The thing that is really bold is the decision the city made to Grow Bold without a mandate

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

November 1st, 2016



City Council voted to endorse a report that enables the Director of Planning and Building and Chief Planning Officer to close the city’s current Official Plan Review process and start the preparation of a new Official Plan for the City of Burlington.

“With very little green field left for development in Burlington, the city is undergoing a very important transition,” said Mayor Rick Goldring. “We are no longer a city that builds new suburban-type neighbourhoods but one that is building a greener and healthier urban community for our residents. A new Official Plan is recognition of this direction and will help us lead the way in the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area when it comes to managing urban sprawl.”

Upper Middle Road looking east towards Burloak - primer commercial. No takers?

Upper Middle Road looking east towards Burloak – defined as Employment lands by the city – developer has asked that it be re-classified to residential.

The Mayor’s comment appears to neglect the significant stretch of land along Upper Middle Road where it meets Burloak that the property owners wants to see converted from employment lands to residential.

Nor does he appear to be taking into account the sizable development going on now at the intersection of Dundas and Walkers line where more than 100 homes are going to be built in the North West quadrant.

And then there is Eaglesfield where the Paletta interests have plans for residential homes.

Strategic Plan Workbook

Early drafts of the Strategic Plan had it as a four year plan. Somewhere along the way the time frame got changed. How?

Burlington’s current Official Plan was endorsed by Burlington City Council in 1994. Every municipality in Ontario is required by the provincial government to review their Official Plan every five years. The current review of the city’s existing Official Plan was started in 2011.


The strategic Plan that city council approved is now a 25 year plan. The current city council seemed to feel they could bind any future city council to this plan – doesn’t work that way. A future council could scrap the plan.

“In the city’s new Strategic Plan, approved in April, Council has made the decision to protect Burlington’s rural boundary and grow in its urban areas over the next 25 years,” said the city’s director of planning and building and chief planning officer, Mary Lou Tanner. “As we reviewed the city’s current Official Plan, we realized a reset of the document was required to reflect and help guide the city’s new priorities.”

“All of the work that has been undertaken as part of the Official Plan Review process, including policy research, analysis, studies, staff reports and community feedback, will be considered within the development of the new Official Plan. The community will also have an opportunity to share its feedback on the draft policies of the new Official Plan early in 2017.”


Not quite this bold. City has rejected the ADI development Group Nautique project – 26 storeys was just a little too much for then.

“We are looking forward to getting input from the community about the policies that are being considered for the new Official Plan,” said Tanner. “Burlington is going to Grow Bold over the next 25 years, embracing density in our urban areas. Now is the time for residents to have a say and help shape their city into a dynamic 21st century urban community.”

These changes are significant – they mark an almost totally new direction for the city.

This kind of change is the type of thing a government needs to have a clear mandate from the people paying the bills – you the taxpayer.


Director of Planning – Mary Lou Tanner. Her vision is to Grow Bold, Smart and Beautiful.

We have a strong statement about the direction the city is going to take from our new Director of Planning – Grow Bold. They tested the name with the Insight panel.

There are a lot of people in the city who don’t want to grow bold.

Yes there is a Provincial Policy Statement in place that requires the city to take on more growth – but, given that the city has decided to put an end to the urban sprawl of the past – what do they want to do with the urban Sprawl that we do have?

Can’t just leave it there to rot.

And – how did this Council manage to create a Strategic Plan that has traditionally been a document that reflected what a council wants to do during its term of office.

This Council decided that they would create a Strategic Plan for the next 25 years. The problem with the document is that one elected council cannot bind a future council to a program or plan.

The Gazette doesn’t recall there being a meeting at which the decision to write a 25 year plan rather than a four year plan was debated.


This council has approved a Strategic Plan that covers the next 25 years.  The plan will not last that long. 

And given that the council in place now did not get itself elected on a promise to prepare a 25 year Strategic Plan or the statement that the city was going to grow Bold – it doesn’t’ have a mandate to do what it is doing.

