Developer is shocked - Mayor hasn't seen anything like this before - two 19 storey apartments in Alton lead to some less than friendly words - in Burlington?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

January 5th, 2017



The Mayor hasn’t seen anything like it in his ten years in office and the developer is shocked.

The two are now trading strong words. A Burlington developer is telling it as he sees it – the city is playing “pay-back time” against the Adi Development Group when they rejected a staff supported decision to allow the creation of a development in the Alton community that would include two 19 storey apartment buildings in a community where two storey homes are the norm.


A graphic of the [proposed Adi development proposed for Alton. The graphic came from the web site of Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward – no friend of the Adi’s.

A Planning department report approved a 612-unit housing project for the Alton community last month. City council voted against the project and the developer now claims that this vote was a pay back for Adi taking the city to the OMB on another project.

Tariq Adi, CEO if the Adi Development group is reported to have said: “Oh yeah, absolutely. “Look, I’m not going to sugar-coat it, I know what’s going on here.”

Them’s fighting words.

City Council voted against the project located just north of Dundas Street in north Burlington.

Burlington’s planning staff had negotiated with the developer and thought they had a deal. Feelings are now hurt.

City planners recommended acceptance of the project after months of negotiations with the developer to modify the original proposal. The ward Councillor, Blair Lancaster, told the residents she would not support the development.

Residents of the Alton community, turned out in large numbers for a meeting in December and expressed their anger about the existing congestion in their neighbourhood, traffic issues and overcrowded schools.

Adi has now taken the city’s rejection of their Alton project to the Ontario Municipal Board.

Adi has a proposal for a 26 storey unit at the intersection of Martha and Lakeshore Road that is also now before the Ontario Municipal Board. It is currently in an OMB guided mediation that took place December 15th and 16th. The outcome of that mediation is not yet known.

Adi - Saud and Tarif

The Adi brohers, Tariq on the right, Saud on the left. It was Tariq who was shocked into taking their development to the OMB.

Tariq Adi is also reported to have said: “Yes, what happened at Martha absolutely has something to do with this. That’s fine, that’s part of doing business. We’ll just deal with it.”

The Mayor is reported to have denied that the votes against Adi are politically motivated and said the vote was based on the delegations made to city council.

Burlington is in the process of writing a new Official Plan. The decision to write a new plan rather than concentrate on revising the existing plan was to have it reflect the 25 year Strategic Plan that was approved last year.

The Planning department is also working up the rules and regulations that will apply to proposed mobility hubs at the downtown transit terminal, at the Appleby and Aldershot GO stations as well as at the Burlington GO station where the Molinaro Paradigm development, currently well underway with sales exceeding the original projection.

The Adi Development Group is relatively new to Burlington. They have a number of projects in different stages of development.

A view of the Adi development on Guelph Line just south of Upper Middle Road is a project with a very contemporary look.

A view of the Adi development on Guelph Line just south of Upper Middle Road is a project with a very contemporary look.

The Station West development in Aldershot has yet to break ground. Their Moder’n project on Guelph Line was completed more than a year ago and fits into the community very nicely.

ADI Link development

The Adi Link development at Dundas and Sutton in north east Burlington.

Their Link project at Dundas and Sutton is well underway.

There are still disputes with the organization that paid for the initial infrastructure work in the Orchard community. The Adi people appear to not want to pay their share of those costs at this point in time.

Tariq Adi is reported to be shocked at the rejection of the Alton project and is quoted in the Spectator as saying: “The mayor is not a fan of me and I’m not a fan of the mayor, period. He’s walking around preaching intensification and he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth.

Goldring + Jivan and son

Mayor Rick Goldring talking to an Alton resident during the last municipal election.

“He says this is not a good site for intensification when staff is saying this is the perfect site for intensification.

“We were proposing something that we believed was fair and reasonable and from a planning perspective conformed to all the official plans and growth plans that the City of Burlington was trying to do,” Adi said, “especially with the whole preaching of the intensification gospel.”

The city and the Adi people will now hire lawyers to argue before the OMB.

The one consistent factor in all this development activity is that if Adi is the company digging the hole in the ground – there will be major differences of opinion and, so far at least,  two of their developments are going to the OMB.

They are quite quick to sue when they don’t get what they want.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

10 comments to Developer is shocked – Mayor hasn’t seen anything like this before – two 19 storey apartments in Alton lead to some less than friendly words – in Burlington?

