Finally an issue that pits Mayor against his most troubling Council member. What kind of downtown core development for the city ?

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON  April 10, 2012  You can see the battle lines beginning to be drawn.  The positions are being staked out.  The issue will probably come down to – what kind of a city do we want?  What do we want the downtown core to look like?  What are we prepared to give up to get the development and the growth we need that will put some life into Brant Street?

Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has started to stake out her position with a piece she did in her on line Newsletter which got into the hands of a Hamilton Spectator reporter and showed up as a fairly long piece in the holiday Monday newspaper.

The development is to include the full block with a 17 story high rise, a parking garage and a medical complex.

The issue is a development known as Medica One that has missed a critical deadline required in the application they made to rezone the property they had assembled at Caroline and John Streets.  Because of the deadlines that were missed Meed Ward says the zoning application has to go back to Council – which is sort of back to square one and get fought out all over again.  Only this time Meed Ward sits as a Council member and not just a delegate – and she appears to have the planner on her side as far as the technicalities go.

Meed Ward didn’t like the height of the buildings when she was just a citizen; she felt the buildings should have been set back quite a bit further to create a better street-scape; something people could relate too.  At one committee meeting in 2009 she said: “City Hall and the developer have worked behind closed doors for two years, without the community at the table. The staff report only became available to residents June 14, which leaves little time for us to review and respond.”  She was strident and focused then and she will be just as strident and focused when this comes back to Council.

Mayor Goldring agrees with Meed Ward on the technicalities.  The city planner also agrees.  The Mayor thinks there is a way to resolve the deadline problem.  Mead Ward is going to be saying – “not so fast”.    Bruce Krushelnicki, the city planner, is a stickler for the rules and he will insist that Council debate the original zoning application and make a new decision.

During the debate on this project back in 2010 when Meed Ward wasn’t a council member she had major problems with the height and with the way the proposed 17 story structure was going to relate to the street-scape.  Add to that her concerns about the impact the building was going to have on the neighbouring streets.

And that`s where the differences come into play.

A city block with small one and two storey structures was to be the locale for a high rise project that some think the city needs while others feel the scale is out of proportion to the community. This could go to the OMB.

Mayor Goldring believes the city needs development and that the downtown core needs all the help it can get.  Meed Ward sees the health of neighborhoods as more important and this time she has a platform she didn’t have in the past.  The city has to grow – the province set out the growth requirement in it’s Places to Grow policy.  The city is desperate to create jobs, high paying, high tech jobs and Medica One was seen as the first new building that would attract and house those jobs.  The complex was to consist of  affordable units for younger people, a parking garage and a medical complex that would be close to the significant number of senor citizens in that community.  Nick Carnacelli and his Garden Gate development company got the zoning changed he needed and then basically did nothing.  Most of his time, energy and funding was put into a project he has going on in Hamilton.

Since getting the zoning changes he needed Carnacelli then went on to buy the Pearl Street Café properties and hold them for redevelopment.  You can see a developer banking significant pieces of property – is there a larger plan, or any kind of vision. Doesn’t appear to be one.

However, it is evident that something is going to happen with the Riviera Motel property at the bottom of Elizabeth and that just might spark a burst of development in the downtown core.  The Conservation Authority  has given the Mayrose Tyco group a solid boot in the bum and told them to get on with the development or find themselves having to deal with more stringent water’s edge set back rules that will leave them with less property to build on.

Mayor Goldring complained on more than one occasion about the lack of any progress on the site.

Meanwhile, Carnacelli got OMB approval to add more height to his property assembly at John and Brant as well as more height for the property in the Old Lakeshore precinct where the two Lakeshores merge.  Lots of capacity for future development but no shovels in the ground.

Marianne Meed Ward is on the other side of the podium this time - sits as the Council member for Ward 2 where a developer got a zoning change she opposed.

There are those on the 6th, 7th and 8th floors of city hall who feel strongly that Meed Ward has harmed the city’s relationship with the developers and that several have put projects on hold or just not put shovels into the ground because of her intrusions.

The city needs the additional assessment – there aren’t going to be anymore of those large residential developments like Alton in the north east part of the city coming along.    Meed Ward has always had a “thing” about developers – she wants to see them not just putting up buildings but developing in a responsible manner with more than just an eye to putting a couple of benches and a patch of green outside the building that rises 17 stories above the street.

She didn’t take a dime in election funding from developers last time and she won’t take as much as a nickel next time either.  Expect developers to get together and talk about putting together a fund to defeat her in 2014.  Can she be beat?   Everyone can be beaten in an election but Marianne Meed Ward is a true civic fighter with a constituency that just loves everything she does.

There is though a significant number of people who can’t stand what she is doing.  I continually get asked what I think about what she is up to.  The people with perceived influence in the city don`t appear to have all that much time for Marianne Meed Ward.  Does that matter?

Meed Ward has made a significant change in the way the city uses Section 37’s of the Planning Act.  A section 37 of the Act allows a developer to pay a sum of money to the city in exchange for additional height and density in a development.

