Meed Ward on what the draft Official plan is going to mean to the city.

News 100 blueBy Staff

April 27th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In a note on a web site she maintains ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward said:

“Burlington’s new official plan was adopted by council today by a 6-1 vote. Though council supported over two dozen motions I brought or co-sponsored to make the plan better, the plan as it stands represents over intensification: in the downtown, the GO stations and established neighbourhoods.

Is Brant street going to see some class A office space or will it always retail that is consistetly chalenged to be viable?

Brant street looking north from city hall.

“It will deliver a future city that erodes what makes Burlington unique and special, what we love about our city, and why we live, work, play here and welcome new residents who come every year, drawn by our great city to join us.

421 Brant

Scheduled for across the street from city hall.

“In the focus on quantity of people (which goes well beyond our growth requirements from the province), our quality of life is at stake.

“What’s next? The plan goes to the Region of Halton for approval. Amendments can still be made to the plan by this council – or the next – to scale it back.”

Meed Ward has said that she will be filing nomination papers as a candidate for Mayor of Burlington.

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Official plan gets sent to the Region - with one dissenting vote

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 26th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

And so it is done.

City council meeting in a special meeting of council voted 6-1 to approve the draft city plan and send it along to the Regional government.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was the lone dissenter.

There were 11 Staff Directions issued – work for staff to do in the months ahead.

There were a number of motions changing parts of the draft.

The Gazette will report on both the Staff Directions and the amendments made to the draft Official Plan. The document that was approved today began in 2010 when this council was first elected.  Staff changes, the decision to craft a 25 year Strategic Plan instead of the traditional four years plan and the realization that the city had to grow UP and not out due to the limited greenfield land that is available made what was arrived at inevitable given the council that is in place and the leadership within the planning department.

The plan moves Burlington from a suburban community to an urban one. With the plan in place to effect that change in the decades ahead the city now needs to come about, like a large ocean liner, and begin to sail in a new direction.

Hotel on lower Brant Street

The small town feel – how much of it can be kept?

That direction will shift but the “small town feel” that Councillor Meed Ward spoke of in her remarks may be a thing of the past.

Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner noted that the last time Burlington had a vigorous a discussion on the direction the city was going to go in was in the early 60’s. She added that when the Urban Boundary was set in 1969 the future of Burlington was cast in stone. There was going to be a rural community in a sleepy suburban bedroom community.  And that is what Burlington became.

Without the Escarpment - we might as well merge with Oakville.

The 1969 decision to create an Urban boundary left a rural community a short drive from the downtown core.

The next phase of the evolution of the city is now underway – a city that will have high rise towers 20 minutes from farm fields.

We now have an urban city that wants to be vibrant and at the same time have a rural area; few in the world have this kind of mix. Having a lake at the foot of it all is what makes the city it is.

Now high rise towers become a part of the picture.

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Standing committee stands down and prepares to meet as a city council to approve the draft Official Plan and send it along to the Region.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 26th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They have been at it for two days.

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageAfter a grueling session on Tuesday planning staff returned to their desks in the evening and worked through much of the nigh to craft responses to questions that were asked during the day.

It was much the same for some of the members of council. Just about everyone is going flat out.

With all this going on the members of council begin to move into election mode – nominations open on Monday.

The Standing Committee has worked its way through three different tables that list the matters that have to be debated and discussed. The planners have been working on the language that they feel should be used in any changes that are made to the current draft of the new Official Plan which they hope to get approved and shipped off to the Region.

The work being done now is the foundation on which development and construction will be done.  The developers have been sending in developments almost weekly; one was dropped off at city hall last Friday; Deputy city manager Mary Lou Tanner said it was 1000 pages long.

The Standing Committee met at 9:30 this morning, handled one concern and then did their Receive & File process and adjourned. They will meet at about 10:30 this morning as a city council and apparently approve the draft city plan. Not much notice for people who might want to delegate on this critical document.

There is a question that has lingered over the way this new Official Plan has come to be and that is: What’s the rush?

We may never know.

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The new Official Plan, without Transit and Transportation Plans will only be a shell of a document .

opinionandcommentBy Gary Scobie

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I want to apologize for some wrong information I presented earlier to Council. I stated that both Downtown Burlington and the Burlington GO Station were Urban Growth Centres assigned by the Province.

I have been corrected by Planning staff and I thank them for this. Only the Downtown has an Urban Growth Centre designation, much like downtowns in other cities. Oakville did move their Growth Centre to the Mid-town Trafalgar GO Station.

We need to do the same in Burlington.

There is a rush to replace our Official Plan with a new one. There is also the feeling that the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, or LPAT, along with a new OP will help us gain control of our downtown redevelopment. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie

Developers are opportunistic. They see a current situation of a very flexible and malleable OP along with the protection of Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations for the downtown as guaranteeing the height they want to build over many blocks of the downtown. They are absolutely correct in their assessment.

The designations provide no height limits whatsoever on buildings.

They provide minimum resident and job standards only, which the developers capitalize on with their arguments for continued height growth and proliferation of tall buildings downtown, against resident wishes.

The new Official Plan, without Transit and Transportation Plans will only be a shell of a document when it comes to protecting the downtown from over-intensification. Packing many people in a small geographic area of Burlington without a way for them to better move to the GO Station will not solve any problem of the downtown, only worsen the congestion problem.

The ideas of many precincts in the new Official Plan, each hand-picked for certain heights is the gift to developers that just keeps on giving. Developers know that their one-off projects in one location each time only need justification for that certain location.

The City must defend every precinct they have set up with complete, detailed proper justifications unique for each one. These they do not have. Developers need only point to the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub minimum growth targets and other nearby buildings already approved or constructed, even in neighbouring precincts, as justification for height beyond what the City wants. The City will get no help from the Province in defending their new Official Plan as long as the twin designations

loom above us, just as the twin gateway buildings will soon loom above us at the James and Brant corner.

werv

A bus terminal has grown to become a Mobility hub.

We are currently stuck with a pretend Mobility Hub in the Downtown. We have a Council that says it cares about the downtown redevelopment, yet approves inappropriate height on Brant Street and cannot present a valid case to the OMB to stop inappropriate height on Lakeshore Road. The over-arching demand of high density through proliferation of high buildings in the downtown is guaranteed to continue as long the Province has the hammer over our heads. Everything we do downtown in the future is governed by these intensification demands placed by the Province through the twin designations. The LPAT rules acknowledge this and the multi-precinct approach in the new Official Plan will lead to undefendable reasoning against the
precedents already set and the lack of justifications to stop tall buildings where developers desire them.

Urban growth centre boundary

Urban Growth Centre boundary

We have only one defence available to regain control of our downtown for sensible, controllable growth. That is to petition the Province to remove the Mobility Hub designation from the Downtown and to move the Urban Growth Centre designation from the Downtown to the Burlington GO Station.

You can’t do that effectively if you are passing a shell of a new Official Plan at the same time. You need to at least keep the current Official Plan in place as an example of our attempt to manage growth downtown in a gentler manner while you argue our case to the Province for removing the high intensification rules from the downtown.

Will you show the citizens in this meaningful way that you do care about our downtown and what it is to become and set this new Official Plan aside while you pursue a better avenue to protect our downtown from the over-intensification that is currently heading toward us like a freight train that will come off the rails?

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David McKay: Time to approve it and get on with the business of doing as much as we can to make it work .

opinionandcommentBy David McKay

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

David McKay taught science to many of the people who help run the city.  Now retired from classrooms – he appeared before city council to put some of the city’s history in perspective.

I appreciate you taking yet another round of delegations on this matter. My comments will be
made from the perspective of someone who has been involved as a citizen with planning issues
in Burlington for some fifteen years, as a member of city advisory committees, community groups and as an individual. I have followed and on occasion participated in the development of this plan for seven years as it followed a windy and sometimes unpredictable road.

One cannot of course, comment on the entire plan, and I shall confine my remarks to three aspects:

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageFirst, I must commend council and staff for realizing and accepting that so much had happened and was happening since the completion of the previous plan that amendments alone would not suffice, and for having the courage and commitment to build an entirely new plan.

The process of developing this ambitious document included an extensive amount of citizen
engagement with numerous public meetings on various aspects of the plan and finally on the
document as a whole; with frequent opportunities to appear before committee or council.

While some of these events were not entirely amicable, there was opportunity to comment
or suggest and these meetings did result in alterations to the final plan. The amount of time
given to the engagement process and numerous revisions and rewrites of parts of the plan
were much greater that had occurred during the development of previous plans.

