Conservation Halton tells developer to get a wiggle on with its waterfront development or the rules will get tightened up on you.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  March 17, 2012  There are rumblings on the waterfront – people at Conservation Halton along with people at city hall were getting frustrated with the pace – actually the lack of any pace, with the development slated for the Riviera Motel site on Lakeshore Road currently zoned to hold two seven storey buildings and a 22 storey tower – but nothing is happening.

Looking from the eastern end of the Mayrose Tycom property you see the Riviera Motel that will get torn down, with the unfinished Pier in the background and the walkway at the edge of the lake. The set back the Conservation authority is threatening to invoke would relate to this area.

The Waterfront Access and Advisory Committee was given an update last week on a project that got approved back in 1994 – that was seventeen years ago.  The critical piece of information in the update was that the Conservation Halton people put the developer on notice that “development of the property must proceed by the end of 2012 or else the new Ontario Regulation 162/06 will take effect, increasing the required shoreline set back.”  Ouch!

Set back means less space for the developer.  Less space to develop translates into less height and less height means less density, which then translates into fewer condo units that can be built and that comes down to the number of dollars in sales.  And dollars is what development is all about.  As Albert Facenda put it during a delegation to Council, “when a developer can tear down one building and put up two buildings in the same space, that’s pure gold”.  A few weeks later Facenda got appointed to the Burlington Heritage Advisory Committee.  Facenda didn’t manage to get to the first meeting he was entitled to attend as a full member.

This is the beginning of a pathway on the east side of the Mayrose Tycon property where a pathway leads to the waters edge The Pier is visible in the background with the Riviera Motel showing as well.

The plan for what is known as the Mayrose Tycon project,  that exists on paper, and perhaps in the heart of an architect somewhere, was to have a hotel at street level – along the south side of Lakeshore Road.  Behind the hotel and closer to the lake would be a 7 story condo and to the west of both buildings there would be a condo/mixed uses building that would soar 22 storeys into the air and completely obliterate the view for the folks across the street, who paid big dollars for the condos they own.

The design was to have an open space from Lakeshore Road down to the lake and there was talk of an open garden area but there isn’t a site plan for anyone to look at so no one knows what we are going to see down there.

There is a pathway down the east side of the property that will give access to the walkway that is now in place.  This will eventually connect up to the lawns in front of the Beaver and the Bulldog which is at the base of the existing Waterfront Hotel, which is next to Pier, that will go into its final phase of development in the Spring.  The end result, if we ever get there, will be an even nicer stretch along the water-front that will allow walking from the canal in the west to what is basically the bottom of Martha Street.

The football shaped piece of property seen from the west end with Lakeshore road on the left and Old Lakeshore Road on the right. It is adjacent to the Mayrose Tycon property.

Lovely idea – but there has been no development at the Riviera site.  The most recent flurry of activity was the trade the city made for a spot of land where the existing Lakeshore Road and the Old Lakeshore Road meet.  The city exchanged land they own for a public pathway right along the water’s edge – that gave the developer a better shaped piece of property to develop and the city got ownership of a strip of land along the edge of the water.

Chatter amongst the people who know something of what`s taking place development wise was that the Minto Group were talking to the Mayrose Tycon  people about developing the lands that had been assembled but nothing seems to have come of that.  The thinking was for some kind of high end condo development but the Minto people who certainly know how to build and operate high end condos was that the market wouldn’t support the thinking.

Delta Hotels were reported to be talking to Mayrose Tycon about a hotel – but the economy had not yet come out of the doldrums that American mortgage market greed put the world economy into – so that didn’t come to pass.  Mayrose Tycon, the company that assembled the property, now wants to find someone to develop and finally get a return to the very patient investors who are reported to be Austrian.

Both the city planning department and most members of city council are getting frustrated and kind of fed up with the delays.  Mayrose Tycon has zoning along the waterfront that they would not be able to get today given the changed view of the way the waterfront should be developed.  At the time, back in 1995, the thinking was that the city needed a landmark development and a 22 storey tower would certainly be a landmark – so Council at the time went along with the proposal.

The Riviera Motel and the land to the right of it plus a bit to the left of this picture would house two seven storey buildings plus a 22 storey tower. The pathway seen here was built by the developer in exchange for some land along the edge of Lakeshore Road.

