Greg Woodruff: 'How do we get back to a good policy that respects the wishes of people who live here now?'

opinionred 100x100By Greg Woodruff

July 20, 2018



People in Burlington are going to have to decide if they are seriously interested in changing the current direction of this city or not. Are we just going to express anger or change the direction of the city? A Burlington filled with 11 story buildings is not practically different than 17 story or 23 stories. From the base of these buildings in the tight “trenches” that emerge you are not going to have any idea how high the buildings are. The lower heights are preferable, but they don’t make the city fundamentally different.

Many candidates are selling nothing substantial in the way of change. Slightly-less high does not represent a different destination for the city.

The policy of hi-rises everywhere is entrenched in the new official plan with the Region. It’s not amendable by Burlington City Council while it is with Halton Region (I checked). And it can also be approved by the Region with no further input from us (again I checked). The next Council will almost certainly inherit it as an in-force document along with 421 Brant and 409 Brant in an approved state at 18 stories. 421 is totally approved at 23 stories with all appeals expired. Unless the would-be Councilor has mastered mind control or time travel we need policies that affect a drastic change of course.

high profile 421

Brant and James – a done deal.


Lakeshore and Martha -under an Administrative Review.

Jeweller after

409 Brant – approved at 17 – expected to go to LPAT

I do not like this direction. I’ve opposed it on multiple fronts and have for five years plus. However, I wish the plan to oppose it to be based in reality. Complaining about buildings one by one is useless. Modifying the buildings by some number of floors is does not take us to a different place. Vilifying the existing council as “out of touch” accomplishes nothing. What is the actual practical plan to change this direction? Just electing different people to the council will not do it, because the direction will be firmly entrenched. What rules need changing and how?

Bridgewater CROPPED

Bridgewater and Lakeshore and Elizabeth

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro b

Lakeshore and Brant – just a concept at this point.

We can not have would be Councillors going around and saying “People in Burlington are all for intensification, but this specific building is too much.” “I don’t like this” is not an operational policy. “We don’t want over-development” is not an operation policy. “I love Burlington” is not an operational policy. The Council makes policy. What exactly is the policy you propose?

With no plan of action, all we will get from the next Council is what we are getting now; “You think this building is bad, you should have seen it before.” The candidates are just taking “over-development” and making it “slightly-less overdeveloped.” Things that are “less bad” are not “good.” Taking a terrible direction and making it less terrible is nothing I’m excited about. Official-Plan-Binder_Image

What this all comes down to is the next Council willing to modify the heights in the New Official Plan down and how much. This is going to be an unbelievably hard slog – with multiple groups bitterly against this. It’s going to require the Region and Province to play along.

I don’t see how this is possible unless local candidates win on a mandate. You need to scare politicians at the Regional and Halton level that voter reaction on this issue is so great that it’s “tough political moves” or “extinction” at the ballot box. Nothing else will change the direction of development in Burlington.

People in Burlington are angry – you should be. But don’t let candidates ride that anger. It’s not going to get us to a policy that changes the direction of the city. All it will get is a new crop of faces making excuses. As it turns out; the municipality does operate under restrictions set out by the Province. You have to strategically work the framework, which will not respond to protests of love or anger.

“This building is too much” is not a mandate, policy or anything that helps. Neither is demonizing the existing Councilors. Ask your candidates “What exactly is the policy you propose?” If they don’t know now, don’t expect them to have any idea of what to do later.

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who is running for the Office of Mayor.  He has in the past run for the office of Chair of the Region of Halton.  Professionally Woodruff toils in the world of information technology.

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10 comments to Greg Woodruff: ‘How do we get back to a good policy that respects the wishes of people who live here now?’

  • Many good points Greg. This all blew up when council voted against its current and proposed permissions by voting for a 23-story building, when 11 storys was in the Official Plan and 17 storys was on the table. We at least need to count on elected representative to stick to the OP. Had they stuck to the OP I for one would not have delegated.
    But then, apparently and according to the mayor (City of False Hope), council can override the OP if they wish, and they wished. Really!!
    The saddest chapter in this saga occurred when no one in their right minds would sign the 421 Brant St. LPAT appeal out of concern for being sued by “deeeeep pockets” and that is just a wee snapshot with what is wrong in False Hope Ontario.
    Councilors serve at the pleasure of the electorate, but we can’t oust councilors who are out of our ward, but they can sure as hell fire mess up our part of the city, the part that all citizens of Burlington should care about.

  • Penny


    I appreciated you telling it like it is. Personally, I feel that all candidates need to tell residents what is possible to change and what is not. Many residents feel that if we change council, the high-rise buildings that have been approved will not happen. For some development “the ship has sailed”. A new council could potentially improve resident participation, hopefully at the beginning of the application process. To accomplish this there needs to be the will to change the culture at City Hall.

    The adopted official plan has to conform to Provincial Guidelines. Council had the opportunity to decide where the intensification would take place. The mobility hubs on Fairview, and Appleby make sense. Downtown and along the Lakeshore – in my opinion bad choices.

    Brant Street will change, there are 2 approved developments on the corner of Brant and James Street that will be developed. What we need to hope for is that future development is more tempered.

  • Jim Young

    Nothing will change if candidates who know they cannot win take valuable votes away from those who might . Multi-candidate races make it easier for incumbents to win. Then nothing will change. Time to put egos aside and work to suppport candidates who can win and effect real change.

