Private sector planner Glenn Wellings waxes eloquent over a transit station.

background graphic redBy Staff

November 29th, 2020



A small bus terminal on John Street that once had a recommendation from the Transit department to close the station that is the size of a standard classroom has had a serious impact on the way development in the downtown core took place.

The existence of the building and the designation it had, made it possible for the ADI Development Group to get their appeal of an application past the OMB.

The bus terminal that was now being called an MTSA came up recently when private sector Glenn Wellings talked about his boyhood days when he used buses; suggesting there might yet be a bigger role yet for the terminal.  Here is the way a planner saw the bus terminal meeting the interests of his client.


Private sector planner Glenn Wellings

The purpose of my delegation is to speak to concerns regarding the approach and recommendations with respect to the interim control By-Law study. I do have several concerns including modifications to the Urban Growth Centre Boundary so the transition policies however, Madam Chair given my ten-minute limit, I will restrict my comments mainly to the downtown bus terminal.

There is much…..been much discussion today and previously centered around the downtown bus terminal and several decades ago, the downtown bus terminal. I’m not sure if Council members will recall, some may not have been living in the Burlington at the time used to be located at Village Square, and that was probably about 40 years ago and the terminal at that time accommodated city buses, City of Hamilton buses, Gray Coach buses, Gray Coach is no longer with us, and also Go transit buses, and it served as a very important transit hub at a time when Village square was new, and transit was less of a priority than it is today, and how I know that is as a kid growing up in Oakville, I used to frequently take the bus between Oakville and St. Catharines. So the route I would take could be the Go bus along the Lakeshore Road and I would transfer to a Gray Coach bus at Village Square, and that Gray Coach bus would stop in Hamilton, Grimsby and on to St. Catharines, so it did at one time serve an interregional transit function.

I’ll fast-forward to today, there has been no significant investment in the downtown bus terminal. For many years, at a time when I believed the city needs to be investing in transit. It appears that these limitations and deficiencies of the existing bus terminal aren’t being used as a basis to establish updated land use policies for the downtown. A planning regime recommended by the interim control By-Law study seems to accept status-quo for the downtown bus terminal, so it doesn’t speak to possibly improving things, getting back to where it used to be and serving an interregional function. That’s not where the policy regime seems to be headed.

John Street bus terminal

Will history remember the impact the terminal had on the development of the downtown core?

So, the proposed policies do not in my reading support an enhanced role of this downtown bus terminal or even the potential of building something better, a new bus terminal and reintroduce into regional transit to the downtown. The downtown bus terminal has always had a different function than the Go station and the Go transit given the rail function at the Go station and the bus function downtown.

They’ve always had different functions so the typology being suggested and to support policies is really not much different than what we all know. Some may recall that the role bold official plan didn’t anticipate the potential for new transit terminal at 421 John Street and that’s parking lot no. 4 so, that was looked at previously.

The developed policies with no anticipated changes to the bus terminal or even looking at an enhanced role of that downtown bus terminal is not in my opinion long range planning. To me it is not consistent with the Urban Growth Centre nor its transit supportive or a reflection of the spirit and an intend of the major transit station area. Madam, I would like to ask for clarification on three areas and I believe Ms. MacDonald did provide clarification on one area but I just want to be clear of my understanding under the proposed policy regime, is it downtown Burlington will continue to be a Urban Growth Centre with a minimum density target of 200 people on jobs per hector and the downtown Burlington will continue to be a major transit station area and a mobility hub. I’m hoping I got that right but I would just ask for some clarification because there was some confusion and some of the delegations on that point.

Secondly, is Council likely aware the Mattamy application have been in process for more than two years and were filed under the current approved official plan and I would ask for confirmation through staff that the proposed policies are not intended to retro-actively apply to these applications moving forward. And you heard the delegation of Mr. Snider, he had indicated that there is Case Law and there are rules that the policies at the time of application are the ones that should be used to evaluate an application and there is much Case law on that point.

And thirdly, and I’m not sure the answer to this question. If the policies in the proposed Openna 119 are appealed, how does that reflect the timing of the new official plan? OPA, and I’m assuming that the official plan cannot be finalized and approved piecemeal without knowing what’s happening in the downtown, in the policy framework for the downtown which is a major source of the intensification that will occur in the city. So I’d ask for some clarification on that point. I’m not sure how that would evolve. And lastly, I would ask for written notification of any approvals of the OPA and zoning By-Law arising from this exercise and subject to clarification of those three points.

