Frederick Michael and two of his neighbours will soon be the very proud owner of one of the most magnificent locations on the edge of Lake Ontario.

News 100 blackBy Pepper Parr

January 6, 2015


 A four part feature on the city’s decision to sell small parcels of land that it owns that fronts on to Lake Ontario between Market and St. Paul Street. Part 3: The Swartz situation.

Frederick Michael Swartz will, in the near future, take possession of the property that runs from the edge of the back yard of his Lakeshore property to the edge of the retaining wall on Lake Ontario.

Market - Lakeshore-foot-of-St-Paul-looking-west3-1024x682

One dreams about setting like this. It is now private property.

He  already has a magnificent site – when he takes possession of what is now city and provincially owned property, they will have exclusive access and all the privacy one could ask for.

The public does not yet know what Swartz paid for the property – that will be disclosed when the deal is complete. Swartz is actually buying land from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and the city of Burlington.

The purchase of the land creates a property that has immense potential. When it next changes hands – and property always changes hands – it will see an impressive increase in value.

The property was purchased in September of 2007 for $1,850,000

Getting the small parcels of land was a battle but Fredrick Michael is a tough nut used to getting what he wants. He is described as a very successful retired banker who now spends his time on community projects and is heavily involved in Habitat for Humanity.

Janice Connell after delegating to city council i committee - She thinks she just might have nailed it!

Janice Connell after delegating to city council i committee – She thinks she just might have nailed it!

Swartz and his wife Janice Connell did a fine job of delegating at city hall; she did the schmoozing that was needed with members of council. She got into what was pretty close to a spitting match with Councillor Meed Ward but she was just one vote which the Swartz’s didn’t need.

Council vote Dec 18-14 Water Street

Six of the seven voted for the sale of city owned water front property on a recoded vote. Councillor Marianne Meed Ward was the dissenter.

Several of the Councillors couldn’t get their hands up for that YES vote at city Council on December 18, 2014 fast enough.

Some people have a bit of a beef with Swartz and his wife. They did nothing wrong – they saw an opportunity and they went after it and they knew how to do the lobbying and the report writing.

They hired a highly regarded real estate professional who did the research and provided Swartz with a solid case for the city to sell the property. It was an opinion that appears to have been made available to members of Council – not to all of them – but the public is never going to see the document.

While Council appears to have relied heavily on the report – they haven’t said a word about it. Had they done so they would have had to make it public and the understanding in place when the information was made available was that it was never to be made public.  Swartz bought and paid for the report.

Janice Connell was the spokesperson for the family. This is a spunky lady – she made her point each time she delegated and did her best to take on Councillor Meed Ward directly.

Connell told city council that selling the property was the best decision the city could make. Many people do not share that view. It was certainly the best decision for the Swartz household and it will be great if at some point that family deeds it to the city – but that isn’t going to happen any time soon.

The villains in this disaster was a city council that let themselves be swayed by some pretty persuasive arguments.

And in doing so they forget about what the city is about; they also managed to overlook more than a dozen sound policies that were in place. Add to that they chose not to go with the pretty solid Staff Recommendation.

This is a city council that is swayed by people with a lot of money. Developers come pretty close to walking all over this council.

Mike Swartz, delivering a very hard message to city council.  We don't want to sue but we will if we have to.  They have already retained legal counsel.

Mike Swartz, delivering a very hard message to city council. We don’t want to sue but we will if we have to. They have already retained legal counsel.

This council fears litigation; when it looked like the city was going to balk at a possible sale Frederick Michael slipped up to the podium in the Council chamber and let them know he was quite prepared to take his case to the Courts. Almost every member of Council tucked their tails between their rear legs and moved on to another part of the agenda.

Frederick Michael did what anyone else in the same position would have done. When he saw an opportunity to purchase the property he put together his case, did the lobbying that was needed and had his wife serve as the spokesperson. She did a very good job.

As spokesperson Janice Connell decided to reach a little further than her grasp could accommodate and attempted to tangle with Councillor Mead Ward who chaired the Standing Committee that was hearing the delegations.

Rule 1 when delegating: stick to the subject; rule 1a – don’t try to beat up the chair.

Meed Ward made it evident that she could handle Connell and while some sparks flew – no harm was done. Frederick Michael and his wife had won what thy came for – they didn’t need a scalp in their belt as well.

It was a significant win for Swartz who represented the other two property owners whose homes abutted the strip of land that was going to be and should have become public park land.