  • James

    This whole mess really spells trouble for Burlington. Not only are us taxpayers going to foot the bill when Council hires outside planners to fight the City’s own Planning Department at the OMB (a battle in which ADI now has a clear upper hand), this also signals major fundamental disconnects in thinking and strategy at City Hall. The new Official Plan motto is “Grow Bold”. That’s what everyone overwhelmingly voted for. New Tall Building Guidelines were even introduced to support that strategy. Intensification is coming and we need to embrace it they said. The worst mistake the City can make is to under-intensify they said. Yet the first chance they get to “grow bold”, they say no. Perhaps a new motto is in order: “If it ain’t status quo, the answer is no!”

    It doesn’t take much thinking to understand why ADI is angry. Here they negotiated in good faith with the Planning Department and came to an outcome that both sides could support. No doubt a lot of time and effort was spent reaching that outcome. What Council has done by denying that negotiated outcome is completely undermine the Planning Director, and sent a signal to the development community that while Burlington talks a good game, it is in actuality not open for business. If investors cannot trust that negotiations with the Planning Department will be respected, that’s a huge problem. If the Planning Director’s recommendations carry no weight with Council, her importance is diminished and the entire department is weakened.

    From an investor’s perspective, this is hardly a ringing endorsement for anyone looking at Burlington right now, where even applications that the Planning Department support somehow turn adversarial and end up at the OMB.

    • The problem James is that the “intensification” is completely undirected. If you localized it then you might get some kind of benefit. Spread randomly all over the city – it has no benefit – except city wide gridlock.

      Lots of people live in Las Angles and really that’s all the plan is – to transform Burlington into a congestion chocked mess.

      • James

        Agree completely, although City Hall HAS identified intensification nodes that should act as direction, but says no anytime an investor proposes an intense form of development leaving everyone in the dark as to what the City’s actual plan is. We have this catchy new “Grow Bold” slogan, but it seems to be nothing more than words. If intensification isn’t actually permitted within these intensification nodes, where IS it permitted? The idea that ADI’s downtown development is going to the OMB is insane. The Planning Department doesn’t support 26 storeys in the downtown intensification node in an area already built up with highrise buildings, but does support two 19 storey towers in the middle of a relatively new lowrise residential subdivision with minimal transit support??? Makes no sense at all. If there’s anywhere that highrise buildings belong, it’s downtown. The randomness to what this city will and won’t support just leaves me scratching my head.

    • Tom Muir

      The fundamental disconnects in thinking and strategy at City Hall that you mention, are with the residents of the city, the people who pay the bills and want to have a say. These disconnects with the public have made themselves quite clear – it looks like it’s the planners and developers that think they are in charge.

      As I explained, we do not have a new Official Plan, based on Grow Bold and “intensification”, that has been vetted, consulted on, discussed, and approved, by the residents. That’s what things like new OPs are required by planning law to go through – a statutory public process of consultation and buy-in. This due process has not been done.

      This same process ultimately is subject to political decision-making, debate, discussion, and approval of something. All of this formal stuff is missing, so there’s no wonder the city doesn’t appear to have a real plan, as you say James, because they don’t have one.

      It’s that missing public process where the intensification gets directed, explained, discussed and all that public input gets done, so that we can work towards the Real Plan and get citizen buy-in.

      So as Greg says, in the interim we have random and undirected speculation-based proposals, pushing for heights that citizens clearly have not bought into for many reasons that they clearly explain.

      ADI just dismisses the public expressions of will. As I pointed out, the planners recommendation was at complete odds with what the citizens said they wanted. Instead of having the citizen buy-in and say, we have the planners and developers making the rules up on the run.

      Basically, ADI, their planners, and the city planners and Director, all talked themselves into some agreement, but tricked themselves by forgetting that the eventual decision was a political one. The citizens, whose views were dismissed, took action, and Councilors refused the staff recommendation. Real politics.

      We need a new OP publicly discussed and vetted. Any over the top proposals that try to arrogantly bust the existing OP on the bodies of citizens, are jumping the gun to try and make the new OP what they want it to be.

      The Planning Director needs to get control of this situation and make it clear to residents and Council that she knows what she is doing about getting an OP that will work and that has citizen understanding and support. You can’t just randomize the way things work, or they won’t work.

      The City planners are obviously not there yet, and there are a lot of political, legal, and financial consequences because of this. You can’t just run the citizens over all the time.