The property was the only commercial waterfront land in the downtown and was to house a landmark building with continuity on the waterfront trail and a strong urban design.  The Official Plan designation set the maximum footprint for the taller building at 600m2

At the time the lands had an H for hold designation – that got removed when a shoreline Environmental Assessment was completed.  The shoreline protection features and a public walkway were approved in 2000 with construction to begin in 2004.  Believe it or not a Fisheries Act Permit was needed and granted – it was valid until December of 2004.

Zoning for the lands that was proposed to be amended in 1999 lapsed when conditions were not met.  It came back to Council in April of 2004 when the heights were taken to the current 22, 7 and 7 storey buildings.  They were originally 30, 7 and 7 with vehicle access to a center courtyard.  Neighborhood meetings were held in February and April of 2005.

There were meetings with Conservation Halton in 2005.  At that time Conservation Authority regulations did not apply to the shore line of Lake Ontario.  Conservation Halton evaluated the shoreline protection works and provided positive comments to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

The shoreline protection work was completed in 2004/5 at a cost of approximately $2 million.

Required zoning was approved in June 2006 for a design that included:

A 22 story tower with 100 units

A 7 story tower with 50 units

A 7 storey hotel

2,270 m2 of ground floor commercial space

A publicly accessible center courtyard with a water feature and stairs to the lake

188 residential plus 272 non-residential parking spaces

A narrow floor plate for the 22 story building

All this was approved subject to:

        A cash in lieu of parkland payment

       An agreement of purchase and sale for land exchange.

       Section 41 and Section 37 Planning Act Agreements being signed.

       The H (Holding) designation requires land acquisition, utility planning, Record of Site  Condition and wind study to be completed before it can be removed.

All this was done and the implementing by-law was approved by Council on June 15, 2009.

Can you see …

You can see where all this is going.  The rules and regulations that apply to this site and this development are getting stiffer and more stringent, which puts the developer in a bit of a bind.  You can expect the developer to be hiring planners, lawyers or other advocates to plead for the time and other considerations needed to get this project done.

Mayor Goldring has an opportunity to show a different kind of leadership and take the city in a direction former Mayor MacIsaac wasn't able to take it. He has a very full plate with the Pier, which is now under control, the hospital that isn't under control, the Beachway which has all kinds of potential and then the Mayrose Tycon property and the Old Lakeshore Precinct.

Well since 2009  The Pier took over the front pages and while it has cost us a bundle, it will become the landmark the city has been looking for – and The Pier is at least being built.

When the Conservation people served their notice on Mayrose Tycon they were upping the anti and telling Mayrose Tycon that if you don`t do something by the end of December you will be subject to a bigger set back from the edge of the lake – which could be as much as 15 to 20 feet.  That means the developer has less land to build on – and the last thing a develop wants is to tangle with regulators, especially Conservation people.

The Mayrose Tycon people have been given more than a handful of breaks and the city along with the Conservation people want to see some movement.  This is certainly putting some pressure on the owners of the property but there are other events taking place that have the possibility of the city losing all control over the development of the Old Lakeshore Precinct of the city – which is the land from about Brant Street east to about Martha Street.

The waterfront file was once THE Councillor Meed Ward domain but she has backed a bit away from this one of late.

Within the area there is a piece of land referred to as the football because of its shape.  The western tip is currently occupied by a real estate office; that land is owned by a family trust.  The eastern tip is now owned by the Carnacelli group that also owns the property on the corner of John and Brant Streets, right opposite city Hall.

Carnacelli also has a property in Hamilton that is under active development – and while developers like to build things they do so only when the economy is favourable to profitable development and right now the economy isn’t capable of absorbing all that the city would like to see developed.

Also developers have to raise the money needed to bring these opportunities on line.  The people with money are reluctant to put their money at risk these days.

Has the Burlington market for high end condo`s been maxed out?    The city certainly needs class A office space but developers look for a client before they put shovels in the ground and Mayrose hasn’t, at least not to date, managed to find someone who want to locate in Burlington on the edge of the lake.

The developers are now realizing that the different civic authorities they have to deal with do have some clout.  The Conservation Authority has basically said to Mayrose Tycon – get a wiggle on.

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