Council decides to endorse the Official Plan put in front of them- Councillor Dennison reluctantly says 'this is what we have to do'.

News 100 blueBy Staff

March 2, 2018


This article has been edited – changes shown in red.

It will be seen as a defining week for the city.

After more than 25 hours of debate and discussion city Council approved a motion directing the Planning department to proceed with preparing the draft for a city council  vote on March 19th.

The document then gets sent to the Region where it has to be approved.  It is expected that the Plan will clear the Region sometime in 2019.

The debate was intense and passionate.  More than 20 citizens appeared before council saying they didn’t like or want what the Planning department was saying the city had to have – an Official Plan that could be defended.

Many wanted council to defer the approving of an Official Plan until after the October municipal election, when, they hoped, a new council would be elected and a different Official Plan written.

The Planning department argued that the city had to go with what they had and council agreed with them.

Is Ward 4 Councillor JAckl Dennison walking into one of theose "Gunfights at the OK Corral"

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison reluctantly votes for the draft Official Plan.

Jack Dennison, council member for ward 4 and a member of city council for more than 20 years prepared a statement that he read out before the vote was taken. He was the only politician to prepare a statement.

Councillor Paul Sharman did not take part in the debate – he was away attending an event that had been scheduled before the debate dates were put in place.

Dennison said:

“I recognize the desperate need to get our new Official Plan approved so that we are more in line with the Provincial Policy statements on growth and intensification. Our current Official Plan and Zoning By-laws are out of line with those Provincial plans.

“We the city should be able to successfully defend our new official plan heights and densities.

“That said, I still have difficulty with the proposed Official Plan where entire city blocks have an Official Plan height of 17 storeys or less. Every property owner thinks their property can be developed to that height without consideration for variety of heights.

“To solve this problem, we have to either be site specific for tall buildings and shorter variety heights or specify 25% of the city block allow 12-17 storeys, 50% be 5-6 storeys, and 25% be 2-3 storeys. This would allow movement within the blocks to create variety.

In a conversation with Councillor Dennison to clarify just how the percentages he was talking about above would apply he said that he was assuming that the block would have been assembled and that a developer had gone to the Planning department.  Dennison said that under those circumstances 25% of the city block could be 2-17 storeys, 50% could be 5-6 storeys, and 25% could be 2-3 storeys

“I totally disagree with the east side of Brant Street north of Blairholm Avenue having heights of 7 – 25 storeys, immediately adjacent to single-family residential.

“The west side of north Brant is proposed at 10-25 storeys but at least has a 3-storey podium next to Brant.

“The 39 proposed by Official Plan team is more than 4 times present and approved; 26 proposed by Jack is less than 3 times present and approved.

(The numbers refer to development projects.)

“Further I want the OP and zoning bylaws to be in lock step and we aggressively defend the new OP and Zoning.

“The specific blocks I take issue with include:

1. Gore Variety: instead of 17, 6 and 3 ; have 6, 8 and 3.

2. 421 Brant Street North to Birch Avenue: instead of 3,6,8 and 11 ; have a variety of 3, 6, 8 and 11 with only every second block having an 11-storey building.

421 Brant st frontage

This block of buildings will be replaced by the approved 23 story structure that will rise across the street from city hall. The citizens are looking at a much different downtown Burlington.

421 Brant

That this building will be constructed is a certainty. There are those who will attempt to appeal the decision to build it – recent Ontario Municipal Board decision has made it clear that any appeal will fail.

3. 409 Brant Street (Elizabeth Interiors): instead of 3 to 17, have a maximum of 3 to 14 storeys and certainly not 24 storeys.

4. Esso Station at Locust and Lakeshore Road: specify 17 storeys at the back by the Parking Garage and 3 storeys at Lakeshore Road.

5. Modify the block at the northwest corner of James and Elizabeth have a maximum height of 8 storeys like City Hall, not 17 storeys.

6. Modify the block on the south side of Caroline Street between Brant and Locust to have a podium of 3 storeys and not exceed 6 storeys instead of 11 storeys.

7. Modify No Frills plaza to have a maximum height of 14 storeys, not 17, and the Brant Street building to not exceed 4 storeys instead of 6.

