Virtual meeting lasts an hour and a half - does the public know much more other than that there will be a report to Council next week

By Staff

June 1st, 2022



One of our correspondents set out one view on the Public Meeting that took place virtually last night with the statement:

Smoke and Mirrors adding that the “the city doesn’t have a clue what it will be doing with the space other than the 15-20% of the building ( approx 40,000 square feet) that Brock is perhaps willing to sign a 20 year lease.

The space has to be ready by September 2024, and I have to wonder if there is a clause that if the renovations are not completed in time they can simply walk away from the lease.

The parking issue was skirted around, very similar to how the city deals with parking and traffic ” We will do this in phases and the existing parking will be sufficient”. What happens when phase 2 and 3 are complete? No mention of the timeline between the 3 construction/renovation phases. I can see this going on for years and years before it becomes “the much needed community centre”.

The City has not even looked into the cost of the removal of the asbestos. They have no plans to do this until the sale is finalized. Who does this ??? – go into such a large project without knowing what the cost will be for this removal ( this will be a very expensive proposition )- as you know it can be more dangerous to remove the asbestos.

I found it interesting that in 2014 the City paid to renovate a pool that didn’t belong to the city.

The HDSB who took art in the virtual event, skirted the issue as to what it will do with Gary Allen.

No company in the private sector would go through with the purchase or renovations of Robert Bateman without having all the necessary costs involved known before acquiring the property.

Early thinking on what the site could look like.

The only thing I got out of this meeting is how much or should I say how little space Brock is going to lease and that in my opinion this is what is driving the speed in decision, especially since Tim Commisso indicated that the city is the only one interested in the Bateman Property.

At the close of the meeting City manager Commisso said “ I think the fact that this is going to create a really strong facility and legacy for our community. But it’s been a year of us trying to look ahead while also seeing what the immediacy of having to make a decision about the purchase.

I’m not going to make any apologies for the fact that we’ve done as much as we can as much due diligence, but we don’t have all of the answers that perhaps people think we might or should have. In order to make the purchase decision.

Partly because we’re under a prescribed process that really requires us to be responsive to the school board in terms of meeting their needs. I will say the worst thing that can happen is that somehow that we weren’t involved in this process or whatever. And I won’t even speculate on what that means. But, you know, I think we made a commitment. And counsel certainly made that commitment that we would go through this process and try to do as much as we could in advance. But we don’t have all the answers. We do commit to is the process from here.

So let the design you know, what’s the community centre going to look like? What are the uses? How is that going to be done parking through zoning will all be public thing. It’s really a part of a process.

I think that we see moving forward and we hope and we encourage as many people as possible to get engaged now. Because I think at the end of the day, you know, this is a facility that we all want to be proud of. And I think by having our partners in there to really showcase I think the fact that Burlington is creating a hub here, so I’ll leave it at that.

I know I’m kind of over my comments over the time, but I just wanted to acknowledge that says that this is a unique project. It’s not like we bought a piece of land and then we started planning for it. We have to meet a prescribed timeline in order to purchase it because we’re an eligible agency. And then we have to essentially make sure that we design and program that properly. So that meets the needs of the community over the long term. In my years this has probably been the most challenging facility projects that I’ve worked on. And I’ve worked on quite a few of them.

The Gazette had two meeting taking place at the same time and has not found a way to be in two places at once.
We will review the recording a d go through the transcription we have of the event and report back real soon.

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15 comments to Virtual meeting lasts an hour and a half – does the public know much more other than that there will be a report to Council next week

  • Tom Muir

    I’m troubled by Jim Thompson’s several statements that the rules on secrecy and disclosure are not as strict as we have been told they are. Jim writes like he has done his homework, although he is not clear on what exactly he is basing his claims on so an interested party could go look for themselves.

    I have long been led to believe that closed sessions are the rule for certain matters. Or maybe it is that closed sessions can be declared by Council, but are not mandated.

    seems there is a lot of discretion for secrecy on what these matters are according to Jim. If that’s what this is based on, City discretion not mandate, then say so with truth.

    I understand such a discretionary option for personnel, legal disputes, and development matters at appeal, but I can’t say where a line can be drawn right now, here.

    This needs to be explained officially by the City with reference to the claimed legal framework and wording being used to justify what the City has been doing for years.

    Is this a City option but not requirement? Or what is it based on?

    I see enough argument here lately to justify such disclosure and transparency from the City legals, Mayor, and City Manager. It’s not enough any longer to point to provincial legislation and say it mandates secrecy.