Secondly I would comment on a specific part of the new plan which is indicative of a realization that our City is big enough and varied enough that different areas need different treatment in a City Wide Planning Document. My community was involved in the “Neighbourhood Character Study” which resulted in specific planning requirements and control by-laws for particular communities with a particular history and particular needs. This was achieved through an extensive consultative process between city staff , neighbourhood associations, outside consultants and individual residents. The process was lengthy, challenging, and at times frustrating but in the end it brought positive results for all parties involved. There are other areas of the plan which reflect this type of community based planning.

Finally I wish to give “my take” on a portion of the plan which has been the focus of much of the recent discussions – The Downtown Transportation Hub. To fully evaluate this part of the Official Plan it is necessary to know and understand how we got to where we are at present.

It began, really, with the Provincial Greenbelt Plan, developed in the middle of the previous decade by a Group headed by our then mayor, Rob McIsaac. This plan, while needed and beneficial in its curbing of urban sprawl, had a profound and immediate effect on our City as virtually all of its undeveloped land (about 50% of our area) became part of the Greenbelt or the Niagara Escarpment Lands and Alton became our last subdivision.

Click to view report

Then of course came “Places to Grow” – a detailed outlining of where the millions of new residents of the “Greater Golden Horseshoe” were to be accommodated over the next 20 years. Municipalities were not given any say in this allotment, and Burlington received its quota of new residents to be accommodated; and this would be need to be through “infill”.

In addition, the municipality had to establish a “designated growth area” where the number of jobs and residents per hectare would be the highest. Burlington chose to designate its downtown as this growth area. Here, Mr. Chair, is exhibit A from an event held almost 10 years ago. The Mayor’s Downtown Summit was a daylong event that brought together council, staff, invited speakers and interested citizens to talk about how the requirements of the designated area could be met within a downtown area of limited size, surrounded on three sides by residential communities. One conclusion at least was clear – growth would be vertical, not horizontal as is true in the core of any City. The questions were how high and how often.

The implementation of Places to Grow went relatively smoothly for some years – high rise buildings were erected on the north side of Lakeshore, with one now being built on the south. Existing high rises on Elgin and Ontario were joined by the Strata on Maple and another high rise on Brock and the Berkeley on John St. is now well underway. In the main the heights of these buildings were peacefully negotiated and put the city well on the way meeting its targets.

Two recent events have created challenges for the City and suddenly made citizens aware of just how much growth others would like to thrust upon us. First the direct appeal to the OMB of the proposed building at Martha and Lakeshore where a height far beyond that planned by the city was requested; and to the astonishment and dismay of almost all of us it was granted. Clearly the OMB continues to worship at the Altar of the Provincial Policy statement, whose nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016mantra is “Intensification above all”. Second, the deadline for OMB referrals to be heard under the ‘old’ system brought forward a raft of applications by companies, some of whom did not have a clear idea of just what they were going to do, but didn’t want to deal with the new system. Visualizing all that infill in an around our core is quite unsettling.

So what to do? Certainly the growth that has taken place and will take place in the core is significant and will change the tenor and tone of our downtown streetscape. We do not need all the proposed structures to meet the Places to Grow requirements; indeed there are not enough prospective downtown condominium owners to fill them all if they were to be built.

Burlington did not ask for the Federal Government to add four million immigrants to the Greater Golden Horseshoe area; Burlington did not ask for growth quotas: Burlington did not ask for an unending supply of developers with deep pockets who all think that they can make a good profit out from yet another condo tower; Burlington did not ask for an outside arbitrator who seems wedded to intensification regardless….But that’s what we got.

We are seven years into formulation of this plan and have included as much input from as many people as possible. There are no clear alternatives to its proposed directions. It is time to approve it and get on with the business of doing as much as we can to make it work .

 

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ECoB's 3D model of part of the down core made it into the web cast of council Standing Committee.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They were determined to make it a bigger part of the public record – they just had to find a way to do it.

A delegation was being given by the son of Lesley Imber, a family that lived in the downtown core west of Brant.

Remy Imber was one of two boys who had constructed a 3D model of the downtown core out of Lego. It was part of an ECoB initiative to give the public some idea as to what the city around city hall would look like once several of the high rise towers were completed and occupied.

Remy was giving the delegation, which he did very well. Part of his delegation was on the belief that the city would not create a 3D model that would show what the city core would look like. At that time city manager James Ridge said that he didn’t have the staff, the financial resources or the data to create a model of any kind. It wasn’t something Ridge wanted to do but he did say that if he were able to have a model created it would be sometime in 2019 – late 2019.

That wasn’t going to deter the ECoB people – somewhere along the way they came up with the idea of making a 3D model out of Lego – the idea may well have come from the boys. The struck me as the type that had creative nimble minds.

When Remy had completed the delegation ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward made mention of the 3D model and asked where it was – “out in the hallway” replied young Remy.

Downtown model

Remy Imber during his delegation along with his 3D model of the downtown core.

Bring it in suggested Meed Ward. That wasn’t something chair Craven wanted to do but Kelly Childs, part owner of Kelly’s Bakeshop, had used a copy of Money Magazine to illustrate how important her Bakeshop was to the image of the city in her delegation. There was a two page feature in the magazine which she had on hand to show everyone.

If Kelly could use a visual prop then Remy could certainly do the same thing.

Within minutes it was being carried into the Council Chamber and set out for the Council members to see and get included in the web cast of the meeting.

Both sides of the downtown core debate were getting in every debating point they could.

Politics had become theatre – which of course it always has been.

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ECoB - We need to call a truce. We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted.

opinionandcommentBy Lisa Kearns

April 25th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) is a not for profit group working towards a better Burlington for generations to come.

Kearns direct smile

Lisa Kearns – part of the ECoB leadership team. Is there more than ECoB in her future?

Working within the civic process, we are particularly concerned with issues of planning and development. The group is energized to bring voices and action to challenges that will affect the quality of life today and in the future, we are advocates for good planning across the entire City.

In the months from inception, ECoB has held an open meeting, a rally, a municipal elections workshop, hand delivered thousands of flyers, displayed hundreds of lawn signs, received press, appeared on community television and radio, grown our social media base, inspired a record number of delegations, met with provincial and municipal elected officials, city planning, business owners, developers and most importantly residents.

We have reflected on our position on the matters contained in the Draft Official Plan and truly reflect to objectively determine if we are the outliers, to see if were the radicals, to see if there was any truth to the tactics used to silence us. And here’s the thing, we are not. What we are – are concerned residents and now we are engaged.

From fragmented pockets across the city have woven together to tell the same story – we are not against growth – we are against excessive intensification and loss of community. The same Provincial Policy Statements are used in every development justification report and the same committee and council allow the most obtuse interpretation of these guidelines to promote efficient land use and development patterns. The same policies that govern Toronto and Mississauga have only one safety net in place and that is our Municipal Official Plan. That is why today is so important.

In previous delegations, residents and ECoB have set out specific areas for reconsideration. We asked to have the bar set higher – in the spirit of vibrancy to increase the uses in the Brant Main Precinct, we were successful in receiving a “should” contain three uses in the three storey podiums that extinguish our unique downtown retail. We talked about employment land designations and the ability to keep the door open for future considerations, we saw uproar that ensued from our agricultural friends.

Kearns at podium

Kearns at the podium during the ECoB candidates meeting.

We know you are aware there is a deficiency here and that is why the City has actively taken steps to ignore and deduce the consistent wave of pushing into this process.

The number of drafts that have come out, the inability to build a model that neighbourhood kids could complete, the inadvertent scheduling conflicts, the refusal to meet by some Councillors, the letter from the City Manager to silence instead of collaborate, thrown out petitions, NIMBY lawn signs in every ward, minutes of grow bold videos that hardly scratch the surface #growbold, #goodplanningmatters, and the most stinging “just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t good planning”.

Right down to the special meeting of Council scheduled directly after this Committee meeting – how is anything from the 30+ delegations today going to receive due process and influence the vote tomorrow?

And aren’t quite done. There is still the Transit Plan, the Transportation Plan, the Mobility Hub Plan, the secondary phase of the Downtown Area Specific Plan. The challenges are still ahead and if we cannot all be on the same page with the most important City document, we most certainly will be challenged in the phases that shape our future.

Here’s the thing, planning is suggestive and without doubt a challenging task and profession. While we know that we’ve been a pain we also want you to know that we do respect the work that has been done and hope that if anything, this pressure will give you more support to create a plan that is built exclusively for our great city.

