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Trained as a classical piano player Suzanne Mammel now directs the Home Builders Association that covers Hamilton and all of the Halton Region.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

November 2nd, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The city of Burlington Planning department has basically wrapped up their work on the draft of the new Official Plan – a red ribbon and a bow and it will be ready for the public. The document is going to get to the public November 10th.

When Suzanne Mammel heard that she at first gulped and then said to herself – really!

Mammel is the Executive Officer of the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association (HHHBA); the wording of the Official Plan is critical to her membership and vital to the citizens of Burlington.

Mammel - surprise

Suzanne Mammel is the Executive Officer of the Hamilton Halton Home Builder’s Association

Mammel, who at first says the current Official Plan is sadly out of date and that “if we are going to have a new Official Plan then let’s get it right” feels the most significant document the city has is being rushed through the Planning department.  Why she asks.

Part of her concern with the rush that is taking place to get the document passed by city Council is that they appear to be trying to get it in place before the next municipal election. Besides being a very important document – it is also a very long document. “I spent weeks reading that document – I’m one of the few people that has read every page of it – I took it to Newfoundland and to Hawaii as I travelled.

“This document sets out policy before all the background work has been done.

“Representing my association, I met with the city planners and took them through a 30 page document that set out our concerns – we didn’t get any answers from the planners – they weren’t ready to respond.”

Mammel said she gets the impression that the planners are not going to listen to anyone.

When an Official Plan is written the document goes through several version – sometime six or seven versions – “the differences get worked out”.

Mammel was very surprised that there was not more in the way of delegations

Official-Plan-Binder_Image

Big rush to get the new Official Plan approved by Council – why? Can’t the city take the time to get it right the first time?

The Official Plan the public will see later this month will have gone through just two versions. Mammel is of the view that her association will not support the Plan and are prepared to take it to the Ontario Municipal Board if that becomes necessary.

“We want the city Planning department to do their job properly – let’s do it right and take the time to get it right”, said Mammel.

Where is the problem?

Mammel is of the view that the politicians “are positioning themselves for an election that is less than a year away and they want to be able to say that they have put a new Official Plan in place. The problem with that approach is that once the Plan is final the thing has no teeth to fix it.”

The city has rushed forward with the Mobility hub concept – and are pushing hard to get the Downtown Mobility Hub approved so they can put a check mark in the box and tell the public it has been done.

Mammel isn’t at all sure that the public really understands what it taking place.

People in Burlington complain bitterly that city council consistently allows developments that do not conform to the Official Plan. Mammel explains that is happening because the existing plan is so badly out of date.  She sees the need for a new Official Plan and wants to ensure that the city gets it right.

Mammel is a graduate of Queen’s University where she studied music – she then studied engineering at Mohawk College and has worked in the construction sector since graduating.  She has been with the HHHBA for the past three years.

Downtown hub - parking lot

Ground zero for the Downtown Mobility Hub – no one is all that clear on what the location will look like until the new owners of the site block of properties to the immediate north take their development to city hall.

While the Official Plan is at the top of her list – the Mobility hubs leave her shaking her head. The Downtown Mobility hub was to be a place where people could get public transit to wherever they wanted to go – but the planners seem to want the taller buildings to be further up Brant Street. “Wouldn’t they want the density to be as close as possible to the Downtown Hub?” she asks.

The public struggles to understand the role developers play suggests Mammel – “they build the homes we live in and they have to contend with a regulatory regime that is complex and ever changing.”

“Developers take significant risks – they have to pay for the land assembly – and we are talking about millions of dollars. They have to pay the development charges and for all the studies that have to be provided to justify a development.

“Do they do well financially? Yes they do” says Mammel but there are developers that have lost it all.

The company that is building the Bridgewater today is not the company that started the work. Right now things are very good for developers – but look back to the 80’s and the early 2000’s – it was a very very tough time then.

Elizabeth Interiors from Brant

The block was recently sold – the developer wants to have shovels in the ground within two years – which means Kellys Bake Shoppe is looking for a new home.

The mix of housing available to the public is a challenge for the developers.

The politicians want to see what they call “affordable” housing – by which they don’t mean social housing. The difficulty is that in Burlington property assembling is very expensive. Add to that the cost of the studies that have to be done and you have a very significant investment.  $350,000 homes are a thing of the past.

There are developers in this city said Mammel who have projects they want to go forward with now but the city isn’t ready. Those developers can put their efforts into some other piece of property they have assembled but very few of the developers who serve this city are in a position to move from project to project quite that easily.

Mammel - eye

Suzanne Mammel oversees the interests of the development community for both Hamilton and all of Halton.

Burlington is now attracting new developers who see the opportunities – the Elizabeth Interiors site on Brant Street attracted a number of bidders including National Homes and Reserve Properties  – just two examples.

The provincial requirement that Burlington grow and the lack of very little in the way of “greenfield” space means that the growth will be in the high rise sector. The single residence housing that is the Burlington we have now is no longer possible. The cost of land and the demand for housing, explains Mammel is not what it was 10 – 15 years ago. It is a different market requiring different solutions.

While Mammel was not prepared to go on record with any comment on the municipal election that is ten months away she does wonders if the public is beginning to see the significant differences in the direction the known contenders for the office of Mayor want to take?

Building homes and condominiums and apartment buildings is a business – there are risks and for those who take those risks there are rewards. The public tends to see the rewards and shrug off the risks.

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