    • I think this indirect comment is referring to the concern that I will vote split Marion Meed Ward. It’s possible. Certainly, I’m another person for people concerned over development to support. However, I am also equally focused on the appalling tax increases in this city. Up 32% in 8 years and headed for a 50% increase over 12. It’s insane. Though you are correct multiple candidates favour the incumbent; In a 4 way race with multiple issues, it’s uncertain where votes would return too. Also, I can’t get a lock on what exactly Marion Meed Wards development policy is. I’m for a citywide 6-floor residential limit so small modifications on building heights now and again don’t do anything for me.

      • Jim Young

        A city wide limit of 6 floors is surely unrealistic. Even at Go Stations? Even where sensible development encompasses residential, commercial, retail, other employment and affordability elements? Even away from heritage or older residential? As many of the non-Brant St alternatives are. To accomodate projected population growth in a 6 floor city would look like old style soviet barracks. Wall to wall concrete and narrow treeless streets. You believe this is change for the better?

        • Yep 6 floors everywhere. The more I study tall residential buildings the less sense the whole thing makes.

          First, off Paris, Copenhagen and many of the European cities people visit and talk about how livable they all have hard height limits around 6 floors. Why can we today not do what these cities did many many years ago? They get to 200 people per hectare with lots of trees, transit, open space and parks. I hardly consider these cities barracks – that’s what Paradigm by Burlington GO is.

          Without this hard limit – we just get into endless arguments of what “good planning is. I’m sure you have witnessed at hand how the public just endlessly loses this argument against paid professionals.

          You have to make a hard limit supported by voters. Otherwise, it’s just endless chipping away.


          • Lucy

            Good Morning Greg…I had previously read your linked article which does make some excellent points. How very refreshing it would be if what you say in the last paragraph of your article was actually put into practice.

            “Creating rules and enforcing them for the benefit of residents is something we have to get back too. This is a clear order that can be given to staff that they will have to implement. This is compatible with Provincial requirements and height restrictions are clearly in the per-view of the Municipality. And even if this order did conflict with provincial decrees – so what? If there is a conflict between Provincial goals and the residents of Burlington; council and staff are paid by residents and should represent the side of residents in any conflict.”

            Considering that the Money Sense Magazine dropped Burlington to #9 from the #1 ranking as the best Canadian city to live in should ignite a re-examination of the direction taken and decisions made by our councillors and mayor as far as city growth/development is concerned. It may be considered just a “silly” ranking but the magazine has collected much useful data for comparison and should not be ignored.

            They state for 2017: “At MoneySense, we are unwavering in our views about what makes one city better than another. It should be prosperous, but affordable. Safe, yet easy to get around. And it should have the type of weather that draws you outdoors.This year we’ve undertaken our most ambitious report yet, ranking 417 cities, towns and villages. That’s almost double the number of communities we’ve looked at in previous years…Tracking the data for hundreds of Canadian cities is a significant task. To help us accomplish this, we turn to Environics Analytics and other partners to help gather the most comprehensive data set possible.”

            I hope the next election results will deliver a mayor and council that will focus on the citizens’ concerns and not simply bend to the pressure from a number of developers who twist the original intent of the newly adopted Official Plan. Some developers often misrepresent the true meaning of “optimize” to fit their own selfish goals with little concern for the unwelcome impact on those who live here.



  • Lucy

    Good Morning Mr. Woodruff,

    You are correct in your analysis. There has been a boisterous outcry regarding the level of intensification that is being permitted. The present OP (adopted April 2018) has taken into account Provincial restrictions and Guidelines. This OP is the culmination of three decades of planning, discussions and revisions. Throughout the city there are residents who are rightly dissatisfied with the designations for their area and further amendments to said designations that appear to satisfy the developers’ requests (demands?).

    Here is a crazy example of how EVEN IF RESIDENTS OF AN AREA ACCEPT THE OP designation for a parcel of land, they still face further threats to their neighbourhood quality of life with a proposal from a developer who wants to rezone and further amend that designation to suit their greed…sorry, I don’t know how else to describe it. The developer blurs the request by insisting it ‘optimizes’ (lovely word, eh?) a site instead of admitting it is intensification on steroids…over-building, over-intensification and completely unnecessary.

    LAKESIDE VILLAGE PLAZA, WARD 5: In the newly adopted OP this parcel of land is designated Residential Medium Density. We can accept that. However, the developer comes along and claims they have a better idea for this property: Rezone to Residential High Density and even allow amendments so they can intensify to the absolute max even if that creates a monstrosity that is totally incompatible with the existing neighbourhood.

    This particular developer’s proposal states: “(b) the proposed Amendment better implements the direction of the PPS and Growth Plan than the existing OP policies.” No it doesn’t! The developer is pushing for over-intensification and states that their proposal aligns with the surrounding neighbourhood. It does not! The land is underutilized now, but the OP allows the appropriate level of intensification without the need to rezone with even further amendments. IT IS THE DEVELOPER WHO IS WRONG TO TRY TO CONVINCE US THAT THEIR PROPOSAL WILL BENEFIT OUR AREA MORE SO THAN WHAT HAS BEEN SET OUT BY THE OP. Let’s not be fooled when they throw at us statements from Provincial documents (PPS and Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan). The city has already implemented measures to satisfy those document parameters within the Official Plan. We can accept the OP designation for this parcel of land which suits our neighbourhood just fine! Keep it at: Residential Medium Density! Will they or won’t they? Who knows?

    My fear is in line with thousands of other Burlington residents: the Developers have taken charge of the city’s policies from the mayor and the majority of councillors when it comes to land use. Or at least that’s how it appears to many of us. That is unacceptable.

    • I agree. What you are pointing out is that any ambiguous language seems to be interpreted in the most permissive way possible. We need clear rules and policies or this game of “interpretation” doesn’t end.

  • Steve D

    Thumbs up.