Rory Nisan: 2018 - it is not enough to hope from the comforts of the couch.

opinionandcommentBy Rory Nisan

January 2nd, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

“May you live in interesting times” — an English expression commonly attributed as a Chinese curse, and an appropriate characterization of the situation in Burlington at the beginning of 2018.

LBP cardWithout a doubt, 2017 was a year of some turmoil in our community. Two of our schools are on the chopping block and the campaign of the Halton District School Board to close schools come hell or high water has without a doubt been a source of civil conflict in our community.

And more recently, Burlingtonians have contended with drastic proposed changes to the city’s official plan, causing outrage among many (and satisfaction for others) as Burlington feels the effects of development agendas.

For those who are engaged on these issues, we enter 2018 with some trepidation. Will the approval of 421 Brant street stand? Will more proposals for sky scrapers at the bottom of Brant street come forward?

Will the 5-2 vote on the Brant street building be mirrored by a 5-2 vote in favour of the new Official Plan?

Miller Diane addressing Wilson HDSB

Margaret Wilson listening to a delegation during the Accommodation Review of the HDSB decision to close two high schools.

Similarly, what will Margaret Wilson’s Accommodation Review of the HDSB Trustees’ decision to close Pearson and Bateman high schools contain?

As easy as it would be to be fearful for the future, I see many reasons to be optimistic. We are busy people: families, commuters and active retirees, among others. We could be forgiven for not always having our fingers on the pulse of local politics. After all, Burlington is one of the best cities in which to live in Canada.

I am truly impressed at how many stood up for what we believe in this year. I have been most active with the Save Pearson team and many of us were not engaged between elections prior to this issue coming forward.

That has all changed.

Now, moms and dads, alumni and grandparents are working together towards common aims. There are bonds forming, political and social, that will carry us into 2018.

We are seeing Burlingtonians coming together across cultural lines as well. Burlington is changing fast — it has never been as diverse. We could either become more inclusive, or more exclusive — neutrality is tantamount to giving permission for xenophobia to creep into our society. After the Mosque attack on 29 January 2017 in Quebec, we organized a vigil for the victims at city hall. The hundreds of people who attended and signed the condolence book were proof that Burlingtonians want and will take action towards a more inclusive city.

After that, we wanted a more happy occasion to celebrate inclusion and diversity, and so with the support of a dozen faith groups we pulled together the first-ever One Burlington Festival. We celebrated our different cultures and faiths with food, music, dancing and games on 22 August. I am excited to help make it an annual event with another One Burlington Festival in August 2018.

Finally, membership on the City of Burlington’s Mundialization Committee has afforded me the chance to meet several younger Burlington residents. I was never anywhere near as engaged as they are in their high schools years. It has been gratifying to mentor some of the younger members of UN Subcommittee in particular. They are truly impressive and now, at 35 years old, I am finally understanding why it is often said that youth are the future. I aspire to be as focused and determined to be an agent of change as these students.

2018The next 12 months promise plenty of excitement. First, in June we will have a provincial election, which will bring fevered campaigning through the spring. Then, Burlington will hold its municipal election on 22 October along with the rest of Ontario. This one looks like it’s going to be interesting, with multiple competitive candidates for the Mayorship, and a strong probability that city council will not be fully re-elected as it was in 2014.

What I will look for in 2018 is how Burlingtonians will build on the actions taken this year to fight for the city we want, with the schools we want, the downtown we want, and the roads and transportation we want, all coming together to build a city fit for purpose in 2020. I am hoping that a 2020 vision emerges through citizens’ engagement and that the upcoming elections unify Burlington rather than divide us, and put us on a path towards the kind of city we deserve.

Of course, it is not enough to hope from the comforts of the couch. It is critical to take action to be a part of the change that one wants to see, and that is what I will do.

Will you?

rory closeupRory Nisan is a long-time Burlington resident and Lester B. Pearson High School alumnus. He has been an active member of the Save Pearson community organization.

 

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In the matter of trust - this city council isn't doing all that well.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

January 1st, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It always come down to a matter of trust.

Do you trust the person you are working with?

Do you trust the mechanic to fix your car?

Do you trust the grocer to sell you food that has not passed its best before date?

Trust doesn’t seem to go as far these days does it?

Learning that the largest supermarket operator in the country has been involved in the fixing of bread prices for more than ten years was a bit of a jolt. Many were stunned when they learned that Volkswagen was playing with the emission test results.

Hundreds of Ontario investors are out a lot of money because of foul play on the part of shady financial operators. These people wonder why the Ontario Securities Commission isn’t doing more to right the wrongs.

council with term dates

Thousands of Burlingtonians are close to furious with what they believe their elected officials seem prepared to let take place in terms of growth in the downtown core which they feel will destroy the city they love and live in.

Those same people question who the bureaucrats are working for and why recommendations they don’t believe reflect what the citizens want are sent to city council.

In 2010 the citizens of the city decided they didn’t like the way the then Mayor, Cam Jackson was doing his job and they turfed him. They elected a council that was quite a bit different led by a new Mayor they trusted.

Hold over Councillors Taylor, Dennison and Craven were re-elected. The sense was that Councillors Meed Ward, Lancaster and Sharman and a new Mayor was enough to change the way things were being done.

The electorate was satisfied enough to re-elect all seven members of city council which then let the bureaucrats foist a tag line on them that said:

Burlington is one of Canada’s best and most livable cities, a place where people, nature and business thrive.

The problem with the tag line is that it isn’t true – the “best city” part comes from a magazine that runs a poll each year and they declared the city was the “best”. The citizens of the city didn’t come to that conclusion – a publisher somewhere made that statement and the bureaucrats fell in love with it.

Far too many of the citizens are disagreeing with that statement – the trust that needs to be there is no longer in place.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of the 2014 budget. What they have yet to have explained to them is the desperate situation the city will be in ten years from now if something isn't done in the next few years to figure out how we are going to pay for the maintenance of the roads we have.

A rapt audience listened to an overview of a city budget.

Make no mistake however that tens of thousands of the people that live in Burlington love their city – the way it is. They are not opposed to change but they want to be involved in the decisions that are made and when they speak they want to be heard.

When a group of well-meaning people take the time to gather names on a petition they don’t want to be belittled and denigrated by a member of council who suggest the names gathered are suspect.

Dennis Monte at Council

Monte Dennis delegating at city council.

Vanessa Warren

Vanessa Warren delegating at city council.

People who don’t have much experience speaking to others don’t want to feel inadequate when they have finished their delegation and are not asked a single question.

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie delegating at city council

Jim Young A

Jim Young delegating at city council

Burlington is fortunate to have some very accomplished people who address council; this writer cannot remember a single situation where an idea put forward by a citizen has been taken up by council. With the exception of Councillor Meed Ward, none of the others offer to get back to the speaker and follow up. They may do so – but they aren’t seen to do so.

It is a trust issue which this council does not appear to hear or even understand.

Staff at Council meeting Nov 30 - 2017

The quality of the image is terrible – the city has chosen not to invest in cameras that will produce a decent image. These are the messengers.

Trustees - Sams - Reynolds - Collard

By way of example – the images from Board of Education meetings are clear – and their vote recording system actually works.

Much of what city council is given in the way of staff reports infuriates intelligent, informed people who expect better. City managers serve at the will of council and they take their direction from Council. The bureaucrats are just the messengers – look to the people the bureaucrats serve for the kind of direction you want – and then press on to ensure that your message is heard.

And good luck – very few new faces wanting to become city council members have come forward.  We are aware of two – need more than that. Four of the incumbents might not even be challenged.

Blame yourselves for what you have.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion column written by Pepper Parr, the publisher of the Gazette.

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The extent of the height and density changes set out in the draft Official Plan has stunned many.

News 100 redBy Staff

December 31, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

If this is what Councillor Med Ward has to say on New Year’s Eve, on can only imagine what she is going to have to say at city council when they meet on January 23rd and city staff seek approval to fundamentally alter Burlington’s downtown by adding height and density throughout the downtown.

The video set out below, came from the Meed Ward newsletter released earlier today, is pretty stark; the heights that are proposed will mean hugely different downtown.

Downtown precincts

Precincts that will be created when the Official Plan, currently in draft form, is approved by city Council. The time line for that approval has been moved from the end of January 2018 to the end of April. Many want the plan to be made an election issue.

She makes one vital point and follows that up with the kind of detail the city has not put out.

Her vital point is that the city hasn’t done nearly enough to inform the public that:

Height will go from 4-8 storeys in the Downtown Core Precinct to up to 17. This area covers most of the east side of Brant from James to Pine over to Pearl.

North of Blairholm to Graham’s Lane & Prospect in the new Upper Brant Precinct, height will increase from 4–8 storeys to 25 storeys.

The urban growth centre boundaries have changed to include parts of stable neighbourhoods, including the Lion’s Club park and neighbourhood to the north between Pearl and Martha. This area will see possible density increases to 200 people or jobs per hectare.

Meed Ward provides an excellent video on where the growth will take place – it moves quire quickly – you might want to keep your finger on the pause key.

Downtown core precinct

The Downtown core precinct is of particular concern to many.

Planning staff also recommends permitting semi-detached homes in the St Luke’s and Emerald Precincts, and all low-density downtown neighbourhoods. Protection to limit semis to the same lot coverage as single family homes, at 25%, and the same Floor Area Ratio, to avoid monster semis covering most of the lot will be considered later.

All these changes are to ensure that Burlington reaches the intensification levels set by the province. Meed Ward argues that “The downtown is already on track to meet its growth targets with the current plan.

She adds that “This is a bad deal for Burlington – by giving away height and density – the city gets nothing new – just tall buildings and more congestion.

As she too moves into election mode Meed Ward urges people to: “Tell council to vote no on January 23rd. Canada’s best mid-sized city deserves a better plan.”

