Council passes a new Official Plan

Newsflash 100By Pepper Parr

October 7th, 2020



At 10:26 am, Burlington city council approved their version of an Official Plan.

MMW Spec Coun meet OP

Mayor Meed Ward chairing an historic city council meeting – the day Council approved a new Official Plan. Did she break out the champagne?

For Mayor Meed Ward it was a Hallelujah moment.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman did not vote for approval of the plan.

In her comments Meed Ward said: “This is a very pleasing moment.”

In 2018 the then Council approved and adopted a plan that would have permitted 30 high rise buildings in the down town core as well as a 117 storey tower in Village Square, said Meed Ward. She added that she was the only person to vote against that plan at the time.

Mayor Meed Ward

Marianne Meed Ward – Moments before being sworn into office.

Shortly after the plan was approved by the 2014-18 Council Meed Ward got herself elected as Mayor with a significantly different council.

That council chose to do numerous studies that got them to where they are today which the Mayor said was a fully transparent process. The level of transparency is questionable – something we will detail in a separate article.

There were concerns about the nine amendments Meed Ward put on the table. She said this morning that Staff are in place to give Council their best thinking but that Council had a “more and ethical responsibility” to reflect the views of the people that voted them into office.

“Council is not a rubber stamp” she added.

It is a big day for this Council.

Only the future will tell if the right decisions were made – which is what politics is all about.

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17 comments to Council passes a new Official Plan

  • Lynn, Blair and Gary

    Mr. Barker – any democratic society functions best when there is the free and respectful exchange of ideas and divergent views. However, occasionally one voice gains a proportionately and inappropriately greater weight simply due to the frequency of its use. We believe that such has occurred here. You repeatedly challenge the authenticity and expertise of those who have opposed the direction of yourself and Council and you do so with neither full understanding nor validity. We respect your right to have a differing opinion if not the actual opinion itself. Perhaps you could allow others to freely express theirs without repeated, persistent and rather tedious challenge. We got your point the first time.”

    • david barker

      Lynn, Blair, Gary

      As I understand it the publisher allows anyone to politely and respectfully make comments here; comments both on the content of the specific article and on the comments made by others in that regard. I have no power to prevent anyone from posting a comment. However if a comment is posted the author should likely expect commentary on it, either supportive or opposing whether by me, or you or any other reader. It is all a part of as you say “the free and respectful exchange of ideas and divergent views”.

      Ask yourselves why would I need to repeatedly challenge yours and others comments? Answer is simple. You keep repeating them. So what you are saying it is ok for ECoB, WLB, you guys individually to continually and often express your views, but it’s not ok for me to do so or challenge your comments. That seems a bit one sided, no?

      You also say “However, occasionally one voice gains a proportionately and inappropriately greater weight simply due to the frequency of its use.” I and others might feel that is exactly what is happening with WLB & ECoB. Two unelected advocacy groups, themselves appear somewhat undemocratic in their operations, which may be viewed by other residents as receiving greater standing than they deserve and certainly greater standing than individual residents.

      You further say “You repeatedly challenge the authenticity and expertise of those who have opposed the direction of yourself and Council and you do so with neither full understanding nor validity.” Yes, I do. I question your ability to judge my understanding of the matter. To say I do not have a full understanding is very condescending. As to “validity” I note neither WLB nor ECoB provide any proof that either group has the equivalent planning expertise to that of the City’s Planning Department or the professional outside experts engaged by the City. And yet in your view, your two groups – unlike me, as you have said – are qualified to challenge the City’s experts.

      As long as posts are made that I feel deserve comment or challenge or support I shall continue to comment and exercise the free speech you seem to want to deny me.

      Respectfully, in my view your comment to which I am responding, does neither of your groups any credit.

      • Lynn, Blair and Gary


        • david barker

          It’s notable that you still have not addressed the planning expertise question.

          Not sure what you think has been proven and by whom. But if saying Q.E.D. that makes you feel good; well then great.


  • Don Fletcher

    I score Paul Sharman A+ for courage, C- for teamwork. I’m undecided about intelligence.
    The bottom line is that the proposed OP, however well-intended and resident-supported, is still LPAT-appealable, and we know how persistent & persuasive developers can be. Stay tuned because the fat lady (forgive me, feminists) has yet to sing!

  • James

    Councillor Sharman’s vote speaks volumes if anyone was paying attention. As the only Councillor with any experience, he knows something the rookie Councillors do not. Unlike some that used today as an opportunity to read pre-written speeches and pat each other on the back, he asked a few tough questions, questions that still needed to be asked.

    Councillors Galbraith and Bentivegna casually expressed concerns, but after suffering through nearly two years of downtown fatigue they decided to go along with it just to be done with it, hoping that Council could finally start dealing with other pressing matters that have long been placed on the backburner.

    Councillor Sharman however through his line of questioning determined that both the hired outside professional planner and in-house planning staff could not support the Mayor’s last minute amendments because there was no planning rationale to support them. They may serve a political purpose, but do not represent good planning. He then pointedly asked the Executive Director of Planning if that means that if and when this Official Plan gets appealed by anyone, could City planning staff support and defend their own Official Plan at LPAT? She said no! I repeat, she said no! Giant red flags anyone? ((If I heard this incorrectly please correct me because this is important)) Wisely, he then voted in opposition. The Mayor and remainder of Council heard this exchange but seemed predetermined to push this through. Ignoring the long term consequences for the sake of a short term political celebration, they chose to support it. The Mayor will no doubt claim this as a victory and say she delivered what she was elected to deliver. But did she? Or did she just hand the key to the City over to LPAT?

    Today was a very important day for Burlington, one that will undoubtedly come back to haunt everyone that has fought so hard to protect the downtown core. Tonight I suspect both the Mayor and downtown developers will be popping champagne corks, but for totally different reasons.

