Just how high is an 11 storey building - depends on what you are measuring.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 15th, 2019



Two things struck me during the Monday and Tuesday Standing Committee meetings.

441 MapleThe first was during the Statutory meeting on the development proposal for 411 Maple Avenue where the operator of a long term care nursing home wants to sell the property to a developer and use the proceeds from that sale to build a new long term care retirement home in the Alton community.

The proposed development is inside the Urban Growth Boundary, which is currently under an Interim Control Bylaw that has stopped things cold.

Much of the discussion during the lengthy meeting was about the heights involved. What started out as a 22 + storey building, got whittled down twice to the now 11 storey development.

The operators of the long term care retirement home were hoping that they would get an exemption from the interim control bylaw.

That didn’t happen.

Heather_MacDonald COB planner

Heather MacDonald – City Planner

Here is what did happen which was interesting. Kelvin Galbraith asked Heather MacDonald, the Planning Director if the practice in the new official Plan would be consistent in its use of measurements.

The Director wasn’t able to say – absolutely.

We have heard complaints from a number of people about the way the height of a structure is defined. Planners tend to use the number of storeys – but a storey isn’t a unit of measure – it is used to describe some space.

Galbraith slight smile

Ward 1 Councilor Kelvin Galbraith wanted to know what unit of measure was being used to determine the height of a development.

Galbraith wanted to see metric measures used and he appeared to want the actual height of the building to the top of the very top floor. He appeared to want to know just how many metres in the air the building was going to rise.

On occasions a developer will say it will be 11 storeys with an amenity area at the top. That amenity space is an additional number of metres of height.

One would have thought the Planning Director would have taken the opportunity to say that there would be data that would be clear.

A missed opportunity. Hopefully we might see a council member pick up on the need for clarification and get a staff direction in place setting out how developments will be described when it come to their height.

Burlingtonians are a little sensitive about height these days.

The second thing that struck me was what we spend on the culture-entertainment sector.  Some whoppers in those numbers – that is covered in a separate story.

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments to Just how high is an 11 storey building – depends on what you are measuring.

  • Elaine O'Brien

    It’s about time somebody asked this question. The planning department needs to address this at the initial public consultation stage and require a consistent measurement of height for presentations to citizens and council.

  • Alfred

    Congratulations to Councilor Galbraith. Specific heights should be measured from the ground up. Level ground that is. The more clarity the less conflict.

  • Terry Rose

    Thank you, Councillor Galbraith, for raising this important issue. There appears to be no such thing as a “standard” storey. The long term solution is to remove all references to “storeys” from planning documents, official plans, zoning bylaws, etc. and replace them with meters. Height limits should include the roof top mechanical equipment. In the short term we should insist that planning applications state the heights (in meters) in a prominent position – not buried in the appendices and architectural drawings.

    A perfect illustration of the importance of this issue is the Amica application at North Shore Blvd where three towers are proposed: 17-storey, 12-storey and 11-storey. The respective heights are: 64.5m, 45.5m and 42.5m. The adjacent 12-story Condo is 33m. The average storey height in the Amica application is 3.8m compared to 2.75m in the more conventional condo.

  • Penny Hersh

    Once again it seems there is a disconnect between staff and council. At many public meetings on proposed developments I said that residents need to know the height of the proposed building that using storey’s as a measurement is inaccurate. I mentioned this as well to my ward councillor and at ward update meetings.

    I live across from the Bridgewater Development and have seen how the 8 storey hotel matches up to the 13th floor of the condominium that is also being built.

    After this election the planning department seems not to have changed the way it operates. I want to thank Councillor Galbraith for asking the question about height vs storey’s. Let’s hope that the other councillors follow suit and make it mandatory that residents know the true height of a proposed building.

    By the way the Pier looks absolutely ridiculous from my balcony now. It looks like a tiny cage surrounded by huge buildings. When the Waterfront Hotel gets redeveloped it will disappear completely.