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ECoB's evolution is in a gestation phase - they will have to put something real on the table very soon.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 26th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

ECOB logoECoB – Engaging Citizens of Burlington got off to a pretty good start.

There is some money in the bank, the web site is up and running – plans are being put together for a crowd funding page.

All good – and then – nothing or not very much.

In our travels we meet with people who comment on what is taking place in the city – the good stuff, the not so good stuff and the inevitable question: Is she going to run?

Of course she is going to run. Even if they took all her high healed shoes away from her, Marianne Meed Ward would still run for the office of Mayor in October of 2018 – ten months away.

But we digress.

Some of the more serious minded people who are firm in their belief that the city needs a strong citizen based organization ask if the people who got ECoB off the ground are going to be able to give it the momentum it needs.

The group seems very small – are there new people becoming part of the core team?

We were told there is a bigger picture and that the intention to appeal the city council decision to approve a 23 storey tower opposite city hall is not their sole reason for being.

There has been a bit of a timing glitch and any appeal has to be done under the newly created Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT)  which replaces what we knew as the Ontario Municipal Board.

The appeal application is the matter that is on the ECoB front burner right now.

What is being done to reach out to people in the wards that are not part of the downtown core?

When Lisa Kearns took to the lectern at the December 13th meeting she told the audience that they “had to do their homework” and there is a lot of it to do.

ECoB home page

ECoB has a very well designed web site that set out he events their membership needs to pay attention to – the response to the web site has not been overwhelming – to be fair it was launched in the middle of the biggest holiday season of the year.

Understanding just what the issues are is the starting point and then stick handling the appeal application as well as building ECoB so that it reflects all of Burlington and not just the downtown core.

At this point the leadership team is three people – the founder spends much of her time in Florida and the co-founder is experiencing some health issues and isn’t going to be as available as he would like to be.

This leaves the organization in the hands of Lisa Kearns, Dania Thurman and Penny Hersh.

Kearns is the conceptual thinker – she fully understands the issues. Thurman is the social media leader who got the web site up and running and is ready to move on the crowd funding level once the holidays are behind them.

Penny Hersh is doing community outreach and is handling the funds that have been raised.

It is going to take far more than these three very capable woman to make this work.

A few people have complained that ideas they have sent the ECoB have not been responded to – that could well be because the team in place at this point is run ragged.

421 Brant

Is it a doomed project that is going to get tangled up in a bureaucratic quagmire where assets slide down a drain rather than into concrete.

The organization has to be both advocates for change, the organization that leads in the education of the public and at the same time do the strategic thinking that is vital.

They have to work with a city hall bureaucracy that many feel has a tin ear and is not capable of listening to the citizens. They have to cajole the existing city council into learning to do things differently.

They have to contend with a developer community who may see projects delayed, their costs increased and disruption to plans that have been in development for some time.  Many believe that every piece of property on the east side of Brant Street south of Fairview has either been acquired by a developer or is under an option.  There are huge amount invested by the developers and they don’t like to lose.  Burlington has been very good for the development community for a long time.

There was a time, about twenty five years ago when the city had a very strong active community group. It worked very well for a period of time but then interest fell, the urgency was gone and it just dried up.

Carriage Gate team

Two planners, and a Carriage Gate vice president at the first Carriage Gate development public meeting. From the left: Robert Glover, Ed Forthergill and Mark Bales

When the 421 Brant project was first put before the public there was very little in the way of objections. At the public meeting held at the Art Gallery there were people asking when they could make deposits.

Some very solid, credible planner spoke of the project with sound explanations as to why Brant Street had to become the “spine” of the city.

When the project got to the Planning and Development committee there was one lone delegation opposed to the project.

Yet when it got to city council where it was approved on a 5-2 vote, the ward Councillor and the Mayor were opposed – there is a dynamic behind those two no votes that needs s bigger understanding – citizens, especially those in the downtown core were almost taking to the streets.

ECOB Dec 13 #3

Residents at the first ECoB public meeting.

This shift in opinion and the opposition to the project grew very quickly and caught everyone off guard. It took on a life of its own and now, assuming the appeal is successfully filed a large city shaping development will be put on hold while close to half a million dollars gets spent on legal fees and support from the professionals.

Woven into all this and at the same time feeding it, is a community that is finding its voice while the members of city council prepare to move into election mode.

To add to the mix is the fact that the province changed the turf on the playing field creating a shorter period of time for election campaigning to take place and put new rules into effect on where campaign money could come from.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring.

That dynamic between the two city council votes opposed to the project – the ward Councillor and the Mayor, is underscored by the fact that the Mayor has already held his “I am running again” announcement – some thought he was offside on that decision. The only thing Marianne Meed Ward has not done is announce that she is actually going to be a candidate for Mayor.

She has been eyeing the Chain of Office the Mayor wears since the beginning of her first election campaign in 2010 for the ward 2 seat.

Human nature is complicated and in the world of politics anything can happen.

The creation of a city wide citizen’s organization will be a little like trying to herd cats. Each local organization has its own agenda and it will take some gifted ECoB leadership to recognize the individual community group needs and at the same time see, if not create, the bigger picture.

If ECoB can find the oxygen to survive we will see more of them in the New Year. The milieu within which they have to work is daunting.

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Skinner: Impact of Demographics on the City of Burlington Urban Planning

background 100By Jeremy Skinner

December 21, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

This article is designed to stimulate the conversation as to why the residents of Burlington need to accommodate intensification, otherwise known as to Grow Up.

Demographics 1
The recent Halton District School Board Burlington Secondary School Program Accommodation Review confirmed once again that we in Burlington have a serious demographic problem. By 2020 there will be approximately 1,554 (1,179 located south of the QEW and 376 located north of QEW) available student spaces across Burlington’s seven high schools. Because of the declining student enrolments, some students in Burlington’s seven secondary schools would not be provided the same equity of opportunity as other students within the Halton District School Board, and even fellow students enrolled in larger Burlington secondary schools. The reasons for Secondary School over-capacity relative to student enrollments are fivefold:

1. The rapid development of Burlington South of QEW suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s and North of QEW in the 1980s and thereafter.
2. The Provincial decision to create the Separate School Board alternative;
3. The more recent Provincial decision elimination of grade 13;
4. Empty nesters prefer to live out their retirement years in the family home; and
5. Families with children are no longer able to afford the cost of a home in Burlington.

D 2
I digress for a moment to counter any arguments as to the large turnover of residential real estate this past year will make a significant difference in emerging student enrollments.

Zolo research into Burlington real estate transactions reveals an average house turnover rate of 199 houses per month with a peak of 238 houses last April out of a potential market of 53,170 dwellings comprised of detached, row and semi-detached houses based upon 2016 Canada Census Data. Please note that Zolo does not track transaction data associated with apartments or condominium units. Apartments represents 24% or 17,265 dwellings according to Canada Census data. Note that while there is currently a surplus inventory of approximately 500 houses looking for a buyer, the selling to asking price ratio remains high at 97%. These houses are simply taking longer to sell.

This data indicates that we must not expect a watershed moment when considerable number dwellings will transfer hands between legacy old and new families, including those with children, and instead focus our efforts to build family with children friendly new dwellings.

D 3
The mayor has been quoted that “almost one-third of the city’s population is 55 years of age or over”.
See the red boxed age groups. 19.3 per cent of the city’s population is 65 or older and approximately 13 per cent is between the ages of 55 and 64.

It is my opinion, that almost one-half of the city’s population are in the child supporting ages of between 30 and 65 years of age.

See the green boxed age groups. 12 percent of the city’s population is between the ages of 30 and 39, 23% percent of the city’s population is between the ages 40-54, and 13 percent of the city’s population is between 55 and 64. The challenges we face in the near future is how to accommodate those in their retirement years and those who are entering the labour force.

D4
Permit me to depict this same information using a different chart style so that we may contemplate the future as more households move into retirement. We simply move the graphic to the right to visaulise how the population ages. The peak demographic group of 14,350 people currently aged 60 to 54 will enter retirement in just over ten years. We also need to contemplate what will happen to those currently less than 30 years of age. It is doubtful that most will be able to afford a non-apartment style dwelling assuming that one becomes available.

D 5
Chart 5 outlines the distribution of singles, couples without children, couples with children and other groupings residing in Burlington’s 71,375 dwellings at time of Census.

 

D 6
With only one greenfield left for residential neighbourhood development located in the North-East corner Appleby Line/Dundas St. in Burlington, the decision was made to close and Lester B. Pearson Secondary School in end of June 2018 and Robert Bateman Secondary School end of June 2019. By attempting to balance student populations across five schools, each student would be provided the same equity of opportunity as other students within the Halton District School Board, and even fellow students enrolled in larger Burlington secondary schools such as Nelson, M.M. Robinson and Dr. Frank Hayden.

Student enrollments at Aldershot Secondary School and Burlington Central High School will be monitored. Note that Aldershot Secondary School currently includes a contingent of Grade Seven and Grade Eight students in the same building. This implies that it is imperative that we provision more accommodations for families with children in the Aldershot area or be prepared to lose the school in ten years time.

This leads us to the conclusion that families with children need to be attracted to Burlington into more cost-efficient accommodations, especially in those areas located below the QEW where underutilised community assets including parks, playgrounds, sports arenas, libraries and schools are located.

Let us spend a moment and contemplate the potential demographic effects on Burlington’s retail market.

D 7
Canada Census has a model which illustrates the total expenditures by average Canadian primary householder. Note that the total and more importantly retail specific peak for the age groups of between 30 and 65 are normally related to families supporting children. The delta between peak $34,959 associated with ages between 40 and 54 and a floor of $21,984 associated with 65 and over represents a decline in retail expenditures of $12,795 or about 1/3. In other words, the more we age, the less we consuming from a retail perspective.

