Joe Dogs just got a new neighbour - the relationship will be interesting

By Pepper Parr

July 22nd, 2023



Tough future ahead for the group that owns Joe Dogs – the buildings next door are going to disappear and be replaced by a 26 storey structure that will have 226 units

The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) decided that the development could proceed. Getting to this point was messy. The developer, Renimmob Properties, chose not to work with the city’s Planning department and took their case directly to the OLT.

Rendering of site with Brant Street in the foreground, the public parking lot shown in green and the parking space in front of the No Frills on the right.

Rendering of the eastern side of the proposed development with the public parking lot in green and the No Frills parking space on the right. Site address is 535 Brant.


No word at this point on when shovels will be put into the ground. The barber shop, the convenience store, the tire replacement location and the branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia will be demolished to clear the site for development.

A development to the north, on the opposite side of the street gives a view of how Brant Street will change

The statement that jumps out during a casual skim of the decision is this:

The Tribunal finds that it would be an inexcusable error to evaluate and base its decision on the Applications using the policies or vision of the ineffectual and non- operative 2020 OP. The Applications are subject to, and must be evaluated against, the policies of the in-force COP.

The Applicant, Renimmob Properties, advised the Tribunal that the Applications were modified in December 2022 to address comments resulting from a peer review of the Applications conducted by Mr. Hannay. The revisions include:

a. A relocated vehicular access from Brant Street to John Street that allows for a continuous active frontage along Brant Street;

b. Road widenings of 3.55 m and 2.50 m provided along Brant Street and John Street, respectively;

c. A reduced tower floorplate from 797 m2 to 749.4 m2;

d. An increased tower stepback from the podium to a minimum of 4.28 m along John Street and 5.57 m along Brant Street;

e. A 12.73 m tower setback from the west property line and 13.18 m tower setback from the east property line;

f. A reduced underground parking footprint to accommodate the proposed road widenings;

g. An overall reduction in vehicular parking from 253 spaces to 226 spaces; and

h. An overall increase in bicycle parking from 36 spaces to 88 spaces.

The Applications were submitted and subsequently revised to facilitate the development of a 26-storey residential apartment with retail on the ground floor on lands municipally known as 535-551 Brant Street

Since the initial application was filed in December 2020, the pattern of heights in the Downtown area, particularly along Brant Street, has continued to transition, including many existing, approved, and proposed developments. Some examples are:

an 18-storey mixed use development, with ground floor commercial uses and residential uses above, at 409 Brant Street (approved by the Tribunal);

a 23-storey mixed use building, with ground floor commercial uses, office uses on the second floor and residential uses above, at 421-431 Brant Street (approved by City Council);

a mixed-use development, with two towers of 18 and 25 storeys with ground floor commercial uses and residential uses above, at 774-782 Brant Street (under City review);

a 31-storey mixed use development, with ground floor commercial uses and residential uses above, at 789-795 Brant Street (under City review);

an existing mixed-use development of 22 storeys, with ground floor commercial uses, and residential uses and hotel suites above, at 2042-2054 Lakeshore Road;

a 26-storey mixed use building under construction at 374 Martha Street (approved by the Ontario Municipal Board); and

a 29-storey mixed use building, with ground floor commercial uses and residential uses above, at 2069-2079 Lakeshore Road and 383-385 Pearl Street (approved by the Tribunal).

With all this development is there a place for what Joe Dogs brings to the city?

Winter never did much for Joe Dogs.

Summer – ah a great opportunity for a photo op that ward 2 Councillor takes advantage of. Will she be on hand when the site closes?

Central to the submissions by the City was City Council’s adoption of a new official plan in 2018 that was modified by the City in September 2020 and approved by the Region in November 2020 (“2020 OP”).

The 2020 OP was subsequently appealed to the Tribunal by 48 appellants and is not currently in effect. Nevertheless, it is the City’s position, and the opinion of their witnesses, that the Tribunal ought to give significant weight to the 2020 OP in evaluating the Proposed Development given the considerable public input and studies that led to its adoption.

Notwithstanding the 2020 OP provisions for the Subject Property requiring a maximum height of 11 storeys and a tower setback of 20 m from Brant Street, both Mr. Lowes and Ms. Jay proffered that a 17-storey building with a 17.32 m tower setback from Brant Street would be appropriate for the Subject Property.

The Tribunal found this position conflicting. On the one hand, the City’s witnesses urged the Tribunal to rely on the provisions of the 2020 OP given the significant efforts that led to its adoption and the risk of setting a precedent for the area that was not consistent with the new policies. On the other hand, they also opined that deviating from the 2020 OP policies on the Subject Property was appropriate.

The Tribunal finds that it would be an inexcusable error to evaluate and base its decision on the Applications using the policies or vision of the ineffectual and non- operative 2020 OP.

The Applications are subject to, and must be evaluated against, the policies of the in-force COP. While the 2020 OP may assist the Tribunal in understanding the City’s vision for the Downtown, it is not a determinative policy document. This is supported by the opinions provided by the City’s witnesses suggesting that certain policies of the 2020 OP need not be adhered to in this instance.

