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LETTER: Many citizens dispute monastery is long-term care facility

Protecting the Oak Ridges Moraine means limiting what can be built on it, says letter writer protesting proposal by the owners of Marylake Monastery to build large-scale long-term care facility on the site
The Augustinians own the 814-acre estate on the northwest corner of Keele Street and 15th Sideroad in King City that was originally developed by Sir Henry Pellatt of Casa Loma fame. Website photo

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The proposal for a long-term care facility on the Oak Ridges Moraine came recently to King Township’s committee of adjustment.

We all want to protect the Oak Ridges Moraine as it is the start of all the rivers in the area and we want to keep the water pristine. We also all want to have more public long-term care facilities close to where we live. It is a dichotomy.

Protecting the moraine means limiting what can be built. A long-term care facility can only be built or expanded if there was originally a long-term care there before the moraine legislation was enacted and that the long-term care has operated there continuously since. Therein lies the problem.

Many citizens have disputed that looking after a few elderly monks constitutes a long-term care. These citizens want to see the proof for the continued use of the property for that purpose. Through a freedom of information request, the citizens have been told that this information will be provided after the committee of adjustment meeting!

The committee members listened to citizens and asked questions of staff for 2-1/2 hours. They were as puzzled as we were as to why the council was not making the decision on this. They decided that they needed a legal opinion. After 1-1/4 hours they resumed the meeting, only to defer it for one week to get more answers to questions.

One week later, the members listened to some citizens who were supposed to speak previously but had technical problems connecting remotely. A few citizens were also allowed to speak who had spoken before.

Quinto Annibale, the lawyer for the Augustinian Fathers, made statements at the first meeting that the footprint of the old building is exactly the same as the footprint of the proposed 160-bed facility. Many citizens disputed this claim.

At the next meeting, he stated that the footprint was on the old footprint plus the disturbed areas. In other words, there is a larger footprint.

Former King-Vaughan MP Deb Schulte had pointed out that, in her experience as a Vaughan councillor, the long-term care facility in Vaughan was forever trying to get transit nearby as they were having trouble getting workers.

Mr. Annibale told the committee that this location is well served by transit. Incredibly, Mr. Annibale told the committee that the workers could take the GO Train to King City and walk to Marylake in half an hour. Imagine having to walk in the sleet, rain or snow to Marylake. It will only take half an hour.

The planning department put an Abacus survey on the list of documents for the committee members to read. This survey showed that many King residents had not heard of this proposal, but on hearing it, and being reassured that the environment would be fine, 85 per cent were in favour of a long-term care there. These people had no idea that this was on the Oak Ridges Moraine.

The poll was not relevant and should not have been placed on the list. As a lawyer, Mr. Annibale would have known that a poll is irrelevant, but hoped that it might sway some members. It did.

One member referred to the people in support as the “silent majority.” Mr. Annibale then followed up by insulting all these citizens who had taken the time to do research, to write letters or make deputations by calling them all the “vocal minority”.

At the first meeting, it was repeatedly stated that the committee wanted to hear views on the actual variances requested. So my second letter was exactly on those variances (number of parking spaces, number of loading spaces, size of parking space, height of the building).

I expected that the committee would go through each variance requested and explain why or why not the committee was in favour of each one. The committee approved the recommendations of the planning department without discussing each item. They had received legal opinions that they could not tell us.

I was shocked that all the good citizens who participated in this process were basically in the dark as to how the committee made its decisions.

Nancy Hopkinson