D 8
Taking this a step further identifies expenditures by retail category by primary householder age group. This chart may be useful in determining which categories of retail establishments are disproportionally impacted due to an aging demographic.

From top to bottom:

• Blue line indicates Foods purchased from stores;
• Light Orange line indicates Household Operations (includes household repairs, furnace/hot water purchases/rentals, cleaning & storage supplies, garden products & care, pet products & care);
• Brown line indicates Recreation (includes toys, video games, sports equipment and facility costs web-shopping target);
• Green line indicates Clothing, shoes and accessories (web-shopping target)
• Navy Blue line indicates Health & Personal Care (including pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, hair care, medical doctor, dentist, massage, etc.)
• Dark Orange line indicates Food and alcohol beverages purchased from restaurants
• Light Blue line indicates Household furnishings & equipment (appliances web-shopping target)
• Dark Grey line indicates Miscellaneous
• Light Grey line indicates Tobacco products and alcohol beverages (not purchased in restaurants)

The emergence of retail desserts indicates that the surrounding shopping population can’t support the retail establishment or can’t access the retail establishment, or the establishment real estate lease costs prohibitive in the area.

Let us consider where these retail establishments are currently located.

D 10
Areas depicted in orange represent retail corridors such as along Plains Rd and Fairview Avenue and the approximately fifty shopping plazas which typically are located at the intersections of major streets. Each has been identified for intensification and thus are mixed use sites. The challenge with many of these intensification nodes are that they will need to be rebuilt to accommodate residential units above and to provision parking for cars below. These rebuilt buildings will need to be carefully designed if reasonable transitions to bordering residential neighbourhoods are to be maintained. These sites will likely have a taller building component in the centre of the site or closer to the intersection and may be optionally surrounded by townhomes along some of the edges. Note the provisioning of underground parking changes the retail dynamic of the convenience shopper and those concerned about safety and accessibility.

The areas depicted in red relate to the existing downtown and uptown urban centres (located at Appleby Line & Upper-Middle Rd.). The proposed 3 Mobility Hubs are to accommodate future retail and residential opportunities housed within mid-rise mid-height and tall tower buildings surrounding the existing Appleby, Burlington and Aldershot GO transit stations.

Looking to the future, I have found two Canadian market sources which attempt to outline the future retail trends.

CBRE Real Estate Market Outlook – Retail Key Trends
• emphasize location and smaller, more efficient footprints,
• creating experiences that cannot be replicated online,
• seamless integration of the online and physical store network,
• logistics – upgrading systems and innovative fulfillment solutions

An illustration of Retail Real Estate Focus can be found at Main and Main which is a retail-centric, mixed-use developer.

Key site factors:
• Location – the hard corner, high visibility sites with maximum pedestrian traffic
• Growth – demographics and growth to drive retail sales.
• Lifestyle – neighbourhoods with the transit, arts and culture, and mixed-use vibrancy that consumers are looking for.
• Functional, inviting and efficient space for shoppers and tenants.

Conclusions

With no more land with which to expand the number of dwellings out over, we have no choice but to build up.

How well we manage this implied intensification will have a significant impact as to the quality of life amongst the residents of the City of Burlington.

Recent publications including City of Toronto’s Children in Vertical Communities Policies and Performance Guidelines may offer the Development Community and the City of Burlington with improved means to build more attractive condominiums for new families. I hope to review this document in a future article.

To do nothing, will likely imply higher taxes and fewer community and retail assets with which to access.

Skinner JeremyJeremy Skinner is a research who has worked with IBM and a major bank. The author cannot assume any liability as to the methods, associated data or conclusions which are depicted. They are simply provided for visualizing purposes only. This article expands on some of themes expressed by the author to City Council as part of the Statutory Meeting on the proposed New Official Plan.

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City imports an interim city planner from Hamilton - gets his business card for Christmas.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 20th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

That didn’t take very long.

Breaking News – Bill Jannsen a retired planner from the City of Hamilton has been hired by the City of Burlington as its Interim Direct of Planning.

Aerial view - skyway bridge

The interim Director of Planning can now experience the joys of crossing the Skyway bridge each morning.

At one point Janssen was the Hamilton Director of the Open for Business program. His most recent position with Hamilton appears to have been as Acting Director, Strategic Services/Special Projects at City Of Hamilton.

Official-Plan-Binder_Image

A copy of the Draft Official Plan will be on the desk of the interim city planner.

Not much on the man – which is unusual for people in the municipal sector.

Mary Lou Tanner, who becomes the Deputy City Manager on the 2st, today, will turn things over to Jannsen.

Tanner at one time worked for the city of Hamilton.

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Scobie puts Mobility Hubs and Urban Growth Centres in perspective.

opinionandcommentBy Gary Scobie

December 19th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I am a citizen who has taken an interest in issues at or near our waterfront and in the downtown core over the past seven years. I am concerned when I see attempts at over-intensification being made in Burlington, especially in our downtown core.

Click to view report

If we go back in time, it all started with the Provincial Places to Grow Act of 2005. This was the first attempt by the Province to control urban sprawl, preserve our Greenbelt for nature and agriculture and plan for better transit options in the Greater Toronto to Niagara area. The Growth Plan of 2006 followed, designating increased densities of population and jobs in most municipalities of Southern Ontario and calling these Urban Growth Centres.

Cities did have some say in these designations. For instance, Oakville decided not to intensify its downtown to Provincial targets, but rather to expand population and jobs dramatically around its GO Transit Station at Trafalgar Road. This would be its Urban Growth Centre. It would intensify its downtown using its own zoning rules in its Official Plan. It would intensify its downtown more gently than an Urban Growth Centre.

Burlington Council at the time appears to have bought into the idea of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, as suggested by the Province. I can find no counter debate or decision to intensify around our GO Transit Stations instead of our downtown. This decision to go with the Provincial flow would lead nearly ten years later to where we are today – the rush to over-intensify the Brant Street corridor and nearby streets to the east and west under a new Official Plan.

Getting back to the past, Metrolinx was conceived in 2007, shortly after the Growth Plan was enacted. It was all about transportation across the regions to support intensified population and job centres.

There was a time when a much larger bus termial existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal onm John Street - it was where people met. There were fewer cars, Burlington didn't have the wealth then that it has now. We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban. The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.

Less than three years ago the transit terminal was going to be torn down – now it appears to be the “anchor” for a mobility hub.

It focused on the GO Transit network of stations for the most part, but also added in subway, light rail transit and bus rapid transit routes, established and suggested for the future, as connecting links to GO Stations to move people in the this large region, mostly to and from jobs. Hence the Big Move nomenclature that was attached.

Soon the term Mobility Hub would be added to the vernacular in 2008. These were supposed to support Urban Growth Centres by linking them through the transit networks of municipalities and GO services. They were originally supposed to be locations where a number of modes of transportation came together as a network to facilitate the movement of people easily between these modes.

GO parking wide view

The Burlington GO station – an obvious location for a mobility hub.

GO Stations would all naturally qualify as Mobility Hubs because they link car, train, City and GO bus, bicycle and pedestrian modes of travel together in one place, with parking provided at no extra cost. Only recently have I seen the designation of Anchor Mobility Hub used to describe those Urban Growth Centre hubs that fail to qualify as true Mobility Hubs. The Burlington Downtown Mobility Hub is one of those Anchors. It has no trains, no light rail transit or rapid bus transit. And it has no free parking for cars.

It seems that Urban Growth Centres and Mobility Hubs have been linked together for quite a long time, dating back to 2008. This linkage is not accidental. It seems that to be an Urban Growth Centre, you had to have or plan for a Mobility Hub and vice versa.

These linkages were known to municipalities since 2008 and some decided, like Oakville, to chart their own course and preserve their downtowns from over-development by accepting the Urban Growth Centre/Mobility premise, but set in places best suited to dramatic infill of high rise condos and some retail and office space. GO Station locales were the obvious choice in this case.

In Burlington’s case, as stated before, it appears that no disagreement with the Province’s suggested choices for a downtown Urban Growth Centre/Mobility Hub ever arose in City Council meetings. The Province chose our downtown as both and our Council at the time (somewhere in 2008 – 2010) accepted, possibly without public debate. Council may have thought that the downtown needed improvement and this pathway, as mandated by the Province, was as good a way to get it done as any “made in Burlington” solution. And the Province could always be blamed if it didn’t work out quite right. I should note that one of our GO Stations, Burlington GO Station, was designated a Mobility Hub by Metrolinx (ie. the Province) and also accepted by Council.

There is a private, non-partisan charitable foundation known as the Neptis Foundation (www.neptis.org) that researches and reports on regional growth plans and initiatives. It has done some excellent reports on the Growth Plan and Urban Growth Centres that describe in layman’s language the Province’s plans and the repercussions to Ontario municipalities starting with 2006 people/job densities and projecting the changes required for 2031 densities. I would invite you to check out their reports.

Official-Plan-Binder_Image

Many want the Mobility Hubs kept out of the Official Plan.

Some municipalities have integrated the Province’s growth plans into their Official Plans in major ways. Burlington is one of these municipalities. Other municipalities have done less or even no integration. There is no prize from the Province that I can detect for doing so, nor any penalty thus far for ignoring the Province.

The Ontario Government reviewed the 2006 Growth Plan in 2016 and reported in July 2017 a revised Growth Plan going all the way to 2041. It can be found at www.placestogrow.ca.

It should be noted that right from the beginning, expectations for each municipality were “directing growth to major transit station areas”, “identifies priority transit corridors”, “complete detailed planning for major transit station areas on these corridors to support planned service levels”, “plan for a range and mix of housing, including second units and affordable housing” and “accommodate a range of household sizes”.