We need to call a truce.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

ECoB’s first large community meeting – they had traction and a following.

We are not against growth, we are not against change. But we are against it done poorly, done in a way that contravenes protection of established neighbourhoods, a way that cannot audit the 5% growth, cannot protect our own green space, and in a way that will ebb and flow as supporting plans come forward. We have asked for a complete vision and are no where close.

We are asking for help because it is not Ok to extend permissions for 18+ stories abutting low density residential, it is not Ok to allow in-congruent infill, it is not Ok to allow hundreds of town homes that double the density permissions, it is not Ok to push residents in Alton village, Pinedale, Bluewater/ Avondale, Dynes, Aldershot and more to the very edge – where the only option is seeking relief from the municipal tribunal.

It is not Ok to leave every resident wondering when they are going to have to become experts in the planning process that they have entrusted to those before us. Let’s make sure that the balance in in our favour now.

The province has mandated growth, we recognize that there needs to be growth, but is it councils responsibility to protect community. The question is does any of this document actually enforce a successful and complete community. We need the Committee to insist that amenities are included not just residential. It is about quality of life and not quantity of people. We seem to be more focused on getting people out of the city instead of keeping people in the city – embedded into their communities through a live, work and play approach.

We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted. We have asked, does the city want to fight with the residents or against the residents, only you can decide with the vote today.

And so, with the last chance to address this Draft Official Plan today we ask you to let down your guard, let us in, and really hear your residents. We continually hear Staff ask – “is this plan defensible”, and yet the bigger question is “is this plan accountable?”.

This is the last chance to be accountable to residents today and residents in the future.

Lisa Kearns is a downtown Burlington resident who has been instrumental in creating ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington.

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Muir - This new OP is not complete. Let the planners do their job.

opinionandcommentBy Tom Muir

April 24th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I have a number of comments and concerns, based on some of my experience for the last several years, regarding the staff bring forward of this new OP with recommendation for adoption.

1. This new OP is not complete, and not good planning practice to adopt at this time with piecemeal structure and many loose ends. It is lacking in accuracy, details, and clarity.

There are 3 Mobility Hubs Plans that are an inherent part of this OP, that are incomplete. These will not be reviewed publicly and given Planning Act due diligence process until possibly early 2019.

The PPS/Planning Act specifies the need for a transportation systems plan, freight support plan, a transit support plan, and an active transportation plan. There are none of these complete and available to inform council, the public and decision-makers.

All those thousands of unaccounted for vehicles are not going to disappear because the planners refuse to recognize they exist.

There are other components of the proposed plan needing publicly settled that are incomplete.

The truth is the important planning pieces that are needed are data and facts, not all kinds of assumptions and fact-less assertions.

Taken collectively, the assertions, assumptions, and conclusions, made in support of recommending adoption of the proposed OP, are not substantiated by an evidence-based research design that can predict the future, and are professionally frowned on statements that overreach the research design.

growbold-847x254I cannot say, or agree, with the ability of the City and staff to deal with this lack of key information, and failure to implement the Planning Act/PPS, and yet they still recommend adopting an incomplete OP that has demonstrated such a lot of public opposition and continues to demonstrate this opposition tonight.

Again, I say this is not good planning, and this should be obvious, and seems to be to ordinary citizens.
You owe it to us all that you pretty much need to know, and be able to tell us on facts, that this Plan is going to work as you say. But you don’t know that.

However, what people do know is that walk, bike, and bus is not going to work for people, not in Burlington for a lot of practical reasons, so open your eyes and see.

With your focus on intensification, everything else is assumed to fit, when you should be doing the planning to make it fit.

Residents want you to be able to make the intensification fit so the Plan can fly. Plan it to work, now.
Right now, for numerous current applications – Plains Rd, Brant St, Downtown etc.- the density asked for simply has to be based on reduced standards of everything in order to squeeze it in, and if that has to be done then it doesn’t meet the PPS and needs of the existing OP and by-laws.

pigs-might-fly

Pigs don’t fly?

This won’t work because the parts don’t fit together. Pigs don’t fly.

2. Over the last few years, I have delegated severally on this OP over the process, and on a significant number of specific applications in Ward 1 Aldershot, Ward 2 Downtown, and issues related to transportation, transit, and the biking plan.

So I know what I have seen and heard, repeatedly, about what needed information is really missing and how some at the City insist that this missing information does not matter, and the city must move ahead without this key business information, and it must be done right now.

I don’t think this is anywhere good enough.

No matter when the proposed OP is approved by Council, and becomes “informative” only, not “in force”, the Mobility Hubs and the other missing plans I mentioned, are still not informative or in force until first approved by City Council, then the Region, which means it does not exist until then.

So then the Planning Act/PPS says the existing OP is required to be used, must be framed in this OP framed local context, and most important, this OP is to implement the PPS.

What is not to be considered is the language of a non-existent OP, and non-existent Mobility Hubs, and non-existent plans for transportation, transit, active transportation, and so on.

I must ask how all this that does not exist yet, is to be complied with in good faith, in such a situation where developers, not to mention the politicians and managers, are steadily trying to indoctrinate the planning staff, (ongoing in time with the proposed OP development), to encourage and approve density and form of a non-existent, not in force, and not policy relevant OP, or planning concepts and ideas?

In my observation and experience in this, I simply have to question how the Planning staff are supposed to retain their professional objectivity, and serve the public interest, when they are bombarded with this language from developers, and more so, in my view, badgered and cajoled by some insistent members of Council, and some City managers, to adopt and to act out the same directions?

With all this shoving and encouraging density and form at them, how can the planners be objective?

I’m telling you to let the planners do their job. I have seen myself some of you just not do that, but interject in questions to planners at meetings.

I have seen, and been told enough, not to think that they are not being unduly influenced about what to do.

We all know there can be a fine scary line between professional integrity and having a job.

I provide here one section from the OPPI Professional Code of Practice for your information.

2 PROFESSIONAL CODE OF PRACTICE

1.0 The Planner’s Responsibility to the Public Interest

Members have a primary responsibility to define and serve the interests of the public. This requires the use of theories and techniques of planning that inform and structure debate, facilitate communication. and foster understanding. Accordingly, a Member shall:

1.1 practice in a manner that respects the diversity, needs, values and aspirations of the public and encourages discussion on these matters;

1.2 provide full, clear and accurate information on planning matters to decision makers and members of the public, while recognizing both the client’s right to confidentiality and the importance of timely recommendations;

1.3 acknowledge the inter-related nature of planning decisions and their consequences for individuals, the natural and built environment, and the broader public interest; and

1.4 identify and promote opportunities for meaningful participation in the planning process to all interested parties.

I don’t have the time here to explain these, however, I have said what I mean and I say again, let them do their professional and objective duty.

And give the residents and Council the critical information needed to inform us all before things get decided, and to keep the faith.

muir-delegatingTom Muir is an Aldershot resident who has been delegating for more than 30 years. He understands the process better than many of the members of council. He is blunt, direct and usually exceptionally well informed. He is a ward Councillors worst dream. And he loves what he does,

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Now we know why: Jim Young goes on record - Grow Bold, Urban Growth Centres, Downtown Mobility Hubs and Special Development Precincts have simply been a smoke screen.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Young

April 24th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

For years now everybody has known that the OMB was a very developer friendly organization.

Its decisions usually favoured developer’s amendments over official plans and that in any fight for increased density or increased height the developer would win and the citizens would lose.

Jim Young with Kell in background

Jim Young – delegating to city council.

That changed recently. The new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal LPAT will be much more cognizant of city official plans and will apparently favour Official Plans in effect at the time of any appeal.

The current Official Plan is the plan that would have to be considered by LPAT. That’s the plan that has low to medium heights all the way up Brant St. and limits intensification and height to around the go stations.

So if a developer were to take the city to LPAT today, LPAT would probably rule in favour of the heights laid out in the existing plan.

For years developers have bought up land on Brant street, the core and along Plains Rd knowing that the city Official Plan limits would be easily over ruled at the old OMB. City council accepted some drastic amendments knowing that the OMB would do just that.

Now there is a good chance that a similar appeal to the LPAT would result in the present heights in the present official plan being upheld.

That would be good news for citizens but bad news for Developers.

On TV recently Councillor Sharman defended a council position that since developers investments cannot break even until their building plans exceed 16/17 storeys, it is incumbent upon city council to help them achieve this. He repeated this statement at a meeting I attended with ECoB, City Planning and Himself. This philosophy seems to be shared by a majority on council.

