Kearns does her best at a mea culpa; hopefully she has a better act come re-election time. They are almost half way through their term

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

March 2, 2020



In comments made when the Amendments to the Approved but-not-in-force Official Plan were passed by Council they argued that it took some time to get it right to have an Official Plan that could be defended at LPAT hearings.

MacDonald - JAmie - Commisso

Executive Director Heather MacDonald, centre, taking all the questions during discussion on changes to planning policy.

In a comment attached to the Media release sent out late last week Executive Director Heather MacDonald, who handles the Planning files, said it is not unusual for there to be appeals to Official Plan changes.

I don’t think she was ready for a total of 31 appeals (and counting?)

Lisa Kearns the Councillor for Ward 2, where much of the planned development is to take place, slipped some comments onto her Facebook page saying it was “important that you know what’s happening at City Hall.” And added that “This week marked the close of the appeal period for the planning policies that were approved by Council on January 30th for the lands in the Interim Control By-law (ICBL) boundaries.

Audit Kearns 5

A detailed explanation on what has and probably will take place – didn’t hear much of this during council debates. When the amendments and the zoning changes were voted on it was hailed as an historic day for the city.

“The ICBL (development freeze) will continue as a result of appeals which prevent the policies from going into effect. It is important that your Councillor provides clear and understandable information about the process. Many have keenly followed this year long process as City Hall sought to address issues of growth pressure and how transit designations affect growth

Why are we here today?
“The community asked me to deliver on pushing the city for a more sensible approach to growth and accountability surrounding development. I have been steadfast in keeping residents up to date on the approach Council has undertaken to achieve this.

“We have made it clear there is no simple approach or ‘silver bullet’ to untangle the complex systems that support planning applications that are not compatible with the community vision. A technical process has delivered solid planning policy that tightens zoning controls which address height maximums and podiums, street line setbacks, active transportation elements (ie: bicycle parking, mid-block corridors, streetscaping elements), and community institutional use.

“Through this process, areas within the ICBL boundaries were identified with no zoning designation, particularly near the Burlington GO. This means that the planning process everyone is familiar with through pre-consultation to statutory public meeting, and council decision do not apply to developments in these areas.

“The result is no public engagement, no community benefits, and no limits beyond the Building Code; applications go straight to technical Site Plan Approval. We have brought tighter zoning controls that the community supports in the land generally being downtown and at the Burlington GO.

Kearns Dewc meeting

Councillor goes long winded then buries her remarks on a Facebook page.

What does this mean to Residents?
“Burlington has committed to community responsive growth management that ensures growth respects council approved height and density for land use as set out in its planning instruments. For clarity, this includes the existing municipal planning policies, and any revisions from the Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw (ICBL) studies and recommendations. The resulting policies, that are now appealed, seek to deliver this for residents.

“This means residents can be confident that their elected officials are working in their best interest using the resources and tools best available. We will continue to defend these policies that represent good planning created by independent consultants.”

Councillor Kearns makes no mention whatsoever about what the city is really up against. The public has yet to actually see the appeals that were filed and thus don’t know what the appeal documents say. Nor does the public know who is representing the developers.

Has one law firm taken on the task of asking for the same thing in the appeals or will the city have to face 31 different lawyers?

A resident who managed to have discussions with the developers, said that they are very upset and believe they have a strong case. Only time will tell.

Meed Ward H&S profile

Mayor’s claim “Burlington is Open for Business.”

What we do know for certain is that nothing is going to get built inside the boundaries of the Interim Control Bylaw. And that cannot be good for business despite the Mayor’s claim that “Burlington is Open for Business.”

Councillor Kearns asks if the decision to make the Official Plan amendments and the zoning changes “was rushed”.

Her answer is no. Here’s why: “An interim control by-law is rarely enacted by a municipality because of the sheer magnitude of freezing development. Council voted to support Staff’s recommendation to enact this tool in the Planning Act as a response to:

• Growth pressures that continue to emerge for the lands in the study area where multiple pending developments propose intensities that are significantly higher than those anticipated by the 2018 Adopted Official Plan

• The role and function of the John Street Bus Terminal as a Major Transit Station Area (MTSA). Its designation as a MTSA was relied upon by the Ontario Municipal Board in its decision to allow a 26-storey development that was opposed by Council in 2016, citing that as a MTSA, the terminal could support intensities well in excess of those contained in the Official Plan.”

Urban growth centre

Everything in that dotted red line is frozen territory from a development point of view. No cranes in those parts of the city.

Kearns said: “I continue to stand by this decision and appreciate the strong position Staff bought forward for consideration. In the clearest terms, Staff would have been mandated to continue accepting and processing planning applications that vastly exceed in-force planning permissions. Essentially, it would be difficult to ever conclude a planning application for final recommendation without creating a new planning precedent. This is not an effective way to manage our city’s growth intentions.

“Were appeals expected?” Some yes but the 31 that came in the door in a few days must have been a shock.

“Did the City decide to extend the ICBL?” No, it didn’t. The moment an appeal came in the ICBL was locked and would stay in place until every last appeal is fully heard.

City council on innauguration Dec 3rd - 2018

A great day for all of them – now they get to sweat out the hard stuff.

When the amendments were passed on January 30th, “Two scenarios were possible at the close of the appeal period on February 26th, 2020. The first would see no appeals to either the official plan amendments (OPA#119) or the zoning by-law amendment (ZBA 2020.418) that was approved by Council bringing the new policies into effect, and the subsequent lapse of the ICBL on March 5th, 2020.

“At that time, all new planning applications would be reviewed against said policies, resulting in a planning recommendation report either supporting or refusing the development application.

