Signed in as:
Who We Are:
Aileen Willowbrook Residents Association (AWRA) is a ratepayers association duly registered with the City of Markham. The organization was founded in 2002 as Thornhill Action Against Pollution and its status was formalized as a registered ratepayers association in the year 2005.
To independently represent the best interests of the residents within the Aileen-Willowbrook catchment area. This involves keeping members informed of issues and betterment programs that impact the area, and of meeting and lobbying with Markham City Council, the Regional, Provincial and Federal Governments, and other influential groups in order to bring about changes and improvements.
Our Geographical Area:
The AWRA catchment area is bounded by Bayview Ave. on the west and the CP railway line on the south. The east side is bounded by German Mills Creek that flows through Maple Valley Park, and by the south side of Hwy. 407 in the north.
How We Got Started:
In 2002 a founding group of concerned residents initiated an organized fight against pervasive industrial pollution emanating from the adjacent industrial area at John Street and Green Lane. By 2005, rising harmful chemical emissions reached more than 600 tonnes/year, or some 2 tonnes/day, adversely affecting the neighbourhood and multiple schools and daycares which cared for children as young as 6 months. The two major sources of the emissions were two kitchen cabinet producers. By 2007, Canac Kitchens closed down, succumbing to a combination of community pressure on the Ministry of the Environment and the economic fallout from the U.S. real estate crash. Raywal Kitchens, however, continued, business as usual, for another five years. Finally, in 2012 and in response to continual pressure from AWRA and also due to AWRA’s pressure on the MOE, the manufacturer adopted an RTO solution (Regenerative Thermal Oxidizer), thereby eliminating 99% of air pollutants from their exhaust air. More good work was done by AWRA, working with The Ministry of the Environment, to ensure that dozens of small car repair shops, whose owners were found to be in breach of their environmental permits, were forced to rectify the situation. We estimate that by 2012, AWRA’s actions lowered harmful emissions in our neighbourhood air by approximately 95%. The chemicals in question are: xylene, toluene, benzine, volatile organic compounds (VOC) and others.
Continuing to Fight the Good Fight:
From 2013 till 2020, AWRA’s volunteers refocused their attention on multiple area beautification and safety projects, including:
Our Current Focus - Development, Development, Development:
In 2021, we were forced to refocus almost 100% of our efforts to protect our area from the dangers of two highly inappropriate redevelopment proposals: one at Thornhill Square between John Street and Green Lane on the east side of Bayview Avenue; and the other at the Shouldice Hospital grounds on the west side of Bayview. The AWRA spearheaded a new Thornhill initiative that has been joined and supported by multiple Thornhill groups. The goal of this joint effort of local residents groups is to persuade the City of Markham to act in the best interests of their constituents and not to approve these development proposals before the following factors are addressed:
The above-listed issues have become only more pressing in the light of the Provincial Government’s EMZO (Emergency Minister’s Zoning Order of Spring 2022) for the Bridge and High Tech Stations which will bring approximately 80,000 new residents and their cars to Thornhill.
Thousands of Thornhill residents joined the effort to express serious concerns to Markham Council about the proposals calling for multiple high-rise towers (up to 19 and 30 storeys) to be built respectively at Thornhill Square and Shouldice in the absence of an up-to-date Secondary Plan. With so much going on elsewhere in Markham, our area Plan has not been properly reviewed since 1987. Developers submit and re-submit proposals for developments with which our area will not be able to cope. The City then struggles with developers’ requests in a piecemeal manner because, in the absence of an up-to-date urban plan, it has no way to assess the overall and combined impacts of all of this growth on local infrastructure, green space, commercial, retail, and municipal services, the existing architecture and community ‘character’, and the already-difficult traffic situation.
We are gratified by the December 2022 approval by Markham Council of the acquisition of the Shouldice property for public purposes. We believe that the sustained, ongoing efforts of our alliance of resident associations to work with the City are greatly responsible for this excellent result. We now need to ensure that the bulk of the Shouldice property (except for the hospital and its immediately surrounding grounds) will be made into a public park for all of us to enjoy.
We are continuing the fight for a livable "Thornhill Centre" at Bayview and John, and are now focusing our efforts on the proposed redevelopment by Hazelview Investments, Inc. at Thornhill Square. The developer has taken the City of Markham to the Ontario Land Tribunal (previously Ontario Municipal Board - OMB) claiming that the City neglected their application. The AWRA is acting as a "Participant" in the proceedings. (AWRA OLT Participation Statement).
If you’ve read this far on this “About Us” page, thank you! As you can see, we have worked tirelessly for many years on behalf of this community. We are continuing to ‘fight the good fight,’ but we need help. Show your support through membership and/or donation.
AWRA boundaries indicated by blue line.