So if developers need at least 16 storeys to break even and current city plans limit heights to between 4 and 12 storeys downtown where can a developer go?

They can’t go to LPAT, because LPAT may well favour the current city official Plan Heights and rule in favour of the lower heights.

The only alternative was to go to a developer friendly city council and ask for a New Official Plan that would permit higher buildings in the downtown core making any future appeal to LPAT more plan friendly and therefore more developer friendly.

And that is exactly what our New Official Plan has become. A permit for Developers to build higher while avoiding the risk of losing arguments at the New LPAT.

All the talk of Grow Bold, Urban Growth Centres, Downtown Mobility Hubs and Special Development Precincts have simply been a smoke screen to cloak a very developer friendly plan in a veneer of planning respectability.

That also explains the rush to get the plan on to the books. The longer the old plan remains in effect the longer the developers are left holding properties they cannot turn into profits. This is a serious cash flow and business problem for them.

So from a somewhat banal project to review the official plan starting seven years ago, suddenly as the OMB LPAT differences became obvious last year, the push was on to get this done.

The only delays that were allowed were to help council to be clearer on exactly what was being proposed, to give staff the time to tweak the plan to ensure that the “Special Development Precincts” were exactly where the developers owned property, while dressing it up as “Public Consultation”. We are now at the 3rd or 4th rewrite I believe of this Official Plan.

Jim Young

Jim Young

As I recall the original plan was to have it adopted by council and submitted to the region by November last year. It has now been delayed three or four times, once for council, once for staff once to allow a regional agricultural mapping inclusion. It seems it can be delayed for just about anybody or anything except the people it most impacts. The people of Burlington.

At least one member of council, a large number of private delegations, delegations on behalf of various citizen advocacy groups asked time and time again if this process might be delayed to allow the people of Burlington greater input and real engagement in the process and then put the plan to them in the upcoming election. Every attempt to delay that process to allow greater citizen engagement or input was rejected by council.

Now we know why.

It seems we can delay the adoption of this extremely unpopular official plan for Councillors, for city staff, for developers and even for the region. Yet when your citizens, your constituents, your voters suggest it be delayed we are told NO!

Now we know why.

We are told that the Official Plan is way too important to delay it and allow the final say by the very people it is supposed to be written for, The Citizens of Burlington, Rural, Urban and Downtown who will have to live with it for the next several decades.

Now we know why.

Now that the citizens of Burlington are becoming aware of the reasons for rushing this flawed and developer friendly plan through council, very much against their wishes, they are mobilising to defeat it in the upcoming election.

Across the city from Alton to Aldershot and in every area in between groups are looking for candidates who will oppose and overturn this Official Plan. Candidates who will rewrite it with real input from citizens whose views have been so ignored and overlooked in this truly terrible Official Plan Process. Candidates who will fight to make citizen engagement a reality in Burlington.

The issue you tried to hide from the electorate will be front and centre in that campaign and you will be reminded of the folly of ignoring your citizens when the votes are counted in October.

If you choose to be the candidates who still, after all these delegations, after all these raised protest voices are still not listening, still not getting it, the electorate have the right to ask: “Are you with the citizens or the developers?”

You cannot continue to ignore us and claim you are with both.

Ballot going in box

The choice will be ours.

It is not too late. You can still delay this, still fulfill the wishes of your citizens. Or you can go ahead and adopt it. The choice is yours and in a democracy that is as it should be.

Just remember – come October, the choice will be ours and in a democracy that too, is as it should be.

 

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The sharks are in the water - they smell blood. Can someone not see how ridiculous this is and push the pause button on the attempt to get the draft Official Plan adopted?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 24th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was as if there were sharks in the water who had smelled blood and they were moving in for the kill.

Tough enough that unhappy citizens were delegating and saying the equivalent of “we don’t want you to do this” – add to that some of the best legal talent that the developers are able to hire and land use planners that know their stuff.

Time and again the consultants were asking staff – “where are the supporting documents”.

The phrase – “you can’t do that” was mouthed by more than one consultant.

Staff  are on the ropes – but there wasn’t a referee in the ring to count them out and let them crawl out of the ring with their noses bloodied and their bodies bruised.

Council has been able to scoff at and denigrate the citizen delegations – they couldn’t get away with that with the professional talent that took long strips from their hides.

There is a lot of “splainin” to do.

The pace at which delegations appear – ten minutes of presentation followed by Q&A with the delegator. One delegation told the Chair that she was representing four clients – ergo – 40 minutes.

The afternoon meeting had to be extended for more than an hour – one Councillor had to leave early – health concerns dictated a break.

The Chair had to clamp down on the audience – no clapping.  One delegator came close to being asked to leave the podium – he was smacking them.

Far too often the documents weren’t on hand and at times the material was so detailed and dense in terms of content that time was needed to read it over a couple of times and think about it.

It was hard to keep up with the number of deferrals that were being asked for.

Does staff and or council not have the capacity to pause and ask: We are not there yet – is that because we are going in the wrong direction?

Not only is this embarrassing, it is so unprofessional. There are some really fine people in the Planning department who just might be freshening up their resumes – the Burlington Planning department is not the really decent place to work that it was when a different Director of Planning was in place.

And it isn’t over yet – council meets again this evening and again on Wednesday and on the 30th if need be.

Is there not a doctor in the house that can step in and put a stop to the planning carnage?

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections, observations and opinions of the publisher of the Gazette

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Ward 2 Councillor will oppose much of the 421 Brant Street community benefits agreement at council this evening.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

April 23rd, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City council is going to consider community benefits, which are set out in Section 37 of the Planning Act, at a city Council meeting this evening.

Community benefits are an agreement a city signs with a developer who has been given more height and density for a project that asked for a zoning and or Official Plan amendment.

The agreement the city planning department arrived at with Carriage Gate, the developer of a 23-storey tower on Brant Street opposite city hall, has a number of people wondering why there isn’t all that much for the community in the agreement.

421 Brant

The benefits the community is to get for the added height and density doesn’t seem balanced to some people.

The tower was approved by council last November, on a 5-2 vote and gave the developer almost double the existing OP heights of 12 storeys (on the James/Brant corner of the property only) and 4-8 storeys on the balance of assembled lands.

There will be several motions from the ward Councillor who wants to modify staff’s proposed Section 37 Community Benefits.

Marianne Meed Ward will also raise what she calls the “larger issue” of how the city handles the use of Section 37 Community Benefits.

Meed Ward doesn’t think residents are getting a good deal and will be referring her colleagues to an alternative model she thinks the city should explore – Community Benefits Agreements.

According to Meed Ward, they are used in Toronto and elsewhere in Canada and the United States. She supports using CBAs instead of Section 37 because they give residents a seat at the table.
Meed Ward points out that Section 37 Community Benefits are only available if council grants height and density above the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw. Burlington residents want their council to respect the Official Plan and the Zoning bylaw.

Meed Ward argues that “ Section 37 Community Benefits represent only a fraction of the value uplift of the extra height and density granted to the developer. The calculation of benefits is based on the difference in value of the land at the current OP/Zoning permissions, and the amended OP/Zoning permissions. Then a factor of about 25% of that value is applied, to represent the city share. Community benefits are not based on the market value of the new units.”

MMW speaking Ap 11

Marianne Meed Ward announcing her decision to run for the office of Mayor earlier this month.

Third, said Meed Ward “Section 37 Community Benefits can be either cash or “in-kind” benefits, both of which are used for 421 Brant. What gets included in the in-kind benefits are often things that in my view should be a standard part of any application or be provided via the city’s budget — such as public art — rather than having to exceed our OP/Zoning to get these items.”

Fourth, Meed Ward says “the cost of Section 37 Community Benefits are often passed on to purchasers. This has happened in at least two developments I am aware of: the ADI mid-rise on Guelph Line, and the Molinaro development on Maple, where residents were required to pay $1 million to buy the Geo Thermal System. This pass-through of costs erodes affordability, something we’re told is a goal of high-rises in the first place.”

Burlingtonians have opinions - the city manager wants to hear what you think - become part of his Insight panel.

Councillor Meed Ward wants public representation at the table when community benefits for increased height and density are being negotiated.

Meed Ward’s fifth point is that “residents don’t have a seat at the table when negotiating Section 37 Community Benefits. These discussions take place behind closed doors between staff and the developer. The Ward councillor is consulted, but also doesn’t have a seat at the table, and their input can be ignored. Staff develop a proposal for benefits for council consideration; the public consultation kicks in when the report comes to Committee and Council for approval. Residents are forced into a reactive posture, rather than working together to get the best outcome. During the public discussion residents can ask for changes; council members can bring motions for changes.

