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March 2007

News From the President

The following is text of a Status Report delivered by Ritchard Findlay, President of Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development, at the CCQLD's first Annual General Meeting on Feb. 7, 2007, held at St. Nicholas Anglican Church.

I thought I'd start with a bit of background.

I won't go into it much here, but the problem we are dealing with is older than I am. Since the early 1960's, this development challenge has been hanging over the collective head of the community. It seems once a decade or so, the issue heats up again, and groups of well-intentioned community members come together to combat proposals for undesirable development.

The most recent time the issue heated up was in August of 2003. Notices of a "minor" zoning variation went up around the neighbourhood, and it got the community's blood going. I remember fondly the meeting at Fallingbrook Presbyterian Church on that warm summer evening. I am sure it has been a while since the church was that packed. It was exciting to see the neighbourhood focused in one direction like that.

Many hundreds of people came out to that first meeting. Out of that came a list of people willing to stay on. The list started pretty big. It has been whittled down substantially, to these hearty souls in the room. A handful of your neighbours has been meeting monthly for nearly four years, trying to stay abreast of any developments in the case, making plans for a proper fight should it be necessary.

While this issue has come up several times in the last five decades, thing are a little different now. The Government of Ontario is actively promoting the redevelopment of brownfields lands, of which the Quarry site is one. As well, the political climate is in favour of intensification. The upshot of both of these things is that we believe development will take place on the quarry lands, in the medium-future. It will not be a matter of stopping development, but rather mitigating the impact of such development in the community and turning into a positive.

The City is also involved -- or most precisely the city's planning department is involved -- in a couple of ways. First they have been working to develop an overall plan for the mixed use development of all the Quarry lands. It has been a long process, including a great deal of community consultation, environmental studies, traffic studies, etc.

Secondly, the City will perhaps be able to incorporate the Conservatory Group's (ie. the developer's) holdings into the plan. While the developer has the property right to build towers if they choose, they can surely see that such a project will meet with a great deal of community resistance. Our hope is that a proper plan will include enough incentive to cause the developer to change its plans.

While speaking of the city, I would be remiss if I did not mention the ongoing support of Councilor Brian Ashton. He has been a good ally throughout the last four years of our organization.

As a group, the activities of Concerned Citizens of Quarry Lands Development over the last couple of years have been mostly involved with city planning, including ensuring that an adequate number of clear-thinking individuals attends each of the city's planning sessions. And these sessions have been many. The land-use study that the City has undertaken has been underway for three years. The last meeting was held on Oct. 21st, 2006, at Birchcliff Public School. The purpose of the meeting was to undertake a design charrette. This is an exercise in which participants begin to actually conceptualize and visualize the kind of development that might occur on the larger package of lands, and what sort of development would integrate most appropriately with the existing community.

The charrette was an opportunity to bring forth ideas, concepts and common themes which could lead to a set of Primary Principals which the city planners would use in developing larger design plans for the Quarry lands. Those who attended felt it was a very worthwhile exercise, and quite encouraging.

As we were undertaking these activities, it was felt prudent a couple of years ago to incorporate the group, to offer its volunteer board some small legal protection from operating behind an arm's-length corporate body. Tonight's AGM is one of our obligations as such a corporation.

Our other activities of late have been informational. We have tried hard to stay in touch with out community, our constituency through our Web site, and through reasonable frequent mailings, emailings, and community newspaper articles. While we are in something of a holding pattern, we are trying to keep whatever news is available top of mind with our community.

Another way that we reached out to the community was through the fundraising dance and party that was held at the legion hall on Kingston road on March 4th of last year. It was a great opportunity to meet some of our neighbours, have a beer, shake your tail feathers and bid on some great prizes. All of the committee worked hard on that effort, but we have to give special thanks once again to Hedy Korbee, who knocked herself out to ensure that we threw a good party.

Of course fundraisers raise money. We made a few thousand dollars on that evening, and have kept it in reserve for operating costs and future needs. Our operating costs have been slimmed down to next to nothing, a little website cost and a little printing here or there. We have however been looking into the idea of some director's insurance, as it would be comforting to know that we could keep our houses if we should ever really get into a legal dispute with the developer. In that case we would need some funds for legal fees, which we have a start at (and could go through in no time, I would think).

So that describes us: a small handful of your neighbours who are doing a job we would rather not be doing. But we have stuck with it for coming on four years, and we will continue to see this through to an appropriate and positive resolution for our community.


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