    • Jim Thomson

      Closed sessions are permitted for real estate transactions they are not mandated under the municipal act.. I was waiting till I got confirmation from the City that this was the case.
      The only thing that prevents them releasing information is that they agreed to keep it secret with Bateman. As the Myor would say I hope that eases your troubles. The following is the reply I got from the City. When I asked Councillor Sharman what regulation prevents disclosure of prices:

      Hi Jim. The Municipal Act legislation governs municipalities and allows certain matters including real estate transactions to be in camera and kept confidential. This is to protect all parties in the deal itself and also protects the integrity of the negotiations. As long as I have worked at the city  we have always kept real estate matters confidential until the sale closes. As you know, many things can go wrong in a real estate deal that can cause problems and in some cases creates situations where deals cannot close and are cancelled. Should this occur, the details of the deal and specially the price would not be revealed and the seller and buyer would be able to remarket the property without the details of the previous offers being disclosed. 
      In this specific case there are direct provisions in the agreement with the HDSB that prevent either party from releasing price details prior to the closing date. 

      I hope this helps explain things?


  • Jim Thomson

    I agree with Penny. This was a farce so that the city can say ” we engaged the public.”
    Someone forgot that they needed to engage the public to transfer land. It wasn’t until May 17th that staff was directed to engage the public and report back to committee on June 6th and direct to council on June 21st . The report for June 6 was prepared before the meeting on May 31st.

    The public should have been engaged starting from when the city expressed interest in acquiring the land.

    Due diligence isn’t doing as much as you can, its doing everything that’s necessary.
    That would include traffic studies, and a costing of how much to remove the asbestos.

    • Mary Hill

      Bearing in mind due to the Provincial government’s .1.prescribed process we are not privy to the financial details, how is it that you know a costing for the removal of the asbestos has not been obtained, and has not been factored into the negotiations with the HDSB? That’s right you do not know. The Public does not know whether a costing has or has not been obtained.

      As to traffic studies, the previous use of the site was a high school. Right? It catered to approximately 800 students. Students who arrived and departed by Private car, school bus, city bus, bicycle, on foot. Do you have knowledge that the Brock, HDSB and the community centre, when it is eventually built, will exceed the high school traffic volume?

      I think everyone agrees meaningful public engagement is always the way to go if at all possible. But in this situation the information that is really important to forming an opinion as to the value of this project is not allowed to be shared at this stage of the process. So quite honestly what’s the point?

      • Jim Thomson

        What part of the Provincial governments prescribed process prevents the release of cost information?
        The prescribed process sets a time table for when things have to happen. It doesn’t say they have to happen in secret. In the FAQ on Bateman it states; “The City’s real estate matters during negotiations are confidential” That’s the justification for going into closed session. The council can actually waive the confidentiality. It isn’t coming from the Province.

        The city said at the meeting that it has not done traffic studies yet. They don’t know if the site can handle the traffic volume that it is being re-purposed for. That will be done later. So they haven’t done their due diligence. They only have done what they could in the time frame the Province prescribes. They should have hired someone to do the traffic study if the city staff didn’t have the time.

        I didn’t hear that the cost of removing the asbestos has been determined and that the purchase price of the property has been adjusted to reflect the renovation required. That would be what I would expect from due diligence. I only heard that the city is aware of the asbestos problem.

        The city staff like to use due diligence as a buzz word for the public as it sounds professional. and legalistic. They don’t actually do the work that proper due diligence would require.

  • Tom Muir

    I too agree with Bob’s take too, with Mary Hill, and Jeremy is always informative with the technical and legal details that restrain the order and pace of things.

    I too think that it would be a monumental mistake for the City and HDSB to not move forward with this project – where else is such a parcel and existing complex of buildings going to ever be available to City residents, at any price?

    I don’t really care much what the price is as I am confident that there is an upset cost that this Mayor and Council would not be able to swallow.

    I’m not going to look closely right now, but my familiarity with costs the province’s development rules and downloading of DCs, imposed on the City, allows me to say they are more than Bateman will be over the project time horizon. Someone prove me wrong please.

    We get nothing from the provincial downloads but ongoing burden, but look again at the Bateman concept plan. This will be a legacy for sure.

    Before criticizing this Bateman project cost look up some comparable perspective of other costs of other things and what we get.

  • Penny Hersh


    Perhaps those residents that have voiced their objective to the current plans to redevelop the Robert Bateman property would be more open to the suggestion if it would be converted or include attainable housing for those who could benefit.

    Presently the city has been looking into a much needed housing strategy for Burlington.

    Seniors would certainly fall into that category as well . Having a swimming pool and gymnasiums could be an advantage to living a healthy lifestyle.

    • Bob

      There is a developer who wants to build two towers across the street from where you live (which you fail to mention when commenting on that project)
      Are you saying you’re pro development as long as it’s not across the street from you?
      You also wanted the city to purchase the former Venture Inn and add it to Spencer Smith Park.
      No rentals bringing in income, no libraries or community centres, just more grass and yet you are against the abatement property that will be multi purpose.
      What exactly is it you are against with this project ?

