City Staff and Council are currently laying the foundation on which whatever Burlington is going to be in the future is being built.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 3, 2019



The City commissioned a Growth Analysis Study to identify an appropriate level of population and employment growth that can be anticipated for the City between now and 2041. The study findings are intended to help inform the growth analysis work being undertaken by Halton Region through the Integrated Growth Management Strategy (IGMS) by providing a finer grain analysis of the growth opportunities within the City of Burlington.

Some of the numbers that are coming out of the reports put the kind of growth the city could be facing in context: an additional 58,321 to 85,863 people and 22,669 to 53,137 jobs between now and full build out.  Full build out is assumed to be post 2041 and represents a conceivable end state where land has been fully optimized.

Assume just two people to a dwelling (and that is quite an assumption) we are looking at between 29 and 42 thousand new dwellings.

That certainly put the 2018 election debate in context.

In 2008, the City undertook an Intensification Study to better understand the intensification opportunities in the City which could accommodate growth to 2031. It was recognized at that time that the City’s supply of Greenfield land was diminishing and a more comprehensive approach to planning for intensification was needed.

Boundaries set out for the Downtown mobility hub.

Boundaries set out for the Downtown mobility hub.

The study focused on key areas within the City’s urban area and included a site by site analysis to identify opportunities for infilling and redevelopment. This study, which laid out a general framework for longer term growth planning in the City, determined a reasonable estimate of residential units, people and jobs, which could be provided through intensification by 2031. The study also concluded that Burlington was expected to exceed the 40% intensification target in the Growth Plan that is applied Region wide.

The study findings were used to inform the growth analysis work that was undertaken by Halton Region through their Sustainable Halton process, which resulted in population and employment growth forecasts to 2031 as well as intensification and density targets for the City and the other municipalities in the Region.

Halton Region’s Official Plan Review and Integrated Growth Management Strategy
Halton Region is currently undertaking a review of their Official Plan, as required by the Planning Act. The Region’s Official Plan Review (ROPR) commenced in April 2014 and is being undertaken in three phases. Phase one was completed in October 2016 with the completion of a Directions Report which identified the key policy areas for review through the ROPR and established a high level work plan to complete the detailed research and policy development to be undertaken in phases two and three of the ROPR.

2041One of the key policy areas identified by the Region is the Integrated Growth Management Strategy (IGMS) which is a growth strategy for the Region to the planning horizon year of 2041 that will incorporate the population and employment forecasts for the Region in accordance with Schedule 3 to the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe. The result of the IGMS work will be an updated growth strategy for the Region and its local municipalities which is based on the integration of land use, infrastructure and financial considerations, that conforms to both Provincial and Regional policy directives.

Phase two work on the IGMS began in the spring of 2018 with a kick-off meeting with the local municipalities. Since then, staff have been actively engaged with the Region on the IGMS work through participation on technical committees, attending meetings and workshops as well as providing background data to support the development of the growth scenarios, which were shared with Regional Council on June 19, 2019.

City of Burlington Growth Analysis Study
Recognizing the growth work being undertaken by the Region through the IGMS as a region-wide provincial conformity exercise, City staff saw the opportunity to engage a consultant to undertake growth analysis work at the local level to inform the process at the Region and provide support to City staff and Council in reviewing and providing feedback to the Region on the IGMS work.

Study Process and Work Plan
In the fall of 2018, the City retained Dillon Consulting with support from Watson and Associates to undertake an analysis of the City’s population and employment growth trends to better understand what an appropriate level of population and employment growth might look like for the City between now and 2041. The study findings are intended to inform and support the process being undertaken at the Region by providing a finer grain analysis of growth opportunities in the City and is not intended to supersede the Region’s process. City staff also recognize that components of the growth analysis study could be used or leveraged for other city projects and initiatives.

The project work plan prepared by Dillon and Watson for the growth analysis study included:

• A review of growth related background data;
• A review of the policy context to gain a better understanding of the long-term growth potential for the City;
• Confirmation of the estimated long-term supply of land within the City for residential and non-residential growth;
• An economic, socio-economic and demographic trends analysis which will also include commentary on local factors and economic drivers which are anticipated to influence future residential and non-residential development trends in the City;
• The development of three city-wide population, housing and employment growth forecasts, including the identification of a preferred growth forecast;
• Identifying potential opportunities and challenges associated with the city’s ability to achieve the preferred growth forecast.

A project kick-off meeting was held in the fall of 2018 which included staff from various internal city departments, acting a project steering committee. Various background data related to land use and development was also provided to the consulting team to assist with their review and analysis. In March 2019, a workshop was held with internal city staff which provided the opportunity for the consulting team to share the findings of their analysis and for staff to provide feedback on a draft of the growth analysis study.