Mobility hubs

Having Mobility hubs at the GO stations is something everyone agrees on – it is the idea of a Mobility Hub in the downtown core that has many opposed.

How is Burlington doing in these initiatives? Well, all three GO Stations in the City have been named Mobility Hubs and each are planned to house many thousands of people/jobs by 2031. So growth is being directed to our major transit stations. Will there be any affordable housing and accommodation of a range of household sizes? That’s an unanswered question thus far.

I thought that Burlington was mandated to grow to a population of 215,000 by 2031. I have since been informed the target is 185,000 minimum. We are at 183,000 now. Recently at a Planning and Development Committee meeting, the Ward 1 Councillor stated publicly that Aldershot was set to grow by another 27,000 people by 2031. This would likely be near the Aldershot GO Station or along the Plains Road Corridor. Adding another 11,000 jobs there would bring the additional people/jobs total to 38,000 by 2031 and a 300 people/jobs per hectare goal, as per a Planning Department report dated Nov. 9, 2017.

Similarly, Planning Department reports also dated Nov. 9, 2017 for the other GO Stations show the Burlington GO Station Mobility Hub adding 22,000 new residents and 9,500 jobs by 2031 and the Appleby GO Station Mobility Hub adding 20,000 new residents and 43,000 new jobs by 2031. Both would also reach the 300 people/jobs per hectare goal.

All together, the three GO Station Mobility Hubs are planned to add 69,000 new residents to Burlington’s population by 2031, far exceeding any goal of 185,000 or even 215,000. We’re headed to a quarter million people by 2031, without touching the downtown.

So it is clear to me that we can reach all Provincial goals easily using intensification of people and jobs at the GO Station Mobility Hubs. There is no need to further intensify the downtown at all. It could be left to gently intensify, like Oakville has planned, using current Official Plan zoning rather than dramatically intensify as the Planning Department has advocated in its new Downtown Mobility Hub Plan and the new City Official Plan.

Anchor Mobility Hubs were originally expected to support an area with a minimum of 160 people/jobs per hectare within a 500 metre radius that would be serviced by a light rail transit or a bus rapid transit system.

The City is using a 200 people/jobs per hectare goal, which may be the revised mandate. I understand that City Planners and most of City Council are backing the people/jobs density downtown, but I see no evidence that there is an LRT or BRT system in place to deal with this influx of people/jobs, other than an LRT label being affixed to Brant Street on maps. A label isn’t a plan unfortunately.

I also see no evidence that jobs will flow into the downtown, even to just replace the ones lost when current buildings are demolished awaiting construction of new buildings. The podium style high rises with 3 to 4 storey glass and steel walls along Brant Street will replace individual and unique store frontages we have today. Is this better or worse at enticing jobs and vibrancy to Brant Street?

I am a person who believes that a deal is never a done deal if there is still an opportunity to question and possibly change people’s minds for the better of the community. And I think that we do have that opportunity.

wef

John Taylor, the Dean of city council would have been part of any debate there might have been about accepting the provincial approach to mobility hubs.

As a Standing Committee chair, Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is as good as it gets. Handling delegations and accepting the ideas of other people - not as good. But he wins elections.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven – a member of council in between 2008 and 2010 when Scobie believes city council made the decision to follow the provincial lead.

Four members of the current Council were members of Council when all these Provincial demands were rubber-stamped. I would ask them to search their memory banks and their notes and inform the public how they decided to acquiesce to the Province’s demands for intensifying our downtown, why they didn’t make the logical suggestion for intensification around GO Stations instead and if they did go ahead with the plans without public consultation.

Dennison announcing

Jack Dennison, a member of city council for more than 20 years would remember how the decision to accept the provincial direction – somewhere between 2008 and 2010 was made.

wefr

Mayor Rick Goldring was a council member when the decision was made to accept the province’s approach to transportation hubs, possibly without public debate.

The current Council certainly did not acquiesce to the 374 Martha Street proposed high rise a few years ago. Yet this same Council voted 5 – 2 in favour of a 23 storey condo on November 30, 2017 across the road from our 8 storey signature City Hall – going past the 12 storey current storey zoning and even going past the recommended 17 storey zoning in a Downtown Mobility Hub Plan not yet approved.

This decision has ignited public opinion against the over-intensification of the downtown. They see high rises coming on many corners of Brant Street, and with many mid-rise condos in between. And they see many high buildings destined to come on nearby north-south streets east and west of Brant Street.

During the Vietnam War an infamous sentence was uttered by a field commander which showed the absurdity of war – “We had to destroy the village in order to save it”. Brant Street and our downtown does not need to be destroyed in order to save it.

Gently intensifying the downtown will continue as it has in the past, using appropriate zoning already in place. City planners and City Council need only enforce our current Official Plan and use the concepts already in place in our Tall Building Guidelines and soon to be in place in our Mid Rise Building Guidelines that the Planning Department has committed to.

Our downtown Bus Station is not a Mobility Hub and there is no plan to make it one. Our downtown does not need to be over-intensified through a designation as an Urban Growth Centre. I am asking City Council to inform the Province that Burlington can and will meet its 2031 growth target through dramatic intensification around our three GO Stations, the appropriate place for high rise condos with retail and office space.

That’s where the thousands of new residents will be housed, hopefully with a good number of affordable, family-sized units.

The downtown will intensify too, but not in the dramatic fashion envisioned by the Planning Department.

I am asking City Council to request that the terms Mobility Hub and Urban Growth Centre be removed from the Provincial Growth Plan for the Downtown Precincts and instead be placed on all three GO Stations.

Let our downtown, which admittedly does need to change, do so in a measured and controlled fashion that adheres to reasonable and defendable zoning restrictions already in place. Do not follow through on an Official Plan that would create the “Metropolis” of Halton in our downtown.

Gary ScobieGary Scobie, a long time resident of Burlington is a frequent opinion contributor to the Gazette.  He was a member of the Waterfront Advisory Committee and has been a strong advocate for maintaining public access to the waterfront.

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ECoB now has a home on the internet - bookmark this one.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

December 18th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I want you to look at this time line.

Sometime in October 2017 – First email about the idea of creating a city wide citizens movement.

November 26th, 2017 First group meeting

November 30th, 2017 First delegation to city hall

December 13th, 2017 First Public meeting

December 17th, 2017 Home page for their web site – up and operational.

Bookmark this one:  engagedburlington.ca

To follow is the setting up of a crowd funding account to raise the funds that will be needed.

 

ECoB home page

Engageburlington.ca – a web site you will want to book mark

A former Mayor of Burlington once told me that “city hall can be beaten” – the more cynical citizens would say they knew that – the developers do it all the time.

When the elected fail to hear what the electors have to say – change takes place. We once heard a council member say that the citizens of the city get to choose their leaders every four years and given that he had been re-elected for more than 20 years the electors must be happy.

ECoB Dec 13 # 1

This crowd of 150+ people did not come out on a cold winter night because they had nothing better to do. They are upset with the direction they see their city going in and they wanted a bigger voice to amplify their concerns – now thay have one.

Voters trust those they put in office – the expect them to do what is right and best for the community. They expect those they elected to look after the minor matters that impact them directly and at the same time to bring wisdom and experience to the bigger picture.

The only reason protest movements get any traction is because those elected to office don’t listen or who wear out their welcome. The smarter politicians leave at the top of their game.

421 Brant

To the developer who brought this project to the city – the protests might seem unfair, they did eveything they were required to do and put significant assets at risk. It was the Planning department that failed to paint a more detailed picture for the members of council. Council also appears to have had cotton in their ears and not heard the voices that saw the development of their city quite a bit differently.

ECoB was formed to do a number of things. The task on the front burner of their stove is the filing an appeal to the OMB on the city council decision to approve the building of a 23 storey condominium on the corner of Brant and James Streets, across from city hall.

That task has a critical time element to it.

Another task was to get the city to slow down with the adoption of a new Official Plan. On that matter ECoB has already scored a win – the original end of January 2018 date for the approval of a new Official Plan has been moved to a sometime in April date.

ECoB appears to want to argue for the Official Plan becoming an election issue. Ballots for the next city council get cast in October of 2018

There is a critical city council meeting on January 23rd that ECoB will be delegating at.

The longer term objective is to continuing to engage and educate the residents of Burlington through word of mouth and social media. Their tag line for 2018 will be “grow engaged”.

The ECoB core committee is very small – four people. That needs to grow. While there was representation at the December 13th meeting from every ward in the city ECoB is not as in touch as they need to be on the numerous community issues that matter.

To their huge credit they are off to a great start. If all they manage to do in their first year is change the attitude of those elected when delegations appear – they will have done the city a huge service.

Jim Young, one of the ECoB founders, once told city council that the seats they sit in are not theirs – they are held in trust by the elected on behalf of the electors.  That message has not gotten though to this city council yet – it might or they won’t sit in those seats for much longer.

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Doing the homework and really understanding the complex development issues in the downtown core are appears to be a problem. ECoB is trying to bring about a change in the way the city manages all this.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 15th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

There are almost as many views on what Burlington should be doing in terms of its growth as there are people in the city.

ECOB Dec 13 #3

Citizens listening to the concerns community groups have over how developments in their neighbourhoods are handled by the Planning Department. The meeting was organized by the Engaged Citizens of Burlington – ECoB

When Lisa Kearns, one of the ECoB organizers,  stood at the lectern in the Burlington Baptist Church she told the 150+ audience that they had to do their homework and then hoisted a three in loose-leaf binder up and told the audience the information they need is out there – but you do have to work to find it and then offered to share what she had with anyone interested. We didn’t see anyone asking to borrow the binder.