Often, whenever ward 1 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward appears at events with the Mayor she sounds more "mayoral" than the man who wears the chain of office.

Mayor Goldring and Councillor Meed Ward were on different sides of the decision to sell water front property. History will tell which of the two was right.

The long term goal of a continuous waterfront trail has been set back as much as a century. Mayor Goldring took the position that there was “no long term possibility to connect the park at Burloak with Spencer Smith Park”. “If we did” he added “I would look at this much differently.”

It sounded like the Mayor was saying creating a complete Waterfront Trail was like trying to put a man on the moon. We’ve already done that Your Worship.

Port Nelson Park - property to the east

A lot three properties to the east of the lots that are adding waterfront land to the homes is on the market. Council seemed oblivious to this news. Except for Meed Ward every member of council saw the position they had taken as one of real leadership.

While council was agreeing to the wording of the bylaw that would permit the sale to take place a piece of property three properties to the east of the Market and St. Paul properties came on the market. Meed Ward said she had had discussions with the agent and the property owner and there appeared to at least be some room for discussion.

Council needed both a vision and the will to see the potential – they had neither.

There is a scene in the movie On the Waterfront that has Marlon Brando sitting in the back of a cab saying to his agent: “I could have been a contender” after throwing a fight in the ring.

This newly elected Council threw the fight and ensured that Burlington was not going to be a contender and have something most cities on a body of water yearn for, strive for – a place for its citizens to enjoy nature.

The stretch of waterfront land is now going to be enjoyed exclusively by Frederick Michael and his two neighbours.  Good on him.


Part 1 How the decision got made
Part 2 The Scobie delegation – it made no difference.
Part 3 The Swartz situation
Part 4 Meed ward position – to follow later in the week.

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8 comments to Frederick Michael and two of his neighbours will soon be the very proud owner of one of the most magnificent locations on the edge of Lake Ontario.

  • Eric Taylor

    A unnecessarily personal attack on two people who are friends of mine. As a reporter, “PEPPER” obviously decided to reach a little further than her/his grasp could accommodate if attempting to be a professional journalist.

  • Hans Jacobs

    I agree for the most part with D. Duck, with a notable exception: I have no doubt whatsoever about the character and integrity of Marianne Meed Ward, for whom I have the greatest respect.

  • Carol Gottlob

    Who are these “private citizens” we speak of, “us” or “them”? Because in the end, aren’t we all private citizens, unless we are elected officials? And even then, some like to have it both ways and have their cake and eat it too.
    My take on this is council can say, “We gave them the Pier, so let’s take the cash.” It’s hard to say, because we really don’t know, and quite possibly won’t know the whole story. That’s a shame.

  • D.Duck

    “This is a city council that is swayed by people with a lot of money. Developers come pretty close to walking all over this council.”

    And this folks is what we should fear the most. Political bureaucrats who love to float with the financial elite, trailing their shirt tails for some morsel of monetary gain from their beloved benefactors. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes, rich and poor. It takes character to stand up too them. Our council lacks character and integrity.

    Without transparency there is no accountability and thus no responsibility.

  • Peter Rusin

    It is safe to say that the majority of people in this city share a similar philosophy with regards to waterfront protection, use, public versus private ownership, etc. This particular matter involved a lot of hard work from all parties directly affected by the somewhat complex and unique intricacies specific to the water street file.

    However, people need to first step back and recognize that these private citizens were subject to having to endure being abused and unjustly criticized in the public forum for simply trying to do the right thing.

    These private citizens suffered through political manipulation, misleading and inaccurate information, and being wrongfully accused with character and reputation assassinations.

    This matter could have concluded with the same results, but with a more respectful treatment of these private citizens. They worked hard at finalizing a long outstanding and politically contentious matter.

    If and when all the relevant and truthful details become known, people will come to understand how the collective and extensive efforts of the private property owners, together with the MNR staff, the City of Burlington staff, six of the seven council members, resulted in the best possible resolution.

  • Maggie

    I am thoroughly disgusted by this sale and by the lack of backbone this council has shown. If the property owners are so community minded why are they putting there own selfish desires ahead of what is best for the city.
    I hope I never have to have anything to do with these odious elitist people. Call it my warped way of looking at things combined with not enough tea but I can’t help but think of the nobles of France and the revolution.

  • Hans Jacobs

    The “real leadership” referred to in the article would presumably result in doing what was best for the long term interests of Burlington. I doubt that that was the case here.