Civic Square: How consultants will role out the redesign Part 2

By Pepper Parr

July 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

Part 2 of a 3 part article.

This is a long story so I have broken it up into three parts.

City Hal released a plan last week to redesign Civic Square.  The three parts are:

What was done before the plans that are now before the public?
What did the Staff report have to say in their report to Council ?.
And how did council react ?

Alan Magi, Executive Director, Environment, Infrastructure and Community Service introduced Becky Ellis, Senior Landscape Architect and the author of the report.  Magi  started the presentation saying “with this project we will be tying into the synergies with the almost completed renovations at the first floor of city hall and tying in that part of the building into Civic Square. This report will be outlining the process moving forward. And with that, I am going to be turning over to Becky introduce our consultants.”

Lewis: “You will learn from the engagement portion of the presentation that there will be plenty of opportunity over the next eight to 10 months to contribute your vision to the design of the site.

“Prior to committee staff had the opportunity to meet with Councillor Kearns, who couldn’t join us today and to answer her questions about the report. Jennifer Johnson from facilities and buildings is co-lead on this project. Ryan Stoneman is the other co- lead sends his regrets.

John Joyce from the MBT W group, is the project manager for the consulting team and Sheila Boudreau from Spruce Lab, the community engagement lead.

The Queen’s Head sits in the middle of the Civic Square. No mention that it exists in the presentation. The outline leaves a lot of questions unanswered.

John Joyce explains the project limits. “The streetscape improvements include Brant street from the south side of Ontario Street to the south side of Elgin Street, and the east side of the intersection of Brant – Elgin to the intersection of Elgin and Locust.

“There is no roadwork in the scope for this project, except to accommodate servicing requirements designed for the east side of Brant Street will be included, but construction will not proceed as part of this project, due to the planned construction of the tower south of James Street.”

What the public can expect, it appears,  is work on both sides of Brant Street at the same time.

Joyce, the consulting team project manager and the city’s primary contact continued with the presentation.

He had two slides the first of which is associated with the project goals and objectives.


“The ultimate success of the project is largely going to be measured on its ability to bring people together in an environment that’s welcoming to all abilities and backgrounds, and better supports not just the community but also local downtown businesses.

“This idea is summarized in the overall project goal which was established by the city for this project.

“There are eight key priorities: civic pride, speaks to the idea of bringing civic into the design by increasing communication through engagement.

“Civic Square and Brant Street are used for a wide variety of programming, special events, ceremonies.

Civic Square if often the gathering place but mostly for people south of the QEW. There was an impressive Black Lives Matter event and, shown below, a gathering of citizens to watch the Raptors win a basketball title

“The rebuild is being designed for maintenance and operations standpoint: You don’t build the space and then sort of scratch your head on how it’s going to be maintained, how it’s going to operate, how it’s going to be monitored.”

The project schedule: Anticipated timeline is about three years that starts in July 2023 and ends in June 2026 – four months later the public gets to elect a new city council

The work is grouped into stages.

(1) design development, begins in August of 2023. And will conclude in June 2020.

This stage includes an extensive engagement process. It includes conceptual design that will include three design options for the project that will be informed through the engagement process. The preparation will include a preferred concept plan.

During the design development stage, an update to council on the conceptual design stage.

Joyce makes mention of the “extensive engagement process associated with this project” throughout his comments.  One gets the sense that they are working hard to ensure that the city doesn’t repeat the communications problems with the Bateman project.

He then passes the presentation over to Sheila Boudreau, a principal landscape architect and planner at Spruce lab, Inc. a Toronto based firm with expertise in integrated project delivery, community engagement, indigenous engagement and design, urban design, green infrastructure and public art with a total of 20 years experience.

The intention is to have the consultations with the public “inform” what happens as the concept moves forward. At this point there isn’t a construction plan – there is a plan to figure out what the public wants. That approach didn’t work out very well wen the public was asked what they wanted at the Waterfront Hotel site.

“The public engagement plan that we’ve created for the Burlington Civic Square and Brant Street renewal is intended to support and contribute to the design of the Square, City Hall entrance and the adjacent streetscapes. Various engagement activities will be undertaken over the period of approximately 10 months between August 2023 and May 2024. This will involve meetings interactions with numerous stakeholders, accessibility groups, local businesses, and the broader community.

“Indigenous engagement will also be undertaken as part of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s calls to action.

“This will be conducted in culturally appropriate ways, meeting first with the Indigenous Talking Circle, and broadening the circle to other indigenous peoples that are living in the city of Burlington.

“In addition, consultation with the First Nations treaty rights holders – the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation and other first nations according to their interest and level ability to collaborate at that time.

“Consultation with the First Nations is a requirement of the Investing in Canada Infrastructure program funding that supports this project.

“All engagement activities will be informed throughout by the International Association of Public Participation, public participation spectrum.

The International Association for Public Participation’s Spectrum of Public Participation describes five general modes of public participation in democratic decision-making on continuum of increasing community influence.

“The public engagement plan will be refined based on the level of interest and availability of those being engaged in order to respond effectively to their needs. And each phase of the engagement process will circle back, as shown in the graphic, to inform the development of the design until the design is finalized.

Boudreau completed her part of the presentation; Senior Landscape Architect Becky Lewis asked if there were any comments or questions.

