The 409 Brant development takes it first bow - it didn't get a standing ovation

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

May 2nd, 2018



The community now knows what it is going to look like and they weren’t all that impressed with what they saw and heard at a neighbourhood meeting last night at the Lions Hall.

The questions were consistently critical with the president of Revenue Properties sitting quietly in a corner watching every movement, gauging the audience very carefully.

409 with 423 shadowed

The architects prepared a rendering of there structure and shadowed in how it will relate to the already approved 423 Brant development. Both are on opposite sides of James Street across from city hall. The intention is to angle the corners of the of each building on the Brant James intersection allowing for an opening up to the Civic Square and a more expansive view. done right – it could work.

The architect did a decent job of explaining how the building was going to connect relate to the development to the already approved 23 storey on the north side of James and Civic square which was described as an underutilized space.

The design of the buildings will have a portion of one of the corners cut away so that the view from James Street opens up onto Civic Square. There really isn’t all that much traffic going west on James – but architecturally it could add some flair to the streetscape.

Civic Square will be getting a total face lift – mention was made of a community design exercise

Glen Wellings, the developer’s planning consultant, earned his fee – he managed to skirt around the issues that he was uncomfortable with. There was one occasion when Wellings tried to toss a question to one of the Revenue Property executives who waved Welling’s off. Those people tend not to answer directly – that’ what the hired guns are brought in for.

He explained that this first public showing of the development was meant to gather opinions and reactions from the public.

Most of the people in the room understood that – what they were having difficulty with was that their views didn’t seem to get very far beyond their mouths.

It is close to a given that this structure is going to get approved. If their developer doesn’t get that approval this development comes under the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and not the newly created Land Planning Act Tribunal (LPAT).

The city staffer who served as moderator struggled to keep the microphone in her hand. George Ward, a resident of ward 4 wasn’t able to get it out of her hands.

At one point the Mayor and the ward 2 Councillor began to get into a slinging match over “facts” – Meed Ward arguing that the Mayor didn’t have his facts quite right.

When it began to get a little feisty the staffer cut them both off – not something you see from city hall staff very often.

Ground floor - parking ramp

Parking both in and out will be from John street. That parking ramp in the middle of the building makes for pretty small retail spaces. The scale of the set back, shown here in the upper left, gives you some idea as to how the building will open up on to Civic Square

Parking was a focal point – the development will have .92 parking spaces per unit (a total of 212 parking spots) in a structure that will have 224 units that will be 1, (600 sq. ft.) 2(850 sq. ft. and 3 bedroom with 1200 sq. ft. of space. Current planning rules call for 1.2 parking spaces for each unit. There will be no parking for the commercial spaces

Nothing on pricing.

No mention of park space.

There will be just one level of commercial space – those units will be very small but will ring the building.

No visitor parking.

Good bold design – quite a bit different than anything Burlington has seen in the past.

A major concern for several people was what will happen to Brant Street during construction – especially if the two projects are under construction at the same time.

Rendering partial of design

It s a bold design that will have retail on all four sides of the building. But much less in the way of retail square footage. This view looks south to the lake with city hall on the right and the Queen’s Head where it has always been and where it is always going to be.

The architect suggested that it would take two and a half to three years to complete the building – they are putting in five levels of underground parking.

The entrances to the underground parking will be on John Street for both buildings – the public is looking at some 400 cars that will be entering and leaving the two buildings on a street that will have bus traffic all day.

There won’t be much in the way of vibrancy on Brant Street from about Ontario street south for that five year period – the east side of the street will be hoardings and construction overheads.

Wellings kept dropping in the phrase “a complete community” which he didn’t really define.

The Albert Schneider and the Kelly’s Bake shop locations are being kept as historical sites – what the public will see when the project is completed will be far from what is there today.

The buildings will be taken back to what they looked like in their early renditions when Brant and John Streets were quiet pokey little places where everyone knew everyone and the merchants knew your first name.
Back to the time when Spencer Smith walked the streets of the town and Smith was the Police Chief, when the Gazette was a print publication with an office on Brant Street.

