That Urban Growth Boundary - what's the big deal - it was a big deal and it looks like the Mayor pulled it off

By Pepper Parr

August 13th, 2021



Burlington and development have for the past five years been in one of those awkward relationships.

The city wants development, the developers want to build – the problem has been what kind of development and where.

It became a menage a trois when the province said that we had to grow – big time. More housing for more people with not much in the way of space for the traditional single family house with a nice back yard that made Burlington what it is today.

Those that live in the southern part of the city didn’t want to see dozens of high rise towers taking over.

The developers wanted their buildings to be in the downtown core where the pricey condos were being built.

The argument got intense from about 2015 to the 2018 election when the issue was the boundary for the Urban Growth Centre.

Set out below is the boundary that was in place when the current city council was elected.

The Urban Growth Boundary that is in the Official Plan that is in force now went through a number of changes. The colours define the different precincts the city is divided into. A precinct is an area that has zoning and development rules unique to that area.

Marianne Meed Ward convinced people that she could get hat boundary changed and while the fight isn’t over yet – there are new Urban Growth Centre boundaries in place and once the Official Plan gets completely approved – it is currently in the hands of the Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs – where it is expected to be approved – all it has to do is get through the appeals process – there are 40 some odd organizations appealing – it becomes the law of the land.

Meed Ward was adamant from day 1 – the boundary has to be changed.

This is what the Urban Growth Centre boundary is going to look like.

Boundaries for the Urban Growth Centre that are part of the approved but not in force Official Plan.

Now slide back up and look at what was in place before a new city council set out to make a change

A huge difference – and the credit for much of it belongs to the Mayor. She was thee one who pushed and pushed and did her best not to budge an inch.

It was no small feat.

Meed Ward did not do this alone – what she did was lead the five newcomers to council, who for the most part were on her side when they were first elected, and then supported what she was setting out to do.

The Gazette has a number of differences with how this first term Mayor has handled and portrayed herself; Lord Acton had it right when he said:  “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Time will tell if Marianne Meed Ward can catch herself before she falls. None of this should take away from what she did in getting that Urban Growth Boundary moved north,

Salt with Pepper is the musings, reflections and opinions of the publisher of the Burlington Gazette, an online newspaper that was formed in 2010 and is a member of the National Newsmedia Council.

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15 comments to That Urban Growth Boundary – what’s the big deal – it was a big deal and it looks like the Mayor pulled it off

  • Alfred

    Hi Tom.

    To your point. The romantic notion of riding your bike everywhere is unrealistic as we are generally one of the coldest countries in the world. To expect people in their sixties and seventies and older to ride a bike in October or November let alone the winter months is not something most people want to do.

    As you probably know I can’t think of 1 elderly woman who would don a bicycle helmet and mess up her freshly done hairdo.

    This is not a small mediteranian town with mild temperatures. If these units were built closer to downtown. It would be at their doorstep. Thus there would be no need for cars, bikes or buses.

    Tell the truth, where would you rather live? I think I would rather live downtown. Therefore we are not putting the desires of the future owners of these a priority. Instead the Mayor is more concerned for the greedy folks who already live in the downtown core deciding where other people should live.

    I am very mindful of good designs and reasonable setbacks from the street. Good regulations are a good thing. You failed to comment on the lost property tax revenue this diversion would cause.

    Perhaps you could also shed some light on why this Mayor took out Semi-detached homes as a mild form of housing from the Official plan from some of the downtown precincts? She can’t help herself it’s what she does. Just keeps adding to the price of housing. David Barker can give us some insight on the Mayors failure in this regard. Good evening. Gentlemen.

    • Alfred, you are right on the elderly woman riding a bike (especially an elderly woman with a mobility disability) but many have no choice about donning their winter parkers to go and get groceries in their wheelchair or on their mobility scooter. As you know, we do have a large senior community and many of those cannot drive because age and disability forbids it in a safe manner. They have to depend on their mobility scooters and wheelchairs. While the council since 2010 has been very pro-cyclist (not a bad thing), just as this council majority is pro rainbow crossings, they have been negligent in meeting the requirements of the AODA and have continued to introduce barriers for those who rely on their wheelchairs or mobility scooters to get around this city. 2025 is fast approaching where Burlington will feel the wrath of its citizens for failing to have a barrier-free community through extremely bad planning and ignorance or ignoring Ontario and Canadian laws which according to Heather MacDonald at the December 4, 2018 Planning Committee must be followed.

