Crosby - Smith delegation: This is the final chance any of us have to protect our downtown and waterfront. We ask that you don’t let us down.

opinionred 100x100Lynn Crosby and Blair Smith

January 14th, 2020


“This is the “as written” rather than the “as delivered” version of WeLoveBurlington’s delegation.  There are some inaccuracies in the “as written” version, a result of late changes in the staff/consultant presentations that were presented just before the delegations, to which the delegates had no opportunity to respond and which caused last minute ‘on the fly’ changes for us and others.   As such, it is a resounding QED (Quid est demonstratum = which is proven)  for WLB’s principal complaint of a flawed and disrespectful public engagement process”.

Good morning Chair, Councillors, Your Worship.

I am Lynn Crosby and with me is my colleague, Blair Smith. As you know, we represent the advocacy group, WeLoveBurlington.

We stand before you, as we did on December 5th, to ensure that citizens are heard. We are honouring a commitment – both to ourselves and to the other advocates for citizen empowerment and strong local voice. We question the timing and basic process of the course that brings the 243-page Integrated Control By-Law Land Use report before you for approval today – just 14 working days after it was first released on the Friday before the Christmas holidays. Also the 319-page Preliminary Preferred Concept Report to be presented to Council two days from now, and released only 3 business days ago. The reports are highly interdependent and the almost concurrent timing of both is very unfortunate. Is this truly enough time for even an engaged and well-informed citizenry to properly review, assess and comment? We believe not.

Lynn and Blair 3

Lynn Crosby watching council while her delegation partner reads.

The ICBL Report is exceedingly long and dense. A great deal of the necessary detail and the associated import is carried by and buried within the appendices; the degree of cross-reference and referral needed does not produce ease of understanding nor transparency. Nor does the staff report provide a clear and readily understandable summary of what it all means.

There has been no engagement exercise or review of the ICBL Land Use policies – no opportunity for the public to examine and respond. Why hasn’t the public been engaged on this as they were on the concepts? Why hasn’t this crucial meeting been actively promoted? Isn’t the Statutory Public Meeting the opportunity in the planning process to address the issues, allow the public to debate and obtain public input? Why is this meeting focused on approval rather than information collection and exchange?
This report accepts the same limiting factors and planning constraints identified in our earlier delegation:

· The urban growth centre designation for downtown
· The anchor mobility hub designation for the DT and
· The major transit station area designation for the current John St. bus station

Although important qualifications are made, no consideration has been given to our earlier recommendation – to shift the focus and effort to first eliminating these constraints, or attempting to, before establishing the amendments to the Official Plan.

Where is the “strategy” for approaching the Region or Province to relocate the Urban Growth Centre? Why is that not before us today? We believe that that is the first order of business and last month we were told by Ms. MacDonald that it would be coming. We are in a good position to ask for the Province’s assistance in this regard. As noted in the staff report (p.4), “Local Official Plans address much more specific planning issues within a city and provide greater detail and clarity on how a broad provincial direction is addressed at a local level.” In other words, the province is predisposed to leave issues of detail, such as the location of the UGC, to local decisioning.


MPP Jane McKenna

One year ago, our MPP Jane McKenna stated publicly in the Burlington Post, and again in her newsletter, that she often hears this request from residents and that she approached the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. She reported at length and concluded that …

“The City of Burlington council is free to remove these mobility hub designations from the local official plan. If city council voted to change the boundaries of the downtown Burlington urban growth centre this could be accomplished by Halton Region as part of the next official plan review. This must take place prior to July 1, 2022. Burlington could then, in turn, amend its official plan to reflect the new boundaries.”

We would like to openly acknowledge Ms. McKenna’s effort. WLB has not always been a cheerleader for our local MPP but here she did what she was elected to do and she did it when it could have made a difference. The citizens of Burlington expected and still expect that these conversations would have been undertaken by the City and that we would be well on our way to having the designations removed and the UGC moved. That this much time has elapsed without any such attempts is disappointing. We don’t accept that it’s now too late since you don’t want to extend the ICBL because you fear developer appeals if you do.

Respectfully, this is a situation created by you; we ask you to now fix it. If developers appeal, let them. In the meantime, you have the time needed to get the vital missing components done and in the proper order. As we have stated and continue to state, you only have one chance to protect the downtown and the waterfront and that chance is now.

The revised Land Use policies being recommended for adoption this morning, as Official Plan Amendment 119, are conveyed as appendices D and E. If accepted, we believe that OPA 119 will lock us into a downtown over-intensification scenario. There are technical planning considerations and policy issues that speak against the direction proposed for the downtown. They include the absence of all the planning components for which the Adopted OP was originally considered to be “non-compliant” by the Region, including the lack of a Transportation Plan or Mobility Hub Plan. Why do these gaps still exist? Why does the ICBL Land Use Study not address them?

John Street bus terminal

There was a time when Transit staff suggested the bus terminal be torn down – now the building is being described as vital if transit is to grow or the defining of the building as Major Transit Station Area as a major mistake.

How can the downtown be designated as an MTSA when it is recognized that the anchor DT bus terminal currently does not function as a major bus depot and is unlikely to do so barring substantial and unplanned future improvements?

