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Waterfront study resumes February 15th; expected to last four months - meanwhile Planning staff work flat out to complete their work before an April 17th deadline.

By Pepper Parr

February 4th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

The City is resuming work on the Waterfront Hotel Site Planning Study.

When the study is completed, it will provide guidance in the redevelopment of this site.

The white dotted line is the boundary of the site – the dark blue in the centre is the site of the hotel property

Located next to two of Burlington’s most significant landmarks, Spencer Smith Park and the Brant Street Pier, the City is asking for input to make sure the new development reflects a high quality of urban design that enhances the community’s access to the waterfront and the downtown.

Virtual Public Open House – Feb. 15
Residents are invited to join a virtual public open house to talk about the study process and hear from City staff and the city consultant team, The Planning Partnership, who will present the preferred concept plan for the site. There will be a Q & A period following the presentation.

The open house is on Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.
Zoom or dial +1 647 374 4685 by telephone and enter meeting ID 813 0521 1078

Residents also have the opportunity to learn more about the planning study on the City’s online engagement platform,

The Waterfront Hotel Planning Study is separate from the development application process.

And that is where this gets messy – very messy.

The Planning department is working furiously to have a report to Council before April 17 with either

A recommendation to approve the development
A recommendation to approve the development with changes
A recommendation to not approve the development.

The information given to the public last September was for two towers; one 30 storeys and the other 35 storey – both sitting on a five story podium.

The very painful truth with this development is that far too few people know very much about it.

The public first got wind of it when a pre-application community consultation took place.

Graphics and raw data on this project have been very difficult to come by – the Gazette had to threaten legal action to get a copy of what was a public report. The entrance to the site was to be from John Street, one block east of Brant. The light blue space in the very centre of this graphic will be a breezeway leading from Lakeshore to the steep steps that will lead into Spencer Smith Park. The light green will be amenity space for the tower residents. The tan coloured space will be open and where the public can gather The new hotel is shown in darker blue. The residential towers are in pink. The Gazette has not been able to have conversations with the developer’s planners.

The Gazette has been reporting on this situation for some time – all the way back to 2015 when the city was putting together some ideas as to just what could happen with the Waterfront Hotel site when it was eventually re-developed.

Centre – former city Councillor John Taylor in conversation with Linda Davies, owner of the leading condo real estate sales broker on the right and Dee Dee Davies at one of the public meetings in 2018

The city put together a process that had the developer agreeing to pay the full cost of a review that would include significant public input.

And those meetings took place – there were  four of them out of which came a number of concepts – but no consensus – and then for reasons which look pretty weak, the city put a pause on the waterfront study.

The developer didn’t pause.

As early as August, the Burlington Urban Design group was meeting and providing comment on the development.

They engaged planning consults and architects and met with people in the Planning department to advance their development application.

Members of Council knew what was taking place – but the public didn’t.

Members of Council are still saying very little – they have all taken the position that they cannot make statements until they have a Planning Staff report in front of them.

So here we are with two very different streams of activity taking place at the same time about the same piece of land

The developer pushing their application – and the city reviving a study that should have been completed years ago.

Close on the heals of the study re-start is a Statutory Public meeting required under the Planning Act that is to take place on February 22nd at 6:30 p.m.  It too will be a virtual meeting.

In a media release from City Hall on Thursday we learned that Planning Staff will be recommending that Council direct staff to continue to review and process the application.

Planning Study Background
In 2017 and 2018 (the Gazette interviewed a member of the Planning staff in 2015 on this study proposal) the City began looking at a planning study to guide the redevelopment of the waterfront site at Lakeshore Road and the foot of Brant Street, including the Waterfront Hotel at 2020 Lakeshore Road., City staff gathered feedback through visioning workshops, public and stakeholder engagement.

In mid-2018, the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study was placed on hold due to other priorities in the Community Planning Department.

A number of design concepts have come forward – no consensus yet.

Why the study can resume
In its media release the City said it is able to resume the Waterfront Hotel Planning Study at this time because:

• the re-examination of the New Official Plan Project, including Taking a Closer Look at the Downtown, has been completed,
• approval of the new Official Plan (under appeal), as well as
• the Minster of Municipal Affairs and Housing’s approval, with modifications, of the Regional Official Plan Amendment 48.

City staff, with support from the project consultant, will pick up the work where it left off in 2018, and complete the study. The work is estimated to take four months and will use community input to-date to help develop a final preferred concept.

The City has this work remaining:

Phase 4: Report and Recommendation of Preferred Land Use Concept, Q1 2022
This phase of the study involves the selection of a preferred concept and the preparation of a Planning Justification Report.

• Phase 5: Official Plan Policies, Zoning and Urban Design Guidelines, Q2 2022

The fifth phase of the study includes the development of draft site-specific official plan policies, zoning regulations and implementation guidelines. This phase will also include a public open house, presentation to Committee and final delivery of the implementing Official Plan Amendment and Zoning Bylaw Amendment.

It all gets messier and tighter in terms of time frