Councillor Craven is challenged to a public debate with two residents who don't share his view of where growth in Aldershot should be going.

News 100 greenBy Staff

June 15th, 2017



This should be interesting.

Tom Muir and Greg Woodruff, both Aldershot residents want to publicly debate Rick Craven the city Councillor for Ward 1.

Muir has been a thorn in Craven’s side since he first got elected to office. Woodruff, who ran for the office of Regional Chair in 2010, is no less determined than Muir to make his point – just not as prolific.

There is a potential development on Plains Road on the property that currently is home to a bingo hall and a Home hardware.

Plains Road - Bingo Hall

Location of the property on Plains Road that a developer has expressed an interest in developing.

A developer, National Homes, hasn’t filed anything with the city – so it is just talk at this point but then that is the way things work in some wards.

A developer will get cozy with the ward Councillor and learn as much as he can from the politician. Developers don’t want to go to the Planning department without some assurance that they are going to get more than a fair hearing.

When the developer has done as much as they can to create the conditions they need – they then make a formal application and the development is now in the hands of the professional planners employed by the city.

The Planning department follows all the procedures and the protocols that are in place and in the fullness of time they prepare a report on the merits of a development project that goes to city council where it is debated.

Craven at King Road

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven is proud of the improvements that have been made along Plains Road – some of his residents don’t share his views.

Councillor Craven made mention of the development in the Newsletter he publishes and sends out to anyone who asks to have their name on the newsletter list. That’s where Muir and Woodruff became aware of the development – and they swung into gear.

When Muir first got wind of the developers thinking he sent the following to Councillor Craven:


This notice of intended redevelopment of this large plaza personifies the issues that people have about what’s happening in Aldershot, and has been happening for some time now.

The wholesale replacement of commercial with what is basically residential, with token retail, makes a mockery of the mixed use, work, shop, play, walk, enjoy, idea.

My Ward Craven PRVV

Councillor Craven refers to the Plains Road Village Vision and believes it has resulted in a different and better community- he has a number of constituents who don’ share his vision.

But nobody at City Hall, including you, seems to listen and all we hear are excuses – like we need to get rid of all the commercial we have, to get more population, so we can somehow get commercial back at some time in the future. This is a joke?

This will never happen, as there will be no place to build meaningful commercial. You heard all the people comments the other night telling you this. What response we got from you guys was; well this plan goes to 2040, so wait and see.

My wife and I have frequented the Home Hardware, Dollar Store (previously Shoppers), the restaurants there, for a long time, and years ago what was a grocery store where the Bingo is. This plaza is one of the few places we find things we need and will walk to. We were very happy to have Home Hardware down here. We can’t walk to the Home Hardware in Waterdown.

All that is in your description of intentions for this site is tear down residential – town homes and mid-rise condos, and of course the token retail. There seems to be nothing anything like the present commercial in this intention statement.

You will recall we had a Canadian Tire, which suffered the same fate. The token retail there is significantly empty and does not offer a lot to replace what was there in services. We can’t walk to Burlington Mall or to Clappisons Corner.

I need to remind you about the Drewloe development replacing the large commercial – grocery store, department store, bank, liquor store, small retail – and the controversy of the bylaw change escaping attention still irks people. No place to walk to the replaces this commercial.

The retail there still has a lot of empty. The Busy Bee from the Bell Motel, Foo Ho, parcel tear down moved in but there was already one across the street next to Hauser/Tim Horton.

The 24 hour fitness gym that moved in is across the street from The Fitness Firm, where you go. That building is also in waiting for a tear down.

I can see from the planning meeting the other night that this is just going to accelerate, sweeping everything away, and there will be no large enough parcels left to build anything commercially significant to replace what we lose. And given the spectacular rise in home prices, this residential conversion is developer irresistible, and I don’t see much resistance from city planning or you.

This is exactly what is terribly wrong with what is being done. The walk, transit, bike plan accompanying this is a farce and doesn’t fit with the reality, which like was also said the other night, it’s all going to be about cars and no place to park

Plains Road - no longer just the highway to Hamilton but now a Main Street in a part of the city with an identity of its own

Plains Road – no longer just the highway to Hamilton but now a Main Street in a part of the city with an identity of its own

The south side of Plains Rd meeting completely ignored a mention of the meeting on the same subject a couple of years ago You will recall my complaint then about rampant speculation going on then, that wasn’t even mentioned to the public when they were asked what they wanted, but all I got was a brush off.

At the recent meeting, the planning manager in attendance didn’t seem to know what was going on in this respect of land assembly. Does she really not know what’s going on?

And there was no mention at all of what people had said they wanted, and issues raised, at the meeting 2 years ago. What a waste of their time and my time.

I won’t go on further, as I find it very disturbing, and I’m starting to wonder more and more why I bother because I don’t see from my engagement over many years that city hall gives it attention in a respectful manner. I have been at several meetings where the staff in attendance look, first bored, then frustrated with questions and points, and then annoyed.

I really can’t blame them the way the reality is and it’s their job.

I can agree with more residential development, where it fits (three ten story building on Solid Gold does not fit with neighborhood right to the North), but the speculation and wholesale conversion and tear down of commercial to further this is too much.

Greg Woodruff adds to the discussion with:

I agree with this all.

Staff policies are de-commercializing Aldershot. Staff don’t care or want commercially viable stores, because the parking and space requirements of real commercial means less people on a lot.

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

They have turned the place where we live into a math problem and the only problem is the human bugs that don’t quite act as they want.

From 5 years ago Aldershot has:
1) Less trees than ever
2) Less stores than ever
3) More traffic congestion than ever

If you think applying the same policies for the next 5 years reverses this I’d say you lack the ability to perceive reality.

