Meed Ward convinces developes to meet with the community and talk about what they want to do with their downtown property holdings.

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper ParrSmall click here - black

May 7, 2015


Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward has always believed that citizens should be engaged much earlier in the decision making process than the city’s current policies require.

When changes are being made many people feel that the die has been cast and the politicians just want the voters to say they like what has already been decided upon.

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about - civic engagement

Councillors Sharman and Lancaster: both part of the Shape Burlington committee who seem to have forgotten what the report was all about – civic engagement

That is the style we see from Councillors Craven, Sharman and Lancaster. Councillors Taylor and Dennison tend to show some flexibility.

The Mayor tends to sit between the two groups. He gets keen on an idea and sticks with it – but when there is significant blow back – he backs away. Bicycle lanes on Lakeshore Road is perhaps his worst example – taking the wind turbine was another.

Burlington’s approach to civic engagement hasn’t gotten far beyond approving, unanimously, the Shape Burlington report and putting an “in principle” community engagement document in place but then never acting on it.

Vanessa Williams + Woodruff Budget meet

Vanessa Warren on the right wanted to know why residents were not permitted to have real input on the creation on the city budget – she didn’t like the idea of reading through a document with decisions already made set out for her.

During the public budget deliberations in 2013, Vanessa Warren, who was just beginning to come to the attention of the public, asked at a meeting at the Art Gallery, why the public wasn’t seeing the numbers when they were being put together. She objected to having to look at numbers and get to make a comment and then go home – with nothing changing.

Meed Ward wants to do it differently. Her first reference is usually to her constituents – who meet almost as community council. She listens, is frequently surprised at what she hears from her constituents and then makes changes.

Attend a ward 1 or a ward 6 community meeting and watch the flow of information and ideas – they go in just the one direction. These are the fundamental differences in how Councillors Sharman, Meed Ward and Craven see their jobs.

The older members of the population are content with leaving everything in the hands of the politicians – that was their experience and they are comfortable with that approach.

There is a younger generation that doesn’t buy into that top down approach. They are comfortable with searching out their own information and will debate with their council member.

The two groups in ward 5 who were very unhappy with the way their Council member represented them with the sewer back up problems that did serious damage to their homes made their views known frequently.  They didn’t believe they were being heard and went off on their own.

Sharman for his part was very sincere in his efforts to do something for his constituents – it was a matter of very different operational styles. Sharman prefers command – the residents prefer collaboration – not Mr. Sharman’s strong point.

Meed Ward has invited residents to participate in a series of workshops that will see major downtown land owners, city staff, businesses and residents meet to discuss the future of their downtown.

Big on providing services. Political enough to be on the winning side?

Meed Ward used up her postage budget for the year in her first three months as a Council member.  Her style is to get information out to people.

What Meed Ward has managed to do is pull the people who own the land into the discussion – let them hear what residents would like to see. The smarter developers listen to residents and bring them on side – it does away with loud, noisy contentious public meetings.

The Molinaro’s learned the hard way with their Brock Street condominium that it is better to work with residents than fight them. When they moved forward with their Fairview Road – five tower – Paradigm project they worked with the community and with the residents – guess what – no noisy contentious public meetings.

The ADI Development Group decided from the GetGo that they would bull their way through the city planning department and city council and get themselves before the OMB where they think they have a better chance of getting a 28 storey tower on a plot of land less than an acre in size approved.  They just might be right.

Meed Ward arranged for a public meeting on the expansion and significant upgrade to Brant Square Plaza. The project met all the zoning requirements; they could have asked for more height but chose not to.

Meed Ward takes the view that all the decisions and as much information as possible should be run by the citizens. Petty power politics isn’t her game.

The workshops will allow participants to provide input into what they think the downtown should look like in the future.

The first workshop takes place on May 13 at Burlington Lion’s Club Hall beginning at 7 p.m. and will have city planners sharing information about existing city policies and what’s up for review.

Participants will also start to map out principles around design, compatibility, height, density, heritage, jobs, and more.


Citizens at a public budget meeting – they get to comment – they don’t get to demand that changes be made.  The meetings are more of a public relations exercise.

“Residents want to be involved in downtown development early on,” said Meed Ward. “This approach brings together all stakeholders to collectively and collaboratively shape the future of our downtown.”

Seating is limited for the May 13 workshop. For more information and to register, please contact Georgie Gartside, Assistant to Councillors, at or 905-335-7600, ext. 7368.

This is an approach that most of Burlington doesn’t benefit from – with the exception of Councillor Taylor who has a long standing working relationship with his community.

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13 comments to Meed Ward convinces developes to meet with the community and talk about what they want to do with their downtown property holdings.

  • Albert Faccenda

    Tom you sound like a cyber bully. Why all the name calling, can Peter not express his opinion. You sound and I’m going to take a guess like a clueless Govt. Employee who gets paid to do god knows what? Never owned a business or created a job in your life, yet criticize those that bring Billions and jobs to this area.You probably like big spending Govts. that devour peoples tax dollars. Are you a communist? You talk about the developers having to follow the OP. and the zoning by-laws. How silly did you feel when Councilor Meed Ward schooled you in a room filled with about 70 people on the fact that the legally codified planning process, OP policies and zoning by-laws which require public participation that you hold so dear? Were a “SHAM”. That the City deliberately under Zoned these Downtown properties for a variety of reasons. With the expectation of giving the developers higher “MORE” density in exchange for lots of money. Do I agree with this system? No. But you sound as if you were the only person in Burlington that didn’t know.You appear to fit well in the Wacko and Delusion Category.I’d also cool it with the insults,I don’t, nor would most reasonable people take kindly to being called “greedy” by someone that they have never met. TRUCE.

