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



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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2 comments to 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.

  • Claire Rannie

    I have not lived in Burlington for many years, however, I grew up there, and I find these developments quite disturbing.
    Previous articles have pointed out the problems of putting in high-rise condos and other buildings without thought to traffic patterns.

  • William

    Three observations on 3 people:

    – the mayor’s preference for 17 storeys instead of 23 storeys at the 421 Brant St. site reveals he’s on board with the staff plan to increase the downtown height from 4 to 8 to 17 storeys. Not once has he alerted the public this was coming or that it should be challenged.

    – the head planner, Mary-Lou Tanner has a my-way or the highway approach to pushing things through. She resorts to misleading statistics (“only 5% of Burlington will be affected”) and trite slogans (Grow Bold) to misdirect and shut down dissent. She kept residents in the dark on the details of her ambitious downtown agenda. She is not trustworthy and requires closer scrutiny.

    – if MMW runs for mayor, the person to watch is Lisa Kearns for Ward 2 councilor. She’s stepping up in a big way, and I expect we’ll hear more from her.