City council is almost mute on the decision to grandfather seven development sites while approving the move of the Urban Growth Centre

By Pepper Parr

November 17th, 2021



Information is a little like water: it has its own way of finding the direction in which it wants to flow.

Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing – Steve Clark

We learn a bit more about what took place and how the Minister of Municipal Affairs did the dirty to the city when he announced the Official move of the Urban Growth Centre and the removal of the MTSA designation to the bus terminal and then added that he was grandfathering seven developments that were within the older Urban Growth Boundary.

That kind of takes the wind out of the Mayor’s sails.

But the woman who won public office on the promise to be transparent and accountable hasn’t been able to make use of those skill sets.

And that promise made during her first election in 2010 when she told a group of her supporters that she wanted their votes but more importantly she wanted their trust.

She got the votes – hard to see where she delivered on the trust part.

We have learned that November 10th was when the decision the Minister made became final. That would suggest that there were ongoing conversations – if they were negotiations – what did Burlington get?

Gazette readers are asking what the city is getting other than the Mayor’s spin that, as one reader put it, goes like this: “Look what I have done, oh, by the way it was too late to stop the high-rise development that will destroy the waterfront”

Ward 2 Councillor Kearns told a resident that she “didn’t receive the actual decision until late on the 11th, then needed some clarity, then the weekend, over to Monday to ensure Council had a chance to review before release.

To be fair to Kearns she did make some rather pithy comments that were part of the media release the city put out. She said:

Ward 2 City Councillor Lisa Kearns

“The Minister’s decision may help reduce the long-term development pressure on existing infrastructure and neighbourhoods. On behalf of our residents, I believe there is good reason for concern about the excessive applications already underway. This decision doesn’t fully support the thoughtful and considered conversations we have had to preserve the character of downtown and welcome responsible growth. I understood us to be working towards the same outcome; should the Minister’s decision fail to address this transition issue, it could result in intense pressure for incompatible change.”

Every member of council sat on their hands over this one. How accountable the voters will expect them to be is anyone’s guess.

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6 comments to City council is almost mute on the decision to grandfather seven development sites while approving the move of the Urban Growth Centre

  • L. Simmons

    It is disappointing to see the Minister grandfather sites into the old UGC designation after the comments he made when he came to the City and announced on the Mayor’s Facebook that the UGC would be moving. If he had really wanted to support the City in trying to protect the downtown from overdeveloment as he said he was, he would not have grandfathered in developments that are proposing significant height and density. It shows where the Minister’s true interest lies-especially with an election coming next year.

    This doesn’t fall at the City’s feet. What it did was actually pretty sly and quite a coup. Getting a study done that actually showed from an independent view that the UGC made no sense in the downtown was smart, and a better plan than just screaming along with the rest of us in the downtown. As much as Anne and David suggest that we the city could and should have got the UGC moved right away back in 2019, what would have going to the Minister without any support really accomplished? I am guessing a swift denial for having no basis to make such a change. The City’s gambit almost worked too, but for the Minister grandfathering properties. If the Minister hadn’t have grandfathered, all of those developments would have had to have been considered without the UGC policies. The City might have actually had a fighting chance to successfully oppose something in the downtown for the first time in a long time.

    To be a fly on the wall when the Minister had this in front of him. The developers lobbying must have been angry and intense. The city almost pulled a fast one on the developers in getting this approved. Instead, the minister pulled a fast one of the city by bowing to the howls of ‘but I already invested millions in this proposal-you can’t take away my policy support now’ from the developers.

    I agree with Councillor Kearns. There is good reason for concern that these grandfathered applications will be approved, changing what the Lakeshore east of Brant will look like in a decade. A lot of us commenting here probably won’t have too many years of having to live with it, in a macabre silver lining.

    • The Ministry provided the information via Jane Mckenna that it could be moved in 2018 and gave the City the informatjon how to do it. No one can judge what tbe Minister would have done if tbe city had taken the right course at the right time and hopefully before the grandfathered applications had been submitted.

  • Deborah

    Agree that it seems there is more to this (late) decision than meets the eye. Who determined which properties were grandfathered? The Minister? How did he determine this? Do we need to delve into more campaign donation data?? There seems to be a large number of grandfathered properties for one builder in particular which naturally raises questions in citizens’ minds. So much for transparency in Burlington..

  • perryb

    These things are easier to understand if you realize that a side hobby of the Ford government has always been to spit in the eyes of municipalities seen to harbour pesky progressive voters. Started with screwing the Toronto Council right out of the gate. The sooner we are rid of these rascals, the better.

  • There would have been no opportunity to grandfather if the Council had showed they were serious about moving the UGC in January, 2019 rather than establish an ICBLbeginning that date. It would have also been a good move to immediately address Regional Council to determine their support for the move. It never happened in 2019. Knowing Meed Ward’s election promises Carr should have taken more interest than he did and asked how can Region Council help!. Seemingly there is more to the lack of action than meets the eye given for some it has worked out very well.