School Rezoning Meeting gets Heated

The gallery was full for Monday’s public meeting on the proposed rezoning of land in New Amherst to allow for a Catholic French language school to be built (see links below for more on the proposed school).  The application for rezoning was first made last November and, with a time limit of 120 days for a decision before the developer can ask the OMB to intervene, the Public meeting was held on day 119.  Although she does not live in the area, Emily Chorley was critical of the process and pointed to her own experience with the rezoning on College Street (see links below).  Residents were also highly critical of both the process and of the planned school. 

Max LeMarchant, a representative of the New Amherst developer, accused the objecting residents of xenophobia, bigotry and racism although as resident David Leech said, the problem is that 99% of students to the Catholic French school will be bussed from outside the area so it’s a poor fit for the community.

David Leech
David Leech

There were 17 letters received by the Town that objected to the school on the basis of traffic, noise, pollution, the change from the marketing of the area as being for retired people and a drop in property values.  The letters also complained about the poor process with little public discussion and asked why were other closed schools not considered (e.g. St. Michaels).  It was pointed out that the area originally provided land for a public elementary school in a different location but the Public school board said it was not wanted so several years ago it was converted to land for regular housing.

The applicant for rezoning, Glen Scheels of the GSP group, said:

  • The school is smaller than usual with up to 250 students instead of the more common 500;
  • The location is better than that originally set aside since it is near a park and on a collector road;
  • Pickup and drop off would not be the problem it is at other schools since the school property has space for bus and cars to drop-off and pickup;
  • The land use does conform to Provincial policy and the Town’s Official Plan  [the implication being that an appeal to the OMB would likely succeed];
  • Schools are viewed as community assets – in addition to being open for public use for meetings, their day care and playing fields will be available;
  • A traffic study found only a minor problem with the need for a turn lane on Highway 2 which the County plans to implement soon;
  • Noise is not a problem since it’s only operating Monday to Friday during the day;
  • Existing buildings were considered but none were economically viable;
  • Construction is planned for 2019 with operation starting in 2020.

The meeting also heard that Glenn McGlashon of the Planning department as well as the Planning and Sustainability Advisory committee endorsed the rezoning.  Glenn conceded that the meeting was late and blamed clashes with Family day and school break for the delay in scheduling the meeting.  But he said that the deadline is not typically acted on if there is progress with the application.  He said that his mandate was to look at land use, not the user.  Brian Darling endorsed this distinction.

Chair Aaron Burchat said that those who had written letters did not need to speak but could if they wanted. Four citizens chose to do that.

Paul Pagnuelo said that the area may not have been intended as such but it was marketed as being a retirement community.  He said that the noise level from schools was not “reasonable” and he criticized the lack of public discussion until now.

David Leech said that the “vast majority of those who live there are seniors and retired”.  Very few have children, fewer still are French – he disputed the applicants claim that 90% would be bussed in – he put the number at 99%.  He said the school was a poor fit for the community, that the school will devalue property and that the process needs to be fixed.  He called the accusations of xenophobia and racism reprehensible.

Barry Wray had submitted a letter but did not say a whole lot more except for complaining about the noise of diesel busses – but he also seemed to object to the accusations by Max. So much so that he gave the finger to Max – see Town video at 1:34:05.

Emily Chorley repeated her concerns about the process and asked why St. Michael’s could not be used since there was talk of it being closed/consolidated.  Emily had not sent in a letter but had earlier made a presentation at the regular Council meeting and complained about the process.

Although the meeting was originally scheduled to be held after the Council meeting, what happened was that the regular meeting was recessed at around 5:50 and reconvened after the Public Meeting.  The agenda for the regular meeting had the option of approving the rezoning or deferring for a report from staff.   When the meeting was reconvened, Council voted to defer the matter for a report from staff and took the risk the developer would appeal to the OMB.

Further, at the end of the Council meeting, Aaron Burchat gave notice that he would move to ask staff to prepare a policy on how re-zoning applications should be done.  The intent no doubt is to resolve the many complaints of poor process in this case.