Kwab Ako-Adjei is the Director of Communications and Engagement.

Jacqueline Johnson – Executive Director, Community Relations and Engagement.

Councillor Nisan was the first out of the gate.

Unfortunately, ward 2 Councillor Kearns did not attend the meeting, however she was given an opportunity to share her views in a private briefing.

Her constituents never got to hear what she had to say about the development that is in her ward. .

Kearns had sent he regrets to Council – she didn’t attend any of the Standing Committee meetings this past week. No word, that we can publish, on just where she is or what she is doing.

What members of Council had to say is covered in part 3

What is a little confusing is the city has two senior people on the communications and engagement file yet there is an outside firm with seasoned communications and engagement staff  serving as the community engagement lead. Sheila Boudreau from Spruce Lab has been assigned that responsibility.

 

Part 1:

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Housing starts: Burlington low on the number of starts but very good on the number completed in May

By Staff

July 2nd, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Canada Mortgage & Housing Corporation has issued some data on housing starts across the province.

Burlington is not at the top of the list.

City Council gets reports regularly on why things are not moving as well as they should – the problems Burlington faces are no different than other municipalities its size.

Don’t expect this data to make it past the lips of anyone on Council even though the completion rate is pretty good.

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The Redesign of Civic Square - Part 1

By Pepper Parr

July 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This is a long story so I have broken it up into three parts.

City Hal released a plan last week to redesign Civic Square.  The three parts are:

What was done before the plans that are now before the public?
What did the Staff report have to say in their report to Council ?.
And how did council react

In December of 2018 the city budgeted $600,000 for upgrades to Civic Square, the space to the south of city hall.

Civic Square as it is today.

Many of the improvements were required to improve things like accessibility, safety and convenience.

The city held an on-line survey with renderings of the new look; it was poorly promoted and the results of that survey were never made public.

At the time there was one 28 storey tower planned for the west side of Brant Street on the north side of James. The plans were approved and the tower is nearing completion.

The first tower to be built directly across the street from City Hal – 28 storeys. Construction close to completion.

Plans for a second tower on the south side of James have not been completed. They did have approval for 17 storeys and that is where that second tower sits.

The city had embarked on improving what they called Customer Service, gave it the initials CSX.

The first run at that idea stumbled getting out the gate. A former City Clerk was assigned to improving the team; some progress was made. The wrinkles got worked out, the software being used was upgraded. The former Clerk left for greener pastures – retirement.

The second tower that will be opposite City Hall – on Brant south side of James Street. Construction has yet to start.

Covid entered the picture, many staff worked from home and the city used the opportunity to remake the ground floor of city hall – you will not recognize the place when it is opened to the public. Expect a major photo op event when that happens.

Inside City Hall will look and feel a lot different. A visual was prepared to give the public a sense as to what was in the works.  Take the 33 second flyby to see what the end result is expected to look like

When the changes to the inside of City Hall were taking place little attention was paid to Civic Square other than mention of a new entrance, some reshuffling of things in Civic Square – more flag poles, some trees and plans to either get rid of the fountain or move it.

The noise and dust from the renovations proved to be more than staff could put up with if they were going to get any work done.

The Customer Service department was moved to the Sims building, which is on the southern side of Elgin Street.. The city bought the building for $17 milliom about five years ago.

Parts 2 and 3 to follow.

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Fireworks: 'I think it's a GO'

By Staff

July 1st, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Nothing Official yet from City Hall but a reliable Gazette readers sends the following:

“The pier is fenced off & the normal van that is used to transport the fireworks is being unloaded.

“I think it’s a GO.”

That’s all there is at this point.

 

 

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The end of Fireworks as we know them ? Drone light shows are what some communities are using - what do you think ?

There is an option.

Fireworks as we know them have always been popular.

That is changing.

There are now drone light shows – because a picture is worth more than 1000 words we will let you see for yourself.  Click HERE

The only thing missing is the loud sounds.

Do tell us what you think.

Too late for Burlington to make a switch this year.

Next year?

 

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Ford’s Conservatives set rent increase guidelines at 2.5%, highest increase allowable under Residential Tenancies Act

By Staff

June 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

New Democrats put out a statement today: Ford’s Conservatives set the rent increase guidelines for 2024 at 2.5%, the highest increase legally allowable under Residential Tenancies Act:

A development that is somewhere in the application to develop pipeline.

“Jacking up the rent for millions of Ontario renters is only going to make the Ford Conservatives’ housing affordability crisis worse”, said the NDP in a statement they released earlier today.

“2.5% is a huge increase, especially when you consider that rent is already so high, and most Ontarians’ wages haven’t kept up.

“And if you’re in a rental first rented on November 15, 2018 or later, the sky’s the limit as far as how high your rent can go up, thanks to the Ford Conservatives’ massive loophole.

“We need a comprehensive strategy to solve our housing crisis, starting with bringing back strong rent control on all homes, including vacancy decontrol—where a new tenant pays the same rent as the previous tenant. The Ontario NDP would invest immediately in affordable housing, take steps to curb greedy speculation, and spur the construction of 1.5 million new homes for Ontarians.”

The Ford government has argued that developers cannot afford to build rental housing with the current rent guidelines.