The process going forward is for planning department staff to meet with the developer and compare notes on what he public had to say. The developer will be expected to come back with some changes to deal with the prime concerns.

The phrase Section 37 benefits for the community didn’t get mentioned; expect the developer to say that keeping the two historical structures is what the public will get.

There is a lot of misunderstanding in the minds of the public. The city is required to accept every development that is dropped on their doorstep and if it is a complete development with all the required studies attached they are required to write a report to city council recommending that it be accepted, turned down or have significant changes made. That’s the law – the city has to live within those rules

Set backs for each level

The various levels of set back. As the building rises the area gets smaller. How much will there be in the way of changes when this eventually gets to city council? Hard to tell – depends to a large degree on the kind of city council the citizens elect.

The site is made up of nine different properties that are .02 of a hectare in area. One woman wanted to know what a hectare looked like – It was a unit of measure she wasn’t familiar with. No one was able to give her a sense as to just how big this development was going to be.

Another downtown resident asked why the building has to be 24 storeys high “why can’t you leave it at 17”. The answer was “it’s the money honey!”

This development will get to a council that may well be quite a bit different than the one in place now. There may be a new Mayor with a perspective a lot different than that of the current planner.

There are at least two declared candidates that see the current city manager as not quite what the city needs.

Things are just a poppin at city hall. Hang on to your hats!

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16 comments to The 409 Brant development takes it first bow – it didn’t get a standing ovation

  • Tom Muir

    Chris, are you playing here? I think so as you are making nonsense here.

    Of course if you get a developer to sell or lease no parking units, and people agree not to own a car, and in fact don’t, then these cars won’t appear.

    But you were talking about 0.5 parking spots per unit, so these cars appear.

    It doesn’t matter about the floor number, it’s the units and the parking ratio.

    But planning cannot make cars and traffic that people want vanish just by adjusting the ratio.

    All of this is simplistic as you say, so you must be playing, or suffering a brain toot.

    • Andrew Miller

      So I guess you are saying that if the units had a zero parking rate you would be happy or are you saying there should be no growth so that there are no more cars?

      • Tom Muir

        Andrew, are you talking to me, Tom?

        I never said or implied either of these things. More nonsense.

        I should have known better than to get into this conversation with Chris. Like I said, playing BS, or brain toot.

        Now you appear to be joining in.


  • Chris Maynard

    It makes perfect sense to reduce parking in these new buildings. Less parking = fewer cars and reduces traffic. Perfect.

    • Tom Muir

      Well, not quite perfect.

      Less parking does not = fewer cars in absolute terms. Just fewer incremental cars per unit.

      More units = more cars unless people in these units stop driving completely.

      • Chris Maynard

        Because traffic seems to be a major concern reduce the required parking in downtown development to 0.50 and require all buildings to have building sponsored car-share. And the traffic problem is not a problem. Don’t build for cars and you will reduce congestion.

        • Tom Muir

          You are still not doing the arithmetic correctly. Remember, everything else has to remain constant – you can’t hide other changes.

          Build an additional 1000 units with 500 parking spots, and however many car-share spots you assume will fly, still means the build adds at least 500 cars plus the car-shares.

          It is not correct that this means the traffic problem is not a problem, and congestion is reduced.

          Tell us please how this works? How do you add cars but reduce traffic congestion? Pencil it out – don’t just assert using assumptions.

          As well, just because you don’t build for cars in your way doesn’t mean at least some of the cars won’t show up.

          Overall your problem solver idea still creates more cars, more congestion, and an addition to a parking problem.

          All those thousands of unaccounted for vehicles are not going to disappear because you refuse to recognize they exist.

          • Chris Maynard

            The cars don’t appear, people who buy or lease no parking units don’t have cars, there is no where to park them. My point is simple if traffic is your density concern, planning can be adjusted to reduce the impact of the additional units. Just reducing the number of floors on a building doesn’t solve anything. In less floors the development can have more smaller units with 2 cars per, lots of traffic. The floor argument is simplistic.