Many of the people involved in what is a complex subject are reluctant to identify themselves publicly. One of those wrote in and said: “Seems that this group is questioning the “Urban Growth Centre” designation in Downtown Burlington. The answer is really, really simple – all people have to do is go back to and look at the original Places to Grow document from 2006 – Schedule 2. The designation is right there. No municipal approval is required. The Province says “this is it” now “do it”. All of this talk about evidentiary materials is a complete waste of time.

The province has $50 billion worth of transit and transportation plans it believes we need - just $16 billion of that is funded. Transit is not free but will we re-elect a government that insists we pay for it?

“People must also consider “The Big Move” which designates the mobility hub in the downtown as an “Anchor Mobility Hub”. Anchor Mobility Hubs are focal points with the potential to transform urban structure and improve transit. In other words … big changes are expected.

“There is an Appendix B which indicates that the downtown mobility hub is expected to accommodate 2,900 boarding per day. The question should be “why is the City not planning for this?” not is it really a hub.

“This same Appendix B includes a population target for the downtown anchor hub of greater than 25,000 people and jobs by 2031. The City is not even close to being able to accommodate this target.

“Most importantly, some people selectively ignore the fact that City Council unanimously approved its Strategic Plan that identifies the downtown as an area where intensification and redevelopment is to be directed.”

Click to view report

Joe Gaetan, a frequent contributor to the Gazette explains that the 2017 Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, was prepared and approved under the Places to Grow Act, 2005 to take effect on July 1, 2017.
Section 2, entitled, Where and How to Grow, contains S, 2.2 Policies for Where and How to Grow, and S 2.2.3 entitled, Urban Growth Centres and contains the following:

“Urban growth centres will be planned to achieve, by 2031 or earlier, a minimum density target of:

b)400 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the urban growth centres in the City of Toronto;

200 residents and jobs combined per hectare for each of the Downtown Brampton, Downtown Burlington, Downtown Hamilton, Downtown Milton, Markham Centre, Downtown Mississauga, Newmarket Centre, Midtown Oakville, Downtown Oshawa, Downtown Pickering, Richmond Hill Centre/Langstaff Gateway, Vaughan Metropolitan Centre, Downtown Kitchener, and Uptown Waterloo urban growth centres;”

Oakville took an approach that attached more importance to Employment and Commerce. Their Livable Oakville committee produced a very detailed report – something Burlington might want t56o at least review.

werv

The Sims building across from city hall is the only office building in the core of the city – the city of Burlington is the largest tenant.

Burlington has never succeeded in attracting commercial operations into the downtown core – parking space wasn’t possible – thus the major concentrations of corporate offices are along the north and south corridors.

“The Burlington Official Plan appears to be mostly silent on job creation or preservation of work land or spaces.

“This should be a concern to all and one more reason why our Official Plan process must be stopped in its tracks.”

Background material:

Where to download a copy of the Places to Grow legislation.

The Big Move – what it is and where to get a copy of the document.

 

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Citizens opposed to developments and the way city hall is approving them in what is a very complex regulatory environment mandated by the province.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 14th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Is there a sea change taking place in Burlington politics?

Last week there was a neighborhood meeting in Aldershot about a proposal for a 6 story condo at 92 Plains Rd, right on the edge of a long established Aldershot neighborhood.

News anal REDSome at the meeting felt it was “totally out of compliance with the existing Official Plan and bylaws” and was being promoted as “in alignment with city proposals for the Mobility Hub.”

It was a raucous meeting. Nobody was happy, and many expressed this clearly and often angrily.

The discussion was on the negative impact on nearby property values from a development which Councillor Craven supported.

Rick Craven: Best committee chair the city has; not big on the warm fuzzy stuff through. Needs a hug badly.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven faced a hostile audience while explaining the justification of a development. This photograph was not from that meeting.

Craven got called out a couple of times for not showing any support to residents, and for trying to undercut their concerns.

The city planner in charge threatened to shut the meeting down if the rancor and heckling that ensued was not stopped.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

When a resident stood up and said “We need to tell the members of council that we are not going to vote for them” there was an immediate robust burst of applause – they were sending a message – loudly and clearly.

The recently formed ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington – meeting that took place Wednesday evening had representation from every ward in the city – people were just not happy with the way decisions were being made. They want change in the way city council decides on very complex issues.

The focus at the Wednesday ECoB meeting was a development that didn’t get any negative comment when it was introduced to the public several months ago at the Art Gallery. There was just the one delegation when the development was put on the table at a Standing Committee – but when council voted 5-2 for the development – the dam of feelings burst.

People didn’t want their city changed – they continually refer to a vibrant downtown core when Brant Street is anything but except when the Santa Claus parade and the Sound of Music Festival fills the streets.

East side of Brant Street xx days before Christmas 2013.

East side of Brant Street several days before Christmas 2013.  It isn’t all that different this year.  Not what one would call festive.

Anyone who strolls along Brant street might be taken aback at how little there is in the way of Christmas decoration on the buildings.

New Brant street ECoB

This graphic was put up on a screen at the Wednesday ECoB meeting. The city keeps saying this kind of thing is not going to happen – the citizens no longer believe them.

There appears to be a hankering for a time when things were slower, more certain, safer.
Every politician now faces citizens who are unhappy.

That unhappiness is now being pulled together by a group of citizens who don’t like what they see and tend to exaggerate to make their points.

Interesting times ahead.

 

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Newly formed citizens group draws 150 + people to a public meeting - they have a message for city council - We won't be voting for you next time.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

December 14th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

They weren’t sure how many people were going to show up. One of the four people that kept ECoB alive said there has been 30 people who said they were going to attend – and at that point there were about 40 people in a large church sanctuary.

But, by the time the evening was about to begin there were more than 150 people gathered in the Burlington Baptist Church on New Street, perhaps more than the church gets on a Sunday.

ECoB Dec 13 # 1

It was a polite audience and a determined one. They wanted a change and they were there to see it happen.

And people kept coming through the doors. So – they has an audience – now to take the crowd and turn them into evangelists for a different form of community organization.

A loyal Gazette reader commented that there was a time when there was an East Burlington Ratepayers group that was very active “But they got busy raising their families and the interest in what they were setting out to do petered away”.

This evening the audience was in the room because they were no longer happy campers. There were some younger people in the room but at least 100 of the 150 were seniors who had been around for a long time.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

By the time the meeting got underway – there were just eight empty seats in a packed church Sanctuary. Jim Young served as the meeting MC.

They didn’t like what they were seeing happen to the city.

Representatives from four community groups spoke for a short period of time talking about what there issue was and how they were dealing with the problems and concerns they were having with city hall.

While the issues that brought them to the meeting was the city council decision to approve the building of a 23 story tower opposite city hall – they weren’t going after the developer – their focus was city hall and in particular city council.

Dave Conrath, a member of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation, set it out pretty clearly for everyone when he stood up and said: “Every one of us has to be on the phone or email the members of city council and tell them that you are not going to vote for them and that you are going to work to elect someone else.” That statement got the most robust round of applause during the two hour meeting.

Jim Young, MC for the evening, explained where the ECoB people were with their plans to file an appeal to the OMB on the decision city council made to approve the development opposite city hall.
Lisa Kearns, another member of the ECoB leadership team explained the complexity of what the citizens were up against.

Lisa Kierns ECOB Dec 13

Lisa Kearns

She pointed out that the ECoB already had a win. “It was a big win” said Kearns,” a really big win. When the city revised the time line for the approval of the new Official Plan from the end of January to the end of April – we had won.” She added that it is important to recognize the wins and the celebrate them.

ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington has existed for less than a month – and at this their first public meeting they drew more than 150 people.

A change has begun – how deep and how long lasting only time will tell. This first meeting was another win and it too deserves to be recognized and celebrated.

The Gazette will report in more detail on what took place during the meeting.

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ECoB - a group of people who want to create an umbrella organization that will support the numerous community groups in the city that don't feel they are being heard at city hall.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 13th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is an important meeting, being held on Wednesday at the Baptist Church on New Street. Starts at 7:00 PM

It will be the second ECoB meeting, first was a founding meeting at which they decided to incorporate and create a board and raised $5000.

ECOB logoECoB stands for Engaged Citizens of Burlington; they argue that the citizens are not really engaged with the council they elected and that staff really doesn’t engage – they aren’t for the most part, especially at the senior level, even citizens of the city.

Director of Transportation – Hamilton
City Clerk – Hamilton
Director of Finance – Milton
City Solicitor – outside of Burlington.
Director of Parks and Recreation – Oakville.
We are not sure any of the Director’s actually live in Burlington.
The city manager does live in Burlington – Aldershot actually.

The city seldom loses a chance to tout just how engaged they are and point to engagement as one of the four pillars that support the Strategic Plan.

Sprinkled throughout the city are groups that are differing with their city over the kind of development that is taking place in their communities. Several examples:

Plains Road group protesting the height and set back of a building beside the Solid Gold adult entertainment establishment.

Roseland Community Association

Shoreacres community group

Bluewater community group

Plan B

Bfast

Alton Village group protesting an ADI development in that community as well as serious traffic control problems.

Jim Young

Jim Young will MC the Wednesday evening meeting at the Baptist Church on New Street.

ECob would like every group in the city to show up and show support and then involve themselves in ways to make the city council they elected more accountable. “It isn’t enough to tell us that we get the opportunity to vote every four years and leave it at that” said Jim Young at a delegation he made some time ago.

The rush to push through a new Official Plan bothered many.  That rush has been slowed down with a much longer timeline announced earlier this week.  Anyone who doesn’t realize that public push-back brought this about doesn’t understand what politics is all about.

The matter of the Mobility Hubs is another issue for many.  During the Mayor’s First Live Facebook event he had difficulty explaining to a caller just what a mobility hub is.