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City Communications said: 'We will be posting about that shortly' when asked about fireworks on Canada Day

By Staff

June 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This just in from the City Communications department:

We will be posting about that shortly.

Got this at 2:42 in the afternoon.

We had asked if there were any plans to cancel the fireworks scheduled for Canada Day.

At this point it would see that the city is going to do what most of the other municipalities are doing.

Stand by.

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Could the Canada Day Fireworks be cancelled due to the amount of smoke in the air?

By Staff

June 30th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Will fireworks take place?

A reader asked:

Some places have cancelled fireworks due to the wild fire smoky air everywhere.

Will there be any fireworks in Spencer Smith park by the lake this weekend? Thank you and Happy Canada Day!!

Good question:  We’ve reached out to Communications at city hall for some answers – they don’t get to their desks until 8:30 am  It’s 4:08 am at my desk.

Will the amount of smoke in the air be cause to cancel the fireworks on Canada Day?

If a decision is made to cancel fireworks due to the smoke in the air – who at City Hall will make that decision.

And when?

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Brant and other downtown streets to be closed for part of Canada Day

By Staff

June 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

New this year on Canada Day – Brant Street will be closed for pedestrian use only.

Weather permitting, the Burlington Downtown Business Association will be animating Brant Street from noon to 3 p.m.

Activities range from musical and dance performances to a craft tent, various giveaways, a game station, pedal bikes and lots more.

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The working-from-home illusion fades. It is not more productive than being in an office, after all

By Staff

June 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The city of Burlington has a significant number of its staff working from home.  As a reporter and publisher of the Gazette I was never certain that working from home was the right thing to do – always had my doubts but it wasn’t my city to run.

A lifelong subscriber to The Economist, the best news magazine in the world in my opinion and a summer intern at the Globe & Mail where I was able to watch some of the best writers and editors in North America put out a newspaper six days a week I look for every opportunity to give the readers more than just local news

The working-from-home illusion fades

It is not more productive than being in an office, after all

A small gradual reverse migration is under way, from Zoom to the conference room. Wall Street firms have been among the most forceful in summoning workers to their offices , but in recent months even many tech titans—Apple, Google, Meta and more—have demanded staff show up to the office at least three days a week. For work-from-home believers, it looks like the revenge of corporate curmudgeons. Didn’t a spate of studies during the covid-19 pandemic demonstrate that remote work was often more productive than toiling in the office?

Unfortunately for the believers, new research mostly runs counter to this, showing that offices, for all their flaws, remain essential. A good starting point is a working paper that received much attention when it was published in 2020 by Natalia Emanuel and Emma Harrington, then both doctoral students at Harvard University. They found an 8% increase in the number of calls handled per hour by employees of an online retailer that had shifted from offices to homes. Far less noticed was a revised version of their paper, published in May by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The boost to efficiency had instead become a 4% decline.

A call centre

The researchers had not made a mistake. Rather, they received more precise data, including detailed work schedules. Not only did employees answer fewer calls when remote, the quality of their interactions suffered. They put customers on hold for longer. More also phoned back, an indication of unresolved problems.

The revision comes hot on the tails of other studies that have reached similar conclusions. David Atkin and Antoinette Schoar, both of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Sumit Shinde of the University of California, Los Angeles, randomly assigned data-entry workers in India to labour either from home or the office. Those working at home were 18% less productive than their peers in the office. Michael Gibbs of the University of Chicago and Friederike Mengel and Christoph Siemroth, both of the University of Essex, found a productivity shortfall, relative to prior in-office performance, of as much as 19% for the remote employees of a large Asian it firm.

Another study determined that even chess professionals play less well in online matches than face-to-face tilts. Yet another used a laboratory experiment to show that video conferences inhibit creative thinking.

The reasons for the findings will probably not surprise anyone who has spent much of the past few years working from a dining-room table. It is harder for people to collaborate from home. Workers in the Fed study spoke of missing their “neighbours to turn to for assistance”. Other researchers who looked at the communication records of nearly 62,000 employees at Microsoft observed that professional networks within the company become more static and isola>Some of the co-ordination costs of remote work might reasonably be expected to fall as people get used to it. Since 2020, many will have become adept at using Zoom, Webex, Teams or Slack. But another cost may rise over time: the underdevelopment of human capital. In a study of software engineers published in April, Drs Emanuel and Harrington, along with Amanda Pallais, also of Harvard, found that feedback exchanged between colleagues dropped sharply after the move to remote work. Drs Atkin, Schoar and Shinde documented a relative decline in learning for workers at home. Those in offices picked up skills more quickly.

The origins of the view that, contrary to the above, remote working boosts productivity can be traced to an experiment nearly a decade before the pandemic, which was reported by Nicholas Bloom of Stanford and others in 2013. Call-centre workers for a Chinese online travel agency now known as Trip.com increased their performance by 13% when remote—a figure that continues to appear in media coverage today. But two big wrinkles are often neglected: first, more than two-thirds of the improved performance came from employees working longer hours, not more efficiently; second, the Chinese firm eventually halted remote work because off-site employees struggled to get promoted. In 2022 Dr Bloom visited Trip.com again, this time to investigate the effects of a hybrid-working trial. The outcomes of this experiment were less striking: it had a negligible impact on productivity, though workers put in longer days and wrote more code when in the office.