Study Purpose & Components
As indicated, the purpose of the Growth Analysis Study is to identify an appropriate level of population and employment growth that the City can anticipate between now and 2041. The study takes into consideration both supply and demand factors while addressing the following key questions:

aerial of Bronte meadows

Bronte Meadows – designated Employment Lands, the owners, Paletta International, have been trying for years to have it zoned residential. It was part of a package of land in the GTA that was offered to Amazon when they were looking for a new HQ.

• How much land supply is there to accommodate future long-term population and employment growth in the City?
• What are some of the recent broader macro-economic and regional growth trends which will influence growth in Burlington?
• What do the City’s recent economic, demographic and real estate trends tell us about future growth potential?
• What is the potential range of population and employment growth that the City can expect between now and 2041 based on available supply and market trends?
• Given the range of potential growth and multiple opportunities for development, what are the phasing considerations for residential and employment growth?

The analysis in this study relies on a number of different sources including components of the City’s adopted Official Plan, Halton Region Official Plan, the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe as well as provincial guidelines (e.g. MTO Transit Supporting Guidelines). Data related to the City’s active development applications and building permits was also relied upon to complete the analysis.

Adopted New Official Plan
The Dillon – Watson study recognizes the direction received by Council to undertake a scoped review of the building heights and densities contained within the adopted new Official Plan. The methodology used in the analysis builds upon the urban structure and intensification opportunities identified through the City’s growth framework in the adopted new Official Plan. However, building height permissions in the adopted new Official Plan were not used in the analysis. As such, any changes that result from the scoped re-examination of the adopted new Official Plan are anticipated to be within the supply scenarios tested.

Mobility hubs

The Mobility Hubs are on a bit of a hold while the Planning department focuses on a number of critical studies that need to be completed before development can get back on track.

Mobility Hub Work
The study also recognizes the work that has been undertaken to date on the Mobility Hubs. For the downtown, the Urban Growth Center boundary and density target established in the Growth Plan were used in the supply analysis, while the population and employment ratios were based on the detailed mobility hub work. Similarly, for the GO Station mobility hubs, two density targets were used in the supply analysis; one reflective of the density target identified in the adopted new Official Plan, while the other reflective of the density target established in the Growth Plan. The population and employment ratios used in the analysis were based on the mobility hub draft precinct plans.

Supply Analysis
A review of the City’s active development applications was completed to inform the analysis of the supply of land available for both residential and non-residential growth. These development applications represent a snap shot in time and reflect development applications ranging from those under review by City staff to those currently under construction.

The supply analysis completed as part of this study helped to understand how much additional growth the City could expect based on current policies and plans. A top-down approach was used to estimate supply by applying a density target (people and jobs/ha) along with population and employment ratios to different areas of the City to identify the full build out potential. However, for some areas of the City which are not anticipated to accommodate much of the new growth, a factor was applied to identify full build out potential.

Full build out is assumed to be post 2041 and represents a conceivable end state where land has been fully optimized.

All this takes place while development work in the downtown core is under a one year freeze that has about five months left before a recommendation comes back from the planners. The Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL) was deemed to be necessary when the city found it was overwhelmed with development applications.

Telier + MacDonald

Planner Jamie Tellier and Director of Planning Heather MacDonald during a city council meeting.

Planning Director Heather MacDonald was given the green light to single source the consultants she would use to put together the report. MacDonald has been a planner for at least two decades and she knows all the players in that game. She is firm on the report being in the hands of council within the one year time frame she was given; in our last conversation with MacDonald she made it very clear that meeting the delivery date was paramount – and she doesn’t appear to be one who scrimps on quality.

While the ICBL report is being researched and written the “Adopted Official Plan” is getting a very heavy duty re-write and re-think.

And while that re-write and re-think is taking place there is a group working on plans that attract as much public reaction, response, comment – anything anyone wants to say.

Mayor Meed Ward has made it the thickest of the pillars that hold up her election platform.

She wants to hear – she wants to listen.

The five new City Councillors are in for the hardest assignment they have ever been given. Some are faltering under the work load; some live on this kind of deep policy stuff.

There is a public that depends on the thinking they do and the wisdom they bring to the table.

After a decent summer break – they skipped a July Council meeting – they are now back in the trenches. In seven weeks they will celebrate being elected.

Two of the five (Nisan, Kearns) fought off contenders, one other (Stolte) was a certain winner once it was a clear one on one race with a long term incumbent, the other (Sharman) was an incumbent who won because two women let the vote be split. Another (Bentivegna) won by the slimmest of margins against a candidate who really didn’t run all that much of a campaign. The last newbie (Galbraith) came out on top of a very crowded field.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

Were the right choices made – can the team handle the amount of work they have been given? Time will tell.

We will know in the not too distant future if the right choices were made.

There is no doubt that at the Mayoralty level the right choice was made given what was on offer. Only time will tell if the Mayor lives up to the promise.

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