ECoB wants to be a city wide umbrella organization that would become a place where community organizations could gather and work together on common issues.  Their objective is not to fight city hall but instead to work with the city collaboratively and be at the table where their money is being spent.

The common issue was a dissatisfaction with the way city council meets with and responds to the public.

The ECoB group that met in November also created sub-committee that was going to file an appeal against the city decision to permit the construction of a 23 storey tower on Brant Street across from city hall.

With what was seen as a very healthy start ECoB slipped into some organizational struggles trying to work with the founder who was in Fort Myers, Florida on winter vacation – a snow bird, and was going to be there at least until January. It wasn’t working and resignations were being tendered.

To their credit the people doing all the grunt work in the trenches managed to keep it together and have put set out a solid agenda for the Wednesday meeting.

Jim Young, who was one of the original co-chairs, will serve as MC for the Wednesday meeting.

Kearns + Josie

Lisa Kearns, standing, impressed many at the founding ECoB meeting. Seated are two people who were heavily involved in the drive to keep Central high school open.

Fleshing out the ECoB board is Lisa Kearns who impressed a number of people when she delegated at a city council meeting.

Kearns was born in Hamilton, attended university in London, Ontario then lived in Mississauga  and has been a Burlington resident for the past six years. Her career experience includes two decades of corporate management, government relations and strategic procurement experience across the manufacturing, advertising and health care sectors.

Her undergraduate degree was an Honours in Political Science from University of Western Ontario with a focus on Electoral Reform and Public Policy.

She has been a key principal in successful Provincial and Municipal campaigns.

She was the first Patron Sponsor for the Good Shepherd Charity advocating for advances in mental health support. She can be found volunteering at the local farmers market.

Dania Thurman H&S Vg

Dania Thurman, the woman that will direct the social media for ECoB.

Working with Kearns is Dania Thurman, one of the team that did the social media work that helped keep Central high school open despite a recommendation from Board Staff that the school be closed. Thurman is very active at Tom Thomson elementary school where she is one of a group that organized the pre-school breakfast program.

Penny Hersh, another Director, brings years of experience at the Seniors’ Centre and is very involved with the Burlington Seniors Community that was created when city hall basically booted the seniors that were running a large part of the program at the city owned Centre.

Burlington has a couple of dozen small community organizations that have formed when they had issues with city hall. Most tended to be local and didn’t draw much attention.

The decision to permit the construction of the first high rise on Brant Street seems to have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.

421 Brant

The development that struck a chord with people who didn’t like the way height was going to be located in their city.

The 421 Brant development is a very short walk from the Bridgewater project that is going to have a condominium soaring 22 storeys into the sky and sits on the edge of the lake. It didn’t seem to create the anger that 421 Brant has – a number of people reacted to the suggestion that a city wide group be formed – and ECoB was born

Far too early to tell if it will develop any traction – there are several accomplished people working on this one.

Worth keeping an eye on.

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City adds several months to the time line for approving a new Official Plan.

News 100 yellowBy Staff

December 11th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

The Planning department had initially planned on having the draft version of the new Official Plan ready for a city council vote at the end of December.  Stakeholders and citizens objected vigorously to the timeline.  The following revision was released today.

The following memo, prepared by the city, provides an update on the Proposed New Official Plan – Process. It was prepared for inclusion in the Council Information Package dated December 8, 2017.

growbold-847x254The memo outlines the next steps of the new Official Plan (OP) project, following the statutory public meeting held as part of the Planning and Development (P&D) Committee meeting held on November 30, 2017.

This was the meeting where the live broadcast of the Standing Committee didn’t make it to the network; technical glitch was the explanation given.

On November 30, staff reports PB-50-17 (Proposed New Official Plan) and PB-81-17 (Downtown Precinct Plan) were reviewed by the P&D Committee. Public delegations were considered during the afternoon and evening sessions of the meeting. A subsequent meeting was held during the afternoon of December 1, providing members of Council the opportunity to ask questions of staff, which focused on the downtown. The meeting agenda and webcast is available on the city’s website here and the minutes are available here.

An outcome of the meeting was the following recommendation:

First – • Refer planning and building department report PB-50-17 regarding proposed new official plan (November 2017) to the Director of Planning and Building; and

Second – • Direct the Director of Planning and Building to consider the feedback received through the statutory public meeting process related to the proposed new official plan (version November, 2017), and to make appropriate revisions prior to bringing forward the recommended proposed revised new official plan for Council adoption; and

Third – • Direct the Director of Planning and Building to advise Council at the earliest opportunity of the nature and scope of recommended revisions, including timelines for delivering the revised new official plan.

Next Steps:
The memo provides a follow up to the third recommendation above and outlines process timelines below:

Staff report PB-50-17 , which was previously considered at the November 30 P&D Committee, will be placed again on future P&D Committee agendas to accommodate questions of staff, enable further discussion on the proposed new OP and obtain any further Council motions to amend the new OP. The statutory public portion of the meeting will remain closed and no delegations will be heard in relation to PB-50-17, however members of the public are welcome to attend and the meeting will be webcast.

These upcoming meetings will focus on various topic areas of the new OP, as detailed below:

• January 8, 2018, 1:00 pm: Rural, Agriculture, Natural Heritage and Mineral Aggregates;
• January 16, 2018, 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm: Employment Conversions; and
• February 6, 2018, 1:00 pm and 6:30 pm: Growth Management and any remaining topics areas with the exception of the downtown. The motion recommending that Council receive and file staff report PB-50-17 will be put forward at this meeting.

Grow bold - front door

The planning team overseeing the Grow Bold initiative were set up in office outside city hall. They had their own offices on Locust Street

An information report related to the downtown will be presented at the January 23, 2018 Planning and Development Committee Meeting. This report will contain additional information requested by Council (e.g. background information regarding the Urban Growth Centre boundary; proposed heights as compared to the existing in-effect Official Plan; and key redevelopment sites). Also, this meeting will provide Council the opportunity to direct staff to revise the proposed new OP.

A second statutory public meeting on any revisions to the proposed new OP will be scheduled for February, 27 2018.

A meeting to recommend adoption of the new proposed Official Plan will be scheduled for a committee meeting during the first week of April, 2018.

This revised schedule gives the public and the stakeholders the time they have been calling for the city to provide.

The completion of the new Official Plan process will stay in the hands of Mary Lou Tanner who has been made the Deputy City Manager.

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Resident beleives it is up to the developer to decide if they want to comply with the city position or take the differences to the OMB.

opinionandcommentBy Jeremy Skinner

December 11th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Where is the 421-431 Brant Street development application going?

If anyone has any concerns as to the City of Burlington’s decision with regards to the 421-431 Brandt St. application, then I suggest that they read the City of Burlington Planning Department’s Recommendation Report PB-62-17 which was accepted by City Council decision on November 13th.

The document in its entirety (all 71 pages) is at

Scroll down to Recommendation report and click on the report.  The Recommendation report is close to the bottom – they don’t make it easy to find.

Upon reading the Recommendation Report, it is my opinion that the applicant (421 Brandt Street Inc.) and City Planning were unable to agree upon what the permitted height for the proposed building should be. I can only surmise that the developer threatened to seek an appeal to the OMB to obtain what could not be negotiated from City Planning Staff. A building height of twenty-seven storeys.

I base my opinion on the words “recommending modified approval” which are found in the Recommendation Report’s Subject line and two statements contained within the report found in the Section entitled “Purpose” documenting the different points of view. They are:

1. “The applicants are proposing to amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit the proposed 27-storey mixed use building with a floor area ratio of 10.29: 1.” and

2. “Notwithstanding, planning staff have recommended a “modified approval” which would permit a mixed use building with a height up to 23 storeys, subject to significant design and public realm improvements.”

While the developer has documented their agreement to comply with many City and Region comments made during the application process by submitting a revised application last August, the requested building height remained unchanged at 27 storeys.

421 Brant

Skinner believes the developer has an important decision to make.

In addition, the cover letter for the revised submission written by Mr. Mark G. Bales of 421 Brandt Street Inc. dated 03 August to Ms. Mary Lou Tanner Director of Planning & Building includes the following Conclusion statement: “Further to the comments received, the analysis completed by our consultant team and our comments above, we are requesting that you consider the resubmission materials and move the project forward to City Council for approval immediately.”

It is my opinion that the consequence of City Council’s approval on the 13th of November of the City Planning recommendations implies that the developer must decide between:

1. Complying with City Council’s approval of City Planning recommendation of “a mixed use building with a height up to 23 storeys, subject to significant design and public realm improvements.”

The City is not known to amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit development of the site until such time when it receives the developer’s agreement to comply.

Other parties, such as a Resident’s Association, can not seek an appeal to the OMB against the City and/or the developer until the City amends the Zoning By-law.

Should any of these other parties seek an appeal against the City and the developer, they would have to: prove that they made a delegation at the Statutory Meeting held on the first of November; assume the costs of obtaining suitable representation at the OMB; and make the case to the OMB that the City and/or the Developer made significant errors in interpreting Provincial, Regional and/or Municipal Policies, Principles and Guidelines.

The risk in seeking an appeal is that the OMB is an independent tribunal with the authority to approve, change, or reuse planning applications. As such all parties run the risk that the developer will take advantage of the appeal to make the case for the original development application requirements, including the 27 storey building height.

421 Brant 12 and 23

Graphic profile of the proposed development on Brant Street – 12 storeys and 23 storey’s.

The OMB may or may not ultimately side with the party seeking appeal in whole, or in part, based upon the strength of the arguments presented by all the parties for and against the appeal.

2. Appealing City Council’s approval of City Planning’s recommendations to the OMB in the hopes that the OMB will direct the City to “amend the Official Plan (Downtown Core designation) and Zoning By-law (DC zone) to permit the proposed 27-storey mixed use building with a floor area ratio of 10.29: 1.”