The price of happiness

There is more to work (and life) than productivity. Perhaps the greatest virtue of remote work is that it leads to happier employees. People spend less time commuting, which from their vantage-point might feel like an increase in productivity, even if conventional measures fail to detect it. They can more easily fit in school pickups and doctor appointments, not to mention the occasional lie-in or mid-morning jog. And some tasks—notably, those requiring unbroken concentration for long periods—can often be done more smoothly from home than in open-plan offices. All this explains why so many workers have become so office-shy.

Working from home has an upside – no commute.

Indeed, several surveys have found employees are willing to accept pay cuts for the option of working from home. Having satisfied employees on slightly lower pay, in turn, might be a good deal for corporate managers. For many people, then, the future of work will remain hybrid. Nevertheless, the balance of the work week is likely to tilt back to the office and away from home—not because bosses are sadomasochists with a kink for rush-hour traffic, but because better productivity lies in that direction.

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Freeman Station will not be open on Canada Day

By Pepper Parr

June 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It came to us as a short notice.

At a Standing Committee yesterday Council heard a report the city Museums people would bbe taking over the operation of Freeman Station. Exactly when that will actually happen is a very open question.

There is a much bigger story here but that will have to wait for another time.

One of the best citizen initiatives this city has seen is on pause – and that is not good news.

There is a lot to do on Canada Day – unfortunately touring Freeman Station is not going to be on the list of opportunities.

Freeman Station

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School registration can be done during the summer

By Staff

June 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Schools are closed in July and the first three weeks of August. The Halton District School Board is offering families of elementary students the opportunity to register their child(ren) for school this summer for the start of school in September. Registering at this time helps the HDSB prepare for the upcoming school year and provides students more time to become familiar with their new school.

The following elementary schools are open to families to register their child(ren) starting Kindergarten – Grade 8 in Halton:

In-person registration for all elementary schools in Oakville is available at Oodenawi Public School (385 Sixteen Mile Dr, Oakville) July 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

In-person registration for all elementary schools in Milton is available at Rattlesnake Point Public School (1385 Kovachik Blvd, Milton) July 11, 12, 13, 18 and 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

In-person registration for all elementary schools in Burlington is available at John William Boich Public School (2474 Sutton Dr, Burlington) July 11, 12, 18 and 19 from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Preschool and eager

Families can find their local school by visiting the HDSB’s Find My Local School webpage. For more information, visit the Register for School in the Summer webpage on the HDSB website.

Secondary students (Grade 9-12) new to the HDSB can register for school when all secondary school offices reopen on Monday, Aug. 21.

All HDSB school offices will reopen the week of Aug. 21. The first day of school for students is Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023.

Families are asked to bring the following original documents when registering:
• Proof of age: birth certificate, passport, or baptismal/faith record for your child.
• Proof of address (any two of the following documents): lease or deed, car registration, utility bill, residential telephone bill, moving bill, property tax bill, bank statement, credit card statement, correspondence with a government agency. Note: A driver’s license will not be accepted as documentation for “proof of address”.
• Proof of citizenship: birth certificate, passport, Record of Landing (IMM 1000) or Permanent Resident Card.
• If you are not the parent and your child is under 18 you must provide proof of custody (court order).

For more information, visit the Register My Child for School webpage on the HDSB website.

Ready for the start of a school year

Welcome Newcomer Families
Newcomer families ready to begin the school registration process must complete the Welcome Centre Intake Form for Registration. Families new to Ontario and who speak an additional language other than English are asked to complete the Where Do I Register My Child? Form to determine where the registration process begins.

The Welcome Centre will follow regular office hours (8 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday to Friday) for the week of July 3. The office will be closed July 3. From July 10 to Aug. 10 inclusive, the operating hours will be 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday to Thursday, with the Centre closed on Fridays.

The Welcome Centre is open to visitors and can offer assessments on an appointment basis. Beginning Aug. 21, 2023, the Welcome Centre will return to regular office hours: Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. To book an appointment, email welcomecentre@hdsb.ca or call 905-335-3665 ext. 3440.

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Developer takes a different approach to brand development: They want to be seen as more than just a developer

By Pepper Parr

June 29th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Creating the image and the message you want your market to have is an art more than it is a science.

In Burlington, many business operators will give a portion of their profits to a local charity. Car dealerships will loan a vehicle to an organization and have their name well displayed on the vehicle.

Alinea , the largest developable land owner in the Region, was formed when the Paletta brothers found that they didn’t see the world the way they used to when their father was alive and decided to distribute the significant assets between them and each go their own way.

Alinea now needs to grow their brand. Paletta as a developer was a little rough at the edges; Alinea wanted to move away from that image. How to tell the story ?.

They found a way to work with the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation and has offered to match dollar for dollar in their You are more than just a business campaign. It isn’t clear whether the Hospital Foundation pitched the idea to Alinea or Alinea went to the hospital.

Anissa Hilborn, President & CEO of the Foundation has a very good reputation for coming up with innovative and interesting ideas.

Alinea, wants the public to know they are more than just a developer and wants local commercial interests to tell the public they are more than just a business. It’s an interesting approach and so far well executed.

