Jim Barnett: This should not be an election issue. It should be a get it right issue. There is still time if you have the will.

opinionandcommentBy Jim Barnett

February 28th, 2018



In past delegations I have pointed out the many shortfalls of the current draft proposal, in particular to the lack of measurable specifics. I have shown that the proposal is an essay on urban planning and it is not a plan on which Burlington can move forward.

The good news is that at a recent council meeting they finally put a number on maximum building height. Seventeen stories. And this can only be achieved with the provision of commercial space, open parking and heritage preservation. Otherwise the maximum is 12 stories!! My question to the mayor” is 17 the max or can staff find “other community benefits” through negation with the developers to increase the height again?” Does 17 stories mean 17 stories max?

This is what happened with the old operating plan. Every development was massaged to give the developers what they wanted. These changes were then used to justify additional changes on other properties and building heights on Maple and Lakeshore rocked skyward, each time setting a new precedent. Soon these ad hoc changes allowed the OMB to rule in favour of the developers and we lost control. Now the planers want to rush us into the new plan saying the current operating plan is not serving us well. They are right, but they are right because they have strayed from the current plan so often that it as emasculated it. Question to the Mayor. What guarantees are you going to write into the plan to make sure that provisions in the new plan cannot be negotiated away by the planning department?


Nautique: The ADI Group development that the city didn’t want – the OMB saw it differently and approved 26 storeys.

In a recent press release ADI has receive approval for 26 stories on Lakeshore. The mayor expressed his regrets and at the same time praised the planning department for all their hard work on the file. How can a department be praised when the results of their efforts are so detrimental to the future of the city?

The downtown is not a mobility hub. The planning there should be quite different from the Mobility Hubs on the Go Train Line. When will this happen?

Question to Councillor Lancaster. You have spoken extensively for the need of affordable housing in the downtown area. What is your definition of affordable housing and how will you deliver the units needed in the down town?

For the mobility hubs and the downtown to be walk able there needs to be grocery stores. Through you Mr. chair, what have the planners done to make sure people can walk to get their groceries in these areas?

Recently a number of council members have said that the proposed plan is not just for now but for 50 maybe 70 years out. This is a classic miss direction to keep us from the important decisions that will effect the next 10 years. We should not let them get away with it. Fifty years from now we may not have enough low cost energy to air condition or heat the 25 story buildings or run the elevators. Lets use our ingenuity to get the near term right.

In my opinion the people of Burlington do not want our downtown to look like Mississauga!!! From what I can read over 90 percent of the citizens do not what our down town to look like Mississaugas. To the Mayor, What steps are you prepared to take to make sure the new operating plan reflects the desires of the people you represent?

The time line is confusing. The city has to do its work then the Region has to incorporate it into their plans which could get changed by provincial edits and directional changes. This could take two or three years and be out of date before the ink is dry. Under these uncertain condition I suggest we just proceed with what is best for us allowing for modest growth.

Underway - too muchFor a city to grow it needs a transportation plan, integral to this in a modern city is a transit plan. So far the current draft has little on how the peoples need to move around will be satisfied and to say this will be worked out after the buildings are built is classic putting the cart before the horse and for a city the ultimate in poor planning. We do not need more Appleby Lines.

Reverse town hall 1

Jim Barnett, on the right, at the Mayor’s Reverse Town Hall meeting.

We do not need more Lakeshore Roads between Martha and Maple.

This should not be an election issue. It should be a get it right issue. There is still time if you have the will.

Related comment and opinion:

Opinion: Jim Young
Opinion: Gary Scobie
Opinion: Lisa Kearns
Opinion Deedee Davies


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9 comments to Jim Barnett: This should not be an election issue. It should be a get it right issue. There is still time if you have the will.

  • Carol Thompson

    Looking at the Gazette and extrapolating that it is a good reflection of Burlington as a whole is like my going to my yoga school and assuming “wow, 99% of Burlingtonians are super fit, flexible and trim”

    • Phillip

      Carol, you may be right (I personally don’t think so) but the coming municipal election will certainly be a referendum on development in Burlington.

  • craig gardner

    Can you please provide where I can see that 90% of Burlington do not want it to look like Mississauga as I some how missed that survey and the results.If no new residents downtown there will be no new grocery stores built as current demographic will not make it economically viable for any more. Business is why the majority of grocery stores are north of the QE. If profitable stores will come. Same issue in ALdershot. So more people equals more shoppers equals more stores or so the stores say.

    • Stephen White

      What Jim actually said in his article was “From what I can read over 90 percent of the citizens do not what our down town to look like Mississauga”. Based on my read of the Gazette I would say that is a fairly accurate percentage.

      This “silent majority” you keep referring too Craig must be really, really quiet. I don’t see them at public meetings, I don’t hear them delegating before City Hall (unless you include developers or their paid acolytes), and most importantly, I don’t see them offering a viable argument or defence in support of the proposed OP, or Mobility Hubs, or any of the 20+ storey proposed new developments downtown.

      What I do see, hear and sense are a lot of really smart, perceptive and well-informed readers asking a lot of really great questions, but I sure don’t hear a lot of complete, open and comprehensive answers in response.