Yes eventually you will get a handful more bikers and walkers, but this will be offset 25 to 1 with people who now have to drive for the basic commodities of living

Reversing this is easy: Put in the official plan the ground floor of any building must be all commercial, commercially vented, transport truck access and 1 square foot of parking for every 1 square foot of retail space.
Yes 10% or 15% less people will live in that building, but something will be around them.

If you think density alone makes a great place there are several shanty slums around the world with great densities you can move to.

Craven responds with:

Greg and Tom,
Thank you for your input.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven digging out a business card for provincial Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello.

Ward 1 Councillor Rick Craven digging out a business card for provincial Liberal leadership hopeful Sandra Pupatello. Craven at the time was considering a run for the provincial seat.

I will not engage in an online debate with you since both of you seem to have more time than I do – and since the City has not received a formal redevelopment application yet.

Having said that – you should know that I personally met with the owner of the hardware store yesterday to discuss his situation. We all want to keep the hardware store if possible.

Otherwise, I find both your comments to be overly negative and lacking in long term perspective and vision.
Thanks again for writing.

Muir isn’t prepared to let the member of council for the ward off quite that easily – replies with: (Muir tends to write long – brevity is not his strength).

We all have the same 24 hour days and 7 day weeks.

I have so much experience dealing with this stuff I was able to write what I did in 20 minutes. Greg likely wrote his piece in 10 minutes, as he has been telling you this for years, as have I. I have large file folders with many such attempts to be heard.

Muir making a point

Tom Muir

The city, Mayor, Planning, and you are always soliciting comments and engagement in all kinds of things, and that takes time, lots of it and more, but you complain if we take the time to respond, because you say you don’t have time?

So like I said, respectful listening and attention is not something I expect to receive from you, so thanks for proving my point.

Since you are not on for an on-line debate – frankly, I’m not either, as what we are telling you, and much more, is factual, and is beyond debate – I suggest we all get together, especially to debate your personal long term perspective and vision. I would like to do a reality check of your assumptions.

I hear vagaries about it at every meeting, as you tell us what you say is going to be done regardless of what we think, but these don’t provide an opportunity to have debate and discussion between us all. As I recall from many meetings, you don’t have many people who aren’t concerned about the same things, have similar views, and they express them.

So how about a real debate on this?

Anyways, regarding long term perspective, and vision – this is philosophy of science. The long term perspective, or future, is what the present becomes as we make our decisions and actions real concrete step by step.

Using our capacity for conscious foresight, our ability to logically simulate the future in imagination, is what we are using to tell you what we think is happening in concrete terms, and where it will logically lead.

We don’t lack a long term perspective, we have a very well founded one, based on fact based reasoning, logical outcomes, and where this leads to. Where is your reasoned argument?

You say we are overly negative, but we are telling you facts about reality, proposed changes, and how they are being lined up, and what they lead to.

This leads to something negative in our minds, different from what you say, and not a future we want.

But when we look for you to show the same kind of thinking, you don’t get past the more people part, forget the past consequences as concrete examples of our concerns, like what Greg and I wrote about, and you just tell us it will all work out, so don’t worry, be happy.

The staff do the same thing – they say; remember the plan goes to 2031 or 2040, so who knows how things will happen, they say. No comfort at all.


It’s a 25 year plan that sets out the strategy for our growth.

To get to 2040 we have to move through all the years between here and there, where you say the good things we already have, that we are going to lose along the way, will somehow mysteriously re-materialize, in ways you have no explanation for.

Well, we know that if you do certain things, other things will logically follow. We can see that it happened in the recent past, and the same mechanisms are still in action and will lead to more of the same. Greg said, and I agree, that If you think applying the same policies for the next 5 years reverses the negative trends he cites, I’d say you lack the ability to perceive reality.

Greg suggests several constructive and practical things, including requiring fully functional commercial on the first floor of every new building, as he describes, and has provided more details on elsewhere. This is not about opposing development, but making it work for all functions, and for all people, not just the landowner and developer.

If we really are, as staff emphasized, in a paradigm shift, then let’s internalize and generalize it all across the plan. Not just density of people, on every parcel, but accompanying density of uses and functions.

Not just more people, more density, less meaningful commercial and retail, less trees and green – try for that on the south side of Plains when condos in the pipeline and more want to sprout – and more traffic congestion, because more people density means more car density, and the walk-able necessary commercial spaces, frequented often, are gone.

It’s elementary. So how about a real debate on these things, face to face? The meetings we have are not enough.

Where will all this go?

Nowhere but Craven must have begun to realize that these two are not going to let this issue die a quiet death.

Stand by.

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38 comments to Councillor Craven is challenged to a public debate with two residents who don’t share his view of where growth in Aldershot should be going.

  • Dayna

    I am completely behind Tom Muir or anyone with sense running for City Council (particularly Ward 1) next year. Having only gotten involved in Burlington development politics over the past year, it was quickly apparent to me that Rick Craven does not care about listening to the concerns of his constituents. He puts on a pleasant face when you first meet him, but does not take the time to actually understand your position.

    I am not typically a politically active person, but I am prepared to knock on doors and make donations to candidates running in Ward 1 next year. Change needs to occur, and Ward 1’s constituents deserve a councillor who will actually listen to their concerns.

  • Joe Gaetan

    I have lived in Burlington for over 20 years and Aldershot was a part of the city I used to frequent a lot, but now pass thru when the traffic allows such a banal exercise. If i try I can vaguely the remember the reasons, oh yeah, Foo Ho, Jamies, HH,MB dealership, buying ice cream at the variety store that once stood beside the RBC.Plains road is nothing more than a commuter corridor surrounded by a wall of faceless businesses beneath work lives. In short an incomplete community.

  • Tom Muir


    Regarding your question on my report from others that parking is not working, made above – ran out of reply slots.

