The public meeting that failed - they forgot to engage the public.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

August 23rd, 2018



Can they get anything right?

There was to be a public meeting to get public feedback on midrise buildings.  The city’s Planning department wanted public feed back.

A Gazette reader advised us that he attended and is pretty sure he counted five people who attended who weren’t candidates for public office. There were two candidates from ward 5 and Mead Ward running for the Mayor’s job.

“I saw a notice on Twitter” said our reader, “I think 2 or 3 days ago max. I spoke to MMW tonight and she said she only found out late in the day too, and not from the City.

“There was a notice on the ‘Get Involved Burlington’ notices I get, I got an update re the survey and open houses dated on 20th – two days ago.”

Gete involved logo

The only way to get the Get Involved Notices is if you have registered previously with the city.

There is some information on the city’s web site:

As the city grows, Burlington will continue to receive applications for all sizes of developments, including mid-rise buildings.

What are mid-rise buildings?
Mid-rise buildings are bigger in scale than houses but smaller than towers and have a good relationship to the street. This means that while the walls of a mid-rise are tall enough to provide lots of usable space inside the building, they are low enough to let the sun in and open the view to the sky from the street. A well-designed and placed mid-rise building should also support a comfortable pedestrian environment and make the street come alive by lining the sidewalk with doors and windows that house things like stores, restaurants, services and community uses.

The height of mid-rise buildings varies. In Burlington, mid-rise buildings range between five and 11 storeys. Mid-rise buildings may contain a single use, like an office or residential apartment, but usually contain a mix of uses, which may include things like retail, office, community services, and residential all in the same building.

Our reader added: “It’s a bad time of year to hold this sort of meeting anyway. With great respect to the staff who gave up an evening to attend, and who were universally polite, friendly, professional and helpful, this is a fine example of everything that’s wrong with citizen engagement in this city.

“It’s simply not engagement. The presentation amounted to about 8 Bristol board panels with some limited info about possible guidelines and a few sheets of paper and a pen for suggestions.

“To be honest, there’s literally nothing a resident can provide after seeing a couple of Bristol boards that is going to amount to feedback the city can use. It’s designed to fail. All you’re left with is five citizens who gave up valuable time to try to help build a better city who probably now feel like they were at best wasting their time and at worst had their intelligence insulted.”

Any wonder that the natives are restless.

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11 comments to The public meeting that failed – they forgot to engage the public.

  • Allan S

    I agree with Susie’s comment “We’ve exhausted ourselves with attendance and delegations, to no avail, and now they are wondering why there is poor attendance”. I hold the City Manager, most of the council and greedy developers for the decimation of our heritage in pursuit of the almighty dollar.

  • Lynn Crosby

    They didn’t forget to engage the public. They seem to have no desire to engage the public. They do have a desire to have events or surveys which they can later tout as evidence that they tried, but by doing it on an August evening with virtually no notice they got what they should have expected and possibly wished for: a low turnout. I would say that the amount of time being spent lately telling us how much they want to engage us seems like nothing more than a response to criticism in an election period and trying to prove it wrong, while giving the incumbents something to use as evidence that engagement is all well and good in the City of Burlington. Nobody seems to be buying it.

    The low turnout might also be taken as an indication that the public is done pretending to engage with those who don’t listen and we are simply waiting for the dawn of our new day on October 23 when we hopefully will be heard and respected. There really is no point in playing the ‘let’s engage with the city” game now.

    • Stu Parr

      I don’t know Lynn – the TimBits were good and the current AGB exhibits were worth the visit.

    • C Jester

      Agree with you Lynn. Maybe we should just look at it as a failed engagement. Sounded great, seemed good for awhile, but the feeling just sort of faded away. So now the wedding’s off and the guests have been told not to show up. That would be most of Council and any candidates that want to grow, grow, grow Burlington up, up, up.

      The wedding has been re-scheduled for October 22nd, when a new day dawns and engagement once again is more than a four letter word.

  • Penny Hersh

    City Staff have yet to realize that the winds have changed. Residents are aware that these public meetings are a total waste of time. I particularly like when workbooks are handed out and people are asked to write down their suggestions. I have to wonder if these workbooks get past the recycling box in the room.