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Deborah OConnor

My contribution to the public debate posted in the online Letters to the Editor of Northumberland News.
https://www.northumberlandnews.com/opinion-story/8381805-cobourg-s-new-amherst-residents-are-entitled-whiners-/

Ewok

I’m trying to figure out who is attending the Catholic Francophone school? How will they fill the classrooms? Where do these students come from? I feel I have a fairly good knowledge of local current events however this is the first I’ve heard of a overwhelming need for a Catholic francophone school in Northumberland County. I don’t remember the public outcry

Max LeMarchant

A couple of points that I would like to clarify: I am not a representative of the “New Amherst Developer”. Although, I was a founding partner of New Amherst Ltd., whom is the developer of New Amherst – four years ago, in 2014, I sold my shares in this company. I am a resident of the New Amherst community and I live with my family in our home which is located on New Amherst Blvd, to the north of where the proposed school would be located. I am also the owner of New Amherst Homes, which is the home building company at New Amherst for the past 7 years. New Amherst Homes purchases lands from the development company upon which we market and build homes. Subsequently, neither myself nor New Amherst Homes have any financial participation in the sale of lands for a school at New Amherst. My comments in support of the school made at the public meeting were made on my own behalf as a resident of New Amherst, a business owner, as parent, and on behalf of my interest in the communities we build and the society we create. My comments during the public meeting (which can… Read more »

Deborah OConnor

Thanks for clarifying your involvement in the New Amherst neighbourhood. Like you, I am a plain speaker and there are certainly people in our community who don’t like plain talk and vilify those who do. While they may not want to be called out for their less than charitable attitudes and clear sense of entitlement, it’s important they be called out by those of us who see this nastiness.

I was excited when this development was first announced because it represented the concept of the New Urbanism that aims to build complete neighbourhoods that house a variety of residents of all ages and income levels. It certainly was not intended as a retirement community, a concept I would have spoken against if it was proposed. Enclaves of any kind are ghettos by another name and we don’t need them here.

So thank you for speaking out and calling a spade a spade. These xenophobes need to know they will be challenged when they seek to impose their personal biases on the rest of us.

Max LeMarchant

Thank you well stated

Dubious

Intended as a retirement community or not it is worth reading Max’s interview in the National Post here which includes “We have younger families here, but a big part of our market, of course, is the empty nesters or early retirees — people that are repositioning themselves for the next stage in their lifestyle,” Mr. LaMarchand says.”

Some forget that on the Internet their positions live forever!

Max LeMarchant

Mr. or Mrs Dubious: A big part of the market does not does not provide an entitlement for discrimination against others in the community or for those others which it has been designed to accommodate. New Amherst has never been Marketed as an exclusively seniors’ community, it was not designed or approved as such. I suggest you read the approved planning documents for New Amherst available from Town of Cobourg. As well as do a little bit more thorough review of the design concept and marketing materials before before making any more erroneous claims or inferences

Dubious

Approved planning documents or not, the reality is that the majority of New Amherst residents are seniors and they are entitled to a quiet retirement lifestyle. Busing in students does not create a community school nor a quiet retirement.

Deborah OConnor

Thanks Dubious for proving my point about how you and others of your ilk seem to feel you have some special entitlements the rest of us do not. My comment made earlier today said “While they may not want to be called out for their less than charitable attitudes and clear sense of entitlement, it’s important they be called out by those of us who see this nastiness”.

I’m on to you, my friend, the Old Stock Canadian indeed. Would you care to enlighten the rest of us as to why you believe you’re entitled to a quiet retirement? I’m retired too, maybe I missed something. These children will be paying our Canada Pension their whole working lives, I think they’re much more entitled to a decent education in a decent school environment than you are to your quiet homogenized little life.

Dubious

Nobody suggested that the children are not entitled to a decent education. That assertion is entirely your fabrication.

