Families in a part of Aldershot do not understand why an 11 storey building can be built when the bylaw says just six

By Pepper Parr

December 8th, 2022



Earlier in the week four people from Aldershot delegated on a development proposal that was going to include an 8-storey mixed-use building with retail at grade and stacked townhome units along the rear of the property and a 9-storey and 11-storey mixed-use buildings connected by a 6-storey podium with retail at grade as well as stacked townhome units along the rear of the property

The properties were at 1010 Downsview Drive and 355 Plains Road East

This is what the developer wants to build – residents who delegated want the city to stick with the six storey bylaw.

The development straddles Downsview Drive and sit in the midst of singe family dwellings.

Every delegate didn’t understand why the bylaw that permitted six story structures was not being observed.

Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith asked the delegations what they would like to see – each answered: six storeys which the bylaw permitted.

We see this often. Property owners don’t fully understand the process developers go through to get their plans approved.

Index to the site plan

A developer will ask for a change to the zoning bylaw that sets out what can be built on a piece of property in Burlington or they will ask for a change in the Official Plan – both which they are allowed to do.

The city planning department is required to accept every development application and report to Council on whether or not they support the application.

Residents don’t understand the process – why should they – they bought a home, moved in and are busy living their lives, getting their kids to soccer games and to the library and just living their lives.

What is permitted and what the developer wants.

Then along comes a development application that has the potential to make their property worth less and suddenly they are expected to become instant experts on the planning game.

Few understand the fundamental change the GTA is going through and the need to build a million and a half homes in the next ten years. That just isn’t something that is top of mind for them.

During the delegations their ward Councillor Kelvin Galbraith asked them questions and he certainly understood how they felt.  Six storeys – just like the bylaw says.  He didn’t attempt to explain the provincial requirement that tens of thousands of home had to be built.

There is a better way to handle these situation. Marianne Meed Ward used it, and by the way changed the way residents are informed about changes that are taking place.

When she was Councillor for Ward 2 should would hold regular meetings for her constituents – on a number of occasions she set out card tables and put four people at each table giving them homework assignments – doing what she felt she had to do to understand how the people she represented were thinking.

At one of those meetings I recall Meed Ward saying very loudly: “I just love this job” And she did love her job.

At one point the city clerk at the time had to tell Meed Ward that she had spent all the money she had in her budget to pay for coffee and Timbits – and she wasn’t yet half way through her term.

That isn’t the Marianne we see these days but that is another story.

Meed Ward paved the path to superb community engagement. She held meetings and listened.

Galbraith found himself unable to explain to his constituents why the development application is eventually going to be approved.

Quite why Galbraith did not hold a meeting and explain to the people in a part of his ward that was going to be impacted;  what they were up against and what they could do and not do.

He has a budget for getting mail out to people. And letters were sent to more than 500 people by the city.  Those letters tend not to get much attention – they are seldom clear to most readers.

He could have explained to those four delegations what was likely to happen. He didn’t. He fully understands the need to build that million and a half homes in ten years and loves being a part of that process.

At heart Galbraith is a builder.

And that is where Burlington has a significant problem in the way members of Council work with their constituents.

Lisa Kearns has in the past held pretty regular meetings but tends to use of most of the time talking instead of listening.

She has been very good at setting up meetings that are attended by people in the room and those taking part virtually – they worked. All people had to do was put up with an hour of Kearns talking before there was a chance to ask their questions.

Most people listen to the weather reports before they go to bed or first thing in the morning to get a sense of what they are facing.

Now if he could learn how she did it – he too might become Mayor. Hasn’t that been the game plan for some time?

Members of Burlington’s city council might try becoming weather reporters and telling people what they are facing when a development application comes in.

The Council members know what the planning department has received long before the public becomes aware.

There was a time when those elected to office were there to serve. That understanding doesn’t seem to be the fashion these days.

Galbraith is very close to the Mayor – he might want to ask her – how did you do it ?

The Marianne I used to know was once very very good at listening and serving the needs of her constituents.

Kelvin Galbraith is smart enough to learn – all he has to do is realize that he was elected to serve the interests of everyone in his ward and teach them what they need to know in a world that is changing very quickly.

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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