Saturday, 4 October 2014

Northcrest, Part One: Beamer, Haacke, and the Forces of Sprawl

Northcrest candidates plan to gather at the Leta Brownscombe Co-op this coming Wednesday, Oct. 8. from 6:30 to 8:30. The Co-op is at 243 Milroy, behind Portage Place. The Examiner reports that the lone incumbent Andrew Beamer won’t be there, but at least three other candidates will be: Bill Templeman, Dave Haacke and Stephen Wright. Kathryn Eyre, a teacher at James Strath, is a question mark. She seems to have done very little campaigning, and news reports this week regarding legal charges suggest that personal issues may be the reason.

Northcrest (Ward 5) is a key battleground in the push for a sustainable city. The Parkway is part and parcel of the suburban sprawl problem, directly tied to plans to permit still more car-dependent subdivisions at the city’s northern limits around Towerhill, Cumberland and Carnegie. Residents in existing car-dependent Northcrest neighborhoods built in the past 50 years have woken up to the limitations of such planning, and many don’t want any more of it.

There’s no sense of a community hub in Northcrest, and little commerce beyond the tawdry strip of corporate chain stores that line Chemong. Along with the Zoo, Northcrest’s plentiful schools and Trent University are its saving graces. But none of these is run by City Hall.

The Parkway Trail which runs alongside the area’s rising northwest slope constitutes one-third of the ward’s greenspace, and its only natural area. But why does the entry gate at Fairbairn and Highland have a picture of a Model-T car on it? The image captures the old-fashioned thinking that led council to approve a four-lane road through the natural corridor all the way up to Cumberland in the far northeast, skirting backyards and schoolyards all the way.

Long-time councillor Bob Hall decided this summer to seek the next federal Liberal nomination, opening up a spot on council that Templeman and Haacke appear to be the leading candidates to fill. Much of Hall’s $14,000 2010 campaign budget was funded by developers eager to have their subdivision plans approved. Among these were Mason Homes, the Concord-based company behind the Parklands subdivision off Chemong north of Milroy, backing on to R.F. Downey public school.

But those who love having private real estate interests active at City Hall need not fret. Real estate agent Dave Haacke, who has run unsuccessfully for council several times, is back on the campaign trail again. Selling properties for new development is how Haacke makes his money. He works with DNS Realty and is the listing agent for many properties in Northcrest and around the city, including a $3 million development property on Langton between Adam Scott Secondary and Water Street.  He’s also listing commercial investment properties at the top of Chemong, while his DNS colleague David Smith is listing 24 acres ready for subdivision on Towerhill towards Fairbairn for $2.9 million.

Drive up Lily Lake Road and you’ll see some gorgeous fall colours – and a string of Haacke and Beamer signs. What are they doing out there in Monaghan Ward territory? 

Haacke appears to be both listing agent and owner of 694 Lily Lake, a 47 acre farm and residence on the north side of the road, technically in Selwyn Township. The ad trumpets its “million dollar views”. The southward view, however, will be nothing but more houses and a construction zone if the Lily Lake subdivisions go ahead as planned – the property is right across the road. Asking price is $600,000 plus. Will the new owner be hoping to get permission from Selwyn to turn it into a subdivision too, after Melody Homes breaks ground on the south side of the road? 

How often would Haacke have to declare pecuniary interest and sit out of council decisions on zoning and development, given the vast acreage whose development-related sales he would stand to make money on?

Beamer’s signs run along a large estate just west of Haacke’s property at 634 Lily Lake. At the April meeting at which the Lily Lake development plan was rushed through by city council in spite of citizen opposition, Beamer declared “pecuniary interest” in the matter because, according to council minutes, his family owns property in the area. This would seem to be the place he’s talking about. 

But Beamer didn’t have to declare pecuniary interest when he supported the Parkway extension instead of the alternative Western Bypass along Lily Lake, which would take new north end traffic right past this property around the city, as opposed to the Parkway’s route through it.

Encouraged by a strong showing in the 2006 election, Beamer went hard at it in 2010, spending over $9000 and finishing first with 3200 votes, well ahead of Hall and Haacke. He’s currently a sales rep for Nestle, a multinational conglomerate whose questionable business practices are the subject of a new film. Before that, he made money selling fossil fuel as owner of the PetroCanada at Monaghan and Lansdowne. He poured $4400 of that money into his 2010 campaign, and picked up further funding from Melody Homes principal Saverio Montemarano’s Liberty Greens, and from local developer Paul Dietrich

Kelly Del Mastro kicked into the 2010 campaigns of both Beamer and Haacke. The Del Mastro name made the news this week again as Dean’s cousin has now been charged with illegal campaign funding practices by Elections Canada. That didn’t stop our MP from acting as a mouthpiece for pro-Parkway forces, trying to sell an impossible vision of a stoplight-free road as a solution to a non-existent public safety issue in a Cogeco interview, bizarrely comparing the Parkway to the 417 highway through Ottawa.   

Recruiting Del Mastro smacks of desperation. Beamer voted for both the Parkway and the Jackson Park bridge. Yet neither Beamer nor Haacke come clean on their websites about their pro-Parkway stances, instead using euphemisms. Haacke calls for “proper north end arterial roads to connect with Chemong Road” while Beamer wants “more transportation choices.” Do they sense that public sentiment is against the Parkway? America’s leading climate change activist Bill McKibben called Canada a “rogue nation” last week, and this week the World Wildlife Federation reported that earth’s animal population has dropped by 50% while the human population has doubled over just a few decades. Could it be that the painful reality of thoughtless growth is finally piercing the public mind?

Thankfully, there are alternatives to Beamer and Haacke – namely, Templeman and Wright. The next post will look at those two candidates, and Northcrest’s other major issue – recreational opportunities – or the lack of them, if City Hall has its way.

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