      One example is the pier, it was built without consultation with the city’s Accessibility Committee although they will deny that (the only consultation was with the co-ordinator) and they erected a barrier to the only purpose for the pier, the view, on 100% of the pier which was contrary to the city’s regulations in terms of viewing platforms (for theatres for example). The City have repeatedly refused our calls to consider a fix (on three sides of the pier) a clear viewing area and the removal of the rub rail in these viewing areas, originally put in place so cyclists did not have to dismount, they could just lean against the rail and enjoy the view many others cannot have! The Pier was a $14 million plus unnecessary addition to the budget and rainbow crossings are not required by law and will unnecessarily eat away at reserves, neither has it been proven that they will in any way change how those they are meant for feel about their acceptance level in this city. Barriers, on the other hand are against the law and their removal enables those requiring the use of wheelchairs and mobility scooters (and moms and dads with their baby buggies) to enjoy access to the full city they have a legal right to have. We realise this can be regarded as a little off topic for the Urban Growth Boundary. but is it as the UGB is about good planning decisions that the citizens of Burlington can live with and enjoy!

    • David Barker

      Alfred, I shall address your last point first.

      Alfred is partially correct in saying that is saying that semi detached new construction is not allowed in Burlington. The fact is new construction is allowed in Burlington with the exception of two specific precincts being the Iron Duke and Emerald precincts in the downtown core. At the last gasp, just prior to Council’s final vote to approve the new OP, Councilor Kerns and the Mayor introduced a number of last minute amendments, which were passed by Council. One of the amendments specifically prohibits the construction of semi-detached residences in the Iron Duke and Emerald precincts. Semi-detached dwellings certainly make home ownership or rental less expensive than a single family home. I am a huge supporter of both the Mayor and Councilor Kerns, but this prohibition is head scratching.

      Alfred, you seem to always ignore the fact that high rise condo development is still allowable throughout the downtown core, but the building hight is restricted by the new OP and its zoning to around 12 storeys (I’m not sure if it is uniformly 12 storeys throughout the precincts or if it varies. But I think 12 storeys is the highest amount). The aim of the new OP and its zoning is to prohibit the super high rises, those in excess of 12 stories.

      Irrespective of the anesthetics of super high rises, the strain put on infrastructure by 12 storey buildings will be tough for the City to deal with. But the strain brought by 12 plus storey buildings will likely be too much to bear.

      Condos to be constructed anywhere in the downtown core are will likely command prices well in excess of $500,000. That is a pricing way beyond most 20 somethings.

      As for potential “lost revenues” to the City, well one might say in accepting super high rises the City would be selling its soul and so any revenue derived is the devil’s money.

      • Bob

        why are 39 story buildings to be built at the former Garden Gallery on Fairview/Drury or any other super high rise less of a strain on the infrastructure than if built in the core or any less aesthetic?
        The average price of a 1 bedroom condo in Burlington from Jul 19-Aug16 is $512,000 so no matter where the building is located it is out of the reach of of most 20 somethings.

        Editor’s note; The zoning on those properties are almost non-existent – they could have put up a 50 storey building.

  • Tom Muir


    It’s a shopping and dining walk from the GO site you refer to, to the lake; or you can ride a bike; or you can take the bus.

    Residents don’t have to drive as you assert they must.

    The City wants residents to do all of these mobility things in the future, and this seems like an ideal site plan for this.

    An issue that seems overlooked is that the 40 plus developer mass appeal of the whole City OP to OLT is largely based on the issues and arguments around the city plan consistency with several provincial policies that relate to the location of the MTSA(s).

    This makes developers with interests in the contested lower Brant downtown have big stakes in where the MTSA(s) are located officially. They are appealing it and will argue strenuously for their vested interest. Lots of lawyers and consultants will be involved with more then 40 developer appellants – $$$$$$$.

