Development community weighs in on the draft official plan - flawed and needs detailed growth numbers.

News 100 redPepper Parr

September 6, 2017



It was one of those Receive and File reports – it was hundreds of pages long and it focused on the new Official Plan that is being created by the Planning department with input from anyone in the city who has a comment.

The Tuesday meeting was time for the building industry to speak along with Burlington’s Sustainability Committee that is made up of citizens who advise city Council.

The time frames that have been put in place are extremely tight; the planners want city council to pass whatever the Official Plan is going to be done by the end of November.

The development industry thinks there is some information that should be in the document – specifically, what the population of the city is going to be and where those people are to be housed.

The population of the city is determined by the province – and they are telling us that Burlington has to grow. The province gives the Regional government a number – the Region decides how that number is going to be divided between Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills.

Region Official Plan allocates 8,086 new units to be achieved in the built-up area of Burlington over the 2017 to 2031 period. The breakdown is 2,758 new units over the 2017 to 2021 period, 2,669 new units over the 2022 to 2026 period and 2,659 units over the 2027 to 2031 period

Adi - Urban growth centre boundary

This is where growth can take place in the downtown core.. The development community thinks that growth should take place along Brant street.

In the Adi Development report “Staff recognized that the Urban Growth Centre needs to accommodate a total of 22,800 people and jobs by 2031 in order to reach the minimum target set out by the Growth Plan.”

The staff report goes on to say that: “When the estimated 15,417 residents in the Urban Growth Centre as of 2013 are added to the 736 anticipated residents and 702 estimated jobs resulting from recently approved and upcoming developments, the estimated number of people and jobs in the Urban Growth Centre within the next several years is 16,855.

This figure is 5,945 short of the minimum density target. (22,800 – 16,885 = 5,945)

The Places to Grow Growth Plan was put in place ten years ago. Planning staff calculates that, with developments in the approval pipeline included, the Urban Growth is approaching 74% of the minimum density target for 2031.

If we divide the approximate 5,945 people and jobs by the 17 years remaining to reach the target of 22,800 we get an average annual target of approximately 350 people and or jobs per year that will have to be created for each of the 17 years remaining between now and 2031.

Some members of city council will tell you that we are at the 75% point of that growth target. Some in the development community say the number is at the 66% level.

With the need to grow very clear the developers are beavering away at what they do – building housing. What kind of housing – not single family detached homes – the city managers claims we aren’t going to see a net increase in single family dwellings – for a number of reasons.

One – we have no more land on which to build and the cost of those homes is getting to be well beyond the ability of young families to be able to afford.

Upper Middle Road looking east towards Burloak - primer commercial. No takers?

Upper Middle Road looking east towards Burloak – prime commercial. No takers.  Developer wants some of the land converted to residential use.

Add to that the – the tussle over land in the city that is zoned employment lands which the developers want to build houses on. That stretch of land along upper middle Road where it curves into Burloak is seen as land that should have residential land.

If not single family detached homes then apartments or condominiums.

Mark Bales, one of the decision makers at Carriage Gate, the company that is currently building the Berkeley at the corner of Maria and John street where there 17 storey condominium, is part of a development that is to include a parking garage and Medical Centre.

Bales told council that Carriage Gate wanted to support the draft Official Plan but couldn’t do so because it wasn’t complete enough.

Existing downtown land uses #6

Graphic of the downtown core boundaries.

City Council recognizes that new growth is to be directed to a series of nodes (especially the Downtown) and along important transportation corridors within the Built-Up area.

The new Draft Official Plan is in many respects a characteristic urban structure plan with growth being focused to a series of nodes that are knit together by connecting corridors. The success of the plan will be contingent upon the ability of the Urban Growth Centre, the other mobility hubs and transportation corridors to accommodate assigned amounts of growth by 2031. “We agree with this focus” said Bales, but the draft of the Official Plan fails to propose effective growth management strategies and the policy framework necessary to bring the Plan to life.

Bales added that the draft was released in March and that Carriage Gate has submitted comments. Staff said we would receive responses yet to-date we have not received a response, said Bales.

During the council meeting the planers did say that answers would be forthcoming.

Mark Bales

Mark Bales

Bales wants to see a plan that does more than simply paint a pretty picture of what the City might generally like to achieve. He said: “Municipalities are required to encourage and facilitate residential intensification.”

For Bales and other delegations the draft of the Official Plan fails to assign population and employment distribution targets to each of the Mobility Hubs and the Downtown Urban Growth Centre in particular.

“No one can figure out how much of what is intended to go where. Even if we knew, the guts in the Plan to make it happen are missing” said Bales.

