Open letter to City Council: Staff update to official plan language regarding neighbourhood protection is not acceptable.

News 100 blueBy Greg Woodruff

April 18th, 2018



Staff recently updated the language in the official plan regarding neighbourhood protection. The language as presented is not acceptable. And a proposed motion by Marianne Meed Ward does not go far enough.

Meed Ward said she is” Working on language for motion (meeting staff tomorrow) but intent will be to remove towns from low density neighborhoods. Apartments already out.

The language as proposed by staff would essentially green light semi-detached housing in all areas of Burlington. Townhouses and apartments could also be approved if they are “compatible with the surrounding area”, respectful of the “physical character” and provide an “amenity area.” This is the same subjective language that is a problem all over the city. People have to know what to expect and we have seen the planning definition of all these terms can be very far from what residents expect. This subjective language and the ability to convert houses into semi-detached needs removed from the “Residential – Low Density” definition.

Woodruff opinion visual

Part of an advertisement running on video screens in some Tim Horton’s locations in Burlington.

Secondarily the definition of “Residential – Medium density” allows all sorts of unexpected and unwanted development. The language allowing for 4 story buildings with a rooftop deck in “Residential – Medium density” areas is also unacceptable. The difference between “Residential – Medium density” and “Residential – Low density” is largely invisible to residents. I doubt anyone knows what zone they are in and you have to check the map embedded in the 600-page official plan to have any idea.

We do not need to get into a discussion of the wisdom of these changes; We need to deliver the advertised protection to residents. The city is running ads on video screens in Tim Horton’s locations explaining how your neighbourhoods will be “protected.” What many people take that to mean is “protected from significant change.” Letting loose with semi-detached and 4 story buildings next door is a significant change.

If the city advertising said; “in neighbourhoods we will be limiting development in some areas to semi-detached and other areas to small apartment buildings” – then my complaint would be blunted. However the advertisements are very clear neighbourhoods will be “protected” and will “not change”.

We are setting up years if not decades of people that will have all sorts of legitimate anger directed to the city. We can leave the fate of the neighbourhoods to future OP battles. More than enough change is generated at the moment for people to absorb.

Direct staff to:

1) Remove the reference to semi-detached from 8.3.3(1).1

2) Remove 8.3.3(1).b entirely

3) Remove “non-ground-oriented dwellings”, “back-to-back townhouses” and “low-rise” from 8.3.4(1).a

4) Remove “non-ground-oriented dwellings” “back-to-back townhouses” and “low-rise” from 8.3.4(1).b

5) Modify 8.3.4(1).c to read “the maximum building height should be comparable to the average height of the highest points of the rooflines of existing residential buildings on the immediately adjoining properties sharing lot lines with the lands under application.“

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Greg WoodruffGreg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who ran for the office of Regional chair in 2014.  There are those who believe Woodruff will seek public office during the 2018 municipal election.

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6 comments to Open letter to City Council: Staff update to official plan language regarding neighbourhood protection is not acceptable.

  • Alfred

    Greg if semi’s are not allowed in Low density areas. Where they are intended and considered to be Low density in just about all other Municipalities. Where do you suggest they be built? Other peoples neighborhoods. Every where but yours? You appear to want to redefine the term Low density. Good luck.

  • Stephen White

    Count me as one of those who genuinely hopes Greg does seek public office this municipal election. His is one of the most articulate and knowledgeable voices advocating for a “lower and slower” approach to urban intensification in Burlington. His reasoned analysis and clearly thought out positions are in stark contrast to those who would characterize any opposition to the OP as nothing but “Nimbyism”.

  • craig gardner

    I believe all neighbourhoods should have same conditions through official plan with no neighbourhood given special conditions so those nighbourhoods in the inner city should have same conditions as those in the orchard or alton or any of the newer neighbourhoods that would me a variety of housing types in each area but built in an acceptable manner as in perhaps on major thorough fares not buried in inner streets which I think is what newer neighbourhoods have today not sure if same said for older neighbourhoods south of QEW. We need to ensure we treat every neighbourhood the same and account for what exists in each neighbourhood today as a starting point for each. Not sure if that is what Greg is asking for in his open letter.

    • I agree for clarity the same rules should apply to all neighbourhoods. However, the current official plan has 3 neighbourhood densities “Low, Medium, High” and different rules apply to all these zones. The problem is that a request to staff to simplify the zones needed to be made months or years ago to be practically implemented. Since we already know that Council is going to pass this thing on the 25th come hell or high water, most efforts are currently to convert a disaster into a bad plan. 🙁

    • William

      Craig, Apart from Roseland and Indian Point, every neighbourhood will be subject to intensification – as likely on the periphery of each neighbourhood as in their interior – north and south Burlington. To your hope that planning takes account for what exists in each neighbourhood – that’s not part of their calculation. The only thing that planning plans for – and council rubber-stamps – is intensification. Other community aspirations are ignored.

    • Tom Muir

      It reads quite clearly from the Tim Horton’s City ad that the planners are telling residents that, “established neighborhoods WILL NOT CHANGE.

      Is anyone not able to get that??

      In other places the planners write;

      “A City that Grows”


      “Older neighbourhoods are important to the character of Burlington and
      intensification will be carefully managed to respect these neighbourhoods.”
      Ward 1 Councilor Craven writes in a recent Canada Post delivered flyer to South Aldershot residents, “… the city is also declaring that major growth should not take place in stable, low density residential areas.”

      But my observations tell me that the planners and managers who wrote the latest version of the OP, use language that seems to be careless, and subjective about what can be permitted. This language invites arbitrary interpretations and do not mandate in policy language careful and respectful management, or even prohibition, of intensification.

      I don’t think they seem to be able to get it right – to translate into policy the careful and respectful language needed to serve truth in this promise.

      Greg’s revisions are what are needed to translate this advertisement into truth in policy.