I seriously doubt that many current retirees will still be alive when today’s elementary students are paying for their CPP; I won’t be. Further, only illegal Ponzi schemes depend on the next generation to fund anybody’s retirement and we’re assured that Canada’s CPP is self-funded.

Ben

Please read the comment, “These children will be paying our Canada Pension their whole working lives, “ nothing about present retirees being alive when elementary students are paying their CPP. It is a social equation – I pay for your education you pay for my pension. Unfortunately for an equation to be equal it requires both sides of one to work. And yes the CPP is fully funded for the foreseeable future so where is the ponzi scheme?

Dubious

If CPP is fully funded then your comments are specious. Workers fund student education plus they fund their own retirement. There is no quid pro quo.

Ewok

Max – I’d suggest finding an alternative to using the word “discrimination.” An individual not wanting a school in your neighbourhood is not discrimination its a stated preference or an opinion. People can emphatically state an opinion without it being even the slightest way discriminatory, thank goodness we still have freedom of expression in this country. Further, if people are offended because someone expresses their opinion well that’s ok too – we have the right to feel offended – one right does not trump another. Its also not xenophobic to not want a school in your neighbourhood. I believe we use these words frivolously which devalues them. I suspect very few people in this forum have ever directly experienced the ugliness of discrimination.

Unless you have school aged children, really who the !@#$ would want a school built in your neighbourhood…anyone who says they do is lying or just trying to be a provocateur. That said Canadians still have the right to choose where they live…

Unbelievable sad

It looks like these Cobourg resident want to keep their neighbour a WASP child free area
Some area of Cobourg have not change in the 30 years I have lived in Town.

Elissa Mountney

Absolutely!

Wally Keeler

A presumptuous slur. I have lived and actively participated in Cobourg for 70 years. 30 years is chump change.

Walter L. Luedtke

Ah New Amherst!
So much promise!
Long ago it was planned by DPZ Partners a Miami, a Florida-based architecture and town planning firm founded in 1980 by the husband-and-wife team of Andrés Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
The couple was one of the apostles of the “New Urbanism”.
Among other things the New Urbanism promised:
“Livable streets arranged in compact, walkable blocks.
A range of housing choices to serve people of diverse ages and income levels.
Schools, stores and other nearby destinations reachable by walking, bicycling or transit service.
An affirming, human-scaled public realm where appropriately designed buildings define and enliven streets and other public spaces.”
Alas, judging by the comments below, these promises have not been fulfilled nor will they ever be.
Sad!

Ewok

I’m beginning to wonder if there is anything Glen McGlashon wouldn’t approve and whether or not he has any understanding of the implications of his decisions. It seems clear to me that our Mayor and elected officials have learned nothing from the mistakes made with the amalgamation of the East and the West high schools and expansion to C.R. Gummow.

Meg

Do tell how Council had anything to do with the amalgamation of the CDCI West and East and expansion of Gummow. These were School Board decisions on existing school properties, not Council decisions at all. And how does 2,000 students of CCI and Gummow combined compare with 200 for the New Amherst school? Both are apples and oranges.

Ewok

Meg – the town is responsible for the planning of the town and the development of the infrastructure that supports (or does not support) these changes including but not limited to roadways, crosswalks, lights, hiring of cross guards, traffic flow, housing developments, high density housing approvals as well as the largest stakeholder in any school amalgamation discussions. This is how Council had something to do with it…..

While different on the surface the point is the lack of foresight and critical thinking and the desire to approve without thought.

Cheers

perplexed

The town was already aware of many objectors from the highly promoted and prised Retirement community . As usual this is about $$ both for the Town and Max. So the easiest way to slip this one by was a last minute attempt hoping no one would catch it The timing of this matter is crucial as many of the Snow Bird residents have yet to returned home , and may not even be aware of this School proposal . There are plenty of lands probably more suitable to school Bus access in this town ,in areas less likely to affect the day to day lives of the New Amhurst residents , ie there is 30 acres at the end of Depalma Dr. zoned Development There is land between the Kraft plant and the YMCA off Ontario , Cobourg East Developments has proposed lands for School , There is a 5 acre parcel on Danforth Rd east of St Mary’s High school that I know is available for sale Why not approach the private school group that purchased the West High school it isn’t filling up any time soon, there may be a joint venture there to everyone’s benifit Then… Read more »

Concerned

You’ve hit the nail on the head $$$$$, especially for the developers.