The costs to the developer in doing so include the costs of obtaining suitable representation at the OMB and the costs associated with delaying development of the property for between 6 and 12 months pending the OMB decision after multiple hearings.

The risk to the City is that the OMB is an independent tribunal with the authority to approve, change, or refuse planning applications. In other words, OMB decisions take the place of decisions made by Council.

The risk to the developer is that other parties, such as a Resident’s Association who made a delegation at the Statutory meeting held on the first of November, could make the case to promote more restrictive terms than those which were recommended by City Planning, such as to limit the building height to twelve stories, etc.

The OMB may or may not ultimately side with the developer in whole or in part of the appeal based upon the strength of the arguments presented by all the parties for and against the appeal.

It is my opinion that the decision rests with the developer as to where the 421-431 Brandt St. development application is going. Until the developer decides, no one else can and the development remains stalled.

Editor’s note:  ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington have called a public meeting for December 13th at the Baptist Church on New Street to discuss an appeal to the OMB of the city council decision to approve the the 421 Brant Street development.

Related content:

Staff recommendation.

Skinner JeremyJeremy Skinner is a Burlington resident who is a frequent contributor to the opinion pages of the Gazette.

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Engaged citizens of Burlington survived a tumultous series of weekend meetings and will hold its first public meeting on Wednesday.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

December 11th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was a hectic week for the newly formed Engaged Citizens of Burlington – ECoB.

They struggled to work with a co-chair that was not in the country and, based on what has been passed along to the Gazette, she was difficult to work with. During what is reported to have been a difficult conference call the “group was blown up by its leader”. People were resigning left and right.

ECOB logoThe phrase “disrespectful” crept into the conversations the Gazette had with a number of people involved in the development of what is intended to grow into an umbrella organization for community groups that want to see a better relationship between city hall and the tax payers.

The small group of people who have been behind ECoB managed to get themselves incorporated, raised $5000 to cover some of their early expenses and put together a sub-committee that was preparing an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) against the city council 5-2 vote to approve the construction of a 23 story tower opposite city hall.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward and the Mayor voted against the staff recommendation.

Meed Ward with Mayor Goldring: she is more comfortable with herself as a speaker.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward with the Mayor. Both voted against the motion to approve a 23 storey tower opposite city hall. They are expected to run against each other in the October 2018 municipal election.

ECoB scheduled a public meeting for Wednesday of this week (the 13th) at the Baptist church on New Street where they hope to hear from as many groups as possible on how they can look for a better way to work with city hall.

The group wants to be at the table and involved in the development of community plans rather than just standing at the podium in the Council Chamber, speaking for their allotted ten minutes and then being dismissed with no follow up questions.

Last Thursday the EcoB people took their appeal to city hall only to learn that they couldn’t file the document because there was nothing to appeal. The city council vote was just part of the process – there are additional documents to be created, including the creation of a Section 37 agreement which sets out what the city is to be given in return for the additional height and density before there is something to appeal.

At this point the ECoB people have a commitment from city hall that they will be advised when the file is complete – at which point they will file their appeal.

421 BrantECoB was not prepared to reveal any of the appeal points other than to say that they believe city council exceeded their authority and that the Official Plan limit for the property is 12 storeys – not the 23 that council approved.

A significant number of people in the city continually ask why an Official Plan is consistently over-ridden by city council.

In an item that was published earlier this week Tom Muir, a consistent city hall delegator, spoke of a conversation with city manager James Ridge in which Ridge is reported to have explained to Muir that development agreements are negotiated with developers. Muir said Ridge told him: “That is good planning”. Which is the rub for many who are opposed to a city that will find its main street not much more than a row of high rise towers.

In a media release put out on Sunday the ECoB people said: “We live in an ever changing world. Our core team remains committed to work towards building a better Burlington for generations to come. We hope to accomplish this goal of building awareness through our online and community presence.

“YES, The meeting is taking place on Wednesday, December 13th from 7-9 pm at Burlington Baptist Church, 2225 New Street (next to Dodsworth & Brown). The entrance to the church is off the Dodsworth & Brown parking lot.

“Discussion will include the grounds for our appeal to the Official Plan and steps moving forward. We encourage all Community Groups to attend and help grow the organization.”

ECoB has created a Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/ECOBurlington

Related news stories:

Citizens group created.

City manager tells resident that negotiated development plans are good planning.

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Planner made deputy city manager - Mary Lou Tanner wins the search for a deputy - this will mean changes to the planning department

News 100 yellowBy Staff

December 7th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City of Burlington announces that effective December 21, 2017; Mary Lou Tanner will assume the position of Deputy City Manager. Tanner was the successful candidate after a comprehensive internal competition.

Tanner is currently the Chief Planner and Director of the Department of City Building for the City of Burlington. Tanner has been with the city since November 2015 heading the department responsible for planning, building, by-law and culture.

mary-lou-tanner-city-hs

Mary Lou Tanner will assume the position of Deputy City Manager.

Tanner is a well-recognized and experienced leader in municipal planning and development and is a Past President of the Ontario Professional Planners Institute and a graduate of the Planning School at Queen’s University.
The Deputy City Manager role is a new position at the City of Burlington which will report to City Manager James Ridge.

Key responsibilities of the Deputy City Manager include:

• Serve as the city’s representative for all Agencies, Boards and Commissions; acting in an advisory and liaison capacity for each organization and helping plan and coordinate major capital projects.

• Being responsible for the diversity and inclusivity portfolio; ensuring a strategy is developed, and implemented across the organization for all services and programs;

• Overseeing the Project Management Office, ensuring the priorities of this office are aligned with the Strategic Plan and corporate work plans and work with the Senior Leadership team to identify and establish priorities across the organization.

A transition plan including an acting Director of City Building will be announced in the near future; however in the meantime Tanner will continue to lead the work on the completion of the city’s new Official Plan.

James Ridge Day 1 - pic 2

James Ridge on his first council meeting as city manager.

Prior to city manager James Ridge being appointed Burlington had three General Managers. One was shown the door, another retired and a third Scott Stewart took a position as deputy city manager in Guelph. Stewart was a candidate for the city manager position.
Ridge has been running the city with his office being the report to point for all the Directors.

Sometime will be needed to think through just what this small level or re-organization is going to mean to the citizens of the city.

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Filing of an appeal against the city decision to approve the construction of a 23 storey tower opposite city hall is said to be imminent.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 6th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The first meeting of the ECoB Engaged Citizens of Burlington ended with a commitment to appeal to the Ontario Municipal Beard to set aside the decision made by city council on a 5-2 to approve a 23 storey structure across Brant from the city hall.

No word yet on the filing of the appeal “imminent” was the latest we had from the ECoB group who are working feverishly to get things in place for the next meeting which is scheduled for Wednesday, December 13th from 7-9 pm- at the Burlington Baptist Church- 2225 New Street- next to Dodsworth & Brown.

While the OMB appeal of the 421 Brant Street project was at the top of the task list – they were up against a ticking clock on this one – the bigger picture is to create an organization that can serve as an umbrella for the numerous community groups in the city that have concerns with the way city hall is handling the issues that are important to them.

There isn’t a complete list yet of just who those groups are. Shoreacres, Bluewater, Roseland, TEC and Plan B are among those that are expected to attend on the 13th.

The ECoB objective is to have an organization that can hold the current city council accountable and able to direct staff to deliver on what the residents want.

ECOB founding Nov 25 back of heads

ECOB founding meeting November 25th 2017

Few hesitate to express their concern over the make up of the current city council and their desire to see some changes on the makeup of the current city council in the next municipal; election to take place in October of 2018.

The current council was elected in 2010, re-elected in 2014 – most appear to be in the 2018 race. They Mayor has already held his first photo-op of his campaign.

ECoB expects to make extensive use of social media to get their message out to the public.

They have part of the team that did an astounding social media job for the Central high school parents who fought the recommendation to close their school leading the creation of social media, a web site and a Facebook page.

ECoB poster

Posters distributed by ECoB are about as direct as one can get.

The group urged citizens to turn out for the November 30th Standing Committee meeting that was thought by many to be one of the most important Standing Committee meeting at city hall this year.

The meeting was seen as a turning point and sharpen the difference between Councillor Meed Ward who is expected to run for the office of Mayor next October and the current Mayor Rick Goldring who has already declared that he will be running for a third term as Mayor.

The Mayor has stayed pretty close to the positions Meed Ward has taken and on a number of occasions joined her in a vote against a motion.

The tipping point for many was the November 13th council vote to approve a 23 storey tower opposite city hall.

A significant number of very vocal people believe city council is wrong and that the Planner is not in tune with the people who live in the downtown core.

Using the acronym ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington, the group easily raised the first $5000 needed to launch the appeal at their inaugural meeting earlier in the month.

Lancaster as Dep Mayor Sept 28-15

Councillor Lancaster got to serve as the Acting Mayor for an evening. She kind of liked the chair and invited her Mother to join her for a photo-op. Will we see this on an election poster?

Blair Lancaster, Councillor for ward 6 who has supported the residents in her ward over one of the ADI developments that is now at the Ontario Municipal Board, said in her Newsletter that:
“During our most recent rounds of public consultation we heard many comments from residents. While they understand the need for growth they are concerned that:

• Burlington will turn into a big city with big tall buildings.
• Heard from specific residents who border on the growth areas
• Residents found the precinct plans difficult to analyze and understand the impacts.

“As a result of these comments, staff will be meeting with the residents in order to resolve some of their specific concerns and will be working on the communications for the concepts that will be easier to understand.

“Burlington residents should know that the process was visionary, thorough and involved thousands of stakeholders. Lancaster has asked for feedback which she will happily include it in the process for Council consideration.”

