Richmond Hill council votes against city status
The Town of Richmond Hill remains just that — a town — following a recent Richmond Hill Town Council meeting at which Coun. Greg Beros moved a motion for the town to adopt city status. With three in favour and four opposed, the motion failed. Beros, who first proposed this last January and saw the decision put off, admits that the move would have been purely symbolic. But, he said, the label was still meaningful and more reflective of the place Richmond Hill has become.
“We’re asking a subway to come to our border,” said Beros. “When you take a look at the way we’re building up Highway 7, the citylike buildings that are being developed on Yonge Street … it’s not a town anymore.”
He also believes that people in the town think of it as a city. “When people come in, they say, ‘I spoke to your city staff.’ They say ‘city hall.’ Everyone calls it a city. But there are some that still don’t want to let go.”
Local and regional councillor Brenda Hogg, who voted against the motion, said it’s not an issue of wanting to let go. It’s an issue of relevance. “I don’t think the residents of Richmond Hill are particularly concerned with the question of city status in general,” she said. “I put the question to the public in one of my newsletters.… Those who responded preferred to keep town status. We have many more and bigger issues.”
Split on the issue was Coun. Godwin Chan, who voted against the motion because of a lack of formal consultation. “It is paramount that residents be consulted in a formal manner,” said Chan. “Based on informal polling on my website and [at] community events this year, respondents were basically split [on the issue],” he said.
Mayor Dave Barrow said that he and many others are just fine being a town and see no need to change. “I think it’s how you perceive yourself as a community, and I think people perceive us as a town. There’s literally no benefit [or] any advantages from a federal or provincial basis whatsoever.”
In Ontario, there are no perks or subsidies that would result from city status nor are there requirements in terms of population or size to become a city. But Barrow still believes that Richmond Hill’s population is not sufficient enough for city status compared to surrounding municipalities.
“When you’re just barely 200,000 and the other cities that are in York Region are 300,000 and 400,000, we’re still relatively small,” he said.
Although Beros asserted people might take a city more seriously, especially on the international stage, Barrow doesn’t see the label as a hinderance to development. “I think there’s a sense that from an economic development point of view that some people might be more attracted to a place called a city, but it’s never been demonstrated to be an obstacle.”
He said that the town is still doing very well and developing, especially along Yonge Street. But that is exactly the reason why Beros thinks others may be in denial.
“People that will currently lend their neighbour sugar, they’ll still continue to do that,” he said. “[But] the town of Richmond Hill is gone.”
In a recent rebranding of the town, the crest of Richmond Hill was redesigned to change “Town of Richmond Hill” to “Richmond Hill” from the previous logo, which had been designed in the 1990s.
The two other councillors in favour of adopting city status were Castro Liu and Nick Papa.