Susie-Q

Sadly, this tactic of slipping things by so quickly that residents don’t notice goes on in many communities. Unfortunately, it has happened several times in the community where I live. It’s all about the almighty $$$$! Of course they would choose a time when many residents are away. It appears that the opinions of those residents don’t matter in the end, what a shame. Well said, Perplexed, I agree with you!! Keep the fight up residents!

Snowbird

I am a snowbird & had no idea that this proposal for rezoning was being considered until I got an email. Why was there no discussion with the residents before they needed to do the final vote? Why were we not informed by the developer or Town Council that this was being considered.
I was completely amazed at the language that Max referred to the residents of New Amherst. I have grandchildren going to a French Catholic school in Whitby.

Susie-Q

Why? Because, unfortunately, that’s how things work theses days. Typical tactics employed by developers and town councils everywhere.

Dubious

I think that you are being somewhat unfair regarding our Councillors; I suspect that some of them were also blindsided. You mentioned $$$$. We should consider who benefits. Rezoning is good for Max but does anyone else benefit?

Elissa Mountney

The community of New Amherst is NOT a retirement community, nor has it ever been marketed or advertised as such. There are 36 families with children living in the community, not to mention a large number of non retired residents.

Please tell me how many “snow birds” live at New Amherst. Oh, you don’t know? Right, that’s what I thought.

cornbread

You have to ask yourself…”Is Cobourg all that it’s cracked up to be”? If I owned a house in New Amherst and the zoning is changed for this school…would a Class Action Law Suit be in order against the town?

Could be interesting.

Bill Thompson

“ The application for rezoning was first made last November and, with a time limit of 120 days for a decision before the developer can ask the OMB to intervene, the Public meeting was held on day
119.”
Why was the public meeting held just the day before the application time frame would expire ?
If I recall correctly,the Legion construction was approved by the same method of the town council.
It had also delayed too long in making a decision,it went to the OMB and was approved.(usually the case).
It appears this is an established town strategy to take the heat off them for the final decision making on a controversial issue of rezoning.

Ben

I would make the same point and in fact when at the OMB I had to defend my previous statements that the process of missing the 120 day deadline was Staff incompetence. This time around I would describe it as intentional malfeasance by the Planning Department.

Susie-Q

The OMB usually sides with the developers. The people who operate this way know very well how the process works and will manipulate things so they get what they want in the end. Having the public meeting on day 119 was wrong, but in many ways, very predictable.

CiW

Goodbye Gil!

Wally Keeler

Max LeMarchant, is a partner and a representative of the New Amherst development for 29 years. It only took Mr Lemarchant 2 minutes, 45 seconds to say “uhm” 41 times. Is this the best that New Amherst has to present itself to the public? Then to top off the public relations incompetency, he cavalierly accused 16 letter writers of “xenophobia, racism and bigotry”. So this is a developer who seems able to be disgustingly dismissive of community concerns and to do so with epithets.

These are just a few of the words used to smear individuals: racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, colonialist, white *%#$@, and so on. These kind of hateful epithets are all too often rooted in malevolence. Those loose-lipped epithets contribute nothing to the benefit of social discourse. Labels labels labels.

Greg Allen

You might also mention that the use of such terms should be called out when they appear in a public forum such as a council meeting, and an apology required before that speaker says anything further. Our council saw fit to let it pass. It is to be hoped that Mr. LeMarchant’s epithets and attitude are not reflective of the municipality. I am one of the letter writers, a teacher retired after 40 good years working at all levels – ask me about the noise and disruption of school zones! – and I suffer from none of the diseases Mr. LeMarchant attributed to me as part of that group, though I must admit to being a “ citiot” , a pejorative term I had never heard before I moved to Cobourg.