    This parking report is anecdotal, over several years of meetings, from someone who is in business along Plains, and is observing it personally. I wouldn’t think that anyone is doing counts or a survey. Who would that be?

    This refers in part I think to the mixed use fronting Plains at Mosaic. These are small garage-size units – tattoo parlor, vape shop, massage parlor, hair dressers, second-hand clothes, real estate, finance/accounting, new dental hygiene, new Korean take-out, and a few more.

    There is lay-by parking out front and I don’t recall how many, maybe 6 to 9?. If there is parking around back of the storefronts, it is not obvious or signed as far as I have seen.

    I’m just saying this as a repeated comment from someone who has to live in business with the overall situation with mixed use redevelopment on Plains Rd.

    I was out walking today, and started to consider parking area in new buildings, and proposals I have seen. Even with many parking spaces underground from 4 to 6 story buildings, I was surprised at the extent of the building footprint in land area that is still pavement and parking. It varies from place to place, but it is noticeable if you look.

    I imagine the measured area could be found in the city planning proceedings for each building, then we would have a good number.

    The proposal at 92 Plains was for all surface parking, no underground – too expensive the planner said. First request was 4 stories, then planners said maybe 6. It looks like wall to wall parking. The heavily wooded lot will be clear cut.

    Small commercial on first floor. Not functional in Greg’s sense, or mine for that matter. I went to the neighborhood meeting, and they have no idea what use that space will serve.

    This example, and this is a general thing in my experience, might help you try and get straight on my comment that “mixed use” is being proposed and built with almost all residential in terms of square foot floor coverage, and what I refer to as “token retail” thrown in to look like it satisfies the “mixed use” moniker.

    It goes further. Now the building next door, a small 2-story apartment, cornered on Birchwood, has been sold, and a real estate management firm has a big For Lease sign on the lawn, something I have never seen there before in 36 years of living here. It sold in two days.

    This leaves only one residence left, moving east to the corner of Glenwood. Guess what?

    I can only guess on a maybe merger to get a bigger footprint. More small retail on first floor to say it’s mixed use? Not big enough or functional enough, again, so I say token retail. But I mean in a planning proposal and approvals context for the whole project.

    At 35 Plains, a proposal named Breeze, wants 8 stories, in a 6 story zoning. Again, small, not fully functional, retail is proposed on first floor. I suggested that adding 2 floors to the zoning law of 6 floors would sell better to me if a floor of this was added as commercial.

    There was some but little support for this idea from maybe 2 Councilors – not Craven – but the biggest expressed concern was parking.

    The whole of Plains Rd, from Birchwood, west to Cooke Blvd, is speculatively held, and has been for several years. There are internet ads for 6 story condos along here, with many units, but no proposals are in yet, except talks with Craven and planning. Guess what?

    Again, my previous comment pertains here. This is a general feature of the city planning discussion I have seen for many years, so I know.

    It’s mixed use, tear down existing commercial, small, not functional, “token” retail in the scope of things residential, which is more than 90% of what’s built.

    For Aldershot it’s a creeping thing that is area specific, so talking about academic or consultant worldviews operating at a 30,000 feet, are just not of service to residents, or existing small commercial, who are sold out from under, and the landowner hits the jackpot.

    This is what is going to cover the Aldershot small space that we are talking about. We are not against development – we just want balance.

    Not the abstract theory you are talking about. So give us a break please.

    • James Schofield


      Nothing abstract at all about looking at population and demographics and figuring out where your customers are coming from. This isn’t altogether different than the sort of analysis you did in relation to the school closure debate.

      The reality is that many of the commercial plazas along Plains Rd would be dead or dying if we weren’t having this debate about what form of new development we want to see.

      Anyway, thank you for the examples. I think I have a clearer picture of your position now.

      • Tom Muir


        This stuff about population, demographics and customers is not what I have seen you generally talking about.

        This usual talk of yours is still abstract from the real people living in Aldershot looking for a place nearby to be customers.

        This discussion has had no effect on Plains Rd commercial plazas, that I can see, except to describe their steady demise.

        Your view of reality here continues your usual talk style like you know everything about how things work, including what I think.

        Please tell me what you mean differently.

        The plazas died for money, printed by the zoning approvals, not any sensible, well debated form of new development.

        But I am glad you think you might have a clearer picture of another persons description of reality.

        This is what I wrote about school closures – what actually happened.

        • James Schofield


          I posted here hoping to debate, discuss, and better understand the issues you raised.

          Where you’re advocating for an end to the “de-commercialization” of Aldershot, I think it’s important to develop an understanding of the past and present.

          I’ve attempted to frame this by considering the broader factors influencing the viability of 10,000 sqft mid-rise retail in Aldershot. This involves looking at all levels from the 30,000 foot nation-wide view to the local neighbourhood scale. When I talk population trends in Burlington, I am leaning on an analysis of Burlington’s 2016 census data that I undertook earlier this year, on a census tract by census tract, neighbourhood by neighbourhood level.

          But instead of challenging the narrative I put forward, you’ve chosen to call my motivations into question, accused me of arrogance, and dismissed everything I put forward as some abstract theory of no relevance to Aldershot.

          Please understand that neither of us have all the answers. Vigorous debate can be helpful in reaching a better collective understanding. But when you choose to focus on character and motivation rather than the issues at hand, and continue to flippantly dismiss any line of reasoning that isn’t aligned with your way of thinking, I lose any interest in continuing to engage with you.

          • Tom Muir


            Here we have the pot calling the kettle black.

            I’m sorry I can be brisk sometimes, but don’t project all the unforgivable sins to me.

            You are as guilty as anyone at flippant dismissal of others reasoning and evidence as anyone, so you can get to your own narrative, which I have argued does not address the issues I wrote about in the first place.

            My take, and this is my take, on your narrative is to argue with me so as to show that I am wrong, and you have the reasons to say you are right, based on your study and worldview.

