It is amazing what a person can learn by going to an OMB hearing. Last week I took the opportunity to attend one day of an OMB — City of Toronto vs the Mosque on Victoria Park. This week I spent a day at another OMB — Town of Markham vs the Taoist Temple. The things that I learned at the first hearing was that Toronto staff took full responsibility to investigate each and every important detail of the illegal Victoria Park mosque. Interesting testimony from a senior city planner who went into the paint-peeling, make-shift mosque and noted that each and every room in the Heritage home was being used for worship, except for the two washrooms. He even presented photos of men worshipping outdoors and in a garage/outbuilding… The planner also testified that he spent eight ‘official’ and several unofficial days investigating, with other city staff, counting the number of worshippers, documenting their illegal parking, etc. Testimony by a couple of the worshippers confirmed that they attend a mosque daily – 365 days/year – “unless we are on vacation” and “I attend at least once per day”. So, this gives us, the residents of Markham, real-life FACTS on what can be expected from Muslim worshippers at the proposed 16th Ave. Mosque.
Juxtapose this with the Taoist OMB hearing this week. The Taoist group presented professional, well documented, well researched information on all aspects of how these people worship, when, how many, and the fact that they have NO ‘high holidays’ – meaning that their congregation size would consistently be no more than 19 – 20 people. Since this is on Steeles Ave., planning has undergone through review by both the City of Toronto and the Town of Markham. There were traffic generated studies and a peer review commissioned by the Town. Testimony from experts on places of worship confirmed that a very small group of people would be worshipping at non-peak hours, on specific days only. There are no other purposes for this Temple – no classrooms, recreational facilities, or events. The design included retaining ALL mature trees; adding more trees and native, indigenous landscape; wide buffers with green space/trees/gardens; reinforced grass pavers; and a living green roof. The Taoist group testified they worked with Town staff, from many departments, who expressed NO issues with any of the Temple’s plans.
My analysis is as follows: the Town of Markham had not done their due diligence prior to approving the 16th Ave. mosque, is working with incomplete/deceptive/incorrect information, and have given this group unfair and preferential treatment. This group has not provided credible information on a multitude of issues including worship space size, number of worshippers, on-site parking requirements, and off-site parking arrangements. This group would immediately cut down 37 trees, preserving only 19 trees after road widening and all but one will be on the Town’s property. Of the 19 trees, nine are in ‘fair’ condition and one will be in the middle of the mosque parking lot, so survival is doubtful . The Mayor has indicated that there will be a ‘living wall’, but details are missing from the mosque drawings… Interestingly, the Town has taken the totally opposite position on the Taoist Temple by ignoring their full/complete attention to detail, numerous favourable studies, green design, low usage/worshippers, with ample on-site parking, and no requirement for off-site parking… In fact, the Town is now using the error in the by-law against the Taoists, requiring 53 parking places for a building the size of a family home and only 3.5 times that for a proposed 30,000 sq. ft. structure — one of the largest mosques in the country!
I wonder how this would have played out if both of these groups were on a level playing field — if the Taoists had an equivalent to the Muslims’ Mr. Usman – who appears to be a member of Mayor Scarpetti’s old boys’ club.
Now here is the really disturbing news we’ve just discovered. As the letter writer above has indicated the town took a beating at the OMB hearings. So guess what they did last week ? They’ve put forward an agenda item to take Markham OUT of the jurisdiction of the OMB and to ABOLISH the OMB altogether !
(1) REMOVING THE TOWN OF MARKHAM FROM
THE JURISDICTION OF THE ONTARIO MUNICIPAL BOARD
AND ASKING THE PROVINCE OF ONTARIO TO ABOLISH
THE ONTARIO MUNICIPAL BOARD (OMB) (13.0)
The only people who could stop this mosque were the OMB and now city council are panicking and wanting to short circuit this option altogether.
Who moved this motion ? Howard Shore, current involved in a trial due to his stealing an Iphone.. and with criminal records from the US.. who blamed it on being bullied as a child !