The campaign reaches out to the business community and giving them an opportunity to show they are more than just a business.  For every dollar a local business raises Alinea will match it up to $100,000

Alinea is positioning themselves as a different kind of developer. As part of their working relationship with the hospital foundation they are getting their message out.
The sign in the photograph is being installed on the outside of the hospital – we aren’t quite sure where the sign is – we will dig that out.

They produced a video (Link here) telling the story

The message to the business community is: You’re a team of hard-working people who want to help our community thrive. You don’t just do business in Burlington; you live here, you raise your families here, and you know how important local healthcare is. So show your customers, employees and friends that you’re doing more for your community.

The objective is to raise $100K IN 100 DAYS!

This retailer wants her customers to know that she is supporting the hospital and invites you to join them

It’s an innovative approach, well executed so far. Look for the signs participating businesses get to put in their window or lobby.

It is your hospital – you want it to be there when you need it,

On a slightly negative note – the people of Burlington wanted some reaction to a feature article that ran four pages in the Spectator on problems at the hospital. Not a word in the way of response from Eric Vandewall · President & CEO at Joseph Brant Hospital who, apparently, has yet to learn that the way to handle a negative news story is to get in front of it.

Joseph Brant Hospital is more than just a hospital – it is the place you go to when you are seriously ill and you need help.  The public needs to trust you.

Related news stories:

Spectator does feature on problems at Joseph Brant Hospital

Alinea is a new name in the development field

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Free transit for Seniors and Free Transit for youth evenings and weekends

By Pepper Parr

June 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It has been a long time getting to this point – but starting August 1st transit will be free for Seniors all day, every day and free for Youth, evenings (after 6 p.m.) and weekends.

The decision got through the Committee meeting easier than I expected.

Jim Young delegated at Standing Committee in support of free transit services for Seniors and Youth. It was a long time getting to this point.

Jim Young, who I expect will be outside his building at daylight wanting to be one of, if not THE first senior to take advantage of the service.
What was voted on yesterday has to get approved at Council but given the way Council members commented that would appear to be a given.

The Chief Financial Officer was instructed to incorporate the $160,000 annualized revenue loss in the 2024 budget.

PRESTO system restriction to allow for only one time-of-day pricing category to be active at a time.

Council has often split over transit matters. A small group of transit advocates pressed for more than a decade to get to this point, arguing that transit was not only necessary but vital if the city was to avoid serious traffic congestion and meet its climate change targets.

Bfast was the citizens organization that kept the issue before council. There efforts were validated yesterday.

There was a need to change attitudes towards public transit and give people an opportunity to use the service.

Jim Young pressed Council to get to the point where transit in Burlington was a free service for everyone at anytime.

The decision today was a solid first step in that direction.

Implementation of Free Transit for Youth
The Free Transit for Youth program with a budget impact (revenue loss) of $84,000, will allow riders aged 13 to 19 to ride Burlington Transit for free on evenings and weekends, starting August 1, 2023.
Like the original approach that applied to seniors, eligible riders will need to obtain a PRESTO card with the youth category defined, to allow for free travel after 6pm and all-day Saturday and Sunday.

Current Free Transit for Seniors Program
In 2019, Burlington City Council approved the Free Transit for Seniors pilot, which enabled seniors, 65 years and older, to ride Burlington Transit for free Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The pilot started in May 2019 and was made permanent in the 2022 budget that allowed free transit Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

From May 2019 to February 2020, senior ridership increased by 41 percent. This was directly attributed to providing free transit for seniors. Senior ridership is currently at 91 percent of pre-pandemic levels and was 22 percent higher in the fall of 2022 compared to the fall of 2018.

The Presto card plays a major role in how the Free Transit service will operate.

PRESTO System Restrictions
Due to PRESTO system implementation restrictions, time-of-day pricing can only be assigned to one fare category. Therefore, to implement free transit for youth on evenings and weekends, it is recommended to make transit free for seniors all the time.

When a senior, youth or child obtains a PRESTO card, they must provide their date of birth to ensure the proper fare category for the card. This allows the system to validate the card holder and allows the rider to travel seamlessly.

When a youth rider turns 20 years of age, they are automatically moved into an adult fare category, and the youth fare program is no longer accessible on their card.

By requiring the use of the PRESTO card for free transit, it mitigates the potential risk of fare evasion by ensuring riders are the appropriate age. It also mitigates the need for the operators to question the age of our riders, which has resulted in harassment and/or a negative transit experience.

Passengers who use PRESTO cards benefit from seamless connections with our neighbouring transit agencies and to GO Transit.

Options Considered
Burlington Transit considered other options to accommodate free transit for youth and seniors based on time-of-day pricing:

1: Manually Track Youth Rides (not recommended)
To identify youth riders, Burlington Transit investigated the option of adding a sticker or visual validation for youth riders. This is not recommended due to the increased staff time to validate age and hand out stickers; and it creates an additional barrier for youth, who would have to obtain a sticker yearly. Transit operators would also be required to manually track the youth ride through the bus fare box. Manual collection of data is not recommended as it is prone to errors and omissions.

2: Offer free transit for youth at all times (not recommended)
This option has a significant annual revenue impact and due to capacity and service limitations, is not recommended at this time.