In the past these Section 37 agreements were worked out between the Planning Department and the developer.  Meed Ward wanted the people who live in the community to be at the table when these Section 37 deals were worked out and not just hear about them when a decision is made.

The orchids on Upper Middle Road, west of Appleby Line are examples of Section 37 deals that Meed Ward wants to see come to an end.

The developers dream. The Mayor's nightmare? The ward Councillors second chance.

All this noise from Meed Ward was manageable by senior city staff when she was just a citizen delegating – now she has a platform and a much higher public profile.  That hasn’t made her any friends at city hall – which doesn’t seem to bother Meed Ward.  Her objective is to convince her ward constituents that she can bring about change and then take that message to the larger community.

With the city’s Official Plan about to begin the required five year review, expect to see Meed Ward front and centre promoting her view of what the city should be.

She seems to have a clearer vision than the Mayor – or at least we are hearing more of her vision.  Add to that her courage – some would call it brash and stupid, but Meed Ward will call for a recorded vote and be the only person to vote for her motion – and do it three times in a row.

But the city knew, or should have known, that was the kind of Council member she was going to be.  Former Mayor Cam Jackson was close to terrified at what Meed Ward would do as a Council member.  That problem evaporated for him when he lost the election.

Rick Goldring is a different Mayor but he is facing a council member who wants the job he has – if not the next election then certainly the one after that.  Can Goldring handle the onslaught for the next two and a half years? .  He is going to have to improve his game on several fronts to keep ahead of Meed Ward.  It will be fun to watch.

While both Meed Ward and Goldring are new to their jobs; Meed Ward as a Council member and Goldring as Mayor, who also has four years’ experience as a member of the Jackson administration, she is much faster on her feet than the Mayor.  She is also far more media savvy than the Mayor.

At this point the Mayor is seen as the more solid of the two but Meed Ward wants that 8th floor office and she has lots of time to plan and build the support she needs. She has a clear vision; something Goldring might have but not one the public has seen.

At this point Goldring talks of having delivered on most of the campaign promises he made – not that many people can remember what those promises were.

Does Meed Ward have the lines she needs into the people with the money in this city?    The developers certainly aren’t excited about her being Mayor but she has a dedicated ward fan club and she runs the best Citizen’s Advisory Committee in town  and she has shown she can adjust her position to the prevailing winds.

She was opposed to the development of a parkette on the Elgin Street property where the city has a maintenance facility.  Burlington had been discussing doing something similar to what was being done in our `twin`city in Holland.  The Appledoorn city officials decided to hold off for a year due to financial constraints and Meed Ward thought that’s what Burlington should have done as well.  Council didn’t see it that way and voted to proceed.  So, while opposed, Meed Ward jumped in and made the project her own and is now deeply involved with architects and plans for the improvement of the area.  It wasn’t necessarily a good idea – the site is too small and the facilities building has traffic that isn’t compatible with the children`s playground right beside the property.

She opposed the way the city decided to resolve the Pier construction issue – Meed Ward felt the city should have dealt with the original contractor and worked something out with him.  She made her case – it didn’t hold and so being the trooper she is – she went along with the decision.  She is however waiting to see just how much the city has spent on lawyers fees on this one.  If the city doesn’t win it`s court case and recover all it’s costs – the howl from Meed Ward will be loud and long.

She leaked or is believed to have leaked information to the media about the Pier (it wasn’t to us) and then had to deal with the ire of her fellow Council members on that one.

Does Meed Ward have the support of her fellow Council members on the Medica One development?  Probably not.  But the city has a Planner who is as ethical as they come – he will insist council follow the rules.  This is going to be a three way play.

The Mayor will be for it and want to find a way to accommodate the developer.

Meed Ward will argue against giving the developer the same rezoning and demand that the city get much more for what the developer wants. If you have any doubt where Meed Ward is heading – read one of her recent community newsletters.

The Planner will stick to the rules – no fast ones with Bruce Krushelnicki.

As the motto on the city`s crest puts it: Stand by.



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2 comments to Finally an issue that pits Mayor against his most troubling Council member. What kind of downtown core development for the city ?

  • Harry Mc Mahon

    I am one of those supporters of mead Ward in ward 2.She is not wishy washy but states her case and has shown an ability to adjust when the people in her ward give her input that makes sense.I like your inference that she could run for mayor down the road ,she would be terrific in the job.
    Developers are an essential part of our growth but Council must always have the final say.
    Get used to Mead Ward as she is going to be with us for quite a while.

  • Walter Mulkewich

    The last line of this article is really good. Many Burlingtonians do not understand the significance of the motto on the Burlington’s historic crest. “Stand By” is an old nautical term from Burlington’s history as a port (with at least three piers) – a term the Captain would send to to sailors that says be ready for danger and be prepared to take on the challenges presented. Building the city is a continuous and tough journey, and hopefully the citizens of Burlington are prepared to boldly build a city for the future – sustainable, liveable, prosperous, continuing an even better quality of life. The call is to “Stand By”.