Further, it should also be noted that the appeals of the 2020 OP may lead to modifications of the prescribed policies or revocation of the stated provisions for development.

The Panel, having regard for the evidence and submissions presented by the Parties, notes that there is no real dispute that intensification and development of the underutilized Subject Property are appropriate. The main issues at hand relate to the appropriate height and built form of development on the Subject Property, and specifically:

1. What height is appropriate for the Subject Property?
2. Is the proposed tower setback from Brant Street appropriate?
3. Is the Proposed Development compatible with adjacent properties and the surrounding context?

The upshot was …
The Tribunal accepts and prefers the evidence of the Applicant’s expert witnesses and finds that the Subject Property is suitable for the proposed intensification and density, and that the Proposed Development is consistent with the policies of the PPS, conforms to the policies of the Growth Plan and the ROP, and conforms to the intent of the COP.

The outdoor space at Joe Dogs. It will be tough to relax and enjoy a brew with construction taking place next door

What’s next: The developer gets on with construction, determining of course when the market will be ready for what the developer will offer.

And the group that owns Joe Dogs has to decide if they should stay where the are and find a way to operate while the construction of a 26 storey tower takes place yards to the north of the property they rent.

To the immediate south of Joe Dogs is  Culaccino Bar & Kitchen, to the south of that is a branch of the Bank of Montreal. At some point those properties will be assembled (if that hasn’t already taken place and another 26 story tower (perhaps two) will rise on the east side of Brant Street.

Joe Dogs will never be the same. Is that location and the other two shown going to be the next development on the east side of Brant?

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8 comments to Joe Dogs just got a new neighbour – the relationship will be interesting

  • Pat Brod

    This is Meed Ward’s official statement:

    “Burlington, Ont. — July 24, 2023 — The Ontario Land Tribunal (OLT) has approved the application for a 26-storey residential apartment with 259 units and retail on the ground floor at 535-551 Brant Street.
    The city’s vision for this area in our new Official Plan [2020] is a maximum 11 storeys, with 3 storeys along Brant street setback for the first 20 metres, to maintain the Main Street character. Our new OP directs the greatest heights and densities to the area surrounding the Burlington GO Station.
    At the time the applications were filed with the City, the property was within the city’s Urban Growth Centre (“UGC”) and within the Mobility Hub area of the John Street Bus Terminal. UGCs and Mobility Hubs are among the areas intended to be the focus for accommodating intensification. These designations have now shifted to the Burlington GO station. However the Tribunal assessed this application in accordance with the UGC policies that were in place at the time of the application, as required by the Province’s amended approval of Regional Official Plan Amendment #48.
    While the 2020 OP may assist the Tribunal in understanding the City’s vision for the Downtown, the Tribunal noted “it is not a determinative policy document” as it is currently under appeal.
    In their ruling released July 19 the OLT found that the proposed development “respects the existing Brant Street character, the surrounding built form, and uses” and “is compatible with the neighbourhood area without any unacceptable impacts on existing or future development.”
    You can read the OLT decision on the city’s webpage dedicated to this project here.
    We know the community will be very disappointed in this decision, as we are. It fails to appreciate staff, council and the community’s vision for this area, and to direct the highest buildings to our GO station areas.
    It underscores the challenges we face in implementing our vision for managing growth in the city. We will continue to face these challenges as long as the OLT can override local council desires as expressed in our Official Plan and related documents.
    We want to thank everyone who took time to share your feedback with us on this development. Although the overall outcome is not what we hoped for a number of changes were negotiated through the process. Staff are reviewing options to seek a review of this decision. We will let the community know when we know more.”

    I leave it to others to compare the OLT’s assessment of the City’s OP, its policies and its vision with our Mayor’s self-serving and fundamentally misdirected opinion. I can’t help hearing the wafting lyrics of Leonard Cohen – “Goodbye Marriane …”

  • Lynn Crosby

    Well the highlighted quote says it all in black and white, now on record and for use in precedents on every development. It isn’t a surprise and frankly, it’s fair.

    The city and the mayor and the council, despite all their promises and election rhetoric, the absolute nonsense that was the consultant report and supposed “public engagement” exercise at the beginning of their first term – where feedback was of course ignored – is all for naught. Many of us tried to say this at the time. Heck, the pre-2018 council said it repeatedly but we didn’t listen. The much ballyhooed “new OP”, prominently bragged about by the mayor and all over the 2022 election brochures and continuous public statements and social media posts is “ineffectual and non-operative”. I believe Councillor Sharman said something to this effect when council passed it.

    Remember the mayor during the 2018 campaign pulling out her map warning of 30 highrises coming to downtown and Brant area? Well here they come, only there are more and they are taller since nothing in fact was done to stop them. Could anything have been done? Perhaps yes they could have done a better job of reducing them at least. Perhaps not, and we shouldn’t have been told otherwise.

    But certainly, I think it’s fair to say that what was done hasn’t worked, never was going to work, and the pre-2018 council and Mayor Goldring said this and we didn’t listen. When politicians break their promises, wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear an apology and an admission of such, rather than digging in and continuing to claim they were kept, or blaming everyone else?