  • Lynn Crosby

    Well said Gary! I agree it is especially galling to keep seeing Mr. Wellings representing different developers at various sites like this one, and Martha/James, etc. and recalling him stating re: the 421 Brant building back on January 23 that he, unlike the NIMBY citizens, is not here out of self-interest!

    And don’t forget Wellings’ answer when the point was raised that the downtown can’t handle all these new people and cars in our already congested area, and it will be a traffic and pedestrian nightmare. He informed us:

    – that we will have “more congestion”
    – that we will have to “just cope”
    – that “that’s what downtowns are – busy and congested”

    We were also informed that the New OP is not yet approved by the Region but that it “provides the vision” of what the City wants.

    • Tom Muir

      To your last sentence, I must repeat myself.

      The City tell the public – “Until the plan is approved at the regional level of government, the City of Burlington’s current Official Plan remains in effect and will be enforced. The new Official Plan will be used to inform land-use decisions.”

      In other words, the existing OP will be in effect and enforced, but the new OP will be implemented, or will be the form – “the vision” – that is actually built.

      Is anyone else out there having a hard time understanding this double think, double speak?

  • Gary Parker

    ‘Informative’ is a favourite word of our planning department and it well describes what we learned in this whole process.

    We were ‘informed’:

    – by the chair of the Planning and Development Committee that we need to get over this thing we have with tall buildings.

    – this same chair later informed us of his concern about the proposed 12 storey proposal for the Solid Gold property in his own riding.

    – the chair also informed us during the proceedings that ‘We ask the questions here”.

    – by Mr Glen Wellings who’s company represents several of the developers that we’re guilty of NIMBYISM.

    – despite the normal formal protocol for addressing delegates this same Mr. Wellings is referred to in the proceedings as just ‘Glen’ as in ‘good old Glen. That in itself is ‘informative’.

    – that it’s important to bring families and jobs downtown but the new OP provides no incentive or means means to do either.

    – that we need not be concerned about traffic congestion, a shortage of parking or the missing mobility hub that makes all this development possible.

    Yes, we have been well ‘informed’ and it’s been an eye opener for the citizens of Burlington.

  • George of Ward 4

    “It didn’t get a standing ovation” is an understatement.

    The meeting was disappointing and far from a properly planned and professionally organized meeting.

    The non-professionalism was demonstrated through:

    – Positioning of the speakers resulting in initially blocking the view
    of their power point presentations
    – The shortness of the microphone cable provided which was unable to
    reach into the audience.
    – Speakers remained seated and spoke into their notes with the stretched
    short cable microphone
    – Questions to Burlington councillors regarding council decisions were
    deflected to the consultant.

    I’m not sure if the moderator wanted to exercise full control over the microphone or what her purpose was. Often the way the seating was arranged citizens wishing to ask a question would not be provided the microphone. Citizens were thus asking their question without the microphone which rendered their questions not to be clearly heard by others in the audience.

    The question below was stimulated by a recent Burlington Gazette article “Dennison comments on the approved Official Plan” where the council man is quoted “That said, I still have difficulty with the proposed Official Plan” and “But as I already said, I have no choice but to support the approval of the proposed Official Plan”.

    The question “WHY” was directed specifically to the Burlington Council members who voted on April 27, 2018 accept an uncompleted plan with incomplete or not yet existing sub plans such as parking, etc. that demonstrated:

    – Incomplete Quality Planning,
    – Rushed Delivery of council acceptance,
    – Cost versus Value Risk
    – Failure to provide Customer Satisfaction.

    This question was directed by the city staff moderator not to Burlington Council members but to a project consultant. The project consultant was thanked by the asker who requested response from Burlington Council.

    At this point Mayor Rick Goldring addressed the meeting with his explanation of the need for an incomplete and not fully planned, yet expedited, Official Plan.

    Apparently the reason for the expediting of an unplanned Official Plan was concern for the power of the Ontario Municipal Board. However, although there is a provincial election in five weeks and there may be a change in government and policy the unplanned Official Plan was prematurely advanced to a council vote.