That of course isn’t going to stop them – they are boring a head full blast.

The 2018 civic election should certainly be interesting.

There is a three minute video that hypes the GrowBold philosophy – the opening scene is of the pier – the one that cost us twice what it was supposed to cost?

Check it out HERE. – the video, not the Pier – we all know where that is.

Salt with Pepper is an opinion piece.


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10 comments to The thing that is really bold is the decision the city made to Grow Bold without a mandate

  • Hans

    I agree with Phillip’s list of negative changes. I’ve lived in Burlington off and on for a total of only 29 years, starting in 1971.

  • Phillip Wooster

    Pepper is spot on in saying the current mayor & council have no mandate for this 25 year plan. And having a mandate for the electorate is critical since, in theory, this plan will be left for new mayors and councils (quite likely in 2018) when this one is removed from office. Clearly, they did not run on this plan or developing such a plan in 2014. My conclusion is that a new mayor & council may want to amend or scrap this plan altogether.
    Stephen White has correctly noted that City Hall could have done much more to engage the electorate in the planning process. What I find deeply troubling is this plan is a further example of City Hall focusing on special interests and consultants leaving residents to rubber stamp its policies. We have already seen this pattern with the New Street Lane Reductions and the Seniors Centre. I’m sure this process sits well with those special interests and Goldring apologists but it doesn’t sit well with residents; the huge positive outcome of the New Street Fiasco
    is that it has awoken the electorate to the role of special interests and City Hall elites to a decision-making process that marginalizes local residents. Despite all the usual “high-sounding jargon”in this document,residents will have to ask themselves “is Burlington a better place after two terms of Goldring and this council”? Change is coming!

    • John

      Change is coming!
      I will agree with you on that Phillip, although it may not be exactly what you have in mind.

      Having lived in Burlington for 60 plus years, witnessed incredible changes in the city and experienced more than a few mayors and councilors, YES I am better off with the 1 1/2 terms our mayor and this council have completed.

      • Phillip Wooster

        John, Really??? How are you better off? I’ve ONLY lived here 37 years but here’s what I am experiencing in the present-day Burlington–overcrowding, traffic gridlock, municipal government that is out-of-touch with residents, wasteful spending by City Hall, and tax increases that seriously outstrip the rate of inflation. All these negative changes have been exacerbated by the current mayor and councillors. This new marketing scheme (the 25 year plan) is nothing more than “lipstick on a pig”.

        • John

          Phillip, your experiences in present day Burlington don’t seem pleasant however, they don’t mirror mine and are not all attributable to this council and mayor.

          Overcrowding and Burlington just doesn’t work in the same sentence,
          New York or Hong Kong would be better examples of overcrowded city’s.

          Traffic has certainly increased, getting around the city may take a few minutes longer however, I have only experienced gridlock when traffic is diverted from the QEW and during road closures for special events, accidents or road repair, I don’t think council or the mayor were responsible for most of that.

          Is our municipal government out of touch or do they simple disagree with your thoughts ? I have expressed my opinion to this council and mayor many times and get my share of responses, some would make you shudder however, if they don’t agree that doesn’t mean I wasn’t engaged or heard.

          Tax increases have never been something I look foreword to however, it’s important to understand why they go up at the rate they do. A lot of what we have seen in this and the last term of council is increases to improve or maintain infrastructure, that has not been a priority for several years.

          A 25 year plan will almost certainly be tweaked during it’s life span, that’s good and necessary as times and priorities change. Today it’s a guide on where the city is going and where we would like it to be in the future.

          We may live in the same city but how we perceive and experience it is very different.

      • Tom Muir

        John, how so are you better off? Be specific please.

        I’m not, and my list and more agrees with Phillip’s et al.