Susie-Q

In my opinion, the Council should not have let Mr. LeMarchant’s comments go by without saying something. Then again, we wouldn’t want to upset the developer! How disappointing.

Elissa Mountney

Mr. Keeler, you may want to check your facts before posting publicly about things you are not aware of. Max LeMarchant is has not been a partner of the development group, New Amherst Ltd since 2014. Also, if you have taken the time to watch the video, you would clearly see that members of the gallery had not spoken before Mr. LeMarchant, and when addressing the 16 letter writers he was quoted as saying “I’m very disappointed reading these letters but I suppose some of that is to be expected”. He went on to say “and I’m also disappointed when I start HEARING questions on the user. This is a land use issue and when we start questioning other things as far as ethnicity and where people are coming from, as a member of this community I personally find that concerning and offensive because it speaks — it talks about xenophobia, racism, and bigotry and I don’t think that those are the right”. Members of the gallery (including those that were present who wrote letters) had NOT spoken yet. You may want to review the video of the public meeting and pay attention to some of the commentary made before… Read more »

Wally Keeler

I don’t care whether other members of the gallery spoke AFTER the Max. It’s irrelevant. I spoke of Max’s ad hominem slur of letter writers being characterized as xenophobic, bigoted and racist is the issue. I will go with Mr Draper’s characterization; Max spoke as a representative of the New Amherst developer and the current New Amherst developers decline to disavow Max’s slurs against those with legit concerns.

Elissa Mountney

That’s the point, he did not comment on the letter writers as such. His only comment to the letter writers was that ““I’m very disappointed reading these letters but I suppose some of that is to be expected”. Mr. Draper can post to a blog whatever he wants. Who checks a blog for legitimacy or fact? Oh, that’s right, nobody does.

Dubious

Max LeMarchant is has not been a partner of the development group, New Amherst Ltd since 2014.

So Max was not speaking on behalf of the New Amherst developers? That was certainly not my impression and, yes, I was at the meeting. Why is he in favour of the rezoning if he will not benefit financially?

Elissa Mountney

I can only guess and speculate, just like everyone else on this forum is doing. But perhaps because:
•Providing for a school within the New Amherst community has always been part of the approved plans and is an important component in the community’s design concept.
•Elementary schools are fundamental in neighborhood design and particularly so for a community such as New Amherst which is designed to accommodate a range of ages, variety of homes, and mix of uses.
•Schools, particularly elementary schools, are generally recognized as adding value to neighborhoods and homes
•Mr. LeMarchant is a tax payer, lives in the community and wants to voice his support

Max LeMarchant

Mr. Wally Keeler, please check your facts and restrain yourself from defaming me based on your incorrect claims and assumptions. I was not presenting as a partner or representative of the “New Amherst development” at the public meeting but merely as someone in support of the proposed school. I was a founding partner of New Amherst Ltd., whom is the developer of the New Amherst community. However, I sold my shares in this company in 2014. I am a home owner in the New Amherst community where I live with my family. I also am the owner of New Amherst Homes whom is the builder at New Amherst for the past 7 years. My comments at the public meeting on the school were made on my own behalf as a resident, business owner, and parent in the community – as well as from my knowledge and history with New Amherst and how it was designed. I accept your opinion that my presentation abilities are not to your standards and know that many surpass me in this regard. Also, I would suspect that the New Amherst developer is not aware of your superior public relations and presentation abilities or your apparent… Read more »

Susie-Q

I agree, why is it that the Catholic school downtown couldn’t have been used instead. To me that would make sense, unless there are issues that I am not aware of. Are there already plans in place to demolish the building and build a condominium?

