This official plan in not an attempt to create some higher form of density that enriches the lives of the population with choices. Woodruff would like it to become a long serious debate during the 2018 election.

opinionandcommentBy Greg Woodruff

November 29th, 2017



Burlington released it’s “official plan” recently; a 500 plus paged tome with a plan to pass it as quickly as possible. They may as well have called it “Hi-rises and traffic jams.” Believers in this plan have two precepts. 1) That they have found “good” and efficient ways for people to live. 2) It’s the government’s job to enforce it on the unwilling. The result will be a cost free infinite growth utopia. Here is the net effect of Burlington’s official plan:

Greg Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

First it’s designed to make it difficult for future councils or citizens to limit the construction of high buildings almost anywhere. High-rises are encouraged in the “down town” in the “up town” (Appleby and Highway 5) around the Aldershot GO, Appleby GO, Burlington GO, Walkers GO (if province builds) and any “intensification zone” which is basically along any major road.

If you want to build higher then specified – don’t worry plenty of underlying “denser is better” principles are sprinkled through to allow you to win a OMB or tribunal at the provincial level. Placing new heights into the official plan this way effectively overwhelms the original zoning on thousands of properties by writ.

Snow on street - lady - walker

Walking is going to be one of the options in the forthcoming Master Transportation Plan.

Second it’s designed to create city wide grid lock. You can stay tuned for the “master transit plan”, but I can pretty much tell you what it says, “don’t drive anywhere.” Because if you do stupefying city wide gridlock will take place. The city’s solution will then mainly be to hector the population into busing, walking, biking or abandoning travel. Secondarily will be a push to remove parking around stores and GO stations (yes GO stations) with heroic investments into park benches, speed bumps, stop signs and traffic signaling. The theory being the faster the road system is unworkable the faster people will “come to their senses” and be hostages for city provided alternatives.

Third it bakes in the idea of “infinite sustainable growth”. Burlington is set on a vision to first looking like Vancouver, then Manhattan, then eventually like that episode of Star Trek where people were trying to escape population density via fatal disease. No limits or systems on when over building has occurred in an area. The formula for infinite cost free population growth has been found; people will just have to ration.

Even if this all seems great to you the manner in which this is going on should trouble us all deeply. You would think a city which represents it’s citizens should would want a long serious debate on all these plans.

Instead they are trying to rush this massive change through lest it become a long serious debate during the 2018 election. I remember this answer in 2014 when I ran; “The official plan is done” becomes the response when you question the judgement of those involved. That’s the purpose of the rush; to limit the scrutiny of the less involved citizen that might tune in for the 2018 election.

East side of Brant Street xx days before Christmas 2013.

East side of Brant Street weeks days before Christmas 2013. Not a lot of vibrancy here – not much height either. This city does not yet know what it wants.

This is not an attempt to make Copenhagen or any other livable European city. Those places have mainly strict 6 floor limits and specific building specifications. The problem from a city planning overlord perspective is that those places can’t “grow forever.” At a certain density – that’s it. They don’t let you come back and bulldoze down the 6 floor buildings cut down all the trees put up high-rises, because that affects the livability of the city.

This official plan in not an attempt to create some higher form of density that enriches the lives of the population with choices. It not about creating sustainable green transportation options or there would be some concrete proposals to do that. It’s a just magic voodoo to allow infinite sustainable “cost free” growth to be the operational policy of the government. And we will be left with the problems when the snake oil salesmen have moved on to the next town.

Greg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who comments frequently on city wide issues.  He ran for the office of Regional Chair in 2014 and suggests aqt times that he will run for Mayor of Burlington in 2018

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14 comments to This official plan in not an attempt to create some higher form of density that enriches the lives of the population with choices. Woodruff would like it to become a long serious debate during the 2018 election.

  • Elizabeth Hamidbasha

    It is true that the Brant St. stores need to be improved in appearance. In previous years the stores didn’t have to be glamorous and it was part of their charm that they were plain and practical. Now it seems that appearance is a necessity. However, how is this upgrade going to be accomplished and paid for? The developers coming in will take over and make it a Walt Disney downtown, but at what cost? Who will actually own the stores? How will rent control be handled or will former storeowners give up and leave the buildings empty. Village Square was a ghost village for years. It could happen on Brant St. too. My suggestion is let today’s store owners do what they can afford to spruce up their stores. A tree in front of the store is a great beautifier, as are flower boxes and a new coat of paint. That way the merchant keeps ownership and control and the developers disappear and renovate some other needy main street.

  • Allan

    Have those that work in the City ivory towers tried busing, walking or biking in the depth of winter!

    If they were serious we would have heated and/or covered sidewalks, free public transport, a Uber bus service that is there when you need it and downtown stores that include a delicatessen, butcher, grocer, fishmonger, hardware store… in fact all the stores that used to be downtown before the Malls and big box stores arrived.

    • craig

      we recently had a good butcher shop tjat did not survive as people downtown did not frequent it folks outside of downtown will only shop if stores are unique and different than stores where they live

      • BurlingtonLocal

        No we didn’t. That store wouldn’t have survived anywhere. It was ridiculous.

