Council being asked to endorse what the planners think the city needs

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

September 30th, 2020



City Council is meeting today as a Standing Committee that is preparing to endorse the recommendation from the Planning department on a Scoped Review of the downtown portion of an Official Plan that was approved in xx 2018, went to the Region for approval – the Region returned the Official Plan pointing to four areas that did not comply with the Regional Official Plan.

In sending the plan back to be made conforming with the Region the invited the city to make additional changes.

That allowed the current city council to make all the changes they thought the city needed.

That process, which began in 2018 is coming to a head today.
It is a convoluted, complex process, evident in the graph set out below.

time line

A complex process that is coming to a head at council today.

The consult the city hired is doing a superb job; planning staff have set new heights in terms of the community outreach they have done.

Some of it has been excellent – what has not been all that excellent is the public participation. There were walking tours that had less than 20 people. The Action Labs were an interesting approach.

The city has gone through two Planning directors – the difference between the two has been very evident.

Councillors are facing a full day’s work. The delegations and letters sent to council went from a through to r. A lot of people want to be on the record for this run at getting an Official Plan in place that can change the way the city will grow as it faces significant population growth targets.

The Gazette will report in detail on what was said and who said it.

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7 comments to Council being asked to endorse what the planners think the city needs

  • Sharon

    All I know is another tall development is going to block my water view. Short sighted perhaps but after the developers just keep winning. Why is that do you suppose?

  • “What has not been excellent is the public participation” Gazette. The public who are able to participate in day time meetings after spending multiple hours reading very complex material and amendments proposed by Meed Ward and Kearns are very clear – “This speaks to our final major issue – the implicit cynicism of the consultation process and the lack of MEANINGFUL (our emphasis) public engagement” authors Blair Smith, Gary Scobie, Lynn Crosby. These are three very long term engaged citizens who worked hard to keep Burlington from amalgamation and lots of other stuff. They seemingly have lost heart in delegations as they did not appear at the lectern yesterday. Perhaps they now thoroughly understand the way this Council works and whose interests and career paths come first. In our opinion based on over thirty years of auditing the Burlington City Council and Committee process against legislative requirements the Me at the beginning of Meed Ward says it all.

    Kearns and Meed Ward got together to propose 6 amendments to the city experts position. Planning experts they have entrusted with ensuring the policies around the OP are defensible. It was clear from the first vote that back room discussions had taken place to have four councillors over-rule the advice given by the experts we pay to protect our city’s planning proposals.

    Being an appellant at LPAT has given us more information than the average citizen in terms of how this city works that is contrary to what we are supposed to have in terms of public engagement.

    The record and the 31 appeals before LPAT is very clear that private citizens and expert delegations alike were ignored in January 2020. Now we are paying the price as the city hires outside counsel to inform the Tribunal they now agree with what they were told in January 2020 and ignored. The meeting of September 30, 2020 saw four elected councillors to three ignore what our city planners say are sound and defensible planning policies. It is only sound and defensible planning policies that can give the victory at LPAT. Definitely not three rookie councillors and an ambitious mayor who has gone back to school to learn what we expected her to know after 8 years as mayor-in-waiting setting aside what we are assured are sound planning principles we pay our staff to provide.

    Heather McDonald was very clear the amendments were unnecessary. Everything was in place with their recommendations to properly defend what the public had made clear they want. If Gazette readers care about good planning principles as opposed to grandstanding councillors who want us to believe “they and they alone are saving downtown and the rest of Burlington from the inevitable” do not ignore the last chance you have at Council to change one mind of the four and ensure LPAT will rule on sound planning principles as opposed to what three rookie councillors and a very ambitious Mayor believe at the LPAT appeals that will no doubt follow.

    There is always room for one or two changes to planning edicts to ensure they are a city-wide proposal BUT what happened yesterday was ridiculous.

    Let’s show the stuff Burlington citizens are made of. The victory is always sweeter when you have played a part. Make sure you understand what happened at Committee yesterday and have your say at Council where the recommendations may be approved or rejected.


    • Perryb

      There is no question that public engagement is difficult when complex issues are involved. One thing that makes them complex is that at the level of neighborhoods, broad policies can have unintended consequences. It was appropriate for the mayor and coucillors to intervene with amendments to the planning staff recommendations. After all they do represent their citizens. In another gazette article, it is noted that many planners are new to the city. They may understand planning, but they do not understand the city, its history, its traditions, its vibe. The combined effort is a testament to teamwork and leadership. Regrettably, the next step will be to sell it to the Province and the developer’s court (excuse me, LPAT) who are far less interested in the realties on the ground than with the profits to be had through visions of metastatic growth. Too bad our MPP has gone underground since election day.

      • Unfortunately Perry LPAT is a legal process that utilizes legal concepts that are not based on what developers or citizens would like. That is exactly how we got the 28 storey building opposite city hall because we were caught up in a bad Council decision to call a bus stop an MTSA believing it would bring money into the city coffers. We are willing to stand corrected but as we understand it the current Mayor was part of that decision or did nothing to change it until very recently and long after the implications were understood and MPP McKenna presented a road out (immediately after elected).

        This bad decision and this alone rendered OMB with no alternative other than to abide by the legislation that is there to protect us all from those who make decisions without understanding the legal implications. When appellants can show the legislation is on their side and the city totally ignored correspondence and delegations who clearly presented these legal facts to them over and over again taxpayers become the losers and developers, LPAT/OMB and opposing Council members are wrongly labelled the villains who only care about money and currying favor with developers. Go back to the webcast and you will see Heather McDonald repeatedly stating the issues brought to the table by the amendments were covered by their policies that utilized best planning principles and were defensible in terms of what “public engagement” said Burlington wanted. There are many in the community who now understand the best way to get most of what they want is to talk to the developers before the applications hit the appropriate city desk.

        We agree that Council can and should suggest amendments based on public opinions but not on this scale and contrary to what the experts believe are good planning practices – it is a recipe for disaster that will only be felt after those involved have gone on to the next step in their career plans. Take a close look at the mess Civic Square is in. City planners listened to the public came up with a good plan and the rookie council sent it back to the drawing board. The current state of disrepair and rotting significant heritage memorials (the fountain) is not a good indicator to who we in Burlington are.

  • Ed Dorr

    Whatever the City comes up with as far as a new Official Plan, in real life it will not stop the developers from asking for major amendments which will eventually be supported by LPAT or end up in settlement agreements where the developers get their way. All just like the last four years under the still valid old Official Plan. Too many precedents have been set.

    • O. Scop

      Absolutely agree. Perhaps, you could provide some insight into what happened with 2100 Brant St. The City has released their version of events and, to date, it remains unchallenged. I’m sure that you want to get your side of the story out there as well.

  • perry b

    As I am listening to the committee proceedings right now in real time, it is instructive and disappointing to see a clear division in council, with the three men in charge of more remote wards against everything, and the men and women actually responsible to the central and near downtown areas in support of some very needed changes. Hmmm