            In this you fail to see that these are my issues, based on facts, on the ground and in my life, and I am not happy about it, and I say we can do better, so don’t try to tell me I’m wrong with these facts.

            I have talked at length about the past, present, and likely future, and once again, right here, you take this over for your own purpose.

            I have been telling you that you, and the “we” don’t have all the answers, and what do you do but turn this back on me like it’s yours.

            That’s one of my points. We can’t predict the future, or determine beforehand the viability of 10,000 square of commercial in one building, but we do set the planning and neighborhood rules, so we can create the conditions to provide some kind of functional commercial component in what is now as massive conversion out of it.

            I don’t dismiss you, and I haven’t called you arrogant on this page. So please cut out the petulance and thin-skin withdrawal.

            If you want to talk about all your research and how it works that’s fine, but we are really talking here about the planning for Aldershot, the politics that we see, and the development emerging.

            Many people are unhappy about this, as I wrote, and as the comments here show you. They don’t really care to be told about the view at 30,000 feet and how this indicates that they will just have to get used to what is emerging, as nothing can be done.

            Lots can be done as it’s our planning and our laws that can definitely shape what is built.

            We need commercial locally, and we can definitely require that the new development that is approved provides for a functional component of this, and not just residential condos that fill almost all the space.

            If your research says that can’t be done, then we have nothing to engage about and debate, that has a meaning at the street and neighborhood level that most people here are talking at.

            No dismissal or arrogance implied, just not much relevant to the conversation around here that has been going on for years.

          • James Schofield


            Thanks for the reply. We’re coming at this from different angles, and that may give the appearance of talking over each other. My intention is not to take over the conversation or prove that I’m right or you’re wrong.

            Let me try again. The crux of my argument is that I believe the retail landscape has fundamentally changed over the past few decades, such that we now need more population that we did before to support the same amount of retail square footage.

            Like many other communities across the country, I think Aldershot was, and may still be, in a state of disequilibrium where there was too much retail for the number of people living there.

            Like you, I agree that you should be able to walk to a grocery store and a hardware store, and not have to drive to Waterdown to buy some milk or a box of nails. Where our opinions may differ is that I think you need more population density to be able to sustain those stores. It’s all fine and well to mandate that new development provides space for the sort of retail you’re looking for, but if the market conditions aren’t right, the space will sit vacant or get parceled up into smaller units.

            I’m not going to argue that everything that’s been built on Plains Rd is perfect and that there isn’t opportunity to improve going forward, so I can at least agree with you that we can do better. But where you want more parking and easier transport truck access, and less residential, I worry that decreasing density in new developments will work against us. I would echo some of the concerns I’ve heard planning staff express about the risk of under-intensifying. I think we should be working towards encouraging the more urban store formats that Chris mentioned, rather than clinging to a lower-density car-centered form.

            That might not be a difference of opinion we can reconcile, but I hope it gives some clarity to my position.

  • Helene Skinner

    At the end of the day…we needed a councillor who would embrace debate…instead of personal legacy

  • David Fenton


    Good day? I assume that you were slamming the door in my face as you said that, figuratively speaking. Not to worry, my feelings were hurt I admit it,I went away and sulked for a bit but I’m over it now.You don’t like what I say and you clearly take exception to the way I say it. I have no problem with that, I don’t take myself too seriously, I’m not that self absorbed. You have as much right as I do to be heard but I would strongly argue that you (and by association the advisory committee you Co-Vice Chair) don’t have more rights than me or any other citizen. BCAC may have a hotline to council but council should represent more than just one special interest lobby group.I will rail against your sanctimony. You vehemently deny it but conducting even the most cursory search of BG archives on just about any head line issue clearly shows you personally chiming in again and again peddling your cycling agenda ad nauseum. Furthermore I would say that I believe the majority of Canadians, not just Burlingtonians, all wish to strive towards excellence, to do better.You don’t have exclusive rights to that vision.
    I accept that If you put your head above the parapet you must expect people to take pot shots at you; maybe you should acknowledge that too.

    So to the business at hand. I was interested in what Tom and Greg had to contribute regarding the future of Aldershot because in many ways it applies to a lot of real estate across the whole of the city. Sadly, for me, their thoughtful and insightful analysis was overshadowed by Councillor Craven’s bizarre response. I have to wonder “when did democracy die in Burlington”? Councillor Craven’s attitude towards, not only his constituents but all Burlington taxpayers in general, is legendary. I suspect he enjoys the notoriety and I have to admit to a sneaking admiration for a man who must have the hide of a rhinoceros. It would appear that nothing gets him down, it’s his way or no way at all. He must be Teflon-coated. His absolute dismissal of Tom’s and Greg’s suggestion for an open and frank debate is typical; he has no time for them or any other resident; he has a council to run! This situation resonants loudly especially as we prepare to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. Burlington Council has been allowed to deteriorate over the years, so much so that it now resembles some kind of medieval fiefdom with Councillor Craven unashamedly front and centre; the man who would be Mayor! His vision of service as a councillor has affected not just Aldershot residents (who clearly are happy with him as he’s serving a fifth term) but residents of every other ward who can’t vote him out. So we are faced with the absurd notion that one possible way of bringing some semblance of democracy back to City Hall is to encourage Councillor Craven to run for Mayor and spend every waking moment making sure he doesn’t win. How did that happen? Have we all been asleep? Is it true that people get the government they deserve?

    Certain councillors completely ignore the opinions voiced by their constituents. Don’t bother to petition; that will just end up dumped on the councillor’s desk with a coffee-ring stain on it. That is undemocratic.