Meed Ward believes that “granting extra height and density on any property fuels land speculation, which increases property values and tax assessment. That’s because properties become priced not at the current OP/Zoning permissions, but at the new height/density granted.

“This erodes the value uplift used to calculate Community Benefits, as land is priced assuming whatever was granted under an OP/Zoning amendment will be granted in future. So residents get a smaller amount of the pie.

She adds that “the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation takes land value into account when assessing properties for tax purposes, so residents and businesses face spiraling tax assessments. In the downtown, that is passed on to business owners, increasing their cost of doing business.

Berkeley

The Berkeley under construction on Maria at John Street is close to being topped off.

Seventh, Section 37 Community Benefits are voluntary — a developer does not have to agree with them — and can be renegotiated later via a council vote. We’ve already seen this occur with the Carriage Gate development at Caroline/John/Maria/Elizabeth (the same developer as for 421 Brant St). The original proposal included a community benefit of roughly 75% affordable units, calculated at Halton Region’s affordable housing rate.

This was later renegotiated via a council vote of 6-1 to roughly 25-30% affordable units. Meed Ward said she did not support the change.

“With all these drawbacks, Section 37 Community Benefits aren’t the community benefit they propose to be” said Meed Ward and adds that there is an alternative — private Community Benefits Agreements.

Meed Ward is Councillor for ward 2 and a candidate for the Office of Mayor in the October municipal election.

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Open letter to City Council: Staff update to official plan language regarding neighbourhood protection is not acceptable.

News 100 blueBy Greg Woodruff

April 18th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Staff recently updated the language in the official plan regarding neighbourhood protection. The language as presented is not acceptable. And a proposed motion by Marianne Meed Ward does not go far enough.

Meed Ward said she is” Working on language for motion (meeting staff tomorrow) but intent will be to remove towns from low density neighborhoods. Apartments already out.

The language as proposed by staff would essentially green light semi-detached housing in all areas of Burlington. Townhouses and apartments could also be approved if they are “compatible with the surrounding area”, respectful of the “physical character” and provide an “amenity area.” This is the same subjective language that is a problem all over the city. People have to know what to expect and we have seen the planning definition of all these terms can be very far from what residents expect. This subjective language and the ability to convert houses into semi-detached needs removed from the “Residential – Low Density” definition.

Woodruff opinion visual

Part of an advertisement running on video screens in some Tim Horton’s locations in Burlington.

Secondarily the definition of “Residential – Medium density” allows all sorts of unexpected and unwanted development. The language allowing for 4 story buildings with a rooftop deck in “Residential – Medium density” areas is also unacceptable. The difference between “Residential – Medium density” and “Residential – Low density” is largely invisible to residents. I doubt anyone knows what zone they are in and you have to check the map embedded in the 600-page official plan to have any idea.

We do not need to get into a discussion of the wisdom of these changes; We need to deliver the advertised protection to residents. The city is running ads on video screens in Tim Horton’s locations explaining how your neighbourhoods will be “protected.” What many people take that to mean is “protected from significant change.” Letting loose with semi-detached and 4 story buildings next door is a significant change.

If the city advertising said; “in neighbourhoods we will be limiting development in some areas to semi-detached and other areas to small apartment buildings” – then my complaint would be blunted. However the advertisements are very clear neighbourhoods will be “protected” and will “not change”.

We are setting up years if not decades of people that will have all sorts of legitimate anger directed to the city. We can leave the fate of the neighbourhoods to future OP battles. More than enough change is generated at the moment for people to absorb.

Direct staff to:

1) Remove the reference to semi-detached from 8.3.3(1).1

2) Remove 8.3.3(1).b entirely

3) Remove “non-ground-oriented dwellings”, “back-to-back townhouses” and “low-rise” from 8.3.4(1).a

4) Remove “non-ground-oriented dwellings” “back-to-back townhouses” and “low-rise” from 8.3.4(1).b

5) Modify 8.3.4(1).c to read “the maximum building height should be comparable to the average height of the highest points of the rooflines of existing residential buildings on the immediately adjoining properties sharing lot lines with the lands under application.“

We all need to get involved! Please like, share, tweet this post or e-mail a link to friends.

Greg WoodruffGreg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who ran for the office of Regional chair in 2014.  There are those who believe Woodruff will seek public office during the 2018 municipal election.

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Tyandaga residents still working at getting answers from different levels of government before the brick manufacturer begins cutting down trees and mining for shale.

News 100 greenBy Staff

April 16th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is an issue that impacts the health of those who live in the community and has the potential to impact severely the value of the homes that are going to be yards away from the excavation of shale close to high end homes on West Haven Drive in the Tyandaga community.

The issue is complex and literally every level of government has done their best to steer clear of the problem.

Three-quarry-sites

The site and the size of the problem.

A license to mine a quarry for shale, issued in 1972 is the stumbling block. The company that owns the property and holds the license to manufactures brick wants to begin excavating on the most easterly of the three quarry cells.  The residents want tighter rules around any excavation that gets done.

Meridian Brick points to the taxes they pay and the value of their operation to the community. The community comes responds with its own tax number – they pay the city more money in taxes than the brick company.

In his blog Mayor Goldring sets out the fact that “Meridian manufactures an estimated 55% of the clay brick produced in Canada, and 45% is made here in Burlington.” He adds that the “quarry produces Queenston shale, and this is the only type of shale used for brick making in Ontario today. While the economic benefits cannot be overlooked, this must not be at the expense of negatively impacting the community.”

Excavation equipment 2

Residents are not looking forward to this kind of equipment operating yards away from their homes.

What many residents are asking is – why was the residential development approved when city council knew about the shale mining operation? Residents point out that if the mining of shale had started at the western cell the problem the community is facing today wouldn’t exist. In that blog the Mayor seems to agree: “Looking back on how Burlington has evolved, clearly if we were beginning to plan our City, a quarry within the urban area would not be the appropriate location.”

Amen to that would be a TEC response – they now want the city to work with them on an approach that deals with the current problems (air, noise and dust) and deforestation.

The residents of West Haven are resolute; they have organized as the Tyandaga Environmental Coalition (TEC). Hired legal counsel and been very aggressive in going after the bureaucrats in the different provincial ministries.

Westhaven looking toward lake

The street was once a preferred community – then word of the excavation work began to move to a quarry closer to the homes – many have sold their homes and quietly moved away. Property values are not improving.

They have been relentless with the Mayor and the ward Councillor and there is now at least some dialogue between the community and the brick company.

Their reports are filled with acronyms that matter only to those involved – they can be mind boggling. TEC has not been able to get this issues down to  headline issues:  environmental, health and the value of the homes people live in.

TEC reports that there has been one very useful meeting, arranged by Minister McMahon that included Burlington residents, TEC, Minister McMahon, Mayor Goldring, Councillor Craven, Meridian Brick, MOECC, MNRF, Conservation Halton and Burlington Green staff.

The meeting took place in January 25th, addressing a number of our concerns but because of the limited time-frame an in-depth discussion was not possible. As a result it was agreed to have ‘follow up’ meetings and, in addition, several key questions that arose from this meeting should, in the meantime, be presented, in writing, to the MNRF for their timely response – these questions were prepared and delivered on February 6th but so far TEC has no reply from the MNRF.

In November 2017, Donnelly Law, TEC’s legal team, submitted an EBR “Request for Review” application which essentially requested the “Environmental Commissioner of Ontario (ECO)” to review our (TEC) concerns with respect to the proposed Meridian quarry extension.

David Donnelly

David Donnelly TEC legal counsel.

The results of the Environmental Bill of Rights (EBR) decision were received. TEC was partly successful in that the noise study is now being re-evaluated because the Meridian’s Quarry Operational Plan had changed and the conclusions resulting from the theoretical noise study were very dependent on the accuracy of this Plan.

The MNRF (who are responsible for the ‘integrity’ of the Meridian quarry operation) has, to TEC’s knowledge, never routinely monitored the Aldershot quarry operation for air quality compliance (including carcinogens) and noise compliance and noise compliance but rather relied on standard reports that were filled in and submitted by the quarry operators.