8. Modify the Leggat property to have a maximum height of 14 storeys, not 17, and a maximum at Brant Street of 4 storeys, not 6.

“We do not want walls of building on our primary roads, Lakeshore, Brant and throughout our downtown.  But as I already said, I have no choice but to support the approval of the proposed Official Plan.”

Dennison statement raises a lot of issues that the Planning department is going to have to deal with going forward.  Dennison doesn’t want a solid block along Brant Street to consist of one 17 storey building after another – the problem is who gets to decide which piece of property can rise to 17 storeys and which has to settle for significantly less?

There was a lot of debate between staff and members of council on just what the long term implications will be with this Official Plan.

growbold-847x254When the Planning department set out to write the new Official Plan they came up with the phrase: Grow Bold, Grow Smart. Grow Beautiful.  Only time will tell if they got it right.

And only time will tell of the citizens who don’t like what they think they see at this point will succeed in creating enough opposition to bring about a change when the election takes place in October.

The problem the city has is that the existing Official Plan cannot be successfully defended – the Ontario Municipal Board taught us that.

The planners see their role as “city building” – the people they are responsible to – the public, are the city builders.

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9 comments to Council decides to endorse the Official Plan put in front of them- Councillor Dennison reluctantly says ‘this is what we have to do’.

  • Mae

    Jack Dennison…said But as I already said, I have no choice but to support the approval of the proposed Official Plan.”
    Jack, spoken like a true politician. Out of both sides of your mouth trying to cover all your bases. If you dont like the plan why vote for it?

    I truly hope come election time…we get ourselves a new council and a new mayor. Wake up Burlington.

  • Perry Bowker

    “The problem the city has is that the existing Official Plan cannot be successfully defended – the Ontario Municipal Board taught us that.”

    Another way of explaining the problem is that the city serially mis-managed the OMB hearings and got spanked. For example, ADI argued that his building should be approved because the city approved the one now being built across the street. Apparently the City argued that that approval was for a ‘landmark’ or somesuch, when an honest rebuttal would have been that a previous council approved it two decades ago and approval was grandfathered, but two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • EOB

    I question why “This is what we have to do” when it is so wrong.
    Why is Council determined to go ahead with a plan that has been shown time and again through citizens’ delegations to be a poor one and not what serves the best interests of the city ?

    I attended this meeting and was astounded that Councillors did not defer the approval vote after questioning the planners and receiving answers which in my opinion were technically based on the legislation they worked with, but appeared to have no flexibility with regard to what we who live here see as huge problems.

    We saw more than one example of mistakes that are not fixable because it is too late.
    So logically shouldn’t we postpone the vote until all justifications and details are in place in order for us not to have this continue to happen? ( ADI being a glaring example) Shouldn’t it be air tight ?

    Planners clearly think this should go through.
    The Chair warned against opening a Pandora’s Box and Councillors apparently took this warning to heart.

    This is not a Pandora’s Box. It is our city’s future and needs to be “opened” and fixed.

  • D.Duck

    The larger cities of Ontario should all review what decisions the OMB granted or did not grant over the last 5yrs. I’m assuming there will be a disproportionate number of ‘developers & perhaps certain developers’ getting OMB approval over the city’s OP.

    This makes a case for the cities, as a group if the above is true, to appeal the OMB findings to Ontario’s Appeal Court on the ground of bias and thus hopefully overturning some of these decisions or remove/overhaul the OMB itself.

    Just because there is a ‘Provincial Policy statements on growth and intensification’ does not mean that a City’s OP must adhere to the full extent of this policy statement. The City’s Planning Department is not the lap dog of the Provincial gov’t du jour and Burlington’s City council should be voicing and hence voting as per their constituents who put them into office.