How can the downtown be designated as an MTSA when it is acknowledged that it “is not located on a priority transit corridor nor is it supported by higher order transit nor by frequent transit within a dedicated ROW”?

Shouldn’t the land use implications of designating the downtown as an MTSA be identified and isn’t this designation, since MTSAs are focal points for higher intensity and mixed-use transit supportive development … likely to result in over-development?
Can we be confident that with these amendments, but leaving the mis-designations and the UGC as is, that building heights can be effectively limited and those limits defended? We’re looking to the downtown of the future but also to developments that are already in process, such as those proposed for Lakeshore and Pearl or James and Martha? This question is critical to the entire exercise.

Significant details and implications are carried by the maps and are not immediately transparent. Map 3 should be amended to remove the Major Transit Station “dot” reference since it is easily missed and accepts the mis-designation of the John Street bus terminal as an MTSA.

Maps 1 and 2 amend the existing OP with what the Dillon report refers to as the “revised” DT Urban Growth Centre boundaries. Set aside the question of whether it should still be located in the DT at all, were the UGC boundaries revised and what were the revisions? On what basis and why was this not presented to the public and Council first?

City council photo Xmas

Weeks after being sworn in the new Council posed for a Christmas photo – there was nothing festive about the questions asked by delegations.

We would like to echo something raised this morning but that has been frequently voiced at Statutory Meetings, the Action Labs and Ward Meetings. All of you ran, implicitly or explicitly, on a platform that became a populist groundswell that defeated the incumbent Mayor, two sitting members of Council and caused two more to seek alternative career or life opportunities. When not a fully expressed component of your own platforms, you nevertheless benefited from the anti-intensification message that resonated with exceptional force. The citizens of Burlington now expect you to honour this mandate. At the very least, please defer approval of the recommendations before you today until a much more complete engagement process with Burlington citizens has been conducted.

Why are we rushing as staff led Council to rush in 2018? As we noted previously, and as confirmed by the Region, there is no clock ticking. We urge you to take the time to address all the building blocks of a new Official Plan. Indeed, if the recommendations of the ICBL Report are approved today, then Thursday’s Preferred Concept meeting becomes ‘pro forma’ and meaningless. Which process is being respected today – a sense of false urgency to the Region – or that which provides for meaningful citizen engagement?

Stolte - the chair

Ward 4 Councillor Shawna Stolte chaired the Standing Committee today. She had to tell two very strong delegations that there were no questions for them. It appeared she did so reluctantly.

We do not believe that what is before you today hears either the voice of the people or the direction of the Council they thought they elected. We recognized in our previous delegation that many of the errors made concerning the future of Burlington’s downtown go far back and are not yours. But that excuse stops today. The direction going forward is clearly yours and yours alone. It will be your lasting and irrevocable legacy. We ask you to consider your legacy carefully, step up and defer the decisions being asked of you this morning.

We acknowledge and appreciate the work of staff in creating the Preliminary Concept Report to be presented on Thursday. However, what that concept allows or does not allow for the downtown doesn’t matter if it won’t be enforceable because you approved this report today with the mis-designations and UGC location unchanged. Thursday’s report would then be irrelevant and we would see little point in debating its merits. We delegated today because this is the crucial moment. This is the final chance any of us have to protect our downtown and waterfront. We ask that you don’t let us down.

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4 comments to Crosby – Smith delegation: This is the final chance any of us have to protect our downtown and waterfront. We ask that you don’t let us down.

  • Kevin - Palmer

    @steven craig Gardner That would be a good point, except that there have been no plans or funds committed to make Downtown into a hub. The city needed to have concrete plans and capital funding allocated to made serious upgrades to the John Street Terminal or to relocate it entirely, and to make serious upgrades to Brant Street and a full realignment of the Downtown Road Network at the time, including purchasing buildings and properties to demolish for the purpose of widening and re-configuring roads, so that traffic can access the Terminal.

    There’s been nothing from the city though. Nothing in the budget, no draft plans. Nothing that would indicate Burlington is or would be ready for when the Province issues the go-ahead to utilize the Mobility Hug designation.

  • fran - tyandaga

    Thank you Lynn, Blair and WLB! Excellent

  • Penny Hersh

    For those of you who did not attend or watch the Committee Meeting, the first 2 questions asked by the councillors to staff, were as follows. Staff was asked “why they did not consider looking into the un-designation of the John Street Terminal – the answer was that they didn’t know how to do this, because it has never been done before.”

    The second question posed by council was “why was the un-designation of the John Street Terminal, not part of the consultant’s report – Heather MacDonald’s answer was it was not part of the scope asked for”.

    Really – What do we pay staff to do? After all the “engagement” with residents, the Director of City Building failed to see that this is what residents have been asking for and direct that this be included in the scope for the consultant to review?

    It’s no wonder that there was never any attempt to look at moving parts or all of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre, after all it hasn’t been done before.

  • steven craig Gardner

    Perhaps downtown is designated MTSA by mayor and council because some one has a transportation plan in mind to make it a hub as a means of easing traffic congestion already existing downtown by providing alternative convenient and reliable transit options?