        • John

          As you can see in my reply to Phillip, I don’t perceive his experiences are the result of this council or mayors decisions.
          Certainly there is room for improvement, throwing out the accumulated experience of this group would seem counterproductive.

          As for me being better off, I will just comment with some of my experiences in the city.

          I walk and or cycle daily, over the six years this group have been together there are more routs to cycle allowing me to complete simple tasks while enjoying a ride.

          We are fortunate to live near one of the city’s many parks, it has been upgraded recently providing me with a four season destination for a daily walk or to attend community and city meetings.

          New events including the mayors inspire Burlington, provides me the opportunity to learn and understand new ideas and perspectives.

          Recent developments, and hopefully the ones under construction, have added a new life to our downtown that has, at best, been stagnating for many years.

          The maintenance on my road has been noticeable improved and even
          gets plowed on a more timely basis.

          The biggest change with this council and mayor, even the city staff is how they engage with the residents. As I said to Phillip, council and the mayor may not always agree but, in my experience they have heard the opinions presented to them.

          The city has grown and gotten busier, that comes with change but, the great things are getting better and for every con of growth there is a pro. It’s a matter or balance and perspective.

          My wife and I were recently in Port Dover, a small town of about 6,400 experiencing rapid growth. I would like to pass along an overheard conversation at the local Tim Hortons, source of all things local.
          It went something like this, what is this council thinking allowing all these new homes to be built, it getting impossible to drive downtown. They raise our taxes and then just don’t listen, just wait until 2018.

          Some things are universal.

  • Hans

    “Burlington is going to Grow Bold over the next 25 years” is a stupid statement. “Bold” might be a suitable adjective to describe an entrepreneurial organization but it is completely inappropriate for a municipality. “Competent” would be a good goal – why don’t we start with that, since Burlington has a long way to go to reach it?

  • Chris Ariens

    On the other hand, it would appear that finally we have a Council that has decided to look beyond their immediate term of office and steer the direction of the City for the long-term. That’s absolutely within the mandate of a Council member. I’d say if they weren’t looking 25 years ahead, they would not be fit to make these kind of decisions.

    How often do elected representatives get criticized for failing to look past the next election, and lacking a clear long-term vision for the city? The Strategic Plan was the result of more consultation with the public than any other planning document in Burlington’s history.

    Will future Councils be held to it? After all, it’s just a plan to guide them. It doesn’t dictate how they vote on any of the matters at hand, including the specifics of the Official Plan that is being drafted. It doesn’t specify how the council members are supposed to view the priorities between its many and often potentially conflicting objectives.

    There will be opportunities to change the plan, and we, the public will have the opportunity to determine whether we want those changes or not. But it’s also important that many of the overarching decisions such as land-use and transportation are informed by the facts, and we don’t continually change course based on the political winds that happen to be in favour at the minute. Just look at the mess that Toronto has made of its transit system, with billions of dollars spent arguing back and forth about Scarborough, DRL, LRT, Gardiner. That kind of political flip-flopping on broad strategic issues is something I hope never to see for Burlington. Our mayor and council deserve some credit for boldly planning ahead.

  • Stephen White

    I went onto the City of Burlington website to see the so-called “consultation process” that preceded the development of this brilliant plan.

    They received 771 responses to a Forum Research survey. They had a 108 residents complete another survey. They received feedback from 90 people during two car free events. They held four meetings during weekdays at which time they received feedback from different interest groups. And they apparently sought input from their own staff. Is this the City’s definition of extensive consultation??

    In this time of electronic communication when it costs next to nothing to prepare a survey using Survey Monkey and either post it on the City’s website or send it out as a hyperlink in a broadcast e-mail one has to question why this option wasn’t considered. Curious too how all those stakeholder meetings occurred during the daytime when a large portion of Burlington residents were working….many working outside the City.

    I suppose if you can manipulate your audience then you can obviously skew the results, and ergo, manage the outcome of the Plan. Little wonder why so many of us are increasingly cynical and distrustful of this Council.