Council having a tough time getting through all the reports: developer isn’t having a problem.

By Pepper Parr

March 25, 2014


There was a lot of energy lost, a lot of huffing and puffing as well as a lot of sometimes silly back and forth taking place yesterday at city council.

The Official Plan review is producing document after document which some members of council are finding it hard to keep up with.

The Planning department had distributed copies of two very significant reports; one was the final Phase 2 of the Employment Lands study and the other was a Commercial Strategy Study, it came in two parts, Phase 2 and Phase 3 reports.

Consultants were on hand to take council through the documents and we will report on what they had to say in a follow up report. Several members of Council commented that “these were weighty documents” and they needed time to fully understand and appreciate what was in the documents – and the contents were significant.

The team developing the documents that the public gets to see as part of the Official Plan Review has not produced very much on their progress – they have been busy getting the documents ready  for distribution.

During the phase the planners are in they hope – and they do have their fingers crossed, to achieve the following.  Expect some slippage on the schedule – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

  • “Full Launch” of engagement strategy
  • Implement approved workplan
  • Engage on the collective vision for the city and potential directions
  • Gain deeper understanding of issues, questions and opportunities
  • Identify and assess emerging directions to inform policy development

Ward 3 Councillor John Taylor is all smiles here as he waves three reports that were given to council yesterday; he wasn’t all smiles when he fumed at the overload and the time he wasn’t being given to read and absorb the content. Other council members said they too needed more time.

Several council members were overwhelmed with the content and wanted more time to review the contents.  The problem is that the OPR team is running up against problems with the calendar.

Council members want more time to review the documents; they also want to meet in what they call a Workshop setting where they can ask the consultants all kinds of questions and do what in the recent past has proven to be some very solid interaction where members of council learn and fully understand what is in the consultant’s reports.

The Official Plan Review team has a huge task on their hands and they have to juggle a number of research projects at the same time and manage to find time for real public engagement. The above sets out the projects that all have to be eventually pulled together to create what will become the city’s official plan for the next five years.

Traditionally, staff transmits documents to council that are then in the public domain.  The Planning department then prepares its report on the consultant’s document and then that report – the one written by the planners – is debated at a council Standing Committee meeting.

This Council wants to change that approach.  They want to hold a workshop at which they discuss the consultant’s report with the consultants in an open session.  The Planning staff would take part in the workshop.

Then, after getting a sense of where the members of city council are going with their thinking – planning staff would write their reports that would include recommendations that council would debate and accept or reject.

The calendar and the time schedule that the OPR team have to work with is going to make this very tight.  And, there are some professional concerns.  The city has a well-paid and very qualified staff (those words came from the city planner – not me) and they have to be given the time to discuss and debate as planners what will work and what will not work for Burlington.  The consultants are people we hire, explained Bruce Krushelnicki and we accept or reject what they suggest.

There is a tremendous amount of work to be done and some very hard thinking as well.  These two reports are critical to how the city approaches its economic development.  And without a significant change in its economic development Burlington as a city has some very real problems.

While the city figures out how it wants to handle the reports the people over at Paletta, who own the biggest chunk of those employment lands know what they want to do.  In a letter sent to the city WHEN they said:

Paletta International Corporation (“PIC”), the owner of approximately  120 hectares of land located west of Burloak Drive between Upper Middle Road and Mainway, known as Bronte Creek Meadows (“BCM”).  BCM has a long history which is known to many Councilors and Staff.

In their letter PIC disagreed sharply with the direction the consultants reports were going and said that BCM is not “part of a strategic concentration of employment lands”.  

PCI said at that time, December 21, 201, that they were continuing to review some of the more technical aspects of the Draft Study but that “even at this early stage it is clear that the draft report is premised on a fatally flawed assumption; namely, that BCM is part of a strategic concentration of employment lands. In fact, BCM has no strategic locational advantages for employment purposes. It has no access to rail, no visibility to 400 series highways and relatively poor access to 400 series highways.

The document went on to say that PCI “has cooperated with the City in marketing the site for employment purposes for many years with no success.

As such, PIC does not support the conclusions of the Draft report in respect of BCM and will oppose any attempt to impose a secondary plan for employment uses on these lands. A secondary plan would be a waste of resources as the lands are not attractive for employment uses.  A secondary plan will not change that essential fact.

Also included in the information given to council was a second letter from Paletta dated March 24th, 2014 in which they said they had serious problems with the “methodology and conclusions” used by the consultants.  Clearly, Paletta had read the reports and figured out very quickly where there interests were being pinched.  Why is it that the Paletta people can read faster than those on city council?

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1 comment to Council having a tough time getting through all the reports: developer isn’t having a problem.

  • Roger

    City staff – well paid yes – well qualified – some are – most are not – The lands in question have been challenged by PIC since Mike Wallace was councillor however the city has always held it’s ground including Mayor Goldring who was the Ward 5 councillor – the PIC lands fall into Ward 5.

    The present councillor or to be shortly known as Lets Make a Deal – please see discussion on the Sutton / Dundas development for reference seems to have the most at stake and with an election on the horizon has been quite quiet on the matter.

    The lands need remain employment lands and not sold as some green space townhouse developement with excellent access to Bronte Creek Provincial Park.

    However as a city they is up for sale then open for business one wonders – if there is value in the money for the staff who are to be managing the information.