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



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

  • susie

    Do believe that most of our City Planners live in other towns or cities, and perhaps some Councillors, and are in Burlington for a job and a pay cheque only. The attitude is to move the process on as quickly as possible so that they can deal with something else. With no direct interest in Burlington, I feel that decisions made not coming from the heart, are cold and ill-computed.

  • Penny

    What is vibrancy. In my mind it is not the noise and craziness of a few festivals during the year. Vibrancy to me is having a downtown that people come to shop, dine and be able to find the necessities needed in every day living.
    People living in the core being able to come home, as most do not work in Burlington, park their car and then be able to live their lives should be the aim of Council.

    I have to question why we don’t have any companies with offices in the core? Why doesn’t this area attract larger business? Could it be that the infrastructure does not allow for hi-tec companies to operate here? Could it be the fact we don’t have a public transit system that would allow employees to come to work? Could it be that public parking is not sufficient? These are the questions I would be asking if I was on Council, and how could we make these things happen.

    Twenty-three storey condos may bring people into the area, but that seems like a band-aid solution. We need to encourage entrepreneurs to set up in Burlington. Presently most of the property downtown has been amassed by developers. Most developers are offering only 2 year leases. If I wanted to start up a business would I want to know that in 2 years I would have to leave? This is a major reason why we see empty storefronts on Brant Street.

    At one of the first Inspire Forums we heard how important it is to have a core environment to encourage people to live and shop in the area. It was suggested that in future when development occurs in other areas that the plan be to make certain that what we have in downtown Burlington be replicated. Perhaps Council should have attended this session, I know the Mayor was there.

    • Tom Muir


      Good constructive points of a central problem.

      Building the condos proposed or not yet proposed, and developer land ownership, means that nothing but destructive de-commercialization of the Downtown will continue for 10 to 15 years. This will include all of the needs of daily life. Just watch.

      “Vibrancy”, whatever that is (as you say) will be a long time coming. 421 Brant will not be built and full – of millionaires – for years.

      In the meantime, the existing business and entrepreneurs are being slowly forced out as collateral damage in the speculative binge going on to cash in on the promised land of 10-fold increases in the development values of Downtown properties.

      Where are the planners and city in this disaster, except facilitating it?

      The Growth Plan says 200 people AND JOBS. Your point.

      Follow the money.

      You point directly at a key problem that needs something done right now.

  • Braz Menezes

    Engaged Citizens vs Enraged Citizens. I attended the meeting. I firmly believe we have to be engaged to help guide new development and shape it to deliver the kind of livable downtown we want in the future. For example, As our seniors move into Condos close to where they have lived all their lives, close to each other, and are able to walk,dine, shop, stop and talk, we need wider, safer, treed and well- lit sidewalks. We need the architecture at ground level and alt least for the lower floors to reflect a human scale. We can shape the future we want.

    There will always be a number of our group who wish to have little or no change. I have driven often along Brant Street – a strip of low rise 1 and 2 storey development dating back to the 50s. We must save and conserve the historic buildings of excellence, but to talk about vibrancy when there is little, is misleading. We can benefit from greater public participation.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Speaking of exaggeration,the entire Downtown Precinct plan is premised on the fictional existence of a Downtown Mobility hub, aka “the John Street Bus Terminal”. In reality, our Downtown Mobility Hub is a, Major Transit Station, that does not meet the criteria for mobility hubs. Eliminate the false premise and what you are left with is a bogus plan and that is no exaggeration.

  • Stephen White

    I want to move forward too Craig…as did pretty much everyone attending last night’s ECoB meeting. Again, the issue isn’t “development” vs. “no development” as proponents of the new Official Plan and Mobility Hubs naively purport. The issue is the quality, scale and type of development. Unfortunately, the nuances of this debate are sadly lost on those like Councillor Craven whose idea of engagement is “my way or the highway”.

    No one disputes that Brant Street needs a makeover. That’s a given. However, throwing up a pile of high rise luxury condos will not, in and of itself, promote vibrancy. There are high rise developments downtown now and I don’t see a whole lot of exciting retail and commercial establishments. That’s probably because prospective retail tenants can’t afford the rents.