    It did across my mind Chris, albeit it fleetingly, that in an alternate universe you would have liked to slap me across my face with your cycling gloves and challenge me to a duel but then I remembered that particular tradition effectively ended in the late 19th.Century. It was a silly tradition anyway. Coming back to the 21st. Century I am in fact delighted that you are such an ardent proponent of your cycling hobby rather than let’s say archery or knife throwing.

    Chris, we have no time for you damned hobbies Sir, we’re fighting for democracy here!

    (Credit duly given to the late Patrick O’Brien CBE, novelist)

    • Chris Ariens

      Now this is getting ridiculous. You don’t even know anything about me. I’m a citizen of this city just like you. Of course I don’t have more right (or less right) to an opinion as anyone else in Burlington.

      I don’t possess any kind of “hotline” to Council that isn’t available to anyone else.

      Yeah, I believe, quite strongly, that cycling provides the potential to benefit our city in a number of ways. It is not just a hobby, it’s a very effective, cost-efficient and enjoyable method of transportation. That’s why I volunteered for the Cycling Committee in the first place.

      I have no problem with people criticizing the ideas and views I share. Where I take exception is where you have made the discussion about me, and have done so with such obvious disrespect. I didn’t even bring up cycling in this exchange, other than as an example of a successful small business in Aldershot that sells bicycles.

      • David Fenton

        Enough already.I hear that slamming door again and it’s getting tiresome, as is your indignation. The fact that there are those that disagree with you seems to have completely passed you by. If you continually appoint yourself as a mouthpiece for what Burlington needs, what Burlington residents should do,what Burlington residents want and what direction Burlington should be taking along New Street you must be fully prepared to accept the fact that you will be challenged.

        Perhaps instead of hijacking every manner of topic and lashing out at those with a perfect right to disagree with your view of Burlington, present and future, you should run for public office and engage in an honest and open debate with all residents, cycling and non-cycling, instead of hiding behind you Co-Vice Chair.

  • Tom Muir


    I had to chew on your comments some to see what was there that had to do with the Gazette story and the points we made.

    After you misrepresented and insulted our story, in your first throwaway one-liner emitted from the Go train, you had a lot to say later.

    You are entitled to your opinion, but you pretty much entirely missed our point, and you missed the context we are talking about.

    We were only talking about a part of Aldershot – firstly, some of Plains Rd, past and present, and secondly the outlines of possible zoning here, and third, the Mobility Hub.

    That’s all, and you didn’t comment on much of anything we said. Instead, you used us to bridge to your narrative about abstract development forms, and history, on the City to Toronto to GTA scale at least.

    You wrote your own story, and along the way you misrepresented what we said and meant again.

    For example; “the form you seem to be referring to – national chains which are built to serve a larger and more spread out population. Of course to do that, as you both point out, they need truck accesses, acres of parking, and a traffic system that enables quick access from across the greater region.”

    Or; “Aldershot is not going to become Clappison’s Corners, and if you’re looking for that type of retail in Aldershot, I don’t see it as likely to happen.”

    I am further suspect of your attempt to put us down and bury our point with a lot of accompanying assertions, assumptions, and claims about economics, that sound like a sales job.

    The examples I stated here are ridiculous for you to imply we were talking about.

    Please read the story again.

    We were talking about yet another commercial plaza being lined up for razing to be replaced with who knows how many condos and residents, as it is a fair size, with no residential at present, so it has a commercial economic value without needed zoning approvals.

    Along with the commercial goes location advantages and business opportunity for the folks and services displaced. They lose, and so do their local customers.

    What a windfall for the owner and developer, and here economics looms large. We pointed out several past instances, and the trend, of this “de-commercialization” of Aldershot, as Greg so wittily labelled it.

    It’s not the economics of population behind this trend, but the huge land price difference of residential over commercial, and the even larger economic leverage and gains from condos for example over commercial.

    This is a no-brainer.

    As such, there is not much in planning talk revisions and statements to replace much or any meaningful part of the commercial lost, past, present, or future, in the planning decisions, revisions, and statements.

    How some significant commercial, in the area of Aldershot we are talking about, ought to be included in the plan, and not just “token retail”, does not seem to be getting any traction.

    Instead, it appears visible from the talk at meetings, and in responses, that city planning, and Councilor Craven, are enabling these continued losses, and windfall gains from conversion and replacement with residential at intensified densities.

    That’s the issue, and the small scale of Aldershot in the matter, that we complained about, and have for a long time.

    We want fully functional commercial included in Aldershot development moving forward.

    But you have conflated this with big abstract talk that has nothing to do with the real, practical and specific things we raised at this small local level. We are not talking about anywhere else in the city, never mind the GTA.

    I don’t want to attack you, just call you to account, to some extent.

    We asked Craven for a personal debate on this, but he is aloof.

    We want something done.

    • James Schofield

      Tom, I’ve read the article a few times and have been trying to understand your perspective on this development. It’s clear that you are opposed to the replacement of commercial plazas like this with mixed-use containing what you pejoratively describe as token retail. Fine.

      What is less clear is what you would like to do instead. Broadly speaking, there seem to be three streams of thought in your and Greg’s writing: (1) a desire to leave the plazas as-is: “This plaza is one of the few places we find things we need and will walk to. We were very happy to have Home Hardware down here.” (2) A bemoaning of the loss of retail to places like Clappison’s Corners. (3) Support for redevelopment in a form similar to what’s there today, i.e. lower-density with vast amounts of parking.

      I’ll speak to the “leave it just the way it is” angle first. If you were to look at the census tract level population changes over the past decade, you would see that the older established neighbourhoods in Aldershot have been losing population. The average size of households in those neighbourhoods has been steadily decreasing as the kids grow up and move out. Absent new residential development along the Plains Rd corridor, the population of Aldershot would be in steady decline. Based on demographic factors alone, you would have seen a loss of retail and commercial.