  • Albert Faccenda

    Congrats to Councilor Meed Ward for trying to bring all sides together on this one.The problem is this intensification initiative will be interpreted a 100 different ways because it was not written by councillors or the Mayor. This direction has come down from the Province of Ontario and unless they have a representative there explaining what Intensification is. How high is too high? How low is too low? How much land they want covered and with what, houses, hi-rises? It sounds like they don’t even know. Funny how they send a Provincial Rep. when we have coyote problems. Where is the local MPP on this one, hiding? When I called to make this suggestion to her office her assistant appeared to have no clue what intensification was. Nice. I’m sure she could have arranged for the Provincial authors of this initiative to show up. Couldn’t hurt to clarify all this confusion. But that would be too easy.

  • Tom Muir

    I think this workshop series is a great idea – I hope it’s contagious! Way to go Councilor Meed Ward!

    If I can make it I might try to sneak in as I’m in Ward 1.

    I would like to see something similar for Aldershot and Plains Rd in Ward 1, so we can get a big picture for there, and start to collaborate and discuss specifics. In this goal I agree with Peter Rusin, but still don’t like his pick on people language.

    Ward 1 Councilor Craven has neighborhood meetings for individual project proposals, but there is little to no overall context of the road ahead, and what can emerge when possible projects are considered together.

    The intensification is gaining such speed and momentum that residents would like to know where it might lead to, and might look like as an overall potential form and function, among other details.

    That contextual information would better inform residents about each individual project and how they fit.

    • Peter Rusin

      The mayor of Cravenville has been consistent in his proactive and efficient development work, and has been true to his voter support. Craven has not changed.

      What is interesting, is how the MW loyalists will react to her changing her message after the election. A bit of a let down for those that wanted her to continue with her anti-development at all costs approach. It should at least provide for some good entertainment from a councillor who has no clue about working effectively with the development industry, or, understanding of what the next steps are for implementing intensification initiatives, unless Craven is providing her with some lessons.

      Chris is on point; there is too much communist sentiment in the downtown ward.

      • Tom Muir

        Come on Peter! Your last sentence puts you in the wacko delusion category of extremism – you have no room to move from your corner.

        • Peter Rusin

          The better way is to recognize that private property rights were being eroded in the downtown core for the benefit of the resistance movement led by the councillor who is now changing her colours to being pro-development.

          • Tom Muir

            Tell us how private property rights were being eroded please?

            Property rights are not absolute. Owners can’t do whatever they want. Not by any means for sure. There are laws.

            You know that property is subject to legally codified planning processes, OP policies, and zoning bylaws, which require public participation.

            If the owner wants to build something that accords with the OP etc, then he can pretty much walk through the process.

            It’s when the owner wants “MORE” that stops the cake-walk through to approval. That’s the source of the problem that we see now.

            It’s not a resistance movement, as you seem to have to put it to defend your extremism, but the citizen right to oppose greedy landowners, and to come out in support of development policies that the city as a whole has agreed to live by.

            Councillor Meed Ward is once again doing her job, and I applaud her.

            She is not being pro-development, but giving everyone a chance to meet and possibly collaborate on development and vision, not arrogantly dictate the city form conditions that people should live under.

            The Downtown has a chance here to work toward a collective vision. You can be part of it, if you pull in your horns and stop slagging everyone that wants to live in a participatory democracy, that wants to have their rights respected, but might disagree with you.

          • Paul

            Exactly why the Landowners association is gaining traction. Read your crown patents everyone.

  • Chris

    Burlington is a Conservative city in a capitalist country. By this very nature people have no business dictating what goes on privately owned land. If you hate freedom go find a nice communist country. If you didn’t make it enough to create and develop land don’t let your envy stop those who are empowered to do so.

    • Tom Muir

      Could you tell me please how this opinion fits in with this story?

      • Chris

        Successful busy people don’t have time to waste budding in to every development project. Small people who want control seem to really take up intensification as their cause célèbre. Especially people without knowledge of design or urban planning. So much time gets wasted.

        • Tom Muir

          Oh,…, then I won’t waste any more of your time trying to have a discussion. Your opinions are so extreme I wouldn’t know what to say that would matter to you.

          Except maybe, “I give up”.

  • Peter Rusin

    Something positive from the downtown warden’s office. This sounds like a start in the right direction, finally.

    With this type proactive instead of reactive initiative with all parties at the table, there should be no need or desire to rely on the OMB to build this city. By the way, this is not a new concept, and is a process which takes place all over the GTA.

    However, residents (especially those who suffer from chronic oppositionitis to anything new being proposed) need to understand the status quo is no longer a viable option, and if they want to advance the overall health of this city, they need to engage in an honest collaborative effort.

    Is Meed Ward changing her MO? Is she finally recognizing that good living in this city depends on a two-way street approach in dealing with development issues?

    “Meed Ward Developments Inc.” (oh-oh)