“… the second scenario has taken place. All it took was a single appeal to the zoning by-law amendment (ZBA 2020.418) approved by Council to extend the ICBL until such time the appeal(s) were dealt with by LPAT. The result is effectively extending the freeze on development for the entire land use study area.

The problem with this explanation by Kearns is that the impact of an appeal was never really discussed, unless Council did so in a closed session. The level of risk Council was taking was never detailed.

City staff did work diligently to meet Council’s commitment to complete the work within one year and lift the freeze on the lands within the ICBL boundary.

Here’s what happens next:
The City Clerk will compile the appeal record for all of the appeals filed and send them to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal in order to schedule a Case Management Conference (CMC) at a future date under the LPAT which adjudicates conflicts during the process of land use planning.


“This council has committed to integrity and transparency on all issues, including the ICBL. Significant effort has been made to keep the public fully engaged and aware of each step of the process.” That doesn’t explain why Councillor Kearns published these comments on just her Facebook page.

To her credit she did say something. When asked by the Gazette for comments, Councillors Nisan, Sharman, Kearns, Bentivegna and the Mayor went mute.

Shawana Stolte 1

Councillor Stolte – listens and speaks when she knows what she is talking about – fiscally prudent as well.

Councillor Stolte did send in a comment saying Councillors were informed of the appeals on the 27th and they were told then what that means – the ICBL would stay alive until all the appeals were heard.  Councillor Galbraith said the original Gazette report and the clarification set out his position.

This story is far from over. It will plague council and might take a hunk out of their hides.

We will know more when the city releases the content of the appeals. You can bet that there is a lot of strategizing going on at city hall these days. Know too that the Legal department budget either has or will be getting a major boost.

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8 comments to Kearns does her best at a mea culpa; hopefully she has a better act come re-election time. They are almost half way through their term

  • Alfred

    Gary and Grahame. You are correct that in 2005/2006 council conceded the downtown to the wishes of the Province. I believe it was the Liberals at the time. Our Mayor ran as a Liberal in 2007. Do we have any evidence that she was opposed to these decisions at the time. Protecting the citizens of Burlington from over development in the downtown core as you have pointed out. I think not. Enviromentalists created the Green Belt with their doom and gloom scenarios. The Greenbelt created the shortage of land, creating Intensification the “Build up not out philosopy.”I don’t like Intensification. But I will tell you the town of Grimsby was voted 2nd to Burlington in the best City to live category. Take a drive through there and you will see contruction everywhere. I predict Grimsby will be #1 this year. One of the reasons would be it”s the place to raise your family for those who can’t afford to live in Burlington. Remember what the Mayor said:”The Downtown is only1% of Burlington” an significant number according to her.

  • Grahame

    Developers will do anything in their power to get what they want. Our last municipal election smear campaigns show what lengths that they will go to to achieve their goals.

    Councilor Kearns takes ownership for all of her actions, this is why she will have no problem getting re-elected for a second term.

    The people of Burlington want controlled development, a voice in what happens in our community.

    Our current council is working very hard at cleaning up the mess that was left by a previous council that told the people “It is out of our hands”, and dismissed our concerns.

    Developers with deep pockets are showing once again that they don’t care about the residents of this great city, and will manipulate a system meant to protect the people.

    Keep up the great work Lisa!!!

  • Penny Hersh


    Yes, I am aware that the “football” development is already at LPAT, along with Amico and Pearl/Lakeshore. However, these would have probably been appealed for non-decision.

    These new appeals are about the zoning by-law changes that were approved by council on January 30th.

    The point I was trying to make was just what will all this end up costing Burlington Taxpayers.

  • Alfred

    Hans. That would be about the time Burlington was voted Best medium size City in Canada 6 out of the past 7 years. Thats one heck of legacy.

    • Gary Scobie

      Alfred, the path toward the eventual transformation of Brant Street and nearby streets to high-rise and mid-rise steel and glass with imposing podiums was set years before, in 2005/2006 when the Councils in place blindly accepted that the “Province knows best” and decided to go with the Urban Growth Centre and Anchor Mobility Hub in our downtown.

      Since then, only a few developments (other than the Bridgewater given permission last century) have been built under these designations. So the effects have not yet materialized in built form, thus our high rating as a good place to live has continued. We are now just seeing construction starting on the transformation of our downtown at the 421 Brant and 374 Martha high-rise building sites.

      It is early days, but with the coming LPAT rubber stamp of many high building applications in the pipe soon to come it will unleash a spree of construction downtown never seen before. We’ll all be interested to see how our rating is adjusted over the next twenty years, at least those of us still alive.

      The only legacy of the last eight year Council was doing nothing to stop this.

  • Penny Hersh

    Anyone that attended the Amica Pre-Application Meeting in January 2018, will know that residents were unaware that when the city put the ICBL in place that developers could still appeal to LPAT for non-decision. It was Heather MacDonald, Director of Building, who told the audience this. Ms MacDonald indicated that they were “hoping” that LPAT would not hear these appeals until the ICBL expired. The residents in the room were more than a bit surprised to hear this.

    We are now told that these appeals are different. These appeals are based on the changes in zoning by-laws, etc. that were passed on January 30th, 2020.

    Are the residents to believe that the Director of Planning did not know that this was a possibility when they put the ICBL in place?

    Why were the residents of Burlington not told that that developers could appeal any changes made by Council, and if they did the ICBL could not expire?

    Old Lakeshore Road and the area known as “the football”, were not included in the study that council voted on, which means these applications will go forward and probably end up at LPAT as well.

    What a mess!!!!

  • Hans Jacobs

    It’s encouraging to see our Council working hard to repair the damage left from 8 years of the previous council. I hope they succeed.