Tell me about Burlington – Part 2

News 100 yellowBy Pepper Parr

January 6th, 2021



“So you live in Burlington” you were asked. Nice place? As a city does it work?”

Tell me more about what the civic administration is like.

Burlington wants a Stage 2 designation.

Burlington looking west.

Well, you might answer – Elections in Burlington can and have made a difference.

The 2010 election brought Rick Goldring in as the Mayor – that got rid of Cam Jackson who wasn’t a bad Mayor – people didn’t like his style and Goldring was a nice guy, responsible and respected. He didn’t have a vision when he began to wear the chain of Office; he wasn’t Cam and that was what mattered.

He didn’t do anything wrong nor did he do anything.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken - now she is on the other side of the podium, sitting as a Council member. Should make for greay political theatre when the Medicca One zoning matter comes before committee.

Marianne Meed Ward was just a citizen when this picture was taken – she of course went on to become a Councillor and then Mayor.

His eight years as Mayor was all the time Marianne Meed Ward, then a Councillor for ward 2,  needed to position herself for a job she aspired to from the day that she ran against Rick Craven in Ward 1 in 2006.

The day after the 2018 election Rick Goldring was still trying to figure out why he lost.

Meed Ward had a clear objective: she was going to change the way development was done in the city.

She had made numerous much needed changes as a City Councillor and she was really sure that she had the job in the bag.

The City Manager, who Meed Ward fired the day after the was sworn in, is reported to have said to a person who worked at city hall that, if Meed Ward won he was “toast”.

At the final meeting of the 2014-18 council Meed Ward showed just what she was going to be able to achieve.  Using a “point of personal privilege” she ripped into comments that were made by defeated members of Council, saying that this kind of behavior would not be tolerated.

She set out to take the steps needed to get an Official Plan the city badly needed.

It’s not a perfect plan but it is a very good plan that puts in place the tools the city needs to shift where the development takes place.

The developers would have preferred to be able to continue putting up structures that have begun to reach the 30 storey level but they will build wherever they can build.

Burlington is a great market to develop in. The fact that the province is pushing to increase the rate at which the population grows has helped the developers. Their dream is to be able to eventually build north of Dundas and Hwy 407.

Few fully understand what Meed Ward has been able to achieve. In two years she has changed everything at the development level and at the same time given the developers areas within the city that they can build in.


That football shaped area, lower right, was always ripe for development. Once some land assembly was completed development proposals rolled in with heights well above 20 storeys.

The downtown core will have a number of high rise buildings. Will Meed Ward manage to save the “football” – it is going to be a challenge, there are major major dollars that have been invested and those kinds of dollars have a voice.

SaveOurWaterfront- Meed ward

The water front was a focus point for Mayor Meed Ward when she first ran for the ward 2 seat.

Way back in the beginning of the Meed Ward run for the Office of Mayor the waterfront was her focus – never forget that.

The Planning department that she has always wanted is beginning to come together. She has a City Manager with whom she works well.

The Official Plan should make it through the appeal stage because it is a good plan that a mayor made happen.  Sure she had a Council that was compliant – five of the seven were so new they had to learn how to be Councillors and leave the heavy lifting to the Mayor.

This is part of what Burlington is.

Tell me about Burlington – Part 1

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11 comments to Tell me about Burlington – Part 2

  • Alfred

    Hello David.

    Thanks for explaining things in a fashion that very few can. You approached the Planning office for help and advice and were told nothing except to spend a lot of money come to another meeting to be told nothing again. About whether the City would support you building semi-detached homes.The Planning Act clearly states Municipalities have a maxmum of 3 years to put in place zoning by-laws. From the passing of an Official Plan. (Our Official plan is over 15 years old. That explains all the appeals) that clearly explain guidelines for applicants to follow and explain how a property can be developed and what can be built there and the rules. Eg. Height, width, yard setbacks and more. If I’m not mistaken there were no by-laws in place on your property or in most of the low-density areas, even though the Official Plan welcomed such a more affordable form of housing City wide. The question is who holds the Mayor accountable for disregarding Provincial mandates that they are duty bound to follow. These low density forms of housing are in Burlingtons growth area as is the whole City.

    My friend the people who’s salary you pay through your taxes instead of helping and guiding you devalued your property by at least $300 thousand. How difficult is building something and drawing a line down the middle. In fairness were services are available for this type of construction. ( No different than a single family home ) How is it there is more certainty in building a highrise in this City than a semi-detached home? I guarantee they didn’t
    forget to put those by-laws in place.

    How sneaky can some of the people on council be?