  • This completely randomized response to developments has got to go. We need fixed rules which developers can count on. We used to have this in the zoning code. The problem now is no one knows what you can build where. As no one knows how insanely the original zoning can be violated. Developers are buying property based on height speculation the staff likes it and residents don’t.

    I’ve read the official plan – trust me either deliberately or sloppily city staff have put enough stuff in there that the developers will win at the omb. The only way for the city to win is to have clear consistent rules – a muck of contradicting statements is not strong enough.

    It’s not the Mayor – the city staff is on about intensification. The problem is that residents don’t like it. Without a transit plan, a park plan, localized commercial plan – etc – intensification has nothing in it for residents except large tax bills and traffic congestion.

    If the city could plan and articulate what exactly it is doing on these issues and lets say actually get 70% of intensification down town – it *could* be workable. As it it’s just a mess.

    • Phillip

      It IS the mayor–the mayor sets direction for the city’s planner and the policy guidelines under which she operates. I find it difficult to believe that Goldring didn’t know about this development and the city planners’s recommendation.

      His reaction is easy to understand. After 6 years of ineffectual leadership and a number of gaffs/controversies in the past year, Goldring is beginning to assess his chances for reelection in 2018 and is undoubtedly very nervous. Hence, the “Rick Goldring to the rescue” ploy. Hopefully, the electorate aren’t fooled again– in 2014, both Goldring & Dennison exploited the great flood for political gains

      • Tom Muir

        You are correct to believe the Mayor knew about the planners recommendation.

        It’s all in the proceedings of this development proposal process, but in particular the Committee meeting agenda package with the staff report, the public comments, and have a good look at the number of people delegating in person.

        There was a great deal of reasoned and passionate opposition to this project proposal and the planners recommendation to approve it.

        Looking at what is actually allowed in the OP and zoning, (which is 10 stories and other things), and from public comments included in the agenda package, I think there would not have been such strenuous opposition if ADI had went with that. But that ADI doesn’t work that way is rather apparent.

        The Committee Councilors obviously responded to this strong show of the public will on this project. The vote was 6 to 1 to refuse, with Craven voting to approve. Maybe you want him for Mayor.

        As I said below, this is called real politics.

        • Phillip

          Want Craven for Mayor??? He along with Dennison and Goldring need to be removed from office in 2018.

    • Tom Muir

      Excellent comment Greg. I’m really tired to see this same thing going on. But one thing I differ some with is when you imply we have an official plan.

      We don’t “really” have an Official Plan, that is “really” being implemented. What we have is some drafts about maybe policies, about a new OP, that have not in the least been vetted in the due process of public review and public consultation, and Council approval. These drafts and loose planning talk, are what is being acted on by developers as a surrogate OP.

      So we see developers, as you say, ignoring the existing OP rules and speculating about height and density to try and make the new OP what they want it to be, and what they write it to be in their “good planning” justifications.

      We have, in effect, a real OP vacuum leading to the chaos of a scrambling, anything goes, and to hell with what the residents, who pay the bills, say they want for THEIR CITY.

      For this official plan vacuum, I suggest, we have to blame first, and not the Mayor, but the relatively new Planning Director, who I have heard talk too much, and too sloppily, about “intensification” in the new, under construction OP, in terms so vague as to mean anything the planners might want to say it is.

      What do general statements that she is more concerned that we “under-intensify” rather than “over-intensify”, with no reasoned criteria even mentioned about what this might mean, except more, do but induce the vagueness encouraged speculation that is running rampant?

      Beware a planning leadership whose voice seems to encourage this speculative behavior aimed at breaking the OP, and who, in doing this, is seemingly politically naive of consequences, and unsympathetic with the democratic participation and engagement of residents expressing what they want.

      There is no excuse for this attitude in the face of what residents said consistently from the start about the two 19 story buildings where 10 stories was by right.

      Calling this “good planning” is what I mean about it being anything and whatever the planners say it is. It’s just words.

      The OMB appeal is another cheap place-holder for ADI to start all over again to try and break, then remake, our OP, and damn what the people might want or say.

      It’s the same ADI behavior, and disrespect for citizens, shown regarding the Martha St., Nautique proposal, speculative play.

      And don’t play the blame game that the Mayor and City are seeking revenge. It’s real politics stupid.

  • Blair Zielke

    Do you blame them? You say the city planning department approved it but now council opposes it? This council and mayor needs to learn how to deal with developers and stop wasting the taxpayers money with the OMB!