The disappointment heard around the city.

opinionred 100x100By James Young

December 9th, 2019



I attended The Planning and Development Committee on Thursday when Councillor Bentivegna expressed his controversial “disappointment” with a delegation.

Lynn and Blair 3

Lynn Crosby and Blair Smith delegating at city hall.

I heard presentations by city planners and consultants, one doesn’t have to agree with them to find them informative. I heard informative delegations from Lynn Crosby and Blair Smith of “We Love Burlington” and Don Fletcher for “Plan B”, the conscience of our waterfront. I heard self-serving delegations from developers and their professional associations, leaving me wondering: Do developers from Hamilton or Toronto deserve equal consideration with local residents who have to live with the developments long after developers have moved on?

In the evening session I heard a detailed delegation from Gary Scobie, who provided councillors with a concise, accurate and informative planning history of Downtown. I hope council and staff learn as much as I do every time Gary delegates.

Roland Tanner, for Engaged Citizens of Burlington, gave an intelligent dissertation on the compromise inherent in the staff recommendation, to get the Official Plan done now and fight the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) and Urban Growth Centre (UGC) designations later.

I loved David Barker’s idea of a pedestrian area at Lakeshore and Brant St.

Coming from Glasgow where, in the 1970s, Sauchiehall and Buchanan Streets were pedestrianised and closed to traffic. On a Burlington scale: this is the equivalent of closing Lakeshore from Guelph Line to Maple Ave. and Brant Street from Fairview to Lakeshore. Despite the hue and cry at the time about where will cars go? How will local businesses survive?

Fifty years on, these streets bustle with successful retail, patio cafes and restaurants, buskers on street corners, making it one of the most vibrant and attractive pedestrian precincts in the world. So closing Brant from Caroline to Lakeshore as a pedestrian precinct seems easily achievable if the city will is there.

Scobie 5

Gary Scobie during his delegation.

Then there was the “disappointment” that councillor Bentivegna expressed at some of Gary Scobie’s delegation. This seems to have outraged some Gazette contributors.

I disagreed with the councillor. Gary was spot on in his summation of the Downtown OP Review. But was it outrageous or disrespectful? Have we reached a stage in our sensitivity that any criticism or response to a delegation is somehow offensive? What I saw was a poorly thought out point from the councillor, very ably responded to by Gary in what he later described as the normal thrust and parry of council/delegate debate.

My take on outrage is: “Commentators may not be more outraged than the victims.” I happened to be sitting with Gary and Roland Tanner when Clr. Bentivegna stopped by to discuss their delegations. Neither Roland nor Gary were outraged or offended. For those so outraged by a single word, cast your minds back to a time when five of seven councillors repeatedly offended and were downright rude to delegates like Gary, Tom Muir, Lynn Crosby, myself and many others. While I understand and respect Clr. Nisan’s desire for decorum, perhaps he was a little quick on the draw in this case.

Angelo B

Angelo Bentivegna

I was actually more offended when Clr. Bentivegna appeared to question the legitimacy of Roland Tanner’s ECoB delegation, while he accepted the presence of We Love Burlington and Plan B groups without question. Perhaps he should reflect on the influence of ECoB on the outcomes of last municipal election and be quietly thankful.

I leave readers with two thoughts on the Downtown Proposals:

If an OP is approved based on the existing designation of downtown as a MTSA/UGC, then those designations are rescinded, doesn’t that nullify that OP?

Might developers appeal that at LPAT?

Might the Province or Region resist undoing those designations on the grounds that the new OP was approved based on those designations?

I also worry that the planner’s two options are based on provincially mandated “average” UGC density targets of around 200 people or jobs per hectare. Yet developers will still apply for amendments on a case by case basis, most of which considerably exceed that number.

Judging by past appeals it appears that LPAT adjudicates on this case by case basis, regardless of Official Plan’s average densities. This will inevitably lead to over intensification which will strain infrastructure, roads, transit, traffic congestion, all of which are planned around that 200 average.

Jim Young 2James Young is an Aldershot resident who has delegated at city hall frequently.

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8 comments to The disappointment heard around the city.