TEC points out that Meridian commissioned SS Wilson (the consultant who did the four previous noise studies – two for the Westhaven Drive developer and two for the quarry operator) to monitor the ongoing quarrying noise for the proposed quarry expansion TEC see’s this as extremely irresponsible  – in effect it offers SS Wilson the unique opportunity to police their own predictions – TEC asks: How can they defend this action? They maintain it is an action that shows contempt for and an absolute lack of transparency. It also indicates, at least to the TEC people, the potential subservience of the agencies to the aggregate owners/operators!

TEC members met with Minister Karina Gould (MP) in February to introduce her to TEC and to explain our issues with the “urban” quarry since this has federal relevance:

• Meridian is an American/Australian owned company doing business in Canada (NAFTA)
• Indigenous & Métis is a federal matter – for example, “Duty to Consult”;
• Environment and climate change is a federal matter – COP21

Meridian yard gates

Meridian has a significant investment in the quarry and a license they don’t want anyone meddling with the license they have.

TEC was astonished that Minister Gould suggested that this was not a federal matter, a position that TEC does not agree with. They maintain all levels of government have a role to play in effectively representing all citizens and fulfilling their commitments as elected politicians especially on matters of health, welfare, and the environment. It is important to note that Ms. Gould, a Burlington resident and our representative at the federal level, has known about the TEC community issue since she attended Meridian’s (then Hanson) first meeting in September 2015. To date, she has offered no support.

TEC has tried to get in front of City Council asking that the Meridian matter be added to a meeting agenda to enable residents the opportunity to delegate and present their case to Council – this request came after TEC members met with each Councillor to seek their advice and support (note: to date only Councillors Meed-Ward and Taylor offered any support and “real” advice on the matter). In what appears to be a usual response, Council decided to once again “dismiss, “deflect”, and “redirect”’ our request to be added to the meeting agenda.

The response: “In consultation with the City Clerk and the Chair of the Committee of the Whole, please be advised that this item will not be placed on the Committee of the Whole agenda for February 26, 2018. I understand that this matter is being worked on by the MPP with the support of Mayor Goldring. In addition, as this is not a municipal matter and falls under provincial jurisdiction, your request should be sent to the appropriate ministries”,

TEC points out that having comprehensive City, Provincial, and Federal ‘environmental’ regulations without professional, independent, continuous and thorough monitoring is the equivalent to having no regulations at all! There are many unknowns that have been skillfully ‘deflected’ in the past, but as D-Day (Deforestation and Dig Day) approaches

TEC say they need

• Answers to our MANY questions – this is imperative if we are to define our way forward;

• Progressive and engaged leadership from our City council and planning staff, who go beyond
“listening” and find a way forward that benefits ALL;

• An enforceable MZO (Ministerial Zoning Order) to limit Meridian Brick’s quarrying activities to within a safe distance of the Tyandaga Community;

• A comprehensive review of the mitigation plan for the endangered species on lands and nearby;

• A ‘signed and MNRF approved” Operational Plan so that we can define the height and position of the berm and enable full compliance to be reviewed DURING the operation;

• Independent monitoring of the dust and noise for full compliance;

• A commitment from the City / Province (MNRF / MOECC) to monitor the operation and to be on-call for non-compliance;

TEC has concluded that the time MNRF has taken to respond to their very general questions is because they are having difficulty getting the answers – When did the MOECC / MNRF last monitor the air quality resulting from the shale extraction?

“Surely, this should be just a matter of looking at the last ‘Official Report’. Have the MOECC / MNRF ever monitored the air quality in the Tyandaga neighborhood? Again, this information should be readily available in the ‘Official Report’, unless of course, there are no reports since that has been no air quality and / or sound measurements ever performed on a regular basis by these agencies – a situation that is very disturbing!

One of the reasons for the January 25th meeting, mentioned previously, was for TEC to get to know the other parties and to also get an indication as to the concessions that each party was willing to make. Because of the time limitation not much progress was achieved other than to voice ‘individual’ concerns and to get a better appreciation of the attention (or lack thereof) that we can expect from the city, provincial, Regional and federal officials.

TEC Nov 16-17 crowd

TEC always gets a significant community turnout o events. Early in their community events the ward Councillor and the Mayor brought their tin ears to the meetings.

TEC’s view is that the City and the provincial ministries clearly want to politically distance themselves from the Meridian Brick Aldershot quarry matter by a ‘Defer, Distract, and re-direct’ policy providing all the choreographed lip service but taking none of the accountability that comes with their elected positions – again a situation that is very disheartening for the residents but further encourages the aggregates!

As a community TEC said they “must decide on our next course of action as Meridian begins to implement its plans for the clear cutting and the subsequent quarrying commences.

At this time, they say they can go in a number of diverse directions – from legal action (which requires fund raising) to a negotiated compromise of the proposed Meridian operation. For example, trying to reduce the area to be quarried, limiting the closeness of the quarry to the neighbourhood, professional monitoring of the noise and dust, penalties for non-compliance and alternate land uses.

TEC stop quarry expansion Jul17

In Burlington community groups have to struggle to get heard.

Any of these require dialogue and a willingness on the part of Meridian to come to the table as a transparent and accountable corporation and elected officials who will accept their responsibility to oversee what takes place and call to account those who do not .

It has been a long and expensive exercise but whenever TEC holds a meeting they get audiences of about 200 during which people offer their financial support – one resident donated $5000 to the cause.

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Gary Parker wants to know if the 421 Brant community benefit package put forward by the planners is a done deal.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 13th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is getting harder to communicate with the seven people who were elected in 2014 to serve the interests of the city.

421 Brant

Many citizens didn’t like the idea of a 23 storey tower in the downtown core – many more don’t like the benefits the community is being offered for the additional height given the developer.

Gary Parker gave a strong delegation at city council earlier this week and said to the Gazette later that : “After hearing in the Carriage Gate delegation that the deal was done and not subject to public input I wrote to Councillor Rick Craven, who was chairing the meeting and asked him why, if this was in fact the case he didn’t challenge that assertion and if it was true, why the public was invited to delegate on this issue? ( albeit with little notice and obscurely posted)

In his initial response he advised that “the city doesn’t negotiate real estate deals in public”. I challenged him on this description and again asked: “Is this a done deal or not.”. In his final response he advised “not until a vote of four to two takes place”.

Rick Craven

Ward 1 City Councillor Rick Craven

“It was a bit like pulling teeth to get the answer and I can’t help but feel, vote or not, this really is a ‘done deal’.”  Parker said he thinks “almost everything included in the indirect community benefits part of the package is not in fact a benefit to the citizens of Burlington at all.”

The Standing Committee that heard the delegation recessed at just after 10 pm and will reconvene as part of a Standing Committee meeting scheduled for April 24th.Burlington flags

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward, now a declared candidate for the Office of Mayor, has said she is going to bring a motion asking that the matter be moved back to a May 8th meeting.

The Parker delegation.

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Resident takes a dim view of the community benefits proposed by the developer and agreed to by the Planning department.

opinionandcommentBy Gary Parker

April 13th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

In preparing to delegate on this issue I carefully read section 1.8 of the new OP which covers Community Benefits. I could find little in that document that exactly fits the agreement you’re being asked to approve tonight.

However the verbiage in this section is vague enough to allow for a wide scope of interpretations. In fact you could interpret the wording in this section in a way that would qualify even the most obscure contribution as an indirect benefit and that appears to be what has happened here.

421 Brant

The development has been voted on – 5-2 for the 23 storey tower opposite city hall. Residents are now gulping at the benefit package to the city for all the additional height.

Despite that ambiguity the underlying concept that the benefits should be proportional to the added height or density is made very clear. It’s also clear that the monetary value assigned to indirect benefits should reflect their real contribution to the community. It is in this area that I see major faults in this proposal.

To determine a rough estimate of what should be offered to the citizens of Burlington I used Mayor Goldring’s approved amendment to the new OP that stipulates 8 additional parking spaces or 190 sq. metres of commercial space per floor of height beyond the ‘as of right’ limit – in this case 17 storeys. How that applies to this already approved development is not clear to me but a calculation based on that formula using Carriage Gate’s own estimate of a $50,000 valuation per parking space tells us that the developer should be liable to provide over 2 million dollars in public benefits.

No exact dollar figure is available for the alternative of commercial space but based on land economics and the per storey formula, the value associated with that option is certainly close to a million dollars. The package of community benefits claimed in the document to be voted on totals 1,775,000 dollars.