CLK: (Councillor Lisa Kearns) So you spoke about does the study consider an enhanced role of John Street of bus terminal with interregional long-range planning. So the section 3.4.4 transit network and demand does speak to the Burlington transit trips that do occur between Hamilton and Burlington. So I’m just wondering if you’re making statements that it hasn’t may be looked at the regional connectivity piece. I just want to know those things are in there. Are you aware of that?

GW: (Glenn Wellings) And I’m also looking at a little more broadly than that and may be if there is a better bus terminal, that it could be an airport shuttle service running from that. I think we all need to look at the possibilities of what the downtown bus terminal could be rather than what it is today.

CLK: Okay. So I’ll ask staff what the forward thinking long-range planning lens was applied to that. Thank you.

CSS: (Councillor Shawna Stolte – Chair of the meeting) Thank you. Now we have a question from Mayor Marianne Meed Ward.

MMW: (Mayor) So just to your clarification question, if I may, there’s no proposed changes on our agenda today to the UGC or the MTSA.

That’s been covered several times so that’s out of scope that we’re dealing with today. Just so you know. So the question is around how we enhance the transit function really throughout the City, downtown for sure. This is a very transit-friendly Council and we have added Millions in our two budgets that we have done to transit. So my question for you is…. And Go transit, of course, is provincial. We can’t tell them where to put their routes, but should a Go bus come to downtown Burlington or we get a nicer terminal and one of the recommendations was additional shelters and so forth, will the downtown ever function the same as the Go Station with 15-minute service across…. Effectively across Ontario? Would you say there is a distinction, nevertheless between those two?

GW: The GO Service just keeps on getting better and better so it does serve a great function for the City. It’s to me the only way to get downtown if you’re going to Toronto.

MMW: I agree with you on that.

GW: Yeah, so the roles have always been different and I didn’t want to suggest otherwise,

MMW: Right.

GW: But I think we can do better than what we have downtown.

MMMW: Yeah, I think we can certainly enhance that. I think… I’ll save it for my comments. We agree there is always going to be a difference between the two which means there’s a difference in ridership and land use. With respect to the Mattamy proposal that you’re representing, you raised some concerns that I was just trying to take notes about how the policy framework that we’re dealing with today, the MTSA piece, would affect that property. Do you have specific policies that you’re concerned about would somehow impact that piece?

GW: No…

MMW: you don’t want it to be retroactively applied. So I’m just wondering….

Mattamy - 2082-2090-James-at-Martha-Perspective-768x641

The Mattamy development Wellings was delegating on at Council

GW: No particular policies. It’s more of a general approach to evaluating the applications. Mattamy invested in this downtown at a time where there is a different mindset. I am not here to throw stones at anybody. There is a different mindset…. There was a different mindset than there is now, they’re struggling with that, and they’re trying to figure things out. They’re following what’s going on. They’re frustrated. They’re angry and they are just trying to figure out what’s going to apply going forward and I think they deserve that clarification.

So creating policies to respond to an application that’s been in process for two years to me is grossly unfair and prejudicial and if that’s going to occur, then the Mattamy applications made it to go to LPAT because they can’t be dealt with fairly in this room and I’m hoping that’s not the case, that that’s not where they want to go. They want to work with the City. But I would hope that we could clarify which policies are actually going to apply to them going forward.

MMW: Okay. I will ask that of staff. But the…. Certainly the understanding that is throughout the report is that once we approve new official plan policies, they will apply equally to everybody. Nobody gets special treatment. So unless there are specific aspects of the policy, I think that would be helpful for us to hear, if there are specific things that you think are not good planning, then please, you know, let us know sometime between now and the 30th of January.

GW: and through you, Madam Chair, not to belabor the point, but I would ask that you get legal advice on that point.

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1 comment to Private sector planner Glenn Wellings waxes eloquent over a transit station.

  • Hans Jacobs

    Surely the development/exploitation industry should have anticipated what would happen to the City’s downtown development policy as soon as the votes were counted after the last election?