult to do that with last minute notice. Provide residents at least 48 hours written notice of any cancelled meeting. This is very important so that people who are invited receive notice of the cancellation. Expand the area to include all interested parties and stakeholders who border this green space including Settler’s Park Residents Association, German Mills Rate Payers Association, Bayview Fairways Rate Payers and Bayview Country Club Estates Ratepayers, as well as Baha’i Faith and the Bayview Golf and Country Club. It is not just the residents that abut the green space who are interested in these meetings, park users’ travel from many areas of the GTA to enjoy this parkland. We also suggest that all questions submitted by residents to our Councilor and/or Markham staff be answered as soon as possible. Delaying answers until the next meeting does not facilitate good communication between us.
We have asked Mr. Shore if these requests are reasonable and we are planning to meet with him as soon as possible, to continue these conversations. An excellent idea that Mr. Shore presented was to recommend protecting this green space in the North West of German Mills Settler’s Park, labeling it conservation to give this unique environment an extra layer of protection from future experiments or development.
Honorable Councillors, our position is that we want this space protected. We are appealing to you to withdraw from the pilot project in the face of public opposition. The petition to stop the aerobic proposal already has over 500 signatures! Our members want a landfill approach which will be as minimally intrusive and invasive as possible which in their opinion is the status quo. They also want to preserve the meadowlands and endorse the Toronto Field Naturalist approach; since this is a rare habitat for many species of ground-nesting and hunting birds, butterflies and mammals. The pilot project site is the main area where the bobolinks and meadow larks nest and the possible extension of the aerobic process to the whole landfill will destroy the whole meadow habitat and we will lose all the species of ground-nesting and hunting birds and butterflies which depend on the meadow for nesting, cover and food. Many of our residents use the park, as we call it, and the thought of more wells, pipes, fans, pumps, leachate pools, trucks bringing fill and heavy machinery spreading it, is a scenario no one wants to live with. The thought of extending this project to the whole landfill, which will bring all this activity close to our homes and properties, fills us with revulsion and disquiet.
This landfill has affected our lives and properties enough already. We appeal to you not to disturb our lives further, and to help us to preserve the flora and fauna of the meadowlands and the peace and tranquility of the whole valley by withdrawing from this project. We would also like areas of existing settlement addressed for the residents who are affected.
We believe this is an excellent opportunity for Markham to show environmental leadership by protecting this unique area in the GTA. In conclusion, in no way did I mean to disrespect Councillor Shore at our meeting. On the contrary, we are really excited to meet and discuss the possibilities for this parkland. Howard, I hope you agree that since touring this green space with me, you have a different perspective of this area. The S.P.R.A. looks forward to working with you to hear more of your ideas and find ways to improve communication.
I have been a proud resident of Markham for over 20 years and have really enjoyed living in Thornhill, especially the tranquility of backing onto this green space.
Settler’s Park Residents Association, Treasurer
By the way, I have copied the executives from SPRA.