3: Work with PRESTO to implement a ‘Pass’ product on the card (not recommended)
The Burlington Transit team investigated this option with PRESTO, and it would require riders to have a specialty pass loaded onto their PRESTO cards that would enable free transit during the set time. This would require riders to have passes loaded in person at the Transit Terminal every year and would require additional resources to manage the increased number of customers. This is not recommended.

The next step for Burlington Transit is to move the fleet from diesel buses to electric vehicles.

4: Offer free transit for seniors all day, every day (recommended)
By removing the time-of-day limitation for seniors, it would allow for youth riders to travel for free on Burlington Transit during the set time of evenings and weekends. This is the most cost effective and seamless option.

Financial Matters:
Extending free transit for seniors to all day, every day, effective August 1, 2023, will have an impact on Burlington Transit’s 2023 revenue.

Free transit for seniors will have an ongoing revenue impact of approximately $117,500 plus the Region’s SPLIT (Subsidized Pass for Low Income Transit) contribution of approximately $42,500 for a total revenue impact of $160,000 on the overall transit operating budget.

With the Free Transit for Youth, evenings and weekends, program commencing on August 1, 2023, the revenue impact in 2023 is estimated at $35,000 compared to the approved budget of $84,000.

The total impact for the remainder of 2023, to fund free transit for seniors all day from August 1 to December 31, will be approximately $17,670.

Transit has always been a contentious issue in Burlington. Former Mayor Rick Goldring looks on while a citizen berates both the Mayor and the Director of Transportation at the time.

Source of Funding
Subject to the City’s overall year-end financial position, the decreased revenue of $17,670 for 2023 could be funded from a draw from the provincial gas tax reserve fund. The annualized revenue loss of $160,000 will need to be incorporated into the 2024 budget.

Public transit plays a critical role in local climate mitigation. Free transit programs encourage transit usage and reduce the use of vehicles within the city. Every ride on Burlington Transit takes one car off the road and reduces CO2 emissions and traffic congestion.

Each year, transit staff release a rider survey which enables riders to provide input and commentary on transit within Burlington. The 2023 survey had close to 1000 responses.

 

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Freeman is free on Canada Day - every other day it is open as well

By Pepper Parr

June 28th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

It took the work of a relatively small group of men and women who would not give up saving the station from being sold as kindling,. Others followed the original group and did the scrubbing and painting it took to get the building to the point where it has become a destination point for visitors to the city.

 

Given that this country was made coast to coast by the railways it is fitting that it too be celebrated on Canada Day.

Sir John A, Macdonald did everything legal and illegal he could to dig out the money needed to get to the point where the Last Spike was driven in on November 7, 1885, at Craigellachie, B.C, marking a momentous occasion — the completion of Canada’s trans-continental railway.

Freeman Station was a part of the railway that took produce from the farm fields around Burlington to retail locations in Belgium and elsewhere in Europe.

For the city it was more than just a railway station. It was a symbol of progress, connection, and community for the people of Burlington. For almost a century, it served as a gateway to Canadian travellers, immigrants, and workers.

This station was built in 1906 by the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR).

Volunteers raised the funds to have the structure moved to its final resting place. There is a coin embedded in the concrete – how many people can tell where the coin was placed and what the denomination of the coin is? Put you answer in the comments section.

Today, after over a decade of fundraising and a full restoration by an all volunteer group, Friends of Freeman Station, the station stands in its relocated home on 1285 Fairview Street, open only during our public events, class visits and station rentals.

The original location of the station is but a short walk away on the other side of Brant Street.

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What Burlington at Brant and Caroline once looked like

By Pepper Parr

June 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

An exceptionally good aerial of John Street (the northern part is actually a lane), Brant Street and Locus Street.

The area is currently the subject of a Heritage Planning study to determine what has and what doesn’t have the criteria to be designated.

The photograph of what we know as the Brant Plaza where the supermarket is located shows some commercial brands that no longer exist.

 

The commercial world has crept into the west side of Brant – so much so that there isn’t all that much that can be designated as historical.

Was the Woolworth location the last of the five and dime stores in Burlington. And why would Loblaws give up the location ?

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Merits of heritage protection & tools City could use to protect each property or area.

By Staff

June 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The heritage consultant has finished preliminary heritage evaluations for the eight individual properties and six study areas. They are available below for viewing. The documents contain a short summary of research findings, a preliminary conclusion about whether or not the property merits heritage protection, and a list of tools that the City could use to protect or recognize each property or area.

The findings were reviewed with owners and stakeholders at a series of meetings starting on Monday, June 19, and the comments and input will be considered as the consultants finalize the assessments over the summer. Assessments were based on evaluation criteria and/or definitions presented in Ontario Heritage Act Regulation 9/06, 1997 Official Plan (In force), and Provincial Policy Statement (2020).

 

An example of the detail in the reports prepared by consultants for the Heritage Planner

518 Brant St Evaluation
524 Brant St Evaluation
530 Brant St Evaluation
574 Brant St Evaluation
612 Brant St Evaluation
620 Brant St Evaluation
2012 Victoria Ave Evaluation
CHL- Burlington Ave and Lakeshore Rd Summary
CHL- Downtown East Summary
CHL- Foot of Brant Summary
CHL-Locust St Summary
CHL – St. Luke’s Summary
CHL- Village Square Summary

The Village Square Summery is not correct, it is shown as a repeat of the St Luke’s Summary,  We have asked for a correction and will put it in place when it is available.