    Stay tuned, to be continued…

  • Tyler

    This is my view as a small developer in this City that I have been living and working in for the past 24 years..First I agree with the council’s view of curbing the intensification of high rise condos in the downtown core, however I also have to say that for infill development, the City makes it extremely difficult, expensive and time consuming with some of the most restrictive bylaws in the Province. The official plan does call for a variety of housing such as semi detached homes in low density areas of south Burlington, but the City does not have zoning by laws in place to do so. I do agree with the values that new homes in south BurIington start in the 2 million range as land costs are expensive so I attempted one time to try and build more affordable housing ( Semi-detached) where I could have sold for 1.3 million and the councillor at the time said ” I won’t support that because the next thing you will ask for is a 3 storey walk up building”.. another said ” you call 1.3 million affordable ?” The application process for my proposal would have added approx. $100,000 in fees, at least a year to go through the process with no guaranty of approval especially with comments given by politicians I realized it was not worth it and quite discouraged by the attitude and support

    • David Barker

      When in the process of selling a severed lot on Lakeshore Road, an infill developer expressed interest but had a view to building a semi-detached. As noted here by others, whilst the OP identifies semi-detached as being permissible there is no corresponding zoning in place. So I asked one of the City’s planners for direction as to what would need to be done to achieve a rezoning to allow for a semi-detached to be built on the lot. Note a single family dwelling and a semi-detached are both categorized as low density. A three storey multi unit walk up would fall into medium density categorization. So a very different kettle of fish. Here is the response I received from the City’s planner:-

      “Thank you for sending your material by email. It looks like you’ve done a good job of identifying relevant policies in the Official Plan applying to your proposal. In order to change the zone of a property to permit a use (semi-detached dwelling) that is not currently permitted, it is necessary to apply not for a minor variance but for a Zoning By-law Amendment (also called a Rezoning). Whereas a variance seeks relief from a requirement of the by-law (e.g.: allowing a lot width of 14m when the By-law requires a minimum 15m), a Rezoning asks the City to change the Zoning By-law. This requires approval by City Council rather than the Committee of Adjustment. There is a more extensive public engagement process, and fees are higher to reflect the additional time spent by City staff in processing the application. The intensification and infill policies you identified below will apply, and the compatibility and off-street parking criteria may be particularly relevant.

      Probably the most relevant Official Plan policy that you’ve identified below is going to be Part III, 2.2.2(c), which states a maximum density of 25 units per net hectare for Residential – Low Density areas. If putting 2 semi-detached units on your lot would result in a density exceeding 25 units per hectare, then the Rezoning cannot be approved. You would have to apply for an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to redesignate the property from Residential – Low Density to Residential – Medium Density. An OPA can be processed concurrently with a Rezoning application.

      If the Rezoning application (and potential OPA application) are approved by Council, it would then be necessary to apply to the City for a severance (or alternatively, a Plan of Condominium) to divide the two semi-detached units to each sit on their own lot. (This step might not be necessary if the proposal were for a duplex rather than a semi-detached).  

      I believe your first step would be to request a preconsultation meeting for the Rezoning (and potential OPA). At this meeting, you would hear from Planning, Engineering, Transportation, and other relevant staff, who would flag any concerns they foresee with your proposal, and would confirm for you what supporting studies and fees would need to be submitted. For more information on that process, visit”

      There certainly is a reticence by councilors to support semi-detached infill. I had correspondence with the same City planner as to why at the last minute the ward 2 councilor proposed and council accepted an amendment to the draft OP previously approved by council that specifically prohibits the building of semi-detach residences in the St Luke’s and Emerald neighborhoods.

      Here is that correspondence received:-

      “Semi-detached homes were recommended to be a permitted use in the St Luke’s and Emerald neighbourhoods when staff presented the recommended downtown policies on September 30; however, CPRM Committee made a number of amendments to the recommended policies before approving them. One of these was to remove semis as a permitted use in St Luke’s and Emerald.

      Here is a link to the Sept. 30 minutes showing all of the Committee motions, all of which passed and went on to be approved by Council on Oct. 7, and are now reflected in the Region’s Draft Decision. If you scroll down to item 8.6 you will see a presentation from the movers of those amendments that explains their rationale.

      I hope this throws some light on this subject.

    • Sue

      Great Read and thank you for this forum for all of us to share out opinions. As a Burlington resident for many years i would agree that there is very little to none development happening in the low density areas and has made it impossible for new home owners to enter the market. Not everyone wants to live in condos. The Official Plan has not found its way in Burlington as there is no other form of housing available to its residents for example: traditional and stacked townhomes, semi detached homes, duplex, etc. Low density areas comprise most of the city and there are no bi laws in place to construct anything other than new single family homes. These bi laws are found in every municipality throughout the GTA. New construction homes are very expensive and definitely hard to find under two million dollars in desirable areas. The process of getting permits is excruciating and is not easy for the average person to get through as there are many hurdles to through unlike other cities who process development applications and provide guidance in a timely manner. The mayor clearly does not support development and is disappointing that rules are being changed without any notice given or voices heard from the people and builders. Thank you.

  • Alfred

    Hello David.