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Jim Young asks city council why they have put the cart before the horse as they work at creating a new official plan?

opinionandcommentBy Staff

December 1st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A city Council Committee of the Whole listened to delegations in an afternoon and an evening session yesterday.

There were three delegations from people representing developers setting out the impact the proposed Official Plan would have on their projects.

This was followed by four people who delegated in the afternoon – in the evening there were nine registered delegation.

The Gazette will report on what those people had to say. We want to pass along what Jim Young, an Aldershot resident, had to say. Young is perhaps the best delegator this Council has seen during 2017. He has been superb and taught this council some badly needed lessons. He was instrumental is convincing this city council to maintain the ten minute time allocation for delegation. Staff had proposed that it be limited to five minutes – and council was prepared to go along with it.

During his delegation on the Official Plan Young had this to say:

I am not here today to condemn or oppose the latest rendition of the Official Plan.

Jim Young

Jim Young

Neither am I opposed to intensification, downtown density or the concept of mobility hubs.
My first concern is a Big Picture concern about the validity and workability of an Official Plan that is contingent upon several other plans, if those contingent plans are not yet in place.

Official-Plan-Binder_ImageThe draft Official Plan references the Cycling Plan and the Transit Master Plan, both of which have been in development for several years and are still some time from completion. It also references The Downtown Parking Study, which as we speak is still seeking public input and an Area Specific Plan for the Downtown Mobility Hub which according to your timeline will not be completed until June 2018

There are matters of great importance which will impact the lives of citizens embodied in the official plan which council are being asked to vote upon when the prerequisite building blocks are not yet in place.

Is it fair or reasonable for you to vote on detailed areas of intensification and density before we have the Transit Plan in place to move people through these propose areas of intensification?

Can you really make a decision which will determine the walkability and the transport modal split for cycling to ensure livability in our new high density intensified city, if we don’t have a cycling plan in place to support it?

Jim Young

Jim Young speaking at a public meeting on transit issues. He has led some of the public commentary on how the transit service is not meting the needs of the citizens

Can we plan for a forecast 19,000 new residents every 10 years, many of whom the new intensified precincts are designed for and almost all of whom will bring cars if we do not have a parking plan in place? If buildings are approved with 1.2 parking spaces per unit while the average Ontario household owns 1.7 cars, where will we put the all cars? We cannot just hope people will be less inclined to own a car. We need to have that plan in place.

The proposed intensification precincts are premised upon the success and high level of utilization of the downtown mobility hub; yet the Area Specific Plan for that will not be presented to council until June 2018.

The Official Plan Review team has a huge task on their hands and they have to juggle a number of research projects at the same time and manage to find time for real public engagement. The above sets out the projects that all have to be eventually pulled together to create what will become the city's official plan for the next five years.

In 2012 the Official Plan Review team set out how many moving parts there were in the Official Plan. Young points out that many of the parts are contingent upon several other plans that have yet to be determined before the bigger picture is cast in stone.

How do we intensify around a mobility hub when we don’t have the details of what that hub will look like, how it will work? If it will work?

I am asking how can council and staff move forward on this very complex and, for our city, somewhat revolutionary, official plan if the building blocks of all the other supporting infrastructure plans are not in place?

A lot of common sense there. Using a well-worn phrase Young pointed out that the Planners had ‘put the cart before the horse.’ He got that right.

Good questions – Jim Young didn’t get any answers – staff have yet to comment on the points brought up during the delegations yesterday.  That is supposed to take place when the Committee of the Whole resumes this afternoon.

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Citizens force council and the Planning department to allow more room for public discussion of the draft Official Plan. Many want it to become en election issue.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

December 1st, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The citizens of the city got what they have been pushing for – they didn’t like the pace or the rate at which the draft of the Official Plan was being pushed by the Planning department.

The Gazette asked this early on November and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has been asking this question for months as well.

During Committee of the Whole meeting yesterday afternoon and evening Council heard again and again that the pace was far too fast.

Paul Brophy, a downtown resident said “The community is only just now becoming aware of the transformative change this plan, in its current draft format, will impose upon Burlington residents” and asked “Why rush such a fundamental change to the look and feel of our downtown. Remember once the plan is approved there are no do overs – city council with the assistance of planning staff must get it right the first time.”

“Frankly much of the community has a perception that the planning staff is running the show and council not so much. This perception must change with deliberate transparent action from council that clearly shows you have Burlington resident’s best interests at heart.”

Sharman July 2016

Councillor Paul Sharman

Brophy took exception to a comment made by Councillor Sharman who was chairing the meeting and for the first time in our recollection a delegator pushed back and told the Councillor that his remarks were offensive.

Lisa Kearns told the Committee that more time was needed and asked that any decision be moved back to June of 2018.

Councillor Dennison pointed out that the city would be in full election mode by then – which was the point Kearns was making and that the end of March might by a better date.

Earlier in the meeting Sharman said the Planning department was looking for a way to tinker with the dates and come up with a way to give the public the time they were asking for.

Kearns introduced Council to ECoB – Engaging Citizens of Burlington – a group that took shape very quickly – managed to raise the first $5000 of needed funding, had their Director appointed and were in the process of incorporating all within a week.

ECoB plans to make extensive use of social media; part of the team that kept Central high school off the list of schools the Board of Education put forward last June has signed on with ECoB.

Kearns set out what their long term objectives were but chose not to mention that one of those was to appeal the decision council made earlier in the month to approve the 421 Brant development by a 5-2 vote (Meed Ward and the Mayor dissented on that one).

Tanner and Taylor at June 21-17 workshop

Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner at a public meeting with Councillor John Taylor. There is yet to be a solid meeting of Council minds and the Planning department.

There appears to have been some back channel conversations on a later date for the draft Official Plan to get to Council. The Planners wanted it to be by the end of January, now they appear to be thinking in terms of late in March – those who delegated on Thursday are pushing for June.

This issue isn’t over yet – watch for as a boisterous city Council meeting on December 11th, when this gets decided.

Make a note then of how closely the Mayor stays to whatever position Meed Ward takes – he can’t afford to be too far from her politically.

There is a shift in the role the citizens of the city are going to play in the way the city is developed. Get ready for more – there are a number of groups across the city grumbling for better civic leadership. Expect to see them come together – some within that group talk about a slate of candidates that can clean things up at city hall. The words “reform” and Burlington now get used in the same sentence.

The late John Boich would be proud.

What’s the rush?

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Paul Sharman takes a chance and uses some spare committee time to let people just speak extemporaneously to council - and it worked.

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

November 30th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It was an absolutely remarkable hour and a quarter.

The afternoon session of the Standing Committee meeting was basically complete – all the developers who had things to say about the draft Official Plan had completed their delegations. The Halton Hamilton Hone Builders Association once again made their point that more time was needed before attempting to pass the Draft of the Official Plan

Each of them had what they felt were strong and compelling arguments for the points they were making and the ask they had of Council.

Gloria Reid, on the right with her husband - a welcome addition to the BurlingtonGreen board.

Gloria Reid gently suggested to Council that they could learn to do things differently – that were other community engagement tools they may not be aware of.

Jeremy Skinner gave a superb delegation – if there is an award for the best delegation to Council this year – it would go to Skinner. We hope to be able to publish that delegation in the near future.

He was followed by Gloria Reid who delegated on behalf of BurlingtonGreen. She gently suggested to Council that they were talking the talk when it came to civic engagement but they weren’t necessarily walking that talk. We will report in more depth on what the “teachable moment” from Reid was.

There was still about an hour left on the clock and Committee chair Paul Sharman decided to open up the meeting to anyone who wanted to come forward and address the committee.

Sharman at Lakeside Village visioning

Councillor Sharman was exceptionally engaging with speakers that were invited to talk to committee.

What followed was truly remarkable. The atmosphere was relaxed. No one had anything prepared – they were just winging it – and what we got to see was real dialogue.

No one had rock hard positions – the speakers were told that they had ten minutes. Every one of them ended up being at the podium for at least twenty minutes while back and forth questioning and answering took place.

Sasha Menzies spoke, Christine Dobbs spoke, Don Fletcher spoke.

we

Hearing Councillor talk about Aldershot grow by 27,000 was a stunner.

It was relaxed – we learned that Fletcher once lived in Aldershot and while talking about intensification mentioned that he and his wife had four children in five years – someone on Council mention that that was certainly intensification – and no one was offended. Fletcher added that he is a sculpture who works with nude female models.

Fletcher learned a lot about how the Official Plan is going to get to the point where it is the law of the land and how it will get revised going forward. Few people in the city understand how complex that process is.

Several of these “add-on” delegation thought the Official Plan should be made an election issue.

Dobbs wanted to know how “information gets out there” and came up with half a dozen ideas straight from the cuff that Council members wanted to talk about.

One of the speakers thought the city should rename itself and use Tyendaga and let that reflect our heritage more accurately.

During the conversation there was an astounding bit of information from Councillor Craven. At maximum build out Aldershot will grow by 27,000 people. That should shake up some of the good folks in Aldershot.

Fletcher talked about the “polarity of this council” – that this Council was not uniform on its vision for the city.

Remembered, respected

Remembered, respected and never to be in the shadow of an office tower.

Menzies didn’t think the Cenotaph should ever be in the shadow of any building. She talked of her 9/11 experience and what she referred to as the “sniper” experience in the United States. She spoke movingly of what it was about Canada and Burlington that she appreciated. We sometimes have to hear from others just how good things are for us in this country.

Sharman as chair of the meeting took a chance and opened things up – not what we usually see from him.

What Council saw was that they are capable of dialoguing with members of Council – and that citizens do have a contribution to make.

Will any of it stick? Gloria Read made the point that “these things take time”. And they do but city council got to see what it is like when they open things up a bit and listen and dialogue with people.

It does work.

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