The preliminary heritage evaluations for the eight individual properties and six study areas in the Downtown Heritage Study are available for viewing and downloading on the project web page. The documents contain the consultant’s preliminary assessments on the area or property’s potential heritage value and in some cases discuss potential heritage protection options. Over the summer, the consultants will be further assessing the properties and study areas, integrating feedback received to date from property owners and the public, and refining study recommendations. Study recommendations have not been fully developed at this time. When recommendations are fully compiled, they will be shared with you to give you further opportunities to provide feedback.

Thank you to everyone who attended the individual and group consultation meetings between June 19th and June 26th 2023. We came away with valuable feedback to consider as we refine the research findings over the summer and begin work on developing study recommendations to be considered by Council. The meetings were not recorded, (In a previous report we had a participant report to us that the meetings were being recorded) however summaries of each meeting will be posted to the website shortly. If you have additional comments about specific properties, or questions about the project please share them with the team by June 30, 2023 by sending them to me at john.oreilly@burlington.ca.

There will be a public meeting in the fall. The consultant and O’Reilly will finalize a date and venue shortly and notify everyone well in advance using this email list and the mail-outs they have been sending throughout the project. In an earlier email O’Reilly did specify a date and venue.  The date given is not final. Early September can be a busy time after summer holidays and return to school and we believe it could make sense to push it later into the fall to maximize attendance and input.

The exact timing of our report to Council has also not been finalized and will depend on the timing of the public meeting and progress over the summer.

Once the final report is ready for Council and a presentation date has been chosen, the public will be updated.

 

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2024 budget fundamentals - the final figure could touch more than 8%

By Staff

June 27th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

An understanding of what you will see in your 2024 tax bill is set out in the following four paragraphs and two graphics.

Financial sustainability on a multi-year basis will continue to be our key strategic priority. The budget will continue to face rising pressure from inflation, infrastructure renewal costs, limited revenue growth, and completion of the 4-year work plan initiatives representing visions to meet important community needs. These factors ultimately impact property taxes and reserve fund balances to maintain / enhance existing service levels and quality of life.

A high level look at the 2024 budget forecast

Staff will prepare the 2024 budget taking into account the budget pressures and aligning them to the city’s long-term financial plan and the important policy decisions of council.

While staff will work closely with services to mitigate the tax increase for 2024, it is important to understand that our ability to respond to urgent existing and future needs across many areas is clearly and directly tied to Council’s support for additional tax funding. City treasurer Joan Ford tells tax payers where the rubber is going to hit the road.

It is also important to note that known budgetary pressures that are deferred in the proposed 2024 Budget will need to be incorporated into future years thus increasing the forecasted tax increases identified in the multi-year simulation for 2025 and beyond.

Projected tax rate through to 2028

The Staff report was lengthy; some time will be needed to fully understand the forces the city is up against – it comes down to either raising taxes or reducing service levels and if services are to be reduced – which ones.

 

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How a simple boundary review got turned into thinking about a significantly different council size and different governance as well

By Pepper Parr

June 26th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Staff report was a post-election review of what took place and any lessons learned.

We did learn that the turnout was as bad as it could get and that the city spent $598,190.00 up from $495,543 in 2018

Part of the report included a section on ward boundaries changes.  The last ward boundary review for the City of Burlington took place in 2004/2005 with implementation for the 2006 municipal election. After review six ward boundaries were redrawn and seven-member council composition was maintained. Despite the growth and development in the City, ward boundaries have not changed since then.

There have been calls to redraw or change the boundaries of Wards 1 & 2 to include the neighbourhood of Mapleview in Ward 2.

Spot boundary changes are not feasible and require a wholesome approach of reviewing the boundaries of all wards. Key to the ward boundary review is ensuring extensive public consultation throughout the process leading up to passing of any by-laws to re-draw any existing ward boundaries.

Any by-law establishing new boundaries must be in force before January 1 of the election year which would be January of 2026
.
The by-law establishing new ward boundaries may be appealed to LPAT, and in order for the boundaries to be permanent, the notices of appeal must be withdrawn, or the Tribunal must have issued an order to affirm or amend the by-law before January 1 of the election year.

Sufficient lead time is required to be factored into any ward boundary review timeline. Staff recommends a ward boundary review to ensure that the division of wards in the City reflects widely adopted principles of effective representation.

Staff are recommending that committee/Council direct them to prepare a preliminary report. If there are additional items or aspects that need review, the direction should be amended to reflect these additions. Some municipalities have delayed undertaking their ward boundary review, due to the Regional reviews that are in progress by the Province.

In planning for the 2026 election, the team hopes to streamline processes and find efficiencies where possible, however, the planned budget must consider inflationary cost impacts and additional costs for any new initiatives undertaken.

Should the team receive direction to prepare the preliminary ward boundaries review report for Q1 2024, any costs associated will be covered by the current operating budget. Pending the approval of the proposed report in Q1 2024, staff will work with Finance to build a business case based on approved scope for the proposed ward boundary review, and municipal comparators.

Source of Funding
The source of funding for the election is the reserve fund with an annual contribution of $160,000. The Election Team will work with Finance and ensure due diligence to put forth a business case if it is determined that an increase in the contribution is required.