      The other trend, which compounds those demographic challenges, is the advent of the big box form of development that we see in Clappison’s Corners. The 10,000 sqft neighbourhood hardware store now faces stiff competition from the 100,000 sqft big box format store, which draws customers from far greater distances. This too puts immense pressure on smaller-scale commercial plazas like the one housing the Home Hardware. Ultimately your existing retail is in trouble, whether there’s a developer with an application ready to go or not.

      In the meantime, there is a housing supply pressure, and as you rightfully point out, lots of money to be made in building condos. The challenge as I see it is how to harness the energy for new residential construction to support the services and amenities that the community wants to see. I find the example Chris gave — the Metro grocery store at the based of a mid-rise residential development — to be quite helpful. We don’t even have to look as far as Toronto for an example like this. The proposed development at 421 Brant Street has a single 7500 sqft retail unit, ample size for a neighbourhood hardware store.

      Of course, greater population density provides greater support for commercial uses like this. When you say things like “Yes 10% or 15% less people will live in that building, but something will be around them” I wonder why you would want to deprive the commercial of 10-15% of its potential customers. Why shouldn’t we try to make the greatest use of the limited land we have? Do we really want to reserve 50% of our land for surface parking?

      I wonder if a straightforward solution might be to simply require that retail space be flexible so that it can either be configured as one large unit or split into smaller units based on changing market demand. And yes, provide ample parking, but surely we don’t need to reserve 50% of our land for it.

      • “The challenge as I see it is how to harness the energy for new residential construction to support the services and amenities that the community wants to see.”

        Yes I agree. And the only way that I can see are the rules I proposed here and elsewhere.

        “And yes, provide ample parking, but surely we don’t need to reserve 50% of our land for it.”

        I’m just saying if you look at medium scale commercial places the parking is about 1 to 1. I’m open to removing some of it based on non-car travel that we can see and prove. Not just going well we can reduce the parking 90% as everyone will walk in the future. It’s going to be a percentage mix, and we have to provide for that mix.

  • David Fenton

    Chris Ariens – Smug much? Wondered how long it would be before the Commander of the Mayor’s Pretorian Cycling Guard chipped in. Not EVERYTHING is about YOU and YOUR cycling agenda. When the City get rid of ALL employee surface parking spots in the downtown area and I see them all taking the train, busing, cycling or walking to work at City Hall I pledge to buy myself a unicorn coloured trike complete with basket and tassels, in the clear and certain knowledge that it will NEVER happen. Your arrogant assessment of what, in your opinion, is needed in Aldershot comes as no surprise. Aldershot residents have not had a local supermarket since when? when Towers vacated? I know many senior residents who have moved to some of the new developments in Aldershot and while they throughly enjoy being able to walk to say, Russell Williams. walk to the library, walk to Aldershot swimming pool the chances of them lugging their groceries home on the bus or balancing a propane tank for their BBQ on the back of their bike is SLIM to NONE. Aldershot NEEDS local retail and retail built to succeed not doomed to fail. Even NewWorld the elite bicycle store has surface parking spots. Oh, and guess what Amazon are opening yes, that’s right,real stores! Get a grip on your handlebars.

    • Chris Ariens

      Such vitriol, just based on the fact that I happen to be part of the Cycling Committee?

      I’d love to see a grocery store for residents, just like you do. We might disagree on how to get there, But no reason to be so rude and condescending.

      Good day.

      • Hans

        Vitriol…? Actually I thought David’s comments were quite mild.

        I don’t know what other response you should expect when you ridicule other writers with silly sarcastic comments like “We can widen all the roads, pave all the lots on Plains and other commercial streets for parking and keep increasing the tax dollars we funnel into keeping those roads maintained.”

        Apparently it isn’t possible to have a normal, rational discussion with you, since you typically lapse into your “cars-bad, bicycles-good, Burlington should be more like Amsterdam” mantra.

        • Chris Ariens

          Hans…if accusing someone of being smug and arrogant and using a silly title to describe someone for deigning to have an differing opinion to a prospective public representative passes for “normal, rational discussion”, it would seem you too have much to learn about how to conduct respectful dialogue.

          You’ve again taken the same liberties to ascribe to me ideas which I’ve never put forward. The writer posed the idea that the retail space (or building footprint) and parking space should be the same. I don’t think that’s a good idea. That in no way implies that cars are “bad”, merely that highly valuable land can be utilized in other ways than their storage, and that city officials should not be the ones judging how much parking an establishment needs. I’m not opposing parking whatsoever – just the mandate to provide more than the market needs.

          And as for Burlington being more like Amsterdam, yes there are many things that we can learn from the Dutch when it comes to enabling citizens to cycle and drive safely and efficiently. If we’re not aspiring to be the best, what is it that you believe we should aspire to?

          • Tom Muir


            Just a quick piece of info.

            At Aldershot meetings for several years, business people have said repeatedly that the retail parking provided just isn’t working.

            It has been stated that people aren’t walking or biking there.

            So here we have a gap that we need to fill somehow.

            And I’m sorry, but we have had the Amsterdam discussion before with you, and that is a different world with different density and culture. Dreaming about best aspirations won’t get us there and sounds to me like a diss to the other person, and no rational, reasoned answer.

            That doesn’t mean we can’t try, but not very relevant to our reality.

          • James Schofield

            Tom, can you provide more detail as to how the “parking provided just isn’t working”?

            Has there been any attempt to measure parking utilization, or are we relying on anecdotal data? Are the parking spots being used at near 100% capacity, or is it more of a perceptional problem, e.g. people are having trouble finding the parking, unaware that it’s tucked around the back?

    • Hans


      Re: “I pledge to buy myself a unicorn coloured trike complete with basket and tassels….”

      So will I.

    • James Schofield

      These ad hominem attacks have a lot to do with why I’ve mostly given up on commenting here.