That amount would represent a fair compromise if all the benefits claimed were properly priced, but in my opinion, they’re not. In fact a reasonable accounting of the benefits in the listing amounts to only $500,000, more than a million dollars less than what’s being claimed. So let’s look at what our planning department has agreed to for this benefit package:

To assist with affordable housing, a discount of $300,000 to be used against the purchase price of up to 10 dwelling units within the subject development, or an equivalent cash contribution to the city.

While we would prefer to see a real community benefit equivalent to any amount of cash, this is at least a measurable benefit assuming of course, we take the cash. Interestingly this concession by Carriage Gate represents the same amount it paid in lieu of meeting its commitments on its Berkeley development.

One (1) publicly accessible car share parking space (indirect non-cash benefit assessed at
$50,000) and a car-share vehicle for a minimum of two years (assessed at $50,000)

What possible benefit does the community at large derive from this one vehicle and its parking space? If it represents a benefit at all that benefit is being provided not for the public, but for the eventual residents of this building?   The $100,000 assessed in this category should not be recognized.

UW crowd at civic square

Civic Square

$50,000 contribution towards the future expansion of Civic Square

Is this potential expansion a reference to the next point which describes the set back at the north east corner of Brant and James? We need to be told specifically how this expansion is to happen in order to assess whether this money really qualifies as even an indirect CB.

And while on the subject of the contribution the set back and its purported enhancement of the civic square is to provide I draw to your attention to the architectural rendering of the Carriage Gate building and surrounding area. Appreciating that these renderings are by nature glorified versions of the eventual reality, this one is particularly flattering to the project.

Where’s The Traffic?
Presented as it is, it conveys the impression that our civic square extends to the local horizon at the base of the Carriage Gate tower.

Unless we’re planning to deny vehicle access to this busy intersection the reality is that there is no real  connection between these two spaces other than on the few days Brant Street is completely shut down.
◦ public access easement for lands located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and James Streets, the minimum dimensions of which are in the form of a triangle measured at 16m by 16m (128m2) (indirect community benefit assessed at $75,000)

This project was approved by city council in large part because of this very easement. Its inclusion was part of the ‘lesser evil’ rational our planning department used to recommend that approval. Now we are being asked to include it as a community benefit? The $75,000 assessed here should be removed.

Eight (8) visitor parking spaces (indirect community benefit assessed at $400,000)

The ratio for parking per unit in this building is already constrained so competition for these 8 spots will be intense. I would suggest that the approval for 23 stories would never have been granted if the developer had indicated it would not provide sufficient visitor parking spaces.

My own research indicates that, at least in the world of rental apartments, noise complaints are the most numerous followed by the issue of the building’s residents parking in already limited visitor spaces. This is to be a condominium complex but can we not expect the same scenario here?

To suggest that providing 8 visitor parking spots for 8 people from our community of over 180,000 residents that might be available if they ever chose to visit here and value that access as an indirect benefit to our community valued at $400,000 makes absolutely no sense!

Remembrance Day wreaths - dozens at cenotaph

Remembrance Day wreaths at the cenotaph.

Increased building setbacks, including widened sidewalks on Brant Street, James Street, and John Street, and view corridors on Brant Street and James Street to City Hall and the Cenotaph (indirect community benefit assessed at $250,000)

Again, these are factors that have already made their contributions in the context of why a 23 storey building was approved on this site. How many times does a developer get credit for committing to the same thing? This $250,000 of indirect benefits should be removed.

$150,000 towards the public art reserve fund to be used within the publicly accessibly privately owned easement area referred to above and/or in the future Civic Square expansion

This benefit potentially benefits both parties. Therefore only 50% of the donation should be allowed at least until we know where this piece of art will be located.

Implement green technology and sustainable architecture elements into the subject property in accordance with either LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development guidelines (indirect community benefit assessed at $300,000)

How is being ‘in compliance’ with established standards a community benefit. Once again, the use of green technology for this building was sold to city council as part of the approval process and does not fit the definition of a community benefit. This represents another $300,000 that should be eliminated based on a true assessment of its contribution.

Implement City of Burlington Streetscape Guidelines Standards within the Brant Street, James Street, and John Street public realm areas, including the expanded building setback areas at- grade and the publicly accessible open space easement area outlined above (assessed at $150,000).

Here again we are asked to see conformance with guidelines and creating set backs that were already committed to as additions to what was expected of this development. Another $150,000 of dubious benefits to be removed.

I was in attendance the night city council approved this development. I came away from that meeting with a clear understanding that the approval granted was subject to the provision by the developer of appropriate community benefits beyond what we had been presented with in the rational for approval. In this delegation my aim is to point out to you that most of what you’re now being asked to approve was already recognized as part of the approval process.

There’s is little on offer here by way of direct community benefits and the monetary values assigned to the questionable indirect benefits are grossly inflated. These monies were obviously added in order to meet the percentage value required by the ‘uplift’ formula regardless of their merit!

I would also point out that those championing the Reserve Properties proposal that seeks approval largely based on what was accepted at 421 Brant, will be closely watching this process. If the at best dubious benefits and inflated valuations included in this document are accepted I would suggest you can expect to see them duplicated in the future.

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There are direc benefits and there are indirect benefits - the most direct benefit available to voters is the ballot box.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 12th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor Rick Goldring used his blog to comment and explain a Staff Report on the proposed Section 37 Community Benefits for 421 Brant Street.

goldring-at-council

Mayor Rick Goldring explains the Section 37 deal the city is getting ready to give Carriage Gate.

The Mayor puts his comments in context saying: On November 13, 2017, Council approved applications to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law, as modified by staff, to permit a mixed-use development with a height up to 23 storeys at the north-east corner of Brant and James Street across from City Hall.

He adds that he “did not support the approval as I believe the height is excessive for this location.”
Section 37 of the Planning Act is a planning tool which allows municipalities to accept “community benefits” when granting increased density and/or height through a change in zoning or official plan policy.

He then explains that there are direct and indirect community benefits. For many this will be the first time they have heard of that distinction.

A direct community benefit is a monetary contribution.

An indirect community benefit has a public interest but doesn’t involve a direct monetary contribution.

The direct benefits listed below have been negotiated under Section 37 by Planning staff. The indirect benefits were identified as part of the development proposal outlined in the November Planning report in support of the approved 23 storey development.

Here is the list of community benefits that Planning staff are recommending for approval: Three are direct and six are indirect.

Sweet! For who?  The city needs a better negotiator – and having at least something in the way of public participation in this process is a must.

A smart developer would have gone out to the community asking for ideas.

• To assist in the pursuit of long-term affordable housing, the Developer agrees to a discount of $300,000 to be used against the purchase price of up to 10 dwelling units within the subject development, or in the event that a purchase(s) is/are not to occur within the subject development, the Developer agrees to provide the City with a cash contribution of $300,000 prior to condominium registration. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of $150,000 towards the public art reserve fund to be used within the publicly accessible privately owned easement area referred to in subsection (v) and/or in the future Civic Square expansion area. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of a $50,000 contribution towards the future expansion of Civic Square. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide one (1) publicly accessible car share parking space (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000) and contribute to the City’s emerging car-share network by accommodating a car-share vehicle for a minimum of two years starting from the first occupancy (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000), or equivalent.

This might be of some benefit to the people who will live in the building – what about the rest of the people?

• The Developer agrees to provide public access by way of an easement to be registered on title for lands located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and James Streets, the minimum dimensions of which are in the form of a triangle measured at 16m by 16m (an indirect community benefit assessed at $75,000).

Opening up some space is nice – this one sounds more like a direct benefit – could perhaps be a location for an imaginative Pop Up

• The Developer agrees to provide eight (8) visitor parking spaces (indirect community benefit accessed at $400,000).

Great if you are visiting people who live in the building – great sales feature as well.

Remembered, respected

Remembered, respected

• The Developer agrees, and it is enshrined within the amending zoning by-law, that increased building setbacks, including widened sidewalks on Brant Street, James Street, and John Street, and view corridors on Brant Street and James Street to City Hall and the Cenotaph (indirect community benefit accessed at $250,000).

How did this get valued at a quarter of a million dollars?

• The Developer agrees to implement green technology and sustainable architecture elements into the subject property in accordance with either LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development guidelines (indirect community benefit accessed at $300,000).

Nice for the environment – should be standard on every new building put up in the city.  Not a benefit – a given

• The Developer agrees to implement City of Burlington Streetscape Guidelines Standards within the Brant Street, James Street, and John Street public realm areas, including the expanded building setback areas at-grade and the publicly accessible open space easement area outlined in (v) above (an indirect community benefit accessed at $150,000).