    I attended a public meeting at the Art Gallery of Burlington in June where we were shown the different garbage cans, benches. etc. that the City was planning on installing in the next 10 years It also showed what was supposed to have been installed in the 1990’s,some of which I was told were never installed. If history is a good indication of future behaviour what we saw in June will never be installed. Why would we need to see what garbage cans, benches etc could possibly be installed 10 years from now. By then these would be obsolete. What a waste of time and money as there were about 6 planners standing by to answer questions.

    Public Engagement about garbage cans and benches – is that all residents are allowed to have input in?

    An independent group of residents, and professionals need to be involved when a development application comes into the City. This works very well in Oakville, why not in Burlington? A city advisory committee is not the way to go – it needs to be totally independent.

    Perhaps the new council will be more open to this?

  • I received notice because I signed up for, ” Get Involved” and, because M.M.W. sent out a tweet. Did not attend as my grandsons birthday party took precedence. The GI invitation gave you the option to attend or to take an online survey. Have not taken the survey to date.

  • Steven

    I knew about the meeting – came to the realization – what is the point of attending – the city disregards or just completely ignores public input that it feels does not meet their point of view or perspective – I often get the feeling as long as we agree – we are allow input – disagree – you are ignore or asked to fill in a comment card that is promptly filed and ignored

  • Lucy

    These meetings are just for show…a PR exercise. I hold the City Planners, the Mayor and the Councillors (minus Marianne Meed Ward) responsible for the mess that development and redevelopment has become in Burlington. None of them care at all about citizen opinions. They are destroying our downtown and other parts of the city. Holding meetings with residents ahead of time means nothing. They don’t pay any attention to what residents say. This article illustrates one example. Here is another example: Lakeside Village Plaza Proposal – The fears expressed in an initial community meeting held on November 24, 2015 appear to be completely ignored by the developer and the city planners. The Preconsultation Meeting with 5 City Staff reps (Rosalind Minaji, Dan Ozimcovic, Annette Simpson, Rob Peachey, Vanessa Aykroid), 2 Halton Region reps (Brian Hudson, John Kisneris), the 2 MHBC planners for this proposal (Dana Anderson, Ben Hannam), and 2 architects (Nevine Soliman, Cynthia Zahoruk) was held on January 25th, 2018. Within the document of February 2018 that tracked changes from the old Official Plan to the newly adopted plan in April 2018, it becomes very clear that the changes that occurred for the Land Use policies section regarding Neighbourhood Centre designation were made to specifically accommodate the Developer’s Proposal for Lakeside Village Plaza. This indicates that the city staff and subsequently the Council who adopted the changes were giving their approval to this massive project that alters and does not conform to the current character of this east end Lakeshore Rd. community. Such behaviour by the City Planners, the developer and Council makes a sham of any community input meetings and devalues the importance of the neighbourhood citizens who will be impacted most dramatically by this project! Residents beware: unless there is a major change in the mayor and present council, we don’t stand a chance in bringing sensible growth back to our city. The Burlington Community Engagement Charter is worthless.

  • Marilyn A.

    I was “one of the five” who attended last night’s presentation. I read about it the same day! in your fine online newspaper which is my “go to” for all things Burlington, especially The City and development issues. I, too, spoke to Marianne Meed Ward who had not been notified about it by The City….and she is our Ward 2 Councillor!

    I appreciate the design guidelines put forth but do not agree with some of the ultramodern steel and glass architectural facades presented. They certainly do not fit within an established neighborhood. The City has allowed them to pop up throughout. The result has already impacted the beauty and attraction of Burlington.

    Incorporate the existing gems of our history in the facade. Feature the existing trees in your exterior design, too! This is who we, who choose to live here or have grown up here, really are.

    The mayoral candidate Marianne Meed Ward gets it! She has consistantly fought for, and continues to fight for, the essence of the people’s Burlington.

  • Susie

    Welcome to the real world! After one whole year of attending the City’s public hearings and the i’s dotted and the t’s having already been taken care of, we all know from experience that these public meetings are just a formality. We’ve exhausted ourselves with attendance and delegations, to no avail, and now they are wondering why there is poor attendance. They get paid for every after hour meeting, our time is important to us and we and they know that between the builder and the planning department, the actual is sitting on paper ready to move on!! The City knows our thoughts on low rise for the Lakeshore and the downtown Brant Street and there has been no strides by the City in honouring our wishes. There are no grey areas, we have not won on anything, and going forward with the “new” OP that has given the builder everything, we at present don’t see anything changing!!

  • Wendy Moraghan

    I was there last night and yes, very few in attendance.