      “Arrogant assessment” like pointing out that there are neighbourhoods in Toronto with grocery stores on the ground floor of a mid-rise condo building? Give me a break.

  • steve

    Yup, time to get new blood in Aldershot. I will surely vote for either, Tom, or Greg.

  • Stephen White

    Well, kudos to Tom and Greg for standing up and calling out the obvious deficiencies in redevelopment plans for Aldershot.

    I echo many of the concerns noted by both writers. I went to Aldershot a couple of weeks ago to a store I particularly like. Previously, it was located in an older strip mall with ample parking. Now it is tucked away in one of the newer buildings. Signage is poor and it isn’t visible from the road. I drove by it twice before I could find it.
    Parking is behind the building and challenging because delivery vans were unloading at the same time. Despite all the blather about “live, work, shop” there is nothing in the design of this or neighbouring stores that would attract potential customers to the area to explore new offerings. Considering the comparative newness of these commercial locations I was surprised that so many of them were still vacant. In fact, a couple of businesses appear to have closed.

    I’m not surprised by Councillor Craven’s reaction to Tom and Greg’s communications. Craven’s is so focused on his agenda that he hasn’t got the time or interest to genuinely listen to anyone else. This is the same guy who wants to restrict delegation times at City Hall, and who constantly prattles on about timelines and procedures.

    Let’s hope either Tom or Greg decide to run in the next municipal election. It would be refreshing to finally have someone representing Ward 1 who could actually bring some genuine value and common sense to the subject of redevelopment.

    • Phillip

      Stephen, your observations are highly accurate especially with regard to Councillor Craven. Like most of our council and mayor, their decisions and policies are based on input from lobby groups, consultants, and special interests.
      Their highly-touted “public engagement” is most often “window dressing”–the decision has already been made and the plan presented to the public is effectively a “fait accompli”. In my ward, a couple of us are discussing an action plan for November, 2018, that will state very clearly based on his record, why residents should NOT elect Jack Dennison–another self-serving councillor with his own agenda. Hopefully this strategy will be facilitated by a credible alternative who takes the time to publicize his/her profile to the residents of this ward.

      • Marshall

        Philip, Most of the council are self-serving and several like Jack Dennison are well past their “best before” date. The mayor doesn’t appear to lead or direct the council or the city. Perhaps a complete new slate in 2018 would be in order. Part of the problem rests with the size of the wards. It’s difficult for anyone to knock on every door in each ward and low voter turn-out and incumbent recognition allows our present group to survive. Perhaps the next campaign need to start this fall.

  • Chris Ariens

    Tom / Greg…On the train I didn’t have time to put together a longer comment.

    The crux of the matter is there are two forms of commercial development. One is the traditional model – smaller local establishments that serve the neighbouorhood needs.

    The second is the form you seem to be referring to…national chains which are built to serve a larger and more spread out population. Of course to do that, as you both point out, they need truck accesses, acres of parking, and a traffic system that enables quick access from across the greater region.

    For the last two generations, the second has grown at the expense of the first.
    Not just in Burlington but all over North America. This is largely supported by policies that made motoring across the city easy and put the burden of paying for it in the future on the municipal tax base.

    And we can’t ignore the fact that there is a sea change happening when it comes to retailing thanks to Amazon and the like. Going out in the car to Canadian Tire, spending half an hour searching the aisles for some doohickey they don’t carry doesn’t compete well. So these chains are extremely hesitant to expand their physical presence.

    To a developer, what matters is being able to earn a decent return on investment. Parking lots provide no revenue, and devalue any residential properties nearby. So naturally, they want to provide enough parking so their clients will be able to thrive, but no more than that.

    How do we put that genie back in the bottle, now that Burlington is saturated with big boxes? That is the biggest impediment to the city’s planning efforts.
    Initially, it is going to be hard for local businesses to compete. The big box 5km away will offer better selection, lower prices, ample parking. That’s the transitional phase we see now. The success of the transition is likely going to depend on the growth of that local market – in other words, local residents will have to go out of their way to support the growth of local businesses. Which is generally positive for a community – wealth stays within.

    There is a third model, but we really only see that in highly urbanized communities, where big chains have targeted urban areas with specialized formats designed to fit into the urban context. For example across from St. Lawrence Market, there is a Metro store located on the ground floor of an 8 story condo, with underground parking. Something like that would fit beautifully into Downtown Burlington or Aldershot at the mobility hub. I believe that Councillor Craven has made this a big priority, but the economics haven’t yet worked out. As more urban development around the GO stations comes on stream, this type of Retail will be in even higher demand. It’s only a matter of time.

    I totally disagree with the premise that we need parking minimums anywhere in Burlington. Let the market determine how much parking is required. Require that it be put in the back or underground. And if that means more people decide it’s easier to walk or bike to the store instead of driving, good. That benefits all of us and reduces traffic. There’s no need to kowtow to the commercial developers and let them build in a form that degrades our city just because that is easiest for them.

    If they want access to our affluent and discriminating market, they can conform to our needs instead of us having to conform to theirs. While absolutely we need commercial establishments to make a vibrant place, I believe we are best served by lifting up those that are owned by our friends and neighbours, instead of just automatically dismissing them as not “real” commerce. There are lots of businesses along Plains Road, some may be struggling, but many are doing well.

    This area has undergone tremendous change from its days as #2 highway and will continue to undergo tremendous change, especially when it comes to its demographics (West half of Aldershot has nearly 40% seniors). The mix of businesses on these ground floors will undoubtedly change too.

    • Ok Chris,

      What I think you said here is; The commercial will work when people decide to pay more for less selection while shopping in an inconvenient way. We don’t have to run that test man – no Aldershot communist party is going to emerge.

      You are not going to break a 10,000 sq ft hardware store into 10 different 100 sq ft stores with 10 times the staff overhead. Your not going to have one store for wood, one for nails and one for bug killer. This is just lunacy.