  • Susie

    WOW!!! As we all know from our past experiences with the City defending anything, that this has not been the case in the last three hi-rises that have flown through, either due to a selective late submission of direction, or just not caring. With this comment, the heights of developers requests will effortlessly be met, $$$$. City had their chance to show us they can work on our behalf, and have done nothing! Secondly, as far as being so concerned about meeting the Provincial Policy on growth and intensification, we never opposed those words, we just opposed the “location of such”!! Seems that the City is selective in hearing what they want to hear, and for simplicity sake are moving forward with what is in the Official Plan, with no sense or reasoning to what is right for the downtown. Believe they all know that they are on their way out as of election, so are making their move now while they still have the upper hand to do so. We will very shortly be onto the City for lower than the COL in taxes as they will have such surplus $$$$ to spend so freely and foolishly!! Perhaps we need to question: Who do the Council answer to? Secondly, can we save by a decision that Council Members are not needed, and thereby a huge savings to the taxpayers? We need to get serious!

  • Roger

    Jack is saving his tail – so he can be reelected this fall – if his ward is smart they will send him to the unemployment line – to often politicians say – I had no choice – funny thing with democracy – we have a choice

  • “The problem the city has is that the existing Official Plan cannot be successfully defended – the Ontario Municipal Board taught us that.”

    My reading of the ruling is that the city staff did not present one single theory as to why the building height should be limited at this location. They have placed no such theory into the new Official Plan.

    Thus, nothing limits the heights of these buildings as every piece of logic presented by the city says “The higher the better.” Because as noted; Burlington is a science project for them – not a place they live.

  • Penny

    It is very interesting that Jack Dennison has so many issues with the proposed new Official Plan but voted to move ahead. Would a resident go ahead with building a home using a design that did not work for them – I would think they would go back and ask for changes before putting their own funds to move ahead. This may be a very simplistic approach, however, it is logical.

    As for defending the Official Plan at the OMB – The planner for ADI said right up front while delegating that the reason the City lost at the OMB was because the City could not produce any justification for 11 or 16 or 17 storeys, at the ADI site. It seems that at the hearing the planners were negotiating heights. I was under the impression that this could only be done by Council. It had nothing to do with their current official plan being outdated. If the information I received was incorrect, please let me know. THE QUESTION THE PUBLIC SHOULD BE ASKING IS WHY THE CITY WAS NOT PREPARED WITH ARGUMENTS TO JUSTIFY THE HEIGHT ALLOWANCES?

    It was also mentioned by delegates that moving forward with the new official plan could result in much more litigation for the City.

    Both Councillors and residents have been asking for a 3D model of the precincts, especially the most contentious ones from Lakeshore to Caroline and were told by James Ridge that “this was not possible, that it would take too much time and would cost a fortune” . ECoB has been looking into this and this can be done by the end of March at the latest and would not cost a fortune, especially since the City has the CAD Files. I would ask that Council revisit this request. ECoB will pursue this if the City does not. The residents have a right to know just what their city might look like in the next 10 years. Forget 50 years down the road, things change.


    This in my opinion is Spin….If our transit system isn’t great how can we move ahead with towers of high rise buildings without knowing how we are going to get people from point A-B. No one has said that they are not in favour of growth or intensification – residents want balanced intensification built on a solid foundation of transit, and infrastructure that can sustain this increased population in all areas of the City. There are lands designated Employment that could be rezoned. These areas could create a community within a community that would include residential, and employment opportunities, and take the pressure off other areas in the City to reach the growth targets mandated by the Province. Revisiting the downtown core as a mobility or anchor hub with the Province is also a possibility. Has this been actively investigated? This is something both council and residents have asked for.

    When ECoB met with Mary Lou Tanner and her planning staff, the first question we asked was”how many of you live in Burlington? The answer was none”.

    It is time to ask the City to THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX. What they do now will affect Burlington for generations. Is it right that 7 Council members make such a momentous decision when they and the residents have so many unanswered questions?

  • Phillip

    I remember a famous debate between John Turner and Brian Mulroney during a federal election in which John Turner said, “I had no choice (but to make a number of patronage appointments)” and was destroyed when Mulroney retorted, “You had a choice sir, you could have said NO…..” Is this any different? Council could have taken a principaled stand but didn’t–not that a believe a pro-development councillor like Dennison would have done so. In any case, I doubt the region will approve this plan in 2019 when a new mayor and council will likely rip it up in the meantime. Interesting times!