How did the value get determined?  Doesn’t appear as if there was anyone in the room his was negotiated in to speak up for the people.

A government that speaks for the interests of the tax payers would be nice.  Ballot boxes are nicer.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Gazette.

 

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Is there going to be a real election in October and not just a return of all seven incumbents.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Why now?

And why in the wilds of Aldershot?

MMW speaking Ap 11

Meed Ward announcing her running for the office of Mayor.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward announced today that she was going to run for the office of Mayor.

No surprise there – she has been working towards the job since her first successful run in ward 2 in 2010.

She said in an interview that she announced today so that anyone thinking of running for the ward 2 council seat would have some time to get their papers in order and be able to march into city hall on May 1st and file their nomination papers.

Michael Jones, a ward 2 resident, has said he would run for the seat just as soon as he was certain Meed Ward would not be running.

MMW and Leah Reynolds

Marianne Meed Ward and Leah Reynolds

Ward 1 and 2 school board trustee Leah Reynolds has been seen by some as the heir apparent for the city council seat. When asked recently what her plans were as a trustee Reynolds said she wasn’t prepared to make any comment at the time.

There is a third possible candidate that is keeping her powder dry – but the signs the Gazette is seeing suggest she will run.

There are two credible candidates for the ward 3 seat and a ‘wanna be’ that has run in at least four elections.

There are hints that incumbent John Taylor will resign.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison always has an eye open for an economic opportunity - sees a great one for the city: sell the golf course.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison

There is now a candidate ready to give ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison a good run for his money. Expect an announcement on that in a day or two.

No one yet in ward 5, a “possible” in ward 1.

Ken White has said he will run for the ward 6 seat against incumbent Blair Lancaster.

Will it be a different city council on the 23rd of October?

We thought it was going to be difference in 2014 and they all got re-elected, so we too will keep our powder dry.

Why announce in Aldershot?  Meed Ward claims an attachment to the community; her children went to elementary school in Aldershot and she said she felt that Clearview Street was a near perfect example of what is wrong with the changes that are taking place in the city.  The announcement was made on the street

There might also be some truth that she chose ward 1 to rub it in Rick Craven, the ward Councillor – no love lost between those two.

Salt with Pepper are the musings, reflections and opinions of the Gazette publisher.

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City Council ran out of time - couldn't finish the debate on the community benefits before it was time to go home.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

April 11th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was a meeting many did not want to see take place due to the lack of in-adequate public notice – but it did – and due to the hour the Council Standing Committee decided to adjourn and continue the meeting as part of the April 23rd Standing Committee meeting.

Meed WArd at PARC

Ward 2 city council member Marianne Meed Ward

421 BrantWard 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward explained that Section 37 community benefits are a public report decided by council in a public session. That’s why we were all there. It can be changed by motion like any other report. I will be bringing several motions for change.”

She added that: “Negotiations happen between staff/developer behind closed doors but discussion by council and final decision takes place in public.” I was consulted once for input. I suggested affordable housing be a priority.”

Meed Ward said: Staff and the developer negotiated the items. Staff write the report. I saw the final list of recommendations 6 days ago at the same time as the Public Report was released.

The Tuesday evening meeting was planned as an occasion when two Statutory meetings on new developments were to be heard. The Staff report on the Section 37 community benefits that are part of the 421 Brant development was added to the agenda.  The 23 storey 421 Brant tower has already been approved by council on a 5-2 vote.

421 James street rendering

Based on the debate so far – the citizens aren’t going to see very much for the additional height and density the developer has been given.

No decision made Tuesday evening.  Due to late hour (10:10) and three delegations to be heard it was referred to council meeting of April 23. Meed Ward had suggested referral to May 8 committee. She does not support the benefits package in the report and will bring motions for change.

This story isn’t over yet.

Related new story:

Muir: It’s just a bad deal for the citizens

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Councillor Taylor beats around the Bureaucratic bushes explaining why the draft OP has to be passed ASAP.

News 100 redBy Staff

April 10th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are beginning to get a little more detail on why the city chose to hold an additional public meeting on the draft Official plan that a number of people want to see moved back until after the municipal election when they hope they will have a different city council to deal with.

Not through this part of th Escarpment if you don't mind. Citizens want to make sure the province fully understands how iopposed they are to a raod through this part of our city.

Rural lands and how the province is determined they are to be used is the most recent hiccup with getting Burlington’s draft Official Plan adopted and sent along o the Region.

John Taylor, Councillor for ward 3 explains to Jim Young, an ECoB member, that the meeting in Alton last night “really has nothing to do with the Official Plan Review process at either the City or Region of Halton.

“The blame rests solely with the Province of Ontario and their February 9 unilateral decision to gazette their error filled mapping of agriculture lands and natural heritage systems for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and require full municipal compliance. As this was at the end of the city’s OP process this required us to delay our process for an additional public consultation.

(When Taylor refers to the gazette he is not referring to the Burlington Gazette but rather to the publication the provinces uses to formally issue its decisions.)

”The way forward is not completely clear at this point and I have requested senior planning staff from the Region and City to meet next week in an attempt to resolve this mapping issue and how to make our new OP fully compliant with provincial legislation at the same time as the new regional OP is adopted. I will expect city staff to report back on these issues at the April 24 Planning and Development Committee meeting.”

Young replies saying:

Jim Young

Jim Young delegating before council – reminding them who put them there and what they are expected to do while they are there.

“I was commenting that it seems perfectly acceptable to delay the adoption to clarify one item for council while the many other outstanding concerns for citizens are blithely ignored in the rush get this really unpopular OP through council before an election.

“This OP does not belong to council or staff. It belongs to the people of Burlington whether urban, rural, farming, commuter, working or retired.

“Clarity for Councillors is not the criteria by which it should be judged, delayed or implemented.

“Clarity for the people of Burlington should be the only criteria and the fiasco at Haber on the mapping issue is simply one more indication that people are not clear on how this OP affects them and when they become aware of some of its impact they do not like what they hear.

“Again I ask, Why the Rush? Why not Clarity for All?

Tanner and Taylor at June 21-17 workshop

Councillor John Taylor on the left n conversation with then Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner on the far right

Taylor’s rationale for moving forward with all possible haste is set out in this statement: “As for intensification it is in the best interest of Burlington as a whole to adopt the official plan now in order to put forward a new defendable reference point on this issue. To continue to rely on a way out of date OP is irresponsible and will only invite further land speculation.”

Having been a member of a city council that has dithered away with the writing of a new official plan for years, during which time the developers were quietly assembling properties, it is a little disingenuous of Taylor to claim that the barn door has to be shut when we can see all the horses in the fields.

The Planning department is now flooded with development applications. The developers have got this figured out. They are doing what any good business does – look for a good business opportunity and make the best of that opportunity.

Citizens were expecting their council to protect them.

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An almost total cock up on the part of the Clerks office - they will refer to it as a 'learning moment'

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 10th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Back to the way the city administration communicates with the people that pay their salaries. A very controversial item was due to be put before city council – the Section 37 agreement with the developers of the 23 storey tower approved by city council.

421 Brant

How does a development that has some merit manage to get so much undesirable publicity?

Many people were not aware that the item had been placed on the Agenda of a Planning and Development meeting for this evening.

A resident who is particularly good at digging out information and some of the ECoB people were able to find the mention of an item that was added to the agenda – the added item doesn’t appear on the actual agenda – confusing? – Welcome to the world of municipal government.

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward explained that she too had difficulty finding the agenda item – and she uses the city calendar feature regularly and urges people to use it.

Here is what Meed Ward had to say about access to notice of an item on a meeting agenda:

Meed Ward H&S

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward is expected to ask city council to defer hearing the Planning until the public has been given adequate notice.

“I have received multiple emails from residents who were not able to find the Section 37 item on the Agenda for tonight’s meeting.

“I myself couldn’t find it initially after I was told it had been posted and spoke to clerks. (I am paperless, so rely exclusively on the electronic record for my agendas and reports). They showed me where to find addendum items – these are items that are released late, after the agenda for the meeting is already published.

“But without that knowledge gained speaking to clerks, I wouldn’t have found it, and it’s not where the public would think to look.”

Meed Ward is apparently going to ask council to defer this item until the public has been properly notified and made aware of the item being on an agenda.

What Meed Ward hasn’t said so far is where she stands on the Section 37 agreement the Planning department is passing along to council for approval.

Related news stories:

Muir hammers city council.

It was the late Paul Newman who once said in a riveting movie: What we have here is a failure to communicate.

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