      The mix of businesses can’t change man – the units are no bigger than single offices – you are falling for the scam.

      Developers will never build proper commercial on mixed use because:

      Leasing to a commercial business takes decades to pay off and you have to believe in the area.
      Selling it for condo pays off today and who cares after that if the whole place goes to hell.

      I put the parking out front in my designs and if I over calculate the parking so what – use some sports for trees – some for extra bike racks if that takes off. Ever notice that 50 foot trees almost always overhang some road or parking?

      • Chris Ariens

        No need for communism. How do stores like Newworld manage to survive when Canadian Tire sells bicycles? They go beyond just the commodity. They provide service. They innovate in ways that the chains cannot. That’s how small business works. Providing the ability to easily walk to the store doesn’t just detract from convenience, it adds convenience – and for every client able to do so, the business owner doesn’t need to provide that parking spot.

        Of course the businesses can, do and will change. The division into micro-units is easily modified to suit a tenant. In Toronto, there’s a running joke about how nearly every new condo is coming with a Shoppers Drug Mart (which sells a wide variety of merchandise now including groceries). Guess that’s not “proper commercial” either?

        Your comment about over calculating the parking might apply in a greenfield in the middle of nowhere, but not in a mature community where high land prices mean every square metre adds extra cost that has to be returned in rents. Not to mention the effect on the public realm which reduces desirability, walkability, and causes the city to pick up extra costs for traffic, stormwater and other impacts of the land use. Most cities which have parking minimums grossly overestimate the amount of parking needed on even the busiest days (look up ‘Black Friday Parking’). Have you read ‘The High Cost of Free Parking’ by Donald Shoup?

        Aldershot is not going to become Clappison’s Corners, and if you’re looking for that type of retail in Aldershot, I don’t see it as likely to happen. But if we stick with the mixed use model there will be commerce and there will be vibrancy. People are going to get tired of driving everywhere in heavy traffic, and smart entrepreneurs will figure out how to cater to their needs more locally. Even the big boxes will eventually start to redevelop (they have to, the buildings are only built to last 15-20 years). Today’s an article in the Spec talks about the new ‘Big Boy’ at Meadowlands and how that area is expected to redevelop in future to high density housing.

        • Hans


          You can rationalize all you want, but the bottom line is that you don’t make much sense and very few people seem to share your vision, or want it to come to fruition.

          I’ve never heard of “Big Boy”…. what business are they in?

          I doubt if Costco has ever wished that they had invested in less parking.

          • Chris Ariens

            Typo… s/b ‘Bad Boy’.

            If the drive everywhere, asphalt utopia with a few token trees is what citizens want…then it would make sence that that be stated in the Strategic Plan instead of what is there now. We can widen all the roads, pave all the lots on Plains and other commercial streets for parking and keep increasing the tax dollars we funnel into keeping those roads maintained. All without increasing density or the tax base needed to pay for that infrastructure. Got to keep those cars zooming. Sounds like a wonderful vision indeed.

        • I think Chris once again you are actually very close to Tom and me on this issue. You just don’t realize exactly what is going on. New World Cycle is an excellent example. You seem to think developers are building units of this size with this older parking ratio? The new world parking and unit size is totally workable. Developers are building units that are literally 10 by 10 so they look good from the street – but can contain nothing but a small office in reality. Ask New World if the business works in a 10 by 10 office with 3 parallel parking spaces – it’s impossible. This is helping make big box – which I am not in favor of – win the commercial narrative. Note they have lots of smaller units around them that New World could use. Affinity has peoples apartments windows on the street. You still don’t see a problem?

          The 1sq foot to 1sq foot parking parking to commercial I quote is what I observe in commercial that is thriving it’s the current minimum. That’s very close to what New World has by the way. Obviously if you an get 5% deflection into walking and biking then that amount can be re-worked. Parallel spaces are not favorer by customer and are not workable – that are also mega dangerous for bikers.

          Developers literally they come to meetings showing banks and supermarkets with hundreds of people walking around, but build what they know is worthless. If the rules don’t change the fate of New World Cycle is this. The owner of the plaza will either extract a totally impossible rent or sell the land for millions and rebuild it in a way New World can no longer use. No commercial business can compete with what you can make selling it into housing.

  • Hans

    I wish we had some people like Tom Muir on Burlington’s city council.

    • Phillip

      I would second that. My impression of Tom’s posts on several subjects on this site is that they are well-researched and thought out. Tom takes into accounts several points of view in analyzing a situation and is focused on proposals and solutions that benefit Burlington residents. How refreshing.

  • Chris Ariens

    Truck accesses and mandated giant surface parking lots??? That’s your vision for what Aldershot needs? I’ll pass.

    • Chris man,

      You can’t get vibrancy without stores, you can’t get stores without a mix of customers and some of them will come in cars. If you could get 10% of trips by bike and car – you have made tremendous shift. But you got to face facts man – every person can’t walk every single place.

      I’m just saying you need 2 rows of proper parking – in back is workable if you design it right. If you don’t engage in the reality of what a businesses need to survive – fine. Retail services are being re-stablished at Clapson’s Corners with no biking, no walking and last I checked no bus stop. That’s the model you like?

    • Tom Muir


      I’m sorry to say that this gross oversimplification, and extreme, adjectified and pluralized characterization of what we said and meant, sounds like your bike-mania language when someone says something you don’t like about that vision of yours.

      I’ve seen some long comments from you on the bike matter, and I have chipped in with some long ones too, but I never resorted to this kind of cheap off-hand throw-away.

      What’s your purpose?

      Looks like you need to be part of our reasoned debate too. Maybe come to what meetings we have and hear people speak out.

      Where Aldershot is going doesn’t fit your vision either.