      • Allan

        I went to the butcher that used to be at the corner of Brant and Lakeshore. The main reasons they closed were overpriced meats, poor choice of cheeses, wilted salads, old vegetables and no parking but above all poor service!

        • Phillip

          The basic question that any retailer must ask, “Why should anyone shop at my store?” If the retailer can’t analyze the answer to that question, the retailer will fail. For a small store such as this, the store can’t compete on price–the big stores will win every time. So the alternatives are service and quality. For years, a little food market in Westdale–Picone’s,thrived even with big supermarket stores nearby. But the owner, John Picone, provided outstanding service to his customers (delivery, personable–like everyone’s favourite grandad) as well as outstanding fresh produce and meat.
          When he retired, the new owner failed after 6 months–he just didn’t get it.

  • craig gardner

    How much of this rant is in the document and how much is perception of the document? Does the document say we will remove GO station parking for example? We need to do a makeover of downtown brant street nothing historic or even mildly quaint or charming about the butt ugly stores from Lakeshore north on Brant. O course quaint was tried in village square but the down towne population would not support those stores so now it is mostly restaurants same as Brant for that matter. We need people living downtown who will open their wallets and support local business os we can get a vibrant downtown which we do not have today.

    • Stephen White

      Greg’s statement regarding the GO station parking was, in fact, referenced at the November 13th Council meeting. One of the Councillors asked what would happen to the existing parking spots at the GO Stations and the Director of Planning surmised that over time the parking spots would disappear.

      Think about it Craig. On what property do you think the residential properties will be erected? Getting rid of the parking serves two goals: 1) it compels more people to walk, cycle or take the bus to the GO Station; and 2) it obviates the need to expropriate adjoining lands.

      Greg’s point is deserving of reiteration. If this Official Plan is the greatest thing since sliced bread let Council run on it in 2018. I have asked this question at numerous Mobility Hub meetings and each time the question gets ignored. They are pushing this through without proper review, debate and discussion. The Mayor, the Council and the Planning Department want this issue to quietly fade away before October 2018. Problem for them is….it won’t !!

      • craig gardner

        it was my understanding that Metrolinx owns the parking and the station and if they decide to stop offering parking i can understand but any time i have asked them the answer is no they are considering charging for parking to pay for all the multi-tiered lots they have been building. can the city just say no GO parking I thought that was a provincial issue.

        • Dayna W

          In reviewing the “preferred concepts” for the Aldershot Mobility Hub, you can see that they’ve cut the parking lot in half from what is already there and replaced it with high-rises and tall-building designations. This, despite the fact that the Aldershot parking lot is already overflowing and has been for more than a year now.

          I spoke with some of the Mobility Hub planners regarding this issue, and their desire to limit the number of drivers on the road means that they are considering a number of ways to discourage people from parking. One of them even mentioned to me having people pay to park at the GO Station.

          It’s nice to suggest that we can limit our own reliance on cars, but, particularly for the Aldershot GO Station, it doesn’t quite matter what Burlington does to create walkable space nearby — Waterdown is expanding at a ridiculous rate with a big selling feature being its proximity to the GO station.

          Decreasing the parking spaces and encouraging people to LIVE near the train stations seems to be the long-term plan for both the City, the Province, and Metrolinx.

          • Phillip

            Will Metrolinx limit the parking at GO? I know our planner, Tanner, is on record in favour of limiting parking or making people pay for it. But I think the downside to this strategy is encouraging people to abandon GO and’ return to driving, with the inevitable gridlock on our highways. I was casually reading a survey done of commuting times (sorry, I’m not a commuter and didn’t note the source) and one really stuck out–the average commute time by car was 24 minutes, by transit 45 minutes. Time is precious, the advantages are clearly not in favour of transit.

    • I’m trying to summarize the effect in practice of the rules presented in n 500 pages. The official plan does not have GO parking reduction in it – the mobility HUB inserts do last I checked. Plus there is a Mary Lou Tanner tweet to that effect. Check out my Twitter at @GregDWoodurff and you can look it up – I quote tweeted it.

      It’s all part of the same underlying plan.

      • craig gardner

        i am quite fine with a redevelopment of the downtown core as it is butt ugly today also fine with the condos on fairview by the GO and with a new waterfront hotel taller with more rooms to compete equally with the one being built next door, but Burlington is and likely for foreseeable future will be a CAR city of commuters to Toronto Hamilton Kitchener Cambridge where there are jobs as I would guess a very low percent of people live and work in Burlington. Seems even jobs available like those on Mainway people come from Hamilton judging by traffic patterns in am and pm daily. Also an aging population do not use bikes or transit if finances allow for other means so to ever think of Burlington as anyting but a car city is just crazy talk. First thing kids want when they get out of University or college is a car so they dont have to use transit anymore. So if we attract young people to new tall condos they will be car people too.

        • I’m not opposed to the re-development of down town, but we need a plan other than: high buildings will solve everything. Look around lots of cities have the tall buildings, but a great down town does not break out.

          If your analysis is that future residents will bring and use cars – well then you should be very concerned, because the official plan pretends that this is not so.