Mayor Meed Ward put some expansive thinking on the table.

City is growing – shouldn’t the size of Council grow as well? Maybe – but by how much?

That was what Staff put on the table. The Mayor had a bigger idea. “Why stop at looking at the ward boundaries – could we not also look at the size of Council ?” she asked.

Meed Ward said: “I thought it might be good to ask this question in public and with counsel just to see where folks heads are at and I’m wondering if the this review the boundary review would also be an opportunity to review Council size and if that’s contemplated as part of this review and if not, whether committee would like to review Council size as part of this conversation.”

City Clerk Kevin Arjoon followed saying: “That is why we put that recommendation in there – seeking direction. So if there’s anything you want us to look at that may be a little off the drawing of the lines, now’s the time to let us know so that we can start to work on that and start to conceptualize that build – this conversation is timely.”

Meed Ward then said: “I am very interested in that being at least part of the discussion we have with the community. If it requires an amendment to the report, I’m happy to insert the words and a review of council size and see where the conversation goes. So I will move that and then see what my colleagues think about that.”

Councillor Stolte: Likes the idea of Councillors at large

Councillor Stolte who had her own ideas on what a future city council might look like thanked the mayor for “bringing that up. I think that’s a great idea. Would it also be able to include wording that might indicate a new format? We have had conversations in the past about councillors at large and other options that that might be available. Would we need to have something like that in there or does Council size kind of encompass all of that?”

“Yes”, said the Mayor, “I’m open to a completely holistic conversation with the community. I think that we owe ourselves that. I would look to the clerk to determine how specific you want us to be. Maybe it’s including Council size and composition, if that’s a word that captures, how Council is constituted or some other word if you can. Council size and governance. I don’t know I’m open but if we can have another word in there, that would kind of signal we’re interested in the full range of options to come back. I’m in your hands on that and completely supportive of that.”

“I think the conversation we just had is just fine. And I think in the end the governance model could be put into the review as well.”

Councillor Sharman followed with: “My only question with this. I think it should be evaluated and I think it’s good to review. But the question is the process for that review could be quite significant, quite a bit more than what we’re looking at right now. That require additional resources, a different time frame.

Councillor Sharman: But the question is the process for that review could be quite significant, quite a bit more than what we’re looking at right now.

“How much are we opening up here and what can we look at and what would we be expecting because the public aspect would probably be quite important and not what was envisaged in the report. Maybe Kevin, that’d be a question for you.”

Clerk Arjoon responds with: “We have a bit of time so I think the one worry would have is on the staff side and the timing in terms of the deadlines.

“I think we have to have the boundary set before the election year. And then there’s also the appeal process too. So we’ll take that into consideration when we bring that report back in Q1 2024 But we needed some direction now for some preliminary research and maybe some preliminary engagement before we brought back sort of preliminary report as well.

“So I think that’s just where we’re coming from as well – resources. We’re working on that in the background for sure. In terms of the resourcing for the ward boundary review, and then staffing resources in the clerk’s office. So we are working on that and we’re mindful of that as well.”

Chair Galbraith: “Okay, sounds good – seeing no further questions I’ll just read it into the record.

“Receive and file report CL-07-23 regarding the 2022 municipal election review, and direct the office of the city clerk to prepare a report on a potential city of Burlington Ward boundary review for consideration. The report should include timelines, a proposed budget scope and a review of council size and governance model by Q1 2024.

“Any questions or comments? Seeing none, I will now call the vote – reminder to raise your hands – all those in favour. And any opposed? Seeing none that carries.”

And just what could this mean – get ready for the amount of work this is going to involve and how this council will tie itself in knots getting to the point where anything gets changed – unless of course the province comes in and does to the Region of Halton what it just did to the Region of Peel.

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Four Regional High School Students awarded prestigious scholarships - none from Burlington.

By Staff

June 26th, 2023

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The Halton District School Board is proud to announce that four students are recipients of the Schulich Leader Scholarships:

Evie Bouganim, Grade 12 student at Oakville Trafalgar High School
Ella Chow, Grade 12 student at Milton District High School
Caroline Huang, Grade 12 student at Abbey Park High School
Manasva Katyal, Grade 12 student at White Oaks Secondary School

The scholarships total $440,000 to study Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in their post-secondary education.

Selected for their outstanding academic achievement and involvement in extracurricular activities, Bouganim, Chow, Huang and Katyal are among 100 recipients to receive this scholarship in Canada.

Schulich Leader Scholarships are Canada’s most coveted undergraduate STEM scholarships. One hundred are awarded to entrepreneurial-minded high school graduates enrolling in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Math program at 20 partner universities across Canada.

Half are valued at $120,000 for engineering scholarships and half are valued at $100,000* for science and math scholarships. Every high school in Canada can nominate one graduating student each year to apply for the scholarship.

The STEM program in the Halton District School Board got its start at the Aldershot High School – none of the scholarship recipients were from Burlington High Schools.

“On behalf of the Halton District School Board, we are so proud of the accomplishments of these four exceptional students, they represent a shining example of the excellence that permeates our Board, ” says Curtis Ennis, Director of Education for the Halton District School Board. “We wish them all the best in their future endeavours and look forward to seeing all that they accomplish in their postsecondary careers.”

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