    They are in the tricky appeal phase of settling on what the issues really are and will be taken to a hearing. Watch for talk of settlement hearing or will it really be a real contested hearing with legal sides for and against so it is actually honest.

    • As those who have followed this Op since it was adopted, there has not been one ounce of honesty from the OLT, the city or the region. Sadly Minister Clark is ignoring the evidence in MPP McKenna and his Ministry reps at OLT (Loralea Tulloch and Heathef Watts hands) get in touch if you have not got the evidence these folks have which changes the title from official plan to official scam. Section 17 (6) of the Planning Act gives the Minister aurhority to take back approval authority from Halton and that is what needs to happen and get it cleaned up before this becomes the largest OLT /LPAT /OMB class action ever

  • Penny Hersh

    Councillor Meed-Ward, always found a way to let residents know what was happening in the city if she wanted to. She was well aware that she was in a position on council where anything she asked for was voted down, however, it would not have been the first time that she would have found a way to get this information out.

    At the time, she did not see the downtown urban growth centre boundary as an issue.

    Gary Scobie, took this issue on when he contacted Metrolinx and got the same information that ECoB did.

    An earlier article written in The Gazette, indicated that this late change to the area was not actually a done deal.

    As for the comment that Jane McKenna jumped on the band wagon. That might be so, but she did it much earlier than Mayor Meed-Ward jumped on beside her.

  • Alfred

    So now the people who could have lived downtown, walked out of their buildings and went for a lovely walk down to the waterfront and enjoyed a 5 kilometer walk, all waterfront. get to step out into a parking lot with a view of Walmart, railway tracks and sewage and drainage ditches. If they choose to go for a walk downtown, they have to get in their cars and drive there creating inconvenience, traffic and less parking let alone the pollution from their cars and noise. How the loss of property taxes to this City which will have to be made up by the taxpayers is a good thing to the rest of the citizens of Burlington is clearly short term thinking. Listening to hardcore nimby’s usually never ends well. Reasonable development does not equate to, No development. Development will now be pushed into other peoples neighborhoods. You might want to remember that when you vote.

    • david barker

      Ey, Alfred. The change in the UGC does not eliminate development in the core. It (hopefully) just stops the construction of super high towers (20+ storeys)..

  • Penny Hersh

    This article fails to inform that Councillor Meed-Ward had the opportunity in 2016-2017 to bring forward the fact to the public that Metrolinx gave municipalities that were updating their Official Plan the ability to change their growth centre designations. At the time when questioned about this, it was stated that they didn’t see the existing downtown urban growth centre as an issue.

    It was Jane McKenna, who after meeting with ECoB, started the ball rolling on the ability of changing the downtown urban growth centre.

    • david barker

      Grinding an axe whilst patting yourself on the back. Multi-tasking !

      • Penny is stating fact David, neither grinding an axe nor patting herself on the back, If you go to our webcast delegation at the January 2020 Public Meeting, not the minutes which do not reflect our delegation at all, you will see we read into the record Jane McKenna’s Notice to the Public of her 2018 efforts in regard to starting the ball rolling on both moving the UGC and removing the MTSA that confirmed her enquiries showed both could be done, McKenna will tell you that was a direct result of ECOB and others meeting with her, . Listen to the concerns expressed at the January 20, 2020 public meeting that MMW had forgotten her 2018 election promises. Anyone who tried to mention the UGC or MTSA could be moved and removed and why had council not moved on it were ignored. We believe we raised this on our off the cuff delegation at the part of the meeting when they call to the podium anyone else who wishes to speak who did not register.

    • david barker

      Grinding an axe whilst patting yourself on the back. Multi-tasking ! LOL

    • perryb

      you seem to forget that in 2016-17 Marian had little opportunity to inform anyone of anything. She had been effectively shut out by her fellow Councillors, had only occasional support from the Mayor, and was treated with disdain by the Chair of the planning committee, as were most citizens appearing there. I personally delegated there against the Downtown Mobility Hub and received a thank you from MMW and a pat on the head from the mayor before being dismissed. Jane McKenna finally leaped on the bandwagon once the direction became clear, and I have no doubt she had some influence with the Province, which after all is supposed to be her job.