City is in the process of creating a Lands Partnership that will look for and create development opportunities

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

February 8th, 2021


Part 1 of a 4 part series.

On October 19, 2020, City Council approved the following recommendation related to the establishment of a new organizational structure called the Burlington Lands Partnership (BLP) –

Using the language of the Vision to Focus (V2F) which is the part of the 25 year Strategic Plan the city has in place,  the purpose of the BLP is to:

Increase economic prosperity and community responsive city growth

Support sustainable infrastructure and a resilient environment

Increasing options for housing across the city

There is quite a bit more to it than that, which we will get to.

Last week, Council approved the Terms of Reference and funding in the amount of $250,000 from the Strategic Plan Reserve Fund to support the year one operations.

The City Manager was directed to report back on the following:

Burlington wants a Stage 2 designation.

How much of the city will the new BLP want to put shovels into the ground? Is there a risk the public should be willing to take?

• In Q2 2021, following consultation with the BLP Steering Committee, with the proposed Burlington lands partnership operating model and the 2021/22 business plan objectives; and

• In Q3 2022, with a status update report on the Burlington lands partnership including overall 2021/22 performance/accomplishments, detailed financial report, both operating and capital budget related and recommendations for future strategic land management.

In an Appendix to the City Manager’s report in 2020 Strategic Land Priorities and Business Model Framework Options were set out.  They were to:

Business development opportunities and advance future economic growth and job creation.

Implement major city building projects that enhance the quality of life for all citizens.

Deliver increased supply of affordable housing through proactive long-term strategies and innovative partnerships.

Direct the City Manager to engage further with the Burlington Economic Development Corporation and key City staff in the development of the Burlington Lands Partnership Terms of Reference and the Proposed 2021/2022 Business Plan and report back for Council consideration and approval in December 2020

An RFP was awarded December 2019 to MDB Insights led by the Executive Vice- President Lauren Millier and to urbanMetrics with Partner Rowan Faludi.

The consultant worked through a Steering Committee to complete the work outlined in the RFP and also engaged the Board of Directors for Burlington Economic Development (Burlington EcDev), Council and City staff.

The consultant’s report was presented and received by the Community Planning, Mobility and Regulation Committee on Oct. 6, 2020. Several options as to the structure of what the city council thought they wanted to do were debated. Among the organizational options were:

1. New Municipal Development Corporation (MDC)

2. New Burlington Lands Partnership (BLP) – APPROVED

3. Internal COB Strategic Lands Project Team

4. Hybrid: Build strategic land management capacity and expertise and re-consider need for MDC in 2 years.

The Lands Partnership is a significantly new and different direction for Burlington.

Other than reports to Council there has been little in the way of informing the public on just what it means to have a Lands Partnership.

The BLP has the $250,000, taken from the  Strategic Plan Reserve Fund, which has has an uncommitted balance of $548,877.

Commisso stare

City Manager Tim Commisso will be the strong man behind the Burlington Lands Project. He will chair the Steering Committee which will in turn take projects to the city for approval.

The funding will be used to support the ongoing work of the BLP including and dependent of the needs of each strategic land initiative, completion of external due diligence across a broad range of disciplines (e.g. land economic analysis, professional services including architectural/urban design, engineering, financial planning, fiscal impact analysis etc.).

The language in the paragraph above clearly indicates that the BLP wants to acquire land or use land the city already owns and build things and create partnerships with other organizations that have land the city thinks can be put to use.  Think in terms of the Region of Halton, Burlington Hydro.

This could be seen as a municipal administration playing a revised form of monopoly with public money.

Responsibility for the ongoing financial management and reporting related to the BLP will be through the City Manager’s Office with oversight by the BLP Steering Committee which includes the Chief Financial Officer as a member.

It deserves very close attention.

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