  • RobN

    Hi David,

    For a pedestrianized downtown, I would start with a LRT running from the Fairview GO station, down Brant to Lakeshore.

    People can park at the GO station and ride (for free in my plan) the LRT up and down Brant.

    Brant would be closed to cars and trucks except ‘after hours’ for deliveries etc. Emergency vehicles excluded of course.

    It’s a starting point for a discussion. Calgary has free LRT in the City core. Nice, France has a highly functional LRT as it’s main route to get people to the beaches on the Mediterranean.


  • Alfred

    Developers and builders of all types built the entire City of Burlington over hundreds of years. They have left their legacies on the people of Burlington. They can thank them for building the lovely, safe, comfortable homes they live in. Burlington ranked number 1 medium sized City in Canada for most of this decade. Too much doom and gloom around here. With few support them.

  • Gary Scobie

    Thanks for your column, Jim. You’ve included well all of the points of concern for our Council. I was not upset that Councillor Bentivegna was disappointed in my delegation. After all, I was being critical of Council in their handling of the downtown planning as presented in the two concepts. When I delegate I critique, bring information and hope to offer solutions. However, they may not always be taken kindly. That’s fine. Anything that can bring the delegation process closer to debate rather than just the occasional brief question and answer, is one of my goals. Citizens and Councillors should have the opportunity for open, public, recorded debate. This is the closest we can get to that.

    I believe I have good relations with all in this Council. That is another goal of mine. This was not necessarily the case with all in the Council of the past 8 years, as you point out.

    As many are saying (and hoping), if there is a way to move the Urban Growth Centre (not eliminate it) up to the GO Station Mobility Hub at Brant and Fairview and remove the Anchor Mobility Hub centred on our Bus Terminal, then we will be much farther ahead as masters of our downtown destiny than if we simply (now that’s an oxymoron) adjust our OP to the status quo provincial designations and the straightjacket that that puts us in.

  • WeLoveBurlington

    Thank You Anne and David:

    This was also carried by the Burlington Post at the time and was, in essence, the main point of our delegation. We believe that every effort should be made to move the Urban Growth Centre from its current downtown location – much further north is appropriate and makes far more sense – then address the OP for the downtown core and waterfront. It’s possible and, given current relaxation of provincial government ‘attitudes’, perhaps even likely now. It’s certainly worth the attempt before we’re locked into more tall building concepts for downtown.

  • Jim Young

    Hi David. Always loved the pedestrian precinct idea. I suspect others on council like it too.
    They have said so privately in the past, perhaps we need to encourage them to do so publcly and as policy.
    I usually get Jim ….though The Gazette seems to have promoted me to James …..
    My old Mum would love that. LOL

  • Carol Victor

    When we visited our MPP to sign a petition against amalgamation in early summer her staff told us that amalgamation possibility was fake news….I would take whatever is said there with a grain of salt…
    Why hasn’t our MPP who well knows our feelings on downtown intensification been proactive in expressing the chance of overturning the ill effects of Bill 108 if this in fact true….she should be representing us not towing Ford ‘s party line.

  • We picked up a Spring 2019 Newsletter from Jane McKenna’s office today. She clearly states with the new PC government at the helm the boundaries of the Burlington Downtown’s identified urban growth centre can be changed as long as Halton Region review any proposed changes as part of the new official plan in 2020. She also states that although boundary changes are allowed, the provincial Growth Plan does not permit the removal of the urban growth centre designation. We are far from an expert in these matters, that’s why we do not delegate on this subject. Instead we support those who want what the majority of Burlington residents want a walkable and preferable fully pedestrian downtown and accessible waterfront. However, we do not see why, if this is Jane McKenna’s stated position that was checked with the Minister of Municipal Affairs back in the Spring; why has our mayor or council not met with her before now to determine how far can we go with changing the boundaries to ensure we have the pedestrian plan that Burlington residents want without the high rises on Lakeshore and have the support of the Provincial Government. It’s easy to say not defensible and reject sitting down with our MPP because we are of a different political stripe. We elect councillors to represent what we want and go after it, not to keep telling us we can’t have it after assuring us they were of like minds to the majority before votes were cast.