Ward 5 Councillor speaks out on the Regional Growth projections

By Paul Sharman

January 14th, 2022

BURLINGTON, ON

The following response to residents of Burlington who have emailed City Council members regarding the potential increase in urban boundaries in Milton and Halton Hills.

Thank you for your email regarding release of land for housing in the new Region Official Plan leading to 2051. I respect and understand your concerns. I and my Burlington Council colleagues have received hundreds of emails from Halton residents in response to the campaign initiated concerned residents. I am only addressing this subject from the perspective of Burlington in this response.

Nothing in the Region will be able to open up – maybe next week.

Both Region and City members of Council are committed to maintain rural Burlington as it is. There are no plans to allow housing in our rural lands other than as is currently permitted. Release of land is proposed by the Region in Milton and the Halton Hills only, not Burlington.

Official Plans (OP) have extensive analysis and regulations to ensure existing protection remains in place. You will find OP details for Burlington here https://www.burlington.ca/en/services-for-you/Official-Plan.asp

This is a challenging issue for us all. There are a number of factors that have to be considered:

The first is that the Region of Halton is obliged to craft a plan that satisfies the province’s 1.1m population requirement by 2051.

The second is that the Region must provide substantiation that the plan will satisfy market demand. Scenarios 3a and 3b, which have been considered, provided for significantly greater % of apartment units and very few ground oriented homes than other scenarios and could not satisfy the market test. Indeed, the recent preferred scenario is barely representative of anticipated demand. Keep in mind that Canadian dream is to live in a house with a garage and a yard, as you will understand. The preferred solution is a compromise.

Hwy 407 and Dundas Street are the northern boundaries for development in Burlington. The Alton community would never have come into being were it not for the building of the 407 highway. That decision opened up land that was part of rural Burlington. Alton Village is bounded by the 407, Walkers Line on the west and Appleby Line on the east with Dundas making up the southern boundary.

The third is that because Burlington is essentially built out, we receive all residual population growth that cannot be accommodated in Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills in what ever scenario is selected. In scenario 3a and 3b, that would mean in excess of 80,000 new residents moving into Burlington by 2051, like it or not.

Because Burlington is essentially already built out, under scenario 3b, Burlington will have no other choice but to to accommodate about 90% of new residents in 200/300 mid to high rise apartment buildings.

That would happen in 5 strategic growth areas of Appleby GO, Burlington GO, Aldershot GO, Up Town (Upper Middle Road and Appleby Line) and Downtown Burlington.  We do not know what the distribution of those apartment buildings will be yet, but it certainly means significant densification of all five locations. It creates a tenuous outlook for all five, including downtown, by the standards of most Burlington residents.

The preferred scenario; 1) satisfies Provincial tests to accommodate foreseeable market demand, providing homes for a small number of families who wish to live in a home with a backyard and a garage. That means the Province will likely approve the plan, but not 3a or 3b; 2) increases the number of people who will live in newly constructed apartments representing about 60% across the Region, but more like 90% in the City of Burlington, which is essentially what you are advocating for. Reducing the Burlington allocation to 70,200 population lowers the number of apartment buildings by 25 to 37.5 buildings,  providing a bit of a breather to the community. Please take a moment to visualize what the Burlington skyline, living conditions and congestion is likely to become, even under the preferred scenario.

Keep in mind, this plan follows the 2018 election when the people of Burlington spoke out clearly that they do not wish to see “over intensification” of their hometown. It is not what anyone wanted.

In any event, the City will experience increasing numbers of apartments not only between now and 2051 but even more for years too come. The same will be true for the other Halton municipalities. The preferred scenario simply delays inevitable further densification of Halton.

I will be pleased to discuss this with you if that will help.

 

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10 comments to Ward 5 Councillor speaks out on the Regional Growth projections

  • Tom Muir

    Alfred,

    Sorry I left out the Court. I didn’t skip over it that quickly – I in fact didn’t mention it at all as it is really of no practical relevance to what the point of my story and comments.

    As a source of relief for the City, it is a last ditch desperate measure that is only available to them and other Parties to the appeal only. Participants in an appeal, or citizens at large, do not have this appeal right. IN fact, Participants in an appeal do not even have the right to talk or orally participate in the Hearings. They can only send in written comments unless the OLT Board calls on them to speak.

    You are correct in saying that this is another very high probability losing course of action of limited availability and grounds for argument. This appeal to the court was used by City in the Adi Martha appeal (LPAT/OMB at the time) decision that really started this situation where everything is appealed.

    The City lost the appeal on the grounds that they did not present a development proposal that was satisfactory to the court as defeating the LPAT/OMB decision, and its basis in Provincial policy. This is the same policy Frame that I discussed, but currently is even stricter and more dictatorial central planning based as I described.

