Council approved an expropriation and voted for a Staff Direction that might make a difference -then left the room for six weeks – sweet!

backgrounder 100By Pepper Parr

July 21, 2014


The Skyway Plaza, an east end commercial location that is as close to a suburban slum as Burlington is going to see, has suddenly become headline news – especially in ward 5, where Councillor Paul Sharman senses he might be facing a tough opponent in the October municipal election.


Forlorn looking Skyway Plaza – looking for someone to save the place – but the owners seems content to leave it as it is. Has the Council member made the site an election issue?

There is a basement bowling alley that hasn’t been used in years.  There was once a Swiss Chalet; the Shoppers Drug Mart has a very faded sign and you’ll not have a problem getting a parking spot.  To the rear of the plaza, there is a single pad arena that could use an upgrade.

Councillor Sharman has been doing everything he can for the past three years to get something going, but has gotten absolutely no traction with the absentee owner of the property.  At one Standing Committee meeting, then city manager, Jeff Fielding suggested that the city could pool the property it has to the rear of the plaza and come up with a major development opportunity.  What would it take to get to that point, asked Sharman?  A staff direction would get us started, replied Fielding.  But that wasn’t enough.

Sharman has made phone calls – dropped into offices in Toronto – nothing.

When Council went  into a Workshop setting a week or so ago to look at ideas and opportunities to put some oomph into the commercial side of the city’s finances – Sharman was all over the idea of doing something with the best opportunity he has of raising his profile during an election year.

During that Workshop July 7th, mention was made of Community Improvement Programs (CIP).  There wasn’t much more than a mention of CIP’s during the Workshop, but that mention was enough to get Sharman moving.

At the city council meeting of the 14th, Councillor Sharman put forward what Councillor Taylor called a Walk On motion, that few saw before it was actually presented.  Sharman didn’t inform his colleagues – other than the mayor – but he did manage to get a majority of council to allow the motion.

Sharman explained in a telephone conversation. that getting the memo on the motion he had planned to put forward was left in the hands of the Clerk.  Apparently planner Bruce Kruchelnicki was drafting at least a part of the document and was to send it along to the Clerk – who apparently failed to get it out to the other members of Council.

That comes pretty close to saying the dog ate my homework excuse – limp and lame if you ask me.

Much of the debate on the Sharman motion was at times contentious, if not nasty, but they managed to agree on a Staff Direction that went as follows:


Direct the Director of Planning and Building and request the Executive Director of the Burlington Economic Development Corporation as follows:

  • Prepare a series of re-development options for the site based on intensive mixed use re-development and approach the owners of the property with the redevelopment plans; and
  • Investigate and report on the authority available to permit the use of incentives for re-developing the site, and
  • Provide an estimate of the resources needed to prepare and implement a Community Improvement Plan. (SD-23-14)

A Recorded Vote was requested by Councillor Dennison on the above recommendation, resulting in the following:

IN FAVOUR:          Councilors Craven, Dennison, Sharman, Lancaster and Mayor Goldring

No one in Halton has done a CIP in more than 20 years; no one seemed to know all that much about the things – until Councillor Meed Ward informed Council that the downtown development group knew all about the things and that all they had to do was ask Special Business Area Coordinator Jody Wellings, who has been looking for ways to make a CIP work for the downtown core and Aldershot, but no one has actually asked Ms Wellings to do anything – yet.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s the provincial government made some money available for CIP type projects – but that tap got turned off and it isn’t likely to get turned on again.

However Wellings knows her stuff and she will get more than a chance to set out some of the potential at a meeting planned for tomorrow.  Unusual for a team to get put together quite that fast. Is the force behind all this the Sharman Staff Direction or is it the EDC exercising some of the muscle it is supposed to have?

What was evident during the debate was the total lack of process – matters like this get brought to a Standing Committee, where input from staff enhances the debate.  But that wasn’t the route Councillor Sharman wanted to take – he has an election he wants to win, and he needs an issue that puts more space between him and what looks like a strong contender.


The city owned area, with a very large play field area is right behind the plaza – this is what the city hopes to attract developers to – possible?

With discussion about spending money for community improvement elsewhere in Burlington on the table, Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven mentioned that Aldershot likes the look of those Community Improvement Projects as well.

The reformed Economic Development Corporation (EDC) looks as if it is going to become the financial saviour of the city.  During the workshop on the 7th – several references were made on how the EDC could work with the city and the role it would play in getting the Skyway Plaza situation fixed.  Executive Director Frank McKeown was in the audience, but he wasn’t taking notes.

The EDC board met for the first time on the 15th – the day after Council approved the Staff Direction requesting that it jump into bed with the city on this one.  Sharman is a city representative on the EDC board.

New marketplace a few blocks away

The elephant in the room is the massive shopping centre planned for the other side of the Burlington/ Oakville border – blocks away from Skyway.

Why all the fuss and bother over a Council Workshop and a Staff Direction?  Burlington now knows that it cannot expect to pull in the kind of revenue it used to on development charges – it now has to expand the tax base on the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) sector and it has reformed the EDC to make that happen.

The end run that Sharman did at Council before it rose for the summer looked like corporate shenanigans – not a good sign.

The expropriation done at Plains Road left at lot to be desired in terms of the way a property owner was treated.  More on that on another day.



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1 comment to Council approved an expropriation and voted for a Staff Direction that might make a difference -then left the room for six weeks – sweet!

  • Steve Robinson

    Wow the Orwellian “intensification” or in real life the “overcrowding” of Burlington is in full swing. How long before the progressive urban planners start looking at our parks to stuff high density dwellings in?