Sustainability is about leaving our planet better than we found it for our children and our children’s children. Markham’s GreenPrint Plan for Sustainability is based on a triple bottom line, comprised of social (people), economic (financial), and environment (planet).
I am very proud to be a member of Markham’s GreenPrint Steering Committee. For Markham to really thrive, all three pillars need to be strong. The sustainable Markham I envision integrates all three elements and becomes the lens through which all decisions at the municipality – from budget items to new development applications, are viewed.
As Councillor I will elevate the status of ‘sustainability’ in Markham by redesignating the planning Commission into the Development and Sustainability Commission.
PUBLIC TRANSIT and OUR QUALITY OF LIFE
Transit is a major factor in the effort to maintain liveable cities. Without transit, our largest cities would look very different—and even small cities would likely change noticeably for the worse. In fact, roughly 80 percent of Canadians live in urban centres, and 60 percent of recent job creation has been focused in just 10 city centres. Quality of urban life has become a national concern and with the level of development expected along corridors such as Yonge Street, is certainly a significant concern to the residents of Thornhill. Residents take pride in living here and expect clean air, safe streets, access to opportunity and ease of movement. An efficient and seamless public transit system plays a significant role in each of these areas.
For residents of Thornhill, extension of the Yonge-Finch subway station to at least Highway 7 is a critical priority. As part of a Region to the north of Toronto, we also need to appreciate the demands on Toronto’s existing subway system and advocate for a workable downtown relief line to ease the pressure in Toronto, allowing for the extension of the Yonge-Finch line northward into York Region.
What have I done?
- Two years ago and again more recently I proposed the idea of Markham taking the lead and organizing a genuine summit on transit – just as Mayor McCallion did earlier this year regarding the ice storm - bringing together the mayors of the GTA and the Federal and Provincial Ministers of Transportation. Serious decisions need to me made about which transit projects are priorities, an on-going source of sustainable funding and a specific timeline. We need to treat this as an essential investment in our future.
- Transit Town Hall. I was very pleased to host a transit town hall meeting on May 12, 2014 with experts from YRT/Viva, Civic Action and the Provincial Transit Investment Strategy Advisory Panel.
- We need a National Transit-Transportation Strategy. I have written and spoken this on several occasions and most recently spoke at a Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference workshop. How we move people and things affect all aspects of our lives – environmentally, socially and economically. People are willing to make the necessary investment in transit, provided the funds are dedicated to a high-quality, efficient and integrated system.
- We need a sustainable vision of which we can all be proud. When ‘politics’ drive Federal funding to support the extension of the Scarborough subway line before a downtown relief line in Toronto or the Yonge subway extension (even against the recommendation of TTC Chair Andy Byford), something is definitely wrong.
- Create one transportation body. I am in favour of a Greater Toronto & Hamilton Area regional transportation body responsible for planning, funding and executing long term transportation plans.
PROTECTING EXISTING NEIGHBOURHOODS – Yonge-Steeles Corridor
Markham is growing by roughly 8,000 people annually. That creates both challenges as well as opportunities. A major area identified for ‘intensification’ is the Yonge Street corridor. We have to be mindful of the type of development that occurs and protect existing neighbourhoods and communities from its impact, particularly related to traffic coming in from other areas outside our city.
The Yonge Street corridor north of Steeles Avenue will likely see major intensification over the next few years. The World on Yonge development is rapidly going up before our eyes; another large development – Frangian – at Grandview and Yonge, was approved and the Langstaff Gateway is in the offing. Fundamental change is occurring in this neighbourhood.
I did not support the Frangian development application when it came to Council. I believe we must be zealously vigilant regarding the development applications we know will undoubtedly come to Yonge Street in the years to come.
Certain parts of the neighbourhood will be completely redeveloped (approximately – Steeles Avenue to the south, Dudley Avenue to the East (except for the south side of Highland Avenue which will be redeveloped to Willowdale Blvd), Yonge Street to the West and Grandview Avenue to the north).
The area being redeveloped will consist of high rise condominiums at Yonge Street, with low rise mixed use development being developed further east in the area. Building height would gradually decrease as one approaches Dudley Avenue. The rest of the neighbourhood not subject to redevelopment will remain as single family residences.
In June 2013 the City of Markham retained a transportation consultant to undertake the Yonge-Steeles Corridor Transportation Study. The objectives of the Study are to address the existing transportation issues and to determine the future transportation vision, transportation strategies and infrastructure recognizing growth and redevelopment within the proposed Yonge-Steeles Corridor Secondary Plan area. The redevelopment of the proposed Yonge-Steeles Corridor Secondary Plan area requires a comprehensive Transportation Study that will help ensure that redevelopment relies on sustainable modes of travel including walking, cycling, and public transit, resulting in a more balanced and sustainable transportation system.
Additionally, the existing Thornhill Secondary Plan states that there should not be undue negative impacts on local residential streets arising from such new residential development. Proposed changes shall be based on protecting the existing residential community being considered a first priority. As we move forward with this process, it is important that sufficient safeguards be established to protect the existing community, that are not part of the area subject to redevelopment. This could certainly be adversely impacted if this neighbourhood is not protected from growth.
- We must protect existing neighbourhoods to ensure the stability and vibrancy from incompatible development and the pressures of growth. Future development along the corridor must fit in and respect the community character.
- Most importantly, children among others would be exposed to risk from the heavier traffic and just getting in and out of your own street and neighbourhood would be a challenge.
- Through more careful planning, protection of existing neighbourhoods should be considered relative to plans for new property development.
Protection of the existing neighbourhood in order to achieve a more sustainable and balanced transportation system, including recommendations which would see:
- a preferred road network, focusing on the local and collector road systems;
- Design road networks to mitigate traffic infiltration from redevelopment area into existing community, including the creation of a ‘ring road’ – effectively a ‘new Dudley Avenue’, running from Meadowview/Doncaster Avenue on the north to Steeles Avenue on the south;
- Reconsider options to advance pedestrian connections to support transit and other community needs, such as potential new cycling routes;
- To review existing transit routes and opportunities to modify or add routes;
- To identify future transportation conditions and issues under future redevelopment.
As Councillor I will draw immediate attention to:
- Traffic calming measures at the intersection of Doncaster and Henderson to protect primary school children from impacts of the added traffic coming from the World on Yonge development
- Road designations: Highland Park Boulevard., Woodward Avenue, Willowdale Boulevard, and Grandview Avenue should continue to be considered ‘local’ roads, rather than the preferred ‘minor collector’ designation preferred by engineering staff.
- Traffic calming options for Grandview Avenue, Willowdale Boulevard, and Jewell Street.
When it comes to applications surrounding heritage properties in Markham, we are witness to the “better to ask for forgiveness rather than approval” attitude. This is wrong and we need to be vigilant in protecting our heritage districts and properties.
Our heritage buildings are cultural links to our past and create an inviting and dynamic streetscape.
In fact, preserving heritage is good economics, fosters community revitalization, encourages heritage tourism and enhances property values
Heritage conservation is also sustainable in the following ways:
What have I done?
- Consistently voted to preserve and protect heritage homes and facilities and preserve historic areas of Markham
- Consistently voted for vigorous enforcement of Markham’s Heritage By-laws