GARA brings together and advocates for everyone living in the Grandview Area of Thornhill in the city of Markham, Ontario.
Our neighbourhood stretches from Yonge Street to Bayview Avenue and Steeles Avenue to the CN rail line.
We welcome you to our site and look forward to hearing from you.

Come Celebrate Canada Day at our Neighbourhood Picnic

Markham Needs a Lobbyist Registry

Being able to believe that our city government and elected officials are trustworthy and honest is important. We may not always agree with their decisions but trusting they were not made as the result of backroom deals hopefully allows us to accept them. Recent concerns about provincial dealings with developers regarding the green belt lands have shone a spotlight this issue.

Companies and organizations communicate with our elected officials every day, and they should. Everyone has a vested interest in their community and there is nothing wrong with advocating for a business or organization to further your agenda.

However, lobbying should be done transparently and ethically. Residents deserve the right to know who is influencing, advocating, and lobbying elected public officials on behalf of their company, organization, or cause. It gives residents insight into why public officials take stances on issues and vote in council. On the other hand, a lack of lobbying transparency leads to rumors and speculation, unfounded accusations, false assumptions.

Having a lobbyist registry for the City of Markham would help to build and maintain that all important trust. The GARA Executive strongly supports the establishment of a lobbyist registry for Markham to build transparency into decision making. There is also a new organization that people are asked to join. By signing up, their name will be used as a Markham resident supporting the Lobbyist Registry.

The Latest Neighbourhood Development

For some years, GARA has been monitoring the application from the Zonix Group to develop the area between  Steeles and Highland Park and between Dudley and Willowdale  (36-48 Steeles Avenue East and 37-49 Highland Park Blvd).  The original plans have  been put aside several times with each version being taller and denser than the one preceding it.

The developer chose to apply to the Ontario Land Tribunal.  With recent  changes in provincial legislation, they were asking for a much taller and denser development than had been originally planned. Because of recent changes in legislation, many of the tools previously available to cities to ensure good planning have been stripped away. City staff and elected representatives decided that a negotiated settlement was likely to produce the best results.

On October 17th, 2023, the Ontario Land Tribunal Decisions approved  a negotiated plan that includes the  building  of two residential towers,of 44 and 40 storeys on top of a six storey podium with an FSI of 8.2.  FSI (Floor Space Index) refers to the ratio between the area of a piece of land and the total floor space of the building being put on it. Comparing this  plan to other recent developments, World on Yonge has a FSI of 3.5 and Vanguard 3.4. There will be 1060 residential  units with 510 parking spaces for cars and 740 for bicycles . Driveway access will be on Dudley and Highland Park Avenues. The developer will give the city .18 hectaire (.45 acre) for parkland along Highland Park.

The full OLT decision can be seen here.

Bill 23: Why It Matters

Members of the GARA Executive are very concerned about the passage of Bill 23 which will have serious negative impacts on critical areas of the  Greenbelt and farmlands, and will  put a significantly increased tax burden on all GTA residents. There have been so many changes, it has been hard to keep track of them all and realize how they fit together. Environmental Defence has helped make sense of it all in this summary.

Bill 23 is not just about the Greenbelt or farmland. It means a significant loss of incoming municipal funds through development charges, parkland dedication and community benefit charges that will, in turn, place a much greater burden on the city to fund services and infrastructure projects necessary to support future residential development. This loss of revenue will be made up by an increase in the municipal taxes we pay. The city of Markham estimates are 50-80% for a tax increase, which would be between $600-$1000 each year on every property owner.

The GARA Executive will continue to seek out opportunities to join the grassroots resistance to this bill and invite community members to join us. For more information click here.

volunteers pick up litter at GARA event