I must say that it is somewhat unsettling to hear that the representative of the developer is making accusations of “xenophobia, bigotry and racism”. I was not at the meeting so I can’t say for sure whether the individuals he was accusing were in fact racist, etc. Too often, people are wrongfully accused of this even though they just may have a valid argument when supporting their cause. Again, I wasn’t at the meeting, but how does racism fit in here?

dubious

I was at the meeting and it was obvious that the “racist” to whom Max was referring was not a specific person but all of those who oppose his plan to profit from changing the zoning of the subject property. Accusations such as his are the refuge of those without any facts to bolster their irrational arguments. Besides, I was not aware that Catholics who speak French are a “race” so accusations of “racism” seem ridiculous.

If you want to get the full story you can watch the video of the whole meeting at

Dubious

Sorry for the scrambled link. The whole meeting is at this location and Max is here

Susie-Q

Dubious…thanks for the link. I am truly disgusted by Max LeMarchant’s accusation of racism, etc. How disappointing.

In my opinion, the residents of New Amherst have every right to speak out about this issue. Far too many developers make promises that they don’t follow through on. Isn’t this a case of false advertisement? Surely there must be more suitable location for this new school.

silverhairedsenior

A school providing a French Immersion program would be made available to non-Catholic students as long as space is available. (even to the point of portables) My understanding is as long as all children in a family go to schools within the same board, their taxes support that board – in this case reducing tax totals collected in support of the public system. Is there an existing French Immersion program available in the public system in the area? If not, why not? This alternative program would certainly attract young families – and I say congrats to whichever superintendent of program saw the need and did something about it.

Greg Connolly

Our Town council needs to seriously consider who supports them, non resident developers or greedy builders?? Missing sight of the people who vote and matter is very suspicious behavior!! Promote filling empty spaces, not building new ones!

Susie-Q

Well said!

Elissa Mountney

Perhaps we should ask all the local trades people that are employed by the construction industry (yes industry in Cobourg). Not to mention all of the local businesses supported by the influx of new homeowners to the area. Did anyone ever stop to think about what new employment opportunities would be presented by a new elementary school to the area? I am pretty sure the owners of the local businesses and the trades people vote as well.

If those that were not at the meeting watch the video of the meeting, reclaimating an old school to fulfill this one was addressed as unviable.

Miriam Mutton

From the public meeting, it was clarified that the proposed new school is to be a Francophone school and not a French immersion school. Of the latter type, there are several in the area. The programs of instructions are described as different. Both are publicly funded school systems. As a student I had continuous experience from Grade 3 to Grade 13 in French immersion in both the public and catholic school board systems. Also, I personally benefited from French immersion. English was not my first language when I started school and I may have found it a more reasonable endeavour than many of my peers at the time to learn another language. I see the merit of having a Francophone elementary school in our area today for many benefits including economic benefits including jobs such as attracting talent (the parents) to a great community to raise a family. Cobourg welcomes diversity. I note the good news shared by the Mayor about the former West High School downtown, now Williams Academy, set to open with about 100 students later this year. Although I have concerns about the closing of yet another downtown school, St. Michaels School, I also believe that New… Read more »

Meg

A very thoughtful response. Well said, Miriam.

Max LeMarchant

Miriam, thank you for contributing your thoughts on this issue – your town planning knowledge and expertise shines through

Concerned

My understanding is that this is not French Immersion but a French school, proposed by the French Catholic School Board.

silverhairedsenior

Thanks for the clarification, Concerned. Raises so many more questions such as who qualifies as candidates to attend a French school?, has the French Catholic board shown a need for a new build rather than sharing space in an existing school with low/declining enrollment?, has the French Catholic School Board already received provincial approval for a new build? If not, why is the rezoning application being considered at this time?

Dubious

Perhaps because Max wants the money? Consider that the next Council may not be a rubber stamp so it is important for Max to get as much as possible before anything changes.

Elissa Mountney

Dubious, are you aware that Max LeMarchant is not a partner in the development group and hasn’t been since 2014? He is however a tax payer and resident with children in the area where the school is planned.