    Please do your City a great service and run for office. Your are the most in tune non-official I know. Once again you are correct in the fact that the sale prices I referred to are new home sales. Which also happen to be spot on. Thanks for the clarity

    So how do we account for the pathetic housing starts? Incompetence or deliberate over regulation .Results= Builders leaving and taking their hundreds of millions to spend in other less regulated cities. All the non contributing grey haired nimbies who this Mayor hopes will vote for her could not be happier. Prices soar. Did I mention the lost property tax revenue in the millions new homes bring in. Also jobs and business for the trades right up to the real estate agents. No houses no big commissions. Wake up agents.

    David you suggested that there is shortage of lots in Burlington. This illusion is more apparent than real. There are thousands of lots that have houses on them that can be demolished and new homes built. The difference is you could put 3 houses on the same size lot in north Burlington.

    This Mayor is doing everything she can to stop development in the Low-Density areas of Burlington about 70-80% of the urban area Contrary to her Provincial mandate and duties. Lots of examples to come.

    To be cont…

  • Alfred

    Note to editor:

    Quick fact check:

    Spoke with 4 of the best real estate agents in the City, having just got of the phone with them Each agent cofirms That new homes for sale in north Burlington range from $1.5mil. to $1.8mil. they also stated that they are almost non existent New home sales in south Burlington start at $2 mil. and go up from there Let me be clear these homes are single detached in low density infill areas.

    In terms of housing starts 2019 year end stats. totalled 59 City wide not the 50 I had indicated. Be advised that these totals are not easy to attain I get different answers from different people. I was able to determine that many of these permits were issued for larger subdivisions in North Burlington which paints an even gloomier picture for those on modest or fixed incomes to ever dream of living in south Burlington in a new home with a front yard and back yard.

    This housing nightmare falls at the feet of the Mayor of Burlington, and yes that’s why I’m not a big fan of her housing policies.

    Editor’s note: The data from a well known city realtor doesn’t support the wr
    iter’s claim –

    • David Barker

      Maybe the difference between the two poitions is that Alfred is focusing on new home builds, whilst the Rocca report is wider in that it is primarily focused upon resale homes.

      The number of infill new home constructions will of course be low because the number of available lots is very small. The cost of an infill new home is generally higher because the cost of rarely available land in a mature area is at a premium over green fields.

      It woukd seem to me the mayor and this council is not anti-development as such, but is better described as (1) anti high rise development in the downtown core and (2) pro development in the designated growth areas specified in the new OP, such as around the Go stations, and (3) infill development sympathetic in type and style to the nature of the area.

      One must note her platform that got her elected clearly articulated 1 & 2.

  • Alfred

    The Mayor of Burlington was elected by promising to stop and hinder development in Burlington, by throwing as many obstructions at it as possible. This was done to appease older white folks to the detriment of people looking to make Burlington their home. This would include our children. These would include young families, young singles and many new immigrants. Also older folkes looking to downsize by selling their big homes and selling it to a young family and finding something small and more affordable and manageable for themselves. Just monster homes and condo’s do not a City make.

    Here are some interesting facts. Last year only 50 single family homes were built In all of Burlington. A City with 200,000 people. Average sale price today over 2 million dollars a piece.Condo’s are selling for $1,300 per. sq.ft. for a 600 sq. ft. unit. Eight hundred thousand dollars each. Number of semi-detached, duplex, triplex or fourplex built in Burlington in a year 0 YES 0. These hideous house prices are all a result of the housing shortage created by your Mayor. New affordable housing for those with special needs and lower incomes is non existent in Burlington.

    Regional housing guidelines call for more and a larger range of housing options.

    Definition of: Range of housing types. Such as, but not limited to single-detached, semi-detached, rowhouses, multiplexes, affordable housing with special needs.???

    The Province of Ontario has issued guidelines to Municipalities for them to follow. The City of Burlington is to cut red tape and reduce regulation so it is easier to build homes-including different types of homes-so that the people of Ontario can find something that suits their needs and budgets.???

    There is a tidal wave of housing coming to Burlington. The Mayor knows it and she is just buying time and hiding under the Covid blanket. Hoping this all goes away. Which it won’t…

    Enough for tonight,To be cont….

    Editor’s note: The numbers used in this comment are incorrect and the writer knows they are incorrect. Alfred, or is it Albert – is a small developer who has harranged at city hall for a number of years. He is no fan of the current Mayor, which is fine. But he should not be throwing around data that is just not true. Smarten up Albert.

    • David Barker

      Whist I do not agree with the perspective you have laid out, I do very much wish you and your family a very happy new year, my friend.

      Publisher, if Alfred’s numbers are incorrect, and i don’t know if they are or are not, could you please present the correct ones. Thank you.

  • Carol Victor

    Agree…the council needed an overhaul pand we needed a more citizen – oriented mayor. More of us need to be involved in Municipal Politics as this is truly what affects our day to day life.There is no room for complaining if citizens continue to be complacent.

  • David Barker

    Well written. Well said !