Mayor wants the bureucrats to get it right: issues a report with staff directions to do something better with a new parking lot.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

September 14th, 2019



A well run municipality has a council that has its ear to the ground and hears what people are saying, what they want and why they want it.

A well run municipality has an administration that has its ear to the council chamber floor where they can hear what the will of council is and where council wants to go.

There are not a lot of municipalities that are that aware – Burlington certainly wasn’t when Capital Works was tearing down a small building on Caroline and John to create more parking space.

Months before any work was being done council was making it clear that they were more environmentally inclined than the 2014-18 council.

The current council had declared a Climate Emergency and they wanted something about what the environmental impact was for every decision they made.

Caroline and John 1

No trees, no shrubs, no sense of design on a street that leads into one of the nicest communities in the city.

At a Council meeting in July Councillor Shawna Stolte asked why the newly opened parking lot at Caroline and John didn’t have anything of note that was environmental.

No trees, no shrubs and not a square foot of permeable surface.

The lot was very small; it would have been a perfect site to do a little experimenting.

The opportunity got away on them.

However all was not lost.

EArlier this week, Council set out a number of Staff Directions:

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to review the newly built parking lot at the corner of John Street and Caroline Street with the goal of developing and implementing design changes providing more greenspace, trees, and a seating area.

Direct the Director of Transportation Services to review the safety of pedestrian movements at the intersection of Caroline Street and John Street.

Direct the Director of Transportation to review the practices of other municipalities on parking lot design, and report back to committee and council with draft green parking lot design guidelines.

Direct the Director of Transportation to consult the City of Toronto’s “Design Guidelines for Greening Surface Parking Lots” as a reference on future parking lot designs, rebuilds or resurfacing in Burlington until Burlington guidelines are approved by Council.

Caroline Toronto guidelines

Toronto has parking lot design guidelines that Council wants Burlington to keep in mind.

Other municipalities, notably Toronto, have developed green parking lot design practices to address environmental and urban design criteria that, among other things, “include strategies for reducing the urban heat island effect, improving pedestrian and cycling infrastructure, using energy efficient fixtures and recycled materials, managing storm water run-off on-site, and preserving and enhancing the urban forest.”

Typically, the emphasis in parking lot design is on accommodating vehicle movements, maximizing the number of parking spaces, and ensuring ease of maintenance and servicing. When functional requirements are the only objectives considered in parking lot design, the design outcome is generally undesirable, with poor quality landscaping, unattractive streetscapes and a lack of pedestrian safety, comfort and amenity.”

The new Caroline and John Street parking lot was designed and constructed with the goal of maximizing the number of parking spaces, resulting in little to no area for trees, green space or seating areas.

The hope is that by incorporating further design changes into part of the lot nearest to John Street and the intersection of Caroline/John, the city can enhance the area from an environmental and beautification perspective, adding trees, green space and perhaps a bench. Stolte wants to see the city develop its own green parking lot design standards which will be applied to future city owned parking facilities and where possible private parking lots as well.

Mapleview Mall parking - south west side

At some point this parking lot is going to have to have a permeable surface put in to replace the asphalt that create islands of heat.

The acres of parking space at the Mapleview and Burlington Centre locations are opportunities for significant changes.

When the early renderings for the Skyview Village Plaza were shown to the public there were dozens of trees. They disappeared in later renderings; the architect had it right the first time.

Proposed capital cost estimate of design changes to the existing parking lot is to be determined by staff with funding to be drawn from the downtown parking reserve fund that was originally used to construct the parking lot expansion.

The report came out of the Office of the Mayor and not from a city department. Hopefully the people on the Burlington Leadership Team and the Directors of the numerous departments will hear what is being said.

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6 comments to Mayor wants the bureucrats to get it right: issues a report with staff directions to do something better with a new parking lot.

  • Joe Gaetan

    If we are going to retroactively question past decisions, why not start with the Joe Brant Museum renewal project, in terms of how such projects contribute to the worlds carbon footprint. If council had looked at that project through an environmental lens, would they have for example approved a project that used so much concrete? (“The manufacture of cement produces about 0.9 pounds of CO2 for every pound of cement. Since cement is only a fraction of the constituents in concrete, manufacturing a cubic yard of concrete (about 3900 lbs) is responsible for emitting about 400 lbs of CO2.”). About 50% of a CO2 increase is removed from the atmosphere within 30 years, and a further 30% is removed within a few centuries.
    What is done is done, and if we are going to tear up the parking lot, we need to look at it in terms of how much new CO2 will be spewed into the atmosphere to correct an uninformed decision.
    As well, could the $12 million for the JB museum have been put to better use, let’s say in Attawapiskat or Grass Narrows?
    Council will now have to put its carbon declaration into action, looking at “new” projects through the lens is a good place to start. A good place for all of us to start is by calculating our personal carbon footprint by visiting https://www.carbonfootprint.com/calculator.aspx

    (In the aftermath of the city’s Climate Change Emergency declaration the writer chose to better inform himself about such matters and recently completed a course entitled “ Sustainable Urban Development from Delft/Wageningen, something he highly recommends to anyone interested in weighing-in on how Burlington can become a more sustainable urban community.)

    • David Fenton

      I also educated myself some time ago regarding climate change, other than finding it an interesting subject it is also frustratingly unclear as to the action required (if any) to rectify the problem.
      Joe, have you seen the latest results of a study out of I believe it is (UCLA) titled (The missing Nitrogen) if accepted by climate scientists it will be back to the drawing board yet again.

  • Blair Smith

    The disconnect between Council and staff is disappointing but not totally unexpected. When was the last time that the bureaucracy was well aligned with the political side of the house and functioned to effect its will and follow its direction. Full marks to the Mayor and Councillor Stolte for forcing an alignment in this case. And a note to City Manager Commisso – you are the bridge between our elected representatives and the bureaucracy. How well the ‘two solitudes’ align and work together is largely up to you. Your administration has just begun but it’s time you made your mark.

  • Jim Barnett

    Right on Stephen! Most of our current problems can be traced back to decisions made by the planning department, a number of which are still there.

  • Penny Hersh

    Such a disconnect between staff and council. The parking lot in question is UGLY, with no thought put into making it blend in with the neighbourhood.

    Perhaps the Motion regarding Climate Change that was put forth by this council is simply symbolic. Actions speak louder than words. All I hear are words.

  • Stephen White

    Kudos to Councillor Stolte for her foresight and guts to raise the issue of incorporating environmental considerations into parking lot design. However, the bigger issue for taxpayers is: how much extra will it now cost to retrofit this parking lot with trees and shrubs after the construction is completed?

    This is the kind of waste that drives Burlington residents nuts. There has been considerable discussion and focus on environmental issues over the past four years. One would naturally have expected that this realization would have percolated down to the Transportation Services Department long before now.

    We may have changed the Mayor, the Council and the City Manager but there is plenty more to do in improving the quality and calibre of research and policy analysis among the rank-and-file at City Hall. There is a serious lack of alignment and policy integration, and many of these public servants need to start singing from the same song sheet as Council. Time to get onboard, and if not then it’s time for the Mayor to recruit a new crew.