  • Mary Hill

    I listened in to the virtual meeting yesterday evening and suggest Mr. Skinner’s take on what was said is a truer representation of the proceedings than is the Gazette’s correspondent’s.

    And I totally agree with Bob’s take expressed here. I’m sure one individual who frequently comments in these pages and who has from the outset voiced opposition to this proposal would be one of the first to oppose the sale of Batemen to developers, no matter the benefits to the city and its residents. I’m sure that individual would oppose any proposal supported by the current mayor and council.

  • Penny Hersh

    Mr Skinner this email was received prior to the public meeting that was held on May 31st.

    In my opinion it suggests that the public accept the fact that the Bateman Project is a done deal and the residents get the services you list. They are all legitimate needs, however, WHERE will the money come from to fund them?

    Most of the suggested leased space like Tech Place, the Public Library, a proposed Community Centre will be paid for by taxpayer dollars. Presently it seems that the small space that might be leased by Brock University will be the only funds not coming directly from Burlington taxpayers. I also question if a proposed 20 year lease will actually pay for all the leasehold improvements that will be required to accommodate their program.

    “The City announcement below provides background files associated with this proposal discussion.

    I recommend that we seek agreement for establishing a Community Centre which is to include any existing gyms and weight rooms etc.

    I would recommend that we seek a set of class-room sized hobby rooms for community activities related to hobbies and crafts including the wood shop. These rooms would benefit from the inclusion of lockable storage lockers for unfinished projects.

    The Community Centre including Centennial Pool schedule must accommodate dedicated time slots for 1. toddlers accompanied by care givers
    2. school aged children
    3. working aged adults
    4. seniors

    The library should include sound insulated study rooms and community reading rooms.

    We ask that an indoor walking path be available for those seeking to improve their mobility.

    Regards Jeremy”

    Why should residents simply accept this purchase without knowing the cost to the taxpayer to purchase and renovate Robert Bateman. Would you buy anything without knowing the final cost?

    • Bob

      Are you anti library plus anti community center as well as your anti development stance?
      As William Shakespeare said many many years ago “thou dost protest too much”

  • Jeremy Skinner

    i counter the position taken by the correspondent based upon what I heard from the Zoom call last night.

    I believe that the citizens of Burlington should embrace the work by City staff to seek Council approval for the acquisition of Bateman HS property including associated buildings in a land swap for the City owned Wellington Park. I also believe that we should support the City’s desire to integrate multiple tenants into what was the Bateman HS building to enhance the services delivered to the City of Burlington.

    1. The sale of any “public” as opposed to private school property must follow the process defined by the Ontario Ministry of Education. The property will be sold “As Is”. Should the City decide not to acquire the property, then the HDSB will be able to sell the property to other public interests and failing that to private interests.

    2. The sale of Wellington Park must follow the process adopted by the City. The west wall of Burlington Central HS building currently overlaps the east edge of the Wellington Park property and thus presents a title challenge to HDSB. Please remember that public schools were originally managed by the municipality prior to amalgomation by the province under the Haris government. Residents who use Wellington Park are advised to seek an understanding as to the implications of their continued use of the land from the City prior to the land transfer or from the HDSB post land transfer.

    3. City Council session will close in mid-July until after the Municipal election on October 24th when a newly elected City Council will sit. As a result, the sitting City Council will be asked to approve the land swap later in June or early July. Upon approval, City Council will be asked to approve funding necessary to repurpose the Bateman HS building to accommodate the new tenants of the building including: a net new University of Brock campus for teacher education; the relocation of the Gary Allan Learning Centre; the relocation of the Appleby branch Public Library; a net new TechPlace facility; and a net new Community Centre. No need for any building additions have been requested thus far.

    4. No other HDSB properties were discussed other than to reaffirm that HDSB will continue to host administration staff at the 3250 New St. site after the Gary Allan Learning Centre is relocated to the Bateman site.

    City Council will meet on Monday to be updated by City Staff and to ask questions for Staff to answer. This meeting will be open to the public.

    If you have any concerns, please write to your Councillor and/or to City Staff.

  • Joe Gaetan

    Looks like a PPP candidate to moi. Bulldoze the buildings, and then start over with a clean sheet of paper.

  • Bob

    I’m curious as to what the reaction from the readership would be if the city didn’t purchase this huge property and the HDSB sold this parcel to developers, high rises go up as per the intensification needs of the city and Brock doesn’t put a university in our city. What then?
    I can hear the bowls of indignation already.

  • Penny Hersh

    It was interesting to find out that our city has decided that “purchasing property” is a high priority. If these purchases resulted in attainable housing that would be one thing, but the city is not a developer and if past history serves me well, large projects (pier) have resulted in long delays and end up being way over budget.

    My take – the city can now say ” we engaged the public” and tick off the appropriate box.