    • david barker

      I hear you. But only time will tell. First the region must approve the OP. Maybe if your view is correct the Region may view the amendments and sent the OP back to the City.

      I wonder what yours and others reactions would have been had Council come back with zoning bylaws that allowed higher towers than this OP does because Planning Department had said it could not support a lower limit. Would you and others have then criticized Council for not having a backbone because it did not do what it said it would do?

      I have no first hand knowledge of what went on at Committee. Would the Gazette please comment on the interaction between Sharman and the Executive Director of Planning and in particular the Executive Director’s view on the amendments?

      Editor’s note: All in due course.

  • Penny Hersh

    Pepper, I will have to disagree with your editorial note.

    ECoB approached MPP Jane McKenna in June 2018 to ask for her assistance in determining if it was possible to move the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, as well as the un-designation of the John Street Bus Terminal and what needed to be done to accomplish this.

    MPP Jane McKenna provided this information to us and then in her Fall 2018 Newsletter made it public.

    This has nothing to do with the Marsden’s using the Gazette as a platform” to flout their support for the MPP”.

    • david barker

      @PennyHersh Assuming the MPP was correct and the contents of her letter were made available to Council, please would you opine on why you think that none of the members of Council, the City’s Planning Department, nor the expert outside planning experts engaged did not just immediately jump on that and get it done? It seems strange that a Council intent upon doing all possible to curb the developers were not so clued in as ECoB. I assume you must have a thought on that.

      • David that is the question everyone has been repeatedly raising. It was an election promise they would do exactly that. Perhaps it was because Meed Ward did not want to have a PC government MPP show the way as to how to correct the former government and council’s mess up that resulted in the high towers Meed Ward was canvassing on would not happen on her watch.

        • david barker

          Or perhaps it was not just as simple as that? Has that crossed your mind, huh?

          Even if suggested by the MPP, Meed-Ward in getting it done would still have garnered the kudos for getting it done, don’t you think? Do you think that opportunity would have been passed up?

          Look beyond the surface !

          Not sure I believe anything that comes from a politician who refuses to either in person or virtually interact with her constituents and respond to “difficult” questions.

  • David, Those who understand this a lot better than we do despite putting literally hundreds of hours into studying the issues and research can correct us if we are wrong but the 2018 OP allowing for 30 downtown high rises and a further 17 storey tower in Village Square was associated with calling the downtown bus station an MTSA. As the Gazette readers know it is only recently Council began to address the removal of such from the Halton Regon OP and thus ours rather than when it was first suggested as feasible by MPP Jane McKenna back in 2018 right after her election.

    Editor’s note: The Gazette does not share the Marsden view of the role the Burlington MPP played in the decision to remove the MTSA designation from the John Street bus terminal, nor do we appreciate the Marsden’s using our platform to float their support for the MPP.

    • david barker

      Anne, David. My understanding is that it was not just a simple action to ask the reason to amend the designation. It needed to be part of a synchronized and coordinated broader plan and course of action. It was not just a simple as flicking a switch. But as you say those with the specific expertise who wears told have been engaged by the City know better than you or I or Ms Hersh or WLB or ECoB. So we should rely upon them and not put ourselves forward as instant experts, like the guy in the Holliday Inn ads who stakes his expertise on “No, but last night I stayed at the Holiday Inn Express”.

      As said, it’s now all a bit irrelevant as we are now all in a wait and see situation.

      Good to hear from you both. Trust you are both well. Please send me an email to I very recently sent a submission to all Council members in relation to the protection of Heritage Trees. I would like to share it with you.

  • Meed Ward`s definition of transparent and the definition she was part of removing from the Burlington Procedure By-law* without an honest public engagement process are not conducive with the standard of public engagement the Burlington Engagement Charter, the Municipal Act, LPAT et al require from a municipality.

    We tried very hard through the delegation process to have Burlington stakeholders understand what was happening that should not be 2014 – mid 2017 as it was not consistent with the transparent process past Councils and Clerks (Kim Phillips) had ensured were covered by the Procedure Bylaw. The City, knowing we would not stop speaking out at the lectern and publicly in support of democratic principles removed our voices from the lectern for a two year period. Our access to the lectern was only returned after the appointment of Tim Commissio as City Manager and well after the 2018-2022 Council believed they had everything under control in terms of the process they managed through the Procedure By-law including the right of the City Manager to refuse a delegation if he “thought“ delegates may not comply with the By-laws. A matter that was discussed with Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns and ignored.

    *`Procedure By-law 37-2014 commitments reconfirmed by Council in place May 20, 2014 and removed December 19, 2016 by the 2014-2018 Council with the support of our current Mayor as Ward 2 Councillor include:

    1.38 “Transparency“ means the principle that the City of Burlington actively encourages and fosters stakeholder participation and openness in its decision-making processes. Additionally, transparency means that the City of Burlington`s decision-making process is open and clear to the public.


    1.1 “Accountability“ means the principle that the City of Burlington will be responsible to its stakeholders for decisions made and policies implemented, as well as its actions or inactions.


    1. REMOVAL OF THE WORDS “…. and receptive to their (constituents) opinions
    . .

  • david barker

    I note that Councilor Sharman, other than the Mayor the only hold over from the last administration, voted against the revised OP.

    @PennyHersh. I guess you would suggest he should have been more collaborative. I firmly disagree with his positions, but respect his commitment to them and his integrity.

    I had not appreciated the 2018 OP allowed for 30 downtown high high rises and a further 17 storey tower in Village Square. Imagine that ! No thanks !

    Once this new OP is approved by the Region we shall all just have to wait and see for the outcome !