Kearns sets out where the city got it wrong wth the community benefits that were given to the 421 Brant - 23 storey high rise.

opinionandcommentBy Lisa Kearns

April 24th, 2018



This delegation sets out my position on item PB 33-18 – Community Benefits 421-431 Brant St. as Jim Young has delegated on behalf of ECoB this evening.

Section 37Aaron A. Moore, Phd and expert on urban politics and public policy penned the IMFG Paper on Municipal Finance and Governance said the most common rationales used to invoke and justify the use of Section 37, more broadly know as density bonusing are:

• funding related infrastructure upgrades
• sharing the wealth created by development
• compensating those negatively affected by the development

In review of the 421 Brant St. Inc. report, there are few indirect infrastructure supporting benefits. With the longer vision of pedestrian-oriented flex street and the impending anchor mobility hub provisions the closest benefits are:

421 Brant• $150K in streetscape improvements coupled with $250K in setbacks/widened view corridors.

In my analysis, much of this can be takes as part of the 5% parkland dedication and the initiative to broaden the streetscape could have been reviewed by increasing Schedule O in the Draft Official Plan to widen Brant Street from Lakeshore Rd. to Caroline Ave greater than the current 18m in order to satisfy the Main Street function of: Table 1 Transportation Facilities. 2.4. Main Streets:

Serve the Downtown Urban Centre and the urban corridor that connects the Downtown Mobility Hub to the Burlington GO Mobility Hub;

Support mixed use places that contain a pedestrian-oriented public realm and street-oriented buildings;

Accommodate high levels of pedestrian and cycling activity and transit service, and moderate levels of vehicular traffic, typically within narrower rights of way;

Accommodate a moderate to high degree of people-moving capacity.

One way this could be interpreted is that the negotiators of this Report PB-33-18 have in part, bought benefits they didn’t necessarily have to and could have drafted the benefits the City finds favourable into the draft official plan, which this application is required to be in compliance of, when this was perhaps a missed opportunity, in part and adds up to nearly a quarter of the value of the total benefits.

Did we negotiate too specific and too early?

Not limited to direct funding for infrastructure upgrades, cost avoidance for future pressures on infrastructure can fall in this same category. This is where I will allocate the provision of green technology and sustainable architecture. At an indirect community benefit of $300K, LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development Guidelines have been negotiated.

Appendix E in report PB-62-17 draws in the Burlington Sustainable Development Committee which has recognition under the current OP provides that “to the greatest extent possible, proposed development shall be consistent with the goals of sustainable development”. While the general concept of this building is acceptable, there is no evidence of stewardship initiatives in the plans to use LEED at a certified level although a willingness was verbally indicated. Why include this benefit at the application phase when it can be advantageous at the bonusing stage, perhaps the weight should have been greater in the public comments to prevent this crossroads.

Sharing the wealth created by development. There is no doubt that there is a financial consideration in a project this large, we know that from the Altus Group Economic Report and the uptick in development revenues in the City budget, not to mention the on going tax base increase. But just how much is the increased height really worth and how should this be spread out amongst the indirect parties. While not nearly enough to purchase even one unit in this property, $300K in cash is better than the single option negotiated in the 4853 Thomas Alton Blvd. report PB-16-16 which requires commitment from a housing provider to deliver affordable housing on a long term basis.

Nick Carnacelli

Kearns wants Carriage Gate developer Nick Carnacelli to think in terms of the opportunity for the applicant to help drive value out of being in a position of power for the community.

Where I do take exception is to the Applicants’s previous delegation in such an absolute statement that “the Region of Halton does not have an affordable housing plan and the City does not have a program”, that is not to say that this excuses or discounts the real need and concern for housing affordability. In fact this is where an opportunity for the applicant to help drive value out of being in a position of power for the community by spearheading inclusivity through the Section 37 provisions.

A hard look should be taken on if this was the best we could get. Going beyond shouldn’t be just going beyond height, it should be going beyond basic requirements and setting the foundation to create a demographic mix that contributes to our vibrant downtown.

Toronto Star columnist Andrew Keenan muses that the purpose of Section 37 in the Planning act is to offset the problems caused by changes to a neighbourhood when different kinds of developments are added to it, such as to compensate for increased traffic, population, or changes to the streetscape new developments bring. We would deduce that the bigger the problems, the bigger the benefits.

The list of problems with this application have been captured through online comments, delegations, written submissions, coffee shop talks, emails and a current of anxiety and unease through the community. One resident’s submission on May 15, 2017 summed it up concisely, her excerpt reads“…insufficient parking for residents, only 2 elevators, no parking for visitiors, no parking for commercial tenants, change to the individual shops along Brant with a design that is completely out of context visually with the neighbourhood, shadows and traffic…this proposal does not belong in this location”.

421 James street rendering

What will the impact of the 421 Brant development be on city hall – not just the physical impact but the impact on the way the city is going to grow.

Alas, the Section 37 Benefits – a hefty $400K in privately accessible visitor parking, a quarter of the benefits to keep visitors out of the already contentious parking needs of the downtown. This could be viewed as a benefit, however, does it address parking for the 900 square meters of retail space? At minimum the recommendation for retail store stand alone is 1.5 spaces per 100 GFA that’s a minimum of 13 spaces, but we have 8. The comparison is easy to make that other stand alone retail doesn’t offer on site parking, however, if we are afforded a chance to improve this at the foundational level, does 8 private spaces address the spaces lost with no net benefit?

This provision is meant to compensate residents for the real or perceived effects of development by providing for new amenities in the neighbourhood. Public art, a covered promenade, and the remaining benefits do little to offset the anger that has swelled in the community around this application. There are no open community amenities, no greenspace compensation for more trees, nothing. These negotiations do not even come close to anointing the damage the neighbourhood perceives and feels.

The delegation, deferred from the last meeting, was to ask Committee to simply afford the public the same opportunity that the applicant was given to have an opportunity to openly delegate and tell this committee if they have succeeded in negotiating Section 37 benefits that truly align with building an engaging city, good governance and community building.

We know our City could have done better to Grow Smart, not just Bold.

Kerns - head slantedLisa Kerns is a downtown Burlington resident and an active member of ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington.  She is also a self admitted policy wonk – she digs and figures out just what much of the baffle-gab means.

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