“Without assigned population and employment targets for each of the mobility hubs and the corridors, it is impossible to determine whether or not the underlying principles and policies of the Plan are appropriate or if success can be reasonably achieved.”

Bales went on: “We recognize that redevelopment and intensification projects within existing urban areas can be some of the most challenging that a city will experience. This is precisely the reason that new planning policies must focus on matters of “fit” and not sameness. “The current Draft Official Plan fails in this regard” he said.

“To be successful, the new Official Plan must not only provide clear policy directions for new development but must also foster an environment that will bring it to life.”

Bales brought to the attention of council that city planners said at a recent Ontario Municipal Board hearing that Burlington is 66 percent of the way towards meeting its required minimum target for 2031. Staff also confirmed that the existing planning policies for the Downtown will not enable the City to reach its required minimum population and employment targets by 2031.

Ward 2 Councillor Meed Ward said she believed the city has “blown past” what it needs to have achieved in terms of meeting the 2031 target.

Bales is concerned that the city’s incorrect messaging continues and that the city’s additional growth requirements have yet to be presented to Council and the public.

“You may ask why this is so important” said Bales. “It is important because not only are appropriate planning policies required for the Downtown, but these policies may impact other Official Plan policies and those being developed for other mobility hubs, nodes and corridors – in other words, the policy framework being prepared for the entire Plan may be flawed.”

Flawed or not – the construction of the high rise in the downtown core is well underway.  Set out below are the projects underway,before the planners or in front of the OMB.


Bridgewater CROPPED

The Bridgewater development is under construction – it is a done deal approved in 1995.


The Berkeley is under construction. Another done deal.

421 Brant

421 Brant – in the hands of the planners who will issue a report in the near future.


The Nautique – the OMB hearing has taken place – report might be seen before the end of the year. Council and the planners appear to be prepared to settle for an 11 storey structure – developer wanted 28.

Bales made reference to a consulting report Carriage Gate had done that sets out some mind boggling numbers. The Gazette will report in detail on that document. To give you a sense as to what it had to say Bales told council the report concludes that within the Built-Up area, 45 new tall buildings are required between now and 2031 with 23 of those to be located within the Urban Growth Centre/the Downtown.

To put this into perspective, said Bales, the residential housing supply in the Downtown is required to expand by over 40% between now and 2031.

The report adds that “In addition, we are challenged to find any locations in the Urban Growth Centre that are currently designated and zoned to reasonably accommodate this scale of redevelopment.”

23 new tall buildings – you can guess what that is going to do to the look and feel of Burlington.

Looks like an election issue to us.

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4 comments to Development community weighs in on the draft official plan – flawed and needs detailed growth numbers.

  • Stephen White

    First, Burlington is not Toronto. People leave Toronto and move to the suburbs precisely because they don’t want to endure the congestion and density characteristic of a large urban centre.

    Second, high density condos are not conducive to family living. Sorry, but they just aren’t. It may work for young singles or empty nesters but it doesn’t work for young couples having or expecting to have children. Ask any young couple if they would prefer to live in a townhouse or single-unit dwelling vs. a high rise condo and the answer is invariably the former.

    Third, our existing infrastructure is so woefully inadequate that it cannot handle the level of intensification being contemplated. It takes me longer to drive from southeast Burlington to Mapleview than it does to drive to northeast Oakville. The roads are poorly maintained, the traffic lights aren’t synchronized, the speed limits are too low, and the traffic volume is horrendous. Moreover, why would a City that hasn’t got enough industry already support re-zoning industrial lands for residential purposes?

    Municipal politicians and planning officials should stop listening to developers and an irrelevant, soon-to-be ex-Premier, and start listening to taxpayers. There is reason provincial Cabinet Ministers like Glen Murray are resigning and it is because they know the writing is on the wall. Council should demonstrate some guts and leadership for once and delay approval on Grow Bold and Mobility Hubs until after the next municipal election so taxpayers can make the ultimate determination on the design of our community at the polls in October 2018.

  • Pauline

    Wow … Why has the City not explained growth requirements to the public? If the development industry is correct, the City’s future focus better be on fit and quality – not quantity.

  • B. Wayne

    Burlington is on it’s way to becoming a mini Mississauga. High density JAM. Our Provincial Government has been wrong and screwed up everything they touch so I guess this is an other example. Please remember at the next Provincial election.

  • steve

    “The population of the city is determined by the province – and they are telling us that Burlington has to grow.”

    Sniff, sniff…..totalitarian, authoritarian.