    Ward 2 Councillor and candidate for mayor, Ms. Marianne Meed-Ward, in the October 2018 election responded regarding concerns for inaccurate information provided by the Mayor.

    “Planning works best when it’s done in advance” was not seen in this meeting nor the Official Plan presented.

  • Tom Muir

    This looks like a cruel joke when we look at statements from City, Dennison and Lancaster compared to what we see here.

    The City says;

    “Following adoption by City Council, the new Official Plan is now subject to review and approval by Halton Region. Until the plan is approved at the regional level of government, the City of Burlington’s current Official Plan remains in effect and will be enforced. The new Official Plan will be used to inform land-use decisions.”

    Dennison says;

    “Our current Official Plan and Zoning By-laws are out of line with those Provincial plans. We the city should be able to successfully defend our new official plan heights and densities, where we were unsuccessful with 374 Martha/ADI/Nautique.”

    Lancaster says;

    “The existing Official Plan was out-of-date and does not comply with new provincial legislation and therefore was not defensible.”

    “The Official Plan document is a high level document that uses blobs on a map to indicate what might be possible. I emphasize what MIGHT be possible because we have just established a vision and now the work will begin to define more closely what is possible and what will be compatible on each site.”

    City says we will enforce the current OP. That does not permit 421 Brant St, and equally, does not permit 409. So tell me please how we are enforcing that plan?

    Dennison says we should be able to defend our new OP permissions, but 421 and applied for 409 are not permitted even by the new OP, but City tells us that is not in force, and we are going to enforce the existing OP, which permits even less.

    And Lancaster doesn’t really know it I think, but she goes right to the heart of the truth of what is happening. She talks about what MIGHT be possible. She speaks of defining more closely what is possible and compatible.

    So based on the 409 story, the 421 approval, and many other applications, her truth is that the city will definitely not be enforcing the existing and current OP, as City says.

    That’s dead for sure, and is just a zombie plan the city can use to animate, walk and amend to where it wants to go.

    Where the city will be going is obvious and observable. City and developers will be going where they want to go, and doing buildings that they want to do, based on the gold-mining of condos, throw-away retail, no parking, and pretty much everything else for the developer from the looks of things in the story and likely all the hidden details.

    They will not be enforcing any OP. This is not real mixed use, or visionary downtown built form.

    Rather, they will be making things up as they go. Using all the OPs as crutches.

    Once again, it surely looks, from their own words, that they must think that residents are all very stupid know nothings.

    But I forget, they have the 6 to 1 power to do what they want and to make up the reasons why, and are not accountable.

    And I see a lot of new names and faces and group actions appearing out of the previous void of resident apathy.

    There may be hope that the self righteous despots will pay the price of their deeds.

    At the least, there should be 6 months of a rough ride.

    Swing the balance of power please.

    • Tom Muir

      I should have said explicitly that;

      1. Lancaster says the existing OP is NOT DEFENSIBLE.

      2. Dennison says we were UNABLE TO DEFEND the existing OP against Adi/Martha/Nautique.

      3. The City told us the City of Burlington’s current Official Plan remains in effect and WILL BE ENFORCED.

      4. Previously the City told us the current OP was UNABLE TO DEFEND against 421 Brant.

      So they are now saying they WILL ENFORCE a current OP that everyone, including themselves, says is NOT DEFENSIBLE?

      What I would really like to know is WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?

      And who approves it?

      This is a god awful situation to have at Council and City Hall.

      Is no one there ashamed?

  • William

    I heard the retail footprint is severely cut back with this proposal – absurd for one of the highest pedestrian areas in the downtown.

    The usual champions for downtown high-rises will applaud this proposal, saying the downtown needs a facelift. Not sure how they square that by creating these retail deserts.

  • Hans

    Those balconies look aerodynamic. On a windy day, that’s probably not a good thing in a building.
    The building design is very unattractive. Is that the best they could do?