Wasn't the debate about the level of intensification the city had to undergo? Nope, the developer tells council that they need to think in terms of 'optimization'.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

July 11th, 2018



And we thought it was all about intensification.

The city needed to intensify the population; put more people in less space. Given that Burlington doesn’t have any more land that it can build houses on, developers began to assemble land and build high rise towers.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Developer tells city council they need to think in terms of the best land use optimization and get away from intensification.

At a city council committee meeting yesterday during which the development being proposed for the SE corner of Brant and James was debated at length.

Mayor Goldring has been telling the public that the city has to intensify and that he will ensure that the intensification will be intelligently done.

high profile 421

This tower has been approved – the one across the road wants to be just as high.

When the 23 storey tower on the NE corner of James and Brant was approved people began to question what intensification really meant.

Turns out the city was using the wrong word. They should have been talking about optimization; which is the best possible use for a piece of land.

Legal counsel for Reserve Properties explained to council last night that the 2017 version of Places to Grow, a provincial document sets out that optimization is what municipalities should be focusing on – and the Reserve Properties development certainly does their best to optimize the land they want to assemble.

The meeting Tuesday evening had to adjourn at 10:30 pm – they will be back at it this evening. There are a lot of questions to be asked.

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5 comments to Wasn’t the debate about the level of intensification the city had to undergo? Nope, the developer tells council that they need to think in terms of ‘optimization’.

  • Stephen White

    “Optimization” is a relative term. It has different connotations to different stakeholders.

    An environmentalist would view optimization of land use as that which promotes sustainability or preserves natural surroundings. A real estate developer would evaluate it in the context of revenue per square foot. A retailer would view it as maximizing the amount of sales per square foot of leased space. An artist would interpret it as that which adds aesthetic value and appealing design.

    No one group or individual gets to decide what is or isn’t optimal. Having said that, if one assumes that the collective good should supersede the rights of any one entity then optimization should really be that point which conveys the maximum benefit to the majority of community members respecting different perspectives. Inherent in that is the notion of compromise. So, let’s be clear: a 23-storey high rise with no room for adjustment downwards in response to feedback from multiple stakeholders representing different perspectives isn’t, in and of itself, an optimal solution for the majority. It’s an optimal solution FOR THE DEVELOPER only! Therein lies an important distinction.

    BTW… the province didn’t say we had to intensify overnight, and no one issued a directive to increase Burlington’s population to 250,000 this year. And the last time I checked, didn’t we already meet our intensification target? Oh yeah…the Mayor conveniently forgot to mention that point, as do the developers and Planning Department officials.

  • R Brian Jones

    Penny has a great idea: But with so many applications to build, hoe many times will sje have to move? Council showed their true colours by not standing fast while ADI’s OMB challenge was in progress. Now a fam has been broken.
    I missed July 10 council meeting but as Gary Scobie requests ” council, it’s not too late to do the right thing with the Elizabeth interior(block) and get rid of the twin tower s

  • Tom Muir

    Welcome to Orwell’s world of double think, double speak and revision of facts and language.

    If the facts and words being used become unsuitable for a particular agenda, then you just change them to suit.

    Thus, words have no real meaning except what you say they mean.

    So now we have a developer lawyer who is trying to mess with our minds that what we all have been thinking all along is wrong, and something else is the real deal.

    Make no mistake, this lawyer is trying to bait us all to take a bridge over to his world of language and meaning. It’s a trap, so beware. Take the bait and you will never think straight again.

    In planning Burlington, I think we labored long and hard to arrive at what is still a disputed adopted OP. The overall planning policy framework, including the Growth Plan, says that the OP is the best vehicle for decision-making in Burlington.

    Together, the planning framework, and the OP, contain a large set of variables and policies on what is allowed.

    If we are going to consider optimization within that set, then think correctly about it as a non-objective constrained function of many variables and criteria about what is allowed and how things are supposed to relate.

    It is constrained optimization, and there are a number of constraints. Everything is fuzzy, not exact. It is not reducible to mathematics, and is not computational.

    it is not a free ranging function of what is best for the single variable named the developer interest, and a single criterion named the best land value.

    The “best” is not the maximum.

    In my view, the staff report has already provided their solution to this conception of a many-values constrained optimum.

    Support them, and your adopted OP, or you will completely lose control of development and planning in Burlington.

    Precedent I heard the planner for the Solid Gold application using the same language when asked a question. He said the application was the best use of the land, in his opinion.

    He may have used the word “optimal” but I don’t remember for sure.

    Beware the silver tongue, and avarice.

  • Hans

    I agree with Penny – what is happening in the downtown is a “made in Burlington Council Fiasco”.

    The best possible use for a piece of land will inevitably be a matter of opinion; whether it is called “intensification”, “optimization” or “exploitation” really doesn’t matter much, does it? It is Burlington Council’s opinion, representing the citizens, that should trump all others

    Real estate people often use the term “highest and best use”, but that approach has a strong bias in favour of profit over what is best for the community. It was up to Burlington’s political leadership to do what is best for the community, but Council appears to have lost control of its “planning” department – a department that can’t seem to adhere to the currently valid official plan and apparently doesn’t consider the systemic effects (e.g., on traffic) of “developer” proposals.

    It’s time for a restructuring of the “planning department”, and to remind them who their employer is.

  • Penny

    I watched the meeting at home. I thought the lawyer for Reserve Properties was doing his job, and he did it well. Optimization, intensification it all means the same. Is this not the same as when the City of Burlington adopted the “GROW BOLD” slogan instead of using the word “intensification.”

    Residents, in my opinion, are directing their anger in the wrong direction. The developer is doing their job, to maximize their investment. Their planners and legal teams are doing their jobs – representing their clients. It is the Council that residents voted in that are allowing this GROW BOLD to happen.

    The precedent, no matter what Council says came with the approval of 421 Brant Street. This is now the benchmark for all other development in that area. What did this council think would happen? Even they could have foreseen this. Now they think that Reserve Properties is simply going to sit back and accept a 17 storey building with an 18th floor for amenities when across the street approval has been given for 23 storeys. From a business perspective WHY SHOULD THEY? Did staff and the planning department think this would appease the public ” We hear you – we are only recommending 18 storeys.”

    Make no mistake what is happening in the downtown is a “made in Burlington Council Fiasco”.

    The City allowed the heritage building on Elgin Street to be moved by the developer for the Saxony Condominiums that is presently being built, why not find a place in the core to move Kelly’s Bake Shop?

    Come on residents, don’t just sit back and feel defeated, let’s do something so that Kelly’s remains in the downtown. There has to be somewhere in the core that this building could be relocated? For once perhaps Burlington Council and Staff can think “outside the box”.