    It’s not that hard to admit you were wrong and to apologize. I’m sorry to Mayor Goldring and his council members who warned us. You were right and we were wrong. My only explanation for myself is that I at least believed we could change things.

  • Tom Muir

    I remember the 2018 election when Mayor Goldring and other Council members were telling us that the province was calling the shots and we could really do nothing. At that time, the City was fully committed to planning the Grow Bold OP and the development path of applications was following that.

    Mayoral candidate Meed Ward, and other Council candidates campaigned strongly on the central election plank that the City really could do something and elect a Council to vote to build for change and for an OP that would build the City that we want. So we elected a new Mayor and Council save only Councilor Sharman. In 2022 we did a repeat.

    The City initially tried to resist somewhat, developers went to LPAT at the time, lost Adi Martha at appeal, wrote and approved a new OP which was also approved by the Region. After all this work and fight, including the repeated public voices of many here commenting, the entirety of of this “new?” OP was subsequently mass appealed by something like 48 developer groups.

    This appeal is now really in charge, fully empowered by provincial laws and ever increasing growth directions and really, as I have described many times, a centrally controlled dictatorship now named OLT, and its controlling procedures, processes, and provincial employee appointed appeal Chairmen who make the decisions supporting provincial policy as they see it.

    In this story you can see how OLT is totally in charge making it’s own decisions based on provincial policy targets, informed by consultants and developer hired self appointed and qualified so-called “expert witnesses’. These people are the only ones the OLT will really hear and OLT decisions are based on what these experts are hired to say.

    City witnesses and planners, also “experts”, don’t have a chance to get what the dream of the new OP and the 2018 election was and still is. Pretty much every application settled at OLT appeal is a settlement appeal beyond what the City wanted in the OP.

    Chapter by Chapter, the OP is being redrafted by the developers, either project by project at individual appeals, or at the mass appeal where large sections of the OP policies are settled at the same time.

    In this process, as I have found out with much participation, ordinary citizens have no “say”, as they are restricted to a written Participant statement at appeals, as a non expert as viewed by the OLT. What citizens think, regardless if in the same planning language the developer experts use, is not heard or even matters.

    This engagement limit assigned to citizens is a farce. The appeals are scheduled a long time ahead, possibly years , often covering many days, like 10 or even 15, and if the appeal finds itself a settlement agreement, the citizen will not be part of it and might not even be informed until after it’s done. I hope Plan B is an exception – it has a plan, expertise, and previous experience and influence.

    My point is – I’m way past my comment word limit – unless citizens have money and can hire the same kind of experts as developers, forget thinking it is anything except a frustrating waste of your time if you have any thought at all you will see any effect.

    That’s been my entire experience despite what Mayor Meed Ward and this Council might say and/or has said.

  • Joseph Gaetan

    The enbaler on the taller building file, was the infamous “Mobility Hub” that lead to the Martha St., 25 storey Nautique development. The dominoes have been falling ever since and will continue to fall. It was not about nimby then and it isn’t now. The downtown canyons will be windy,shadowy and walkable, but there won’t be much to see. Unless you look up, way, way up. As to the Mobility Hub, don’t bother looking for it on the Burlington Monopoly game.

  • Citizens' PLAN B

    It’s rich that the OLT has ruled here citing that the 2020 OP is “ineffectual and non-operative” when it is the OLT itself that has been unable to settle all the developers’ appeals (i.e. stalling strategies) over the last several years. Somewhat hypocritical, don’t you think?

    Oh, the Waterfront Hotel Property down the street was never part of the 2020 OP, and with the in-effect 1997 OP (as modified) is zoned as part of the Wellington Precinct at 8 storeys, and up to 12 with community benefits (i.e. parkland dedication) acceptable to the City. Let’s see how that plays at the OLT!

  • Blair Smith

    People can complain about the developers but they are just working, as they always have, in their self-interest. No one ever expected them to be benevolent (names on the Jo Brant wall notwithstanding) or operating in the broader public interest.

    What is particularly galling about yet another loss for the City at the OLT is that after so much time, expense and public posturing we have an ” ineffectual and non- operative 2020 OP” with flawed vision and policies. This is a damning conclusion and can be squarely laid at the dancing feet of our current Mayor and Council. When will Burlington wake up to the fact that this group is simply not equal to the job?

    • Gary Scobie

      Right, and that damning conclusion will be cited in every OLT decision going forward whether the application is situated in an Urban Growth Centre, a Major Transit Station Area, an area slated for high intensity growth or one such as this one that isn’t. In other words, every application for higher density in Burlington.

      Premier Ford is now fully in charge of developing what he and his friends want and where it will be. Democracy be damned. Environment be despoiled. Climate Change, What – Me worry?

  • Donna

    Sadly downtown Burlington now belongs to Developers. They come in and strip all the trees and foliage. Then they move in the big equipment. Dirt Dust Noise and road/pedestrian restrictions for years. The Adi development at Martha and Lakeshore has been going on for at least 7 years now and they are no where near completion.