    It is important in very practical terms, that the court adjudicator is in fact charged with interpreting and applying the same dictatorial Provincial process and policies framework that I fully covered, except your 1 claim, of what I see is of dubious relevance. This means you are asking that the court overturn the Decision of the LPAT/OMB Board of the day.

    As I recall, the court ruling, simply put, was based on his inability to find grounds for him to rule against the Board decision and in favor of the City. He did not find the City development proposal offered, and their criticism of the Adi proposal, adequate and sufficient in terms of the Policy Framework, to overturn the Board approval decision the City was appealing.

    It is also important that the City had the previous Council, previous Mayor, previous City Manager and previous Planning Director/Deputy City Manager, almost all of which were replaced by the new Mayor and Council elected subsequently. The old guard were fashioning a Grow Bold new OP, and were still under the old OP, which we still are.

    The Planning Act demands that any planning decisions must be based on a legal, in force and effect, OP, which in this case was the old OP.

    So by circumstances, Planning was stuck in between the Grow Bold proposed but not yet legal OP, with a bias to Adi and Brant St style high rise proposals, and the determinative, legal OP demanded by the Planning Act. So the planner witness presenting at court, and more generally, was in an impossible position, in my opinion.

    This was both in terms of her staff bosses and the City Council of the day, pushing Grow Bold and ignoring the impacts on Downtown. The only dissenter, as I recall, was at voting time for Adi, and this was Councilor and now Mayor, Meed Ward.

    Most I think, believe she was elected based on these development issues and where they had grown and led to to the mess of the present time, with the Province taking over power and control of development in a dictatorial fabricated central planning policy framework and apparatus that I have described here in some detail.

    You really project here, literally, an accusatory voice and tone. You can’t know what I think but you say you do. I am not against development as it’s a fact of life. I just don’t like what I see happening with the dictatorship and power grab, where we have little say, and developers can ask for what they want and likely get it. This is what leads to over-development and you can see it happening.

    I don’t really see any basis for your blame-casting, ad hominem attacks on the Mayor, and others, using what you say you know about what Planning and Legal think about winning appeals. They are quitters is my experience, and in many respects they caused this situation.

    I have experienced several appeals as a Participant, and let me say that Planning and Legal have never put up a strong team that I would hire – they find it easy to just give up, say next to nothing, and settle in agreement. It sort of fits what you say.

    You can’t really know what happened with Heather McDonald – rumors? In my experience, and I am involved, she was basically invisible, and I have no idea what she thinks.This is unlike the previous Head of Planning who was charging ahead with then City Manager Jim Ridge pushing Grow Bold.

    The Provincial Framework does not say exactly how many stories are mandated or about what all the OP and Zoning standards have to be. What you want is for us to give up. If we give up it will never stop and we will be completely overrun. The appeals issues list are vast covering every aspect of the OP.

    You would like that it seems. Get your turn at the honey pot.

    Enough.

  • Alfred

    Tom.

    You forgot 1 step in the development process.

    After The City’s numerous expensive loses at the OLT. to the taxpayers.The City could appeal to the Divisional Court, another adjudication mechanism in place in Ontario. You seemed to skip over that one quickly. Not that it would matter because you seem to blame the referee everytime the City loses. Are you suggesting the Divisional Court of Ontario is also controlled by the developers.

    Sadly everyone at City Hall from Legal to Planning Staff. Know these cases cannot be won. These are just optics to take the blame away from the Mayor and place it on the Ontario Land Tribunals at our expense.

    If all else fails the City can apply for a Ministers Zoning Order for relief from what you believe is over development. Blaming the OLT. Gives our Mayor a parachute out of harms way, the angry voters. Half of a fight seems to appease them.

    The City of Burlington lost the Chief Planner Heather Macdonald. A very wise and very honest Planner. I believe she could not have felt comfortable fighting all these losing battles. In many cases having to argue matters in complete contradiction to Provincial guidelines which she is also mandated to follow. Personally too honest for Burlington.

    We need more people like her.

  • Gloria Reid

    Robert Missen. I wish your first statement were true. Unfortunately, 5,000 acres of precious land north of the 407 adjacent to Milton and Halton Hills is at risk on February 7th. That is why I’m asking Burlington Councillors to use their Regional votes to put into action their pledge to deal with the climate emergency Burlington declared and say no to sprawl and ask Milton and Halton Hills to do what Burlington has done and freeze their current urban boundaries.

