ECoB - We need to call a truce. We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted.

opinionandcommentBy Lisa Kearns

April 25th, 2018



Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECoB) is a not for profit group working towards a better Burlington for generations to come.

Kearns direct smile

Lisa Kearns – part of the ECoB leadership team. Is there more than ECoB in her future?

Working within the civic process, we are particularly concerned with issues of planning and development. The group is energized to bring voices and action to challenges that will affect the quality of life today and in the future, we are advocates for good planning across the entire City.

In the months from inception, ECoB has held an open meeting, a rally, a municipal elections workshop, hand delivered thousands of flyers, displayed hundreds of lawn signs, received press, appeared on community television and radio, grown our social media base, inspired a record number of delegations, met with provincial and municipal elected officials, city planning, business owners, developers and most importantly residents.

We have reflected on our position on the matters contained in the Draft Official Plan and truly reflect to objectively determine if we are the outliers, to see if were the radicals, to see if there was any truth to the tactics used to silence us. And here’s the thing, we are not. What we are – are concerned residents and now we are engaged.

From fragmented pockets across the city have woven together to tell the same story – we are not against growth – we are against excessive intensification and loss of community. The same Provincial Policy Statements are used in every development justification report and the same committee and council allow the most obtuse interpretation of these guidelines to promote efficient land use and development patterns. The same policies that govern Toronto and Mississauga have only one safety net in place and that is our Municipal Official Plan. That is why today is so important.

In previous delegations, residents and ECoB have set out specific areas for reconsideration. We asked to have the bar set higher – in the spirit of vibrancy to increase the uses in the Brant Main Precinct, we were successful in receiving a “should” contain three uses in the three storey podiums that extinguish our unique downtown retail. We talked about employment land designations and the ability to keep the door open for future considerations, we saw uproar that ensued from our agricultural friends.

Kearns at podium

Kearns at the podium during the ECoB candidates meeting.

We know you are aware there is a deficiency here and that is why the City has actively taken steps to ignore and deduce the consistent wave of pushing into this process.

The number of drafts that have come out, the inability to build a model that neighbourhood kids could complete, the inadvertent scheduling conflicts, the refusal to meet by some Councillors, the letter from the City Manager to silence instead of collaborate, thrown out petitions, NIMBY lawn signs in every ward, minutes of grow bold videos that hardly scratch the surface #growbold, #goodplanningmatters, and the most stinging “just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t good planning”.

Right down to the special meeting of Council scheduled directly after this Committee meeting – how is anything from the 30+ delegations today going to receive due process and influence the vote tomorrow?

And aren’t quite done. There is still the Transit Plan, the Transportation Plan, the Mobility Hub Plan, the secondary phase of the Downtown Area Specific Plan. The challenges are still ahead and if we cannot all be on the same page with the most important City document, we most certainly will be challenged in the phases that shape our future.

Here’s the thing, planning is suggestive and without doubt a challenging task and profession. While we know that we’ve been a pain we also want you to know that we do respect the work that has been done and hope that if anything, this pressure will give you more support to create a plan that is built exclusively for our great city.

We need to call a truce.

ECoB Dec 13 #2

ECoB’s first large community meeting – they had traction and a following.

We are not against growth, we are not against change. But we are against it done poorly, done in a way that contravenes protection of established neighbourhoods, a way that cannot audit the 5% growth, cannot protect our own green space, and in a way that will ebb and flow as supporting plans come forward. We have asked for a complete vision and are no where close.

We are asking for help because it is not Ok to extend permissions for 18+ stories abutting low density residential, it is not Ok to allow in-congruent infill, it is not Ok to allow hundreds of town homes that double the density permissions, it is not Ok to push residents in Alton village, Pinedale, Bluewater/ Avondale, Dynes, Aldershot and more to the very edge – where the only option is seeking relief from the municipal tribunal.

It is not Ok to leave every resident wondering when they are going to have to become experts in the planning process that they have entrusted to those before us. Let’s make sure that the balance in in our favour now.

The province has mandated growth, we recognize that there needs to be growth, but is it councils responsibility to protect community. The question is does any of this document actually enforce a successful and complete community. We need the Committee to insist that amenities are included not just residential. It is about quality of life and not quantity of people. We seem to be more focused on getting people out of the city instead of keeping people in the city – embedded into their communities through a live, work and play approach.

We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted. We have asked, does the city want to fight with the residents or against the residents, only you can decide with the vote today.

And so, with the last chance to address this Draft Official Plan today we ask you to let down your guard, let us in, and really hear your residents. We continually hear Staff ask – “is this plan defensible”, and yet the bigger question is “is this plan accountable?”.

This is the last chance to be accountable to residents today and residents in the future.

Lisa Kearns is a downtown Burlington resident who has been instrumental in creating ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington.

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10 comments to ECoB – We need to call a truce. We have tried everything possible to bring a sense of balance, to bring a better vision, to bring a complete plan and we are exhausted.

  • Philip,

    Perhaps the reason why this mayor and council continue down the path to intensification is far more nefarious?

    • Phillip

      I don’t disagree, Cody. I was just being “discrete” when I used the term “undue influence”.

  • jUDY

    Thank you Lisa and all who help you! I hope the City listens to the thousands who have expressed their views.

  • Joseph Gaetan

    A very thoughtful well researched and level headed submission that puts words to the many thoughts and frustrations that the silent majority of citizens of Burlington are not able to or ready to share. Nothing to add other than support for ECoB. As long as there are people like Lisa who are willing to take time from their growing family to delegate, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Kudos

  • Sharon

    Sounds like Burlington City Council works the same way as the Halton District School Board. They don’t listen to the people that put them in the seat they are sitting in!

    • Phillip

      Sharon, that they don’t listen is a given. But the question I am increasingly asking is why this mayor and council, who must know that opposition to intensification-OP is widespread and deep, continue down this path? Is it pride or the arrogant belief that they alone have the answers? Or is it that the developers truly control the process and are exercising undue influence over the decision-making in this town? Whatever it is, it is UGLY and unlikely to change before October 22.

  • George

    Dear Lisa,

    The ECoB and yourself have made great progress and the citizens of Burlington thank you.

    Would you be interested in running for Burlington City Councillor in the downtown ward come October 22, 2018?

    If so, you would certainly have my vote and I am sure the votes of many others in the downtown ward.

    Thank you again for your good work.

  • Stephen White

    Lisa’s remarks pretty much capture the sentiments of a large number of Burlington residents I have spoken to on this issue. People feel overwhelmed, dazed, powerless and frustrated. I am seeing an increasing amount of anger and rage emerging even from people with only a passing interest of level of political involvement. The Mayor, this Council and the Planning Department have repeatedly demonstrated they really don’t give a damn.

    Very well. Let them face the voters’ wrath come October 22nd. I know who I am voting for, and it certainly won’t be any toady Mayoralty or Council candidates who are “pocket puppies” of real estate developers and who support this flawed OP!

    • Phillip

      Stephen, I couldn’t have said it better. I live in Ward 4 and I’m voting for a massive shake-up on Brant Street on October 22. I’m tired of a Mayor, Council, and far too many bureaucrats who believe that “the residents work for them”. On election day, I intend to vote for representatives who “work for the people”.