    Last night’s meeting gave me hope that Burlington is finally awakening from a prolonged state of apathy. Residents are sick and tired of the development mantra being propounded by Council and the Planning Department whose justification for all of this is specious at best. If I have one regret from last night’s meeting is that we didn’t spend more time on how to dispatch the Mayor and this Council in the next municipal election.

  • craig gardner

    Totally agree with the point Brant is far from vibrant downtown as you say except for special events that draw folks from all parts of Burlington and beyond. I for one want to move forward and not backwards as it seems a number of folks want. If it weren’t for the current condos downtown I believe brant street would be a ghost town with boarded up buildings as businesses would not survive.

    • Andrew

      Come downtown! Bustling all year round. I am so pleased how many people are taking in the great views and shopping at all times of the day and year…even on cold days like today.

    • Shannon

      Craig, I totally agree with you. Downtown Burlington is definitely better than it was, thanks in part to new condos/townhouses and more people living here. We now have some thriving business that I don’t think could’ve ever succeeded here 20 years ago. Our downtown hasn’t lost its character because of these new developments. People love visiting our downtown and rave about it! This is a result of change and growth, not in spite of it. Things change. Downtowns change. Cities change. Brant Street used to be dead, and frankly, it was quite run-down and ugly. Why does no one seem to remember this?

      There are definitely more people out on the streets now (mostly on weekends) but still not enough. I live a short walk from a downtown gym, but I hate walking home alone from there at 8 or 9 pm because often there is absolutely no one out–stores have been closed since 5 or 6, restaurants are preparing to close. This fear that we are becoming overcrowded and “too intensified” seems completely unfounded. A few traffic snarls at rush hour? Sure. But that’s not reason enough not to grow, and I’d argue that most of the time, traffic through our downtown actually moves too fast for school kids and pedestrians. Does every new building need to be a high-rise? Of course not. Do we need to try to get more affordable units built?
      Absolutely. But I’m certainly not afraid of a few more developments–high-rise, mid-rise, or low-rise, if it means more active, walkable, lively downtown. I would, however, like to see them be as attractive as possible.

      • Hans

        Re: “A few traffic snarls at rush hour?” – this afternoon it took me over 1/2 hour to drive from Walkers’ Line to Guelph Line along Harvester Road. We should not have to start packing food and water for a trip across town.

        • Shannon

          I’ve driven home from Mississauga, Etobicoke, and north Oakville at rush hour for 20 years. I know the drill. It’s always been busy, and yes, it doesn’t hurt to pack a snack! As someone contributing to the problem, I’ve never felt entitled to a traffic-free commute.

        • Stephen White

          I hear you Hans.

          I had a meeting in Hamilton a couple of weeks ago. It took me half an hour to drive from Appleby and Lakeshore to Brant and Lakeshore. The traffic pouring off the highway and detouring through the City was ridiculous.

          What all these people extolling the virtues of increased intensification don’t realize is that: 1) the problem is going to get significantly worse as a result of more buildings and density downtown; and 2) there are absolutely no plans, strategies or provisions in place to address increased vehicular traffic.

          I don’t expect a “traffic-free commute” as suggested by Shannon, but something is sadly amiss when it takes longer to drive from one end of the City to the other than it does to drive into Oakville or Mississauga.

          • Hans


            I think the single feature “strategy” (if one could call it that) to address vehicular traffic is to make Burlington so hostile to cars that we will all want to risk our lives on bicycles. I’m 72 and gave away my bike to a younger family member, so that’s not going to happen in my case; I expect that there are others in the same position.

            My work commute in the 1990s was to Wynford Drive (Toronto, near the Don Valley Parkway at Eglinton) and it was less challenging than some of the traffic I’ve encountered in recent years in Burlington. As you said, the problem is going to get significantly worse as a result of more buildings and the unnecessarily increased density downtown, but no one in the City’s “planning” department seems to truly understand what is at stake. Maybe the City’s elected “leaders” will pay more attention when Moneysense magazine eventually comments on the issue.