      • Bernstein

        “Based on my read of the Gazette”.

        I think that’s the issue. As others have noted, it can feel like a bit of an echo chamber in here. Almost everyone that comments here is opposed to increasing height and density downtown. But that is certainly not reflective of the City as a whole. My sense, through chatting with people in my neighbourhood (Brant Hills/Headon Forest) is that there are many people that would like to see more growth and activity downtown. They would also like more affordable condo options downtown for when they eventually consider retirement. It seems like a lot of the people visibly opposed to the evolution of the downtown are older and financially well off. I get the sense that others in the City that are neither of those things have a decidedly different view.

        • Tom Muir


          I would say that there are a couple of echo chambers. The one you mention, and another one that you and a few others are in.

          There are those who are opposed to some aspects of the way height and density are being proposed to increase. They are not opposed to everything, as you say.

          You say almost everyone commenting here is opposed, but every one of these people writes it down here so it can be read and verified.

          All you say, without similar evidence in writing, is that you seem to know that it is “certainly not reflective of the city as a whole.”

          You can’t possibly know at all what is reflective of the City as a whole, never mind with “certainty”.

          All you offer to support this very bold claim is your word that you “chatted” with some neighbors. But you don’t provide anything in writing from these neighbors, nor do you say how many. Are we supposed to just take your word?

          In the Gazette, for those opponents in echo chamber 1, we have at least a pen name, like Bernstein, we can count their numbers, and, to repeat, we have what they wrote as proof they exist in some name.

          I have observed that with the OP and downtown issues that have flared, there are a lot more names that have appeared in the Gazette comment pages. In my view, most of these are opposed, and in echo chamber 1.

          It is possible for the Gazette to confirm these numbers.

          All you say about your asserted “supporters” in echo chamber 2 is to call their numbers, “many people”, but they largely don’t write anything down or identify themselves. Again you have no supporting evidence that they – the many – largely exist.

          You also make the assertion that those opposed are older and financially well off, again with no evidence.

          You conclude with a final bold assertion, based on no evidence except your story, that you “get the sense”, that others in the city who are not older or well off have a decidedly different view.

          You can’t possibly know this from what you have said, and provided in evidence that these people even exist, and think, what you say they do.

          Some of what you assert as desirable may be credible wants, but imputing it to vague, unidentified people (neighbors, many people, not older, not financially well off) is not credible.

          The Gazette is the only publicly available platform available in Burlington, for people, opponents and supporters alike, to express their views on the issues of the day, development included.

          To get some credibility traction you need to canvas your neighbors again and get them to write in the views you are attributing to them.

          You need to add more speaking and writing bodies, with names, to your echo chamber.

  • “To the Mayor, What steps are you prepared to take to make sure the new operating plan reflects the desires of the people you represent?”

    1) Remove the “anchor mobility hub” and “urban growth center” destination from the down town and move it to the Burlington Go station.
    2) Remove the “mobility hub” designation from Aldershot GO and Appleby GO station. This give us one central area to argue about and give us total freedom of action by the other two stations.
    3) Make it clear to the Region (who works with the Province) that we are currently signed up for our 2035 population agreement and no more.
    4) Produce a 45% “no building plane” from the center line of Brant Street and a 2:1 30% plane from private property. The should be expanded to all major roads.
    5) Produce reasonable costed transportation plans with real performance metrics as we go forward. If we see these systems working then we adjust growth the level that doesn’t impact quality of life.
    6) Make it clear that development takes place only through the lens of value to the local community and no other.

    • Bernstein

      I take it that these would be the steps Mr. Woodruff would take in response to the questions posed by Mr. Barnes. While they may seem desirable to a voter that is concerned about where the City is heading, it is important for everyone to understand that some of these things are not within the control of the Mayor, or the City Council as a whole.

      The City can’t simply remove provincial designations from the new official plan because it wants to. That would require provincial approval. Same with saying we will only accept particular growth projection numbers. Again, I don’t think that is something the City has the authority to do. Finally, how could the city review development through a local value lens? It couldn’t. There is provincial and regional policy that is required to be considered and implemented.

      It isn’t that simple. I agree with a good portion of Mr. Scobie’s comment in one of the corresponding articles. It’s worth a read. These provincial policies and designations apply to downtown, and that is the reason the city has to amend its downtown official plan policies- to comply with the provincial requirements. Read the Martha street OMB decision. It would appear that the City has the impossible task of trying to propose heights that are not so tall and dense to upset downtown residents, while at the same time meeting the provincial urban growth center requirements.

      As Mr. Scobie has noted, if you fall on the side of keep the downtown as it is, the City will need to convince the region and province to move the urban growth center designation out of downtown.

      • First off the city negotiates with Halton Region, not the Province. Then the Halton negotiates with the Province. It’s a political process.

        Gary Carr is currently working a development ban unless the Province changes the funding formula. He is standing up for Halton.

        The Mayor is elected by the people of Burlington to represent them – it’s certainly possible to stand up to the Provincial government.

        If you don’t think it is possible for Burlington to change anything – then why do we have a municipal government at all?

        These rules are made by people and will be changed by people the minute the political pressure is enough.