  • Tom Muir

    This story from Councilor Sharman shows an additional 5 sets of more possible fabrications of the numbers in the original fabricated numbers from the Growth Plan of the dictatorship of central planning at the Province. Looks like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

    It demonstrates this dictatorship even more by revealing that whatever Concept is wanted by the citizens and Council of the City, it has to meet conditions mandated by the Province and they have to approve it. In other words, the dictatorship leaves no stone unturned in its grasp of power and central control over development, including environmental oversight institutions.

    And make no mistake, this government has step-wise increased this central control greatly in the last 3 1/2 years of its term. At present, it is almost absolute, with only a bundle of steps that need to be followed getting in the way of provincial fiat decisions. In this power grab, the public interest and due public planning process have been subverted.

    However, this gap in absolute power over development decisions is partly filled by OLT, but OLT is directed to implement the Provincial Growth Plan, PPS, and general policy direction. Further, all the appellants hired planners/lawyers appealing to OLT are on the same side, so you can’t get an honest appeal hearing.

    Just look at the mass appeal of the City OP by 46 developers to OLT that is going on right now to see this demonstrated. Together with the OLT bias, adjudication is a one-sided process by default. You need two sides, in opposition, to get an honest hearing.

    Then of course, if all else fails in the process there are Ministerial Zoning Orders or MZOs. This is the Trump card.

    So tell us, who represents the City and the people, and the OP they approved?

    There are other issues that were raised in the recent Development Charges Revision process going on at the Region. In a report to Regional Council on the progress of this, staff stated that;

    “Halton cannot accommodate the growth targets of the
    Provincial Places to Grow Act (Growth Plan) unless the full
    costs of growth are recoverable through DCs or other
    funding tools.” and,

    “The total funding gap resulting from a DC recovery under DCA versus the growth pays
    for growth principle, mandatory institutional exemptions and Council approved
    discretionary exemptions is $21.2 million per year. ”

    So that’s a tiny bit of the salt that the Province rubs in the wounds. Then all the billions and billions for roads and other transportation needs alone at the provincial level (highways in the Green Belt to service the Growth Plan for example) are more costs for taxpayers.

    It goes on and on.

    One clarification I would like to make is about the population numbers cited in the story.
    The projections illustrated were from 2031 to 2051 only, at 47,300, leaving out 2021 to 2031. The 2021 to 2051 reported here earlier, are 70,830. This is another large number that the City/Region is being told by the Province that we have to take, no matter what.

  • More clearly the idea is to build worker tenements around GO train hubs. At $600 a square foot such buildings can not be built “affordably”. Units must be very small and very few people wish to live there whole lives in such a space. They then need forced into them by not building the type of residences they prefer. People with money try and escape and that’s why anyone who can afford it is pumping up single detached homes up past 2 million. The idea is then everyone of lesser means is forced into Condos and using the bus or train for transportation.

    I think it’s deeply unwise to preserve the “green belt” where the rich will live and change Burlington into a grey belt of concrete and condos. Middle class people pay taxes and have a right to preserve there communities.

  • Alfred

    Judith.

    I have been advocating for by-laws permitting the building of more affordable housing types. Duplexes in particular. For more than 20 years. These forms of housing are popular everywhere except Burlington. This Mayor is only interested in throwing a blanket over the whole City and preventing this and other forms of housing that might upset her Nimby people that elected her to do just that. The Official Plan directs the Mayor and councilors to permit Semi-detached homes City wide. In the low density areas Only the elite areas are exempt They have 3 years to do that. By law. These by-laws should have been in place 17 years ago. The problem is that the Conservatives and the previous Liberals failed to enforce this breach of the Planning Act. So the City did what it wanted to do. I can describe it this way. Imagine making the speed limit In Burlington 50kmh and then not hiring police officers to enforce it. You can fool the people who have not realized there are no police. But not for long

  • perryb

    All based on a fanciful projection of population growth thirty years into the future by a Provincial government that cannot predict what will happen next month. Let us hope that in a few months we can find and elect leaders who can have their feet on the ground and their heads screwed on straight.

  • JUDITH CHRISTIE

    Why does Burlington not want semi-detached housing? It seems like a good alternative for many people and they can have a garage, backyard and a decent sized family home!!

  • Ted Gamble

    Paul,

    Thanks for the information. A couple of questions.

    1. Where are all these folks coming from?
    2. Is there any information on the demographics of
    new residents, singles, families etc.
    4. Is there any research as to where these folk will work and how they will get there?
    3. Finally who should citizens approach to advocate
    for change to the plans.

    Ted

  • Robert Missen

    Very pleased to hear that land north of the 407.will not be developed. That precious terrain must be protected on behalf of all the citizens of Halton Region, and indeed all of Southern Ontario, I like the Indiginous idea of thinking ahead for seven generations

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