Scarborough development project hits a ‘Wal’

Don’t overextend your powers as a councillor, Ward 43 representative Paul Ainslie warned Ward 38’s Glenn De Baeremaeker, after a debate over a multimillion-dollar mall proposed for Markham Road and Eglinton Avenue East the previous week.

He accused De Baeremaker of having pressed to get the city involved in individual property rights for a business investment.

SmartCentres, a Canadian real-estate developer, plans to build an $18-million, 9,500-square-metre mall at the site anchored by a Wal-Mart. The site will pay $740,000 a year in property taxes to the city.

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But for the project to happen, adjacent land from the project must be expropriated by the city. SmartCentres needs that land for a new street on the west side of the property. This is where Ainslie and De Baeremaeker have opposing views.

“If I own a property, and don’t want to sell, I don’t expect a municipality to come along and expropriate part of it to accommodate an adjacent land owner,” Ainslie said at the Feb. 25 debate.

“I just don’t think the municipality should get involved in a private business deal that will favour one land owner over another.”

SmartCentres “has agreed to pay all the cost the city may incur to acquire any additional lands, to build the road at no cost to the city and to convey their lands to the city at no cost,” according to the motion proposed by De Baeremaeker at last Monday’s meeting of council.

The motion, seconded by Counc. Joe Mihevc, was one that was presented earlier, but shoved into a government management committee agenda by De Baeremaeker.

Delaying the issue until March could set back the construction a year, leaving 200 potential jobs in the area that could be had 12 months earlier, De Baeremaeker said.

But Ainslie scoffed at that charge.

“I don’t think you’ll find a municipality in Toronto that isn’t in need of more jobs. You can get into the whole quality of jobs, whether commercial buildings pay more than retail, but to me it comes down to property rights.”

Ainslie says De Baeremaeker should consider the municipality as a whole, and to watch which matters he gets involved in.

“I understand he wants a business in his ward,” Ainslie said. “I just think he kind of crossed the line between looking over the whole area, and getting into individual property rights which I think is beyond the parameters of what city councillors should be doing.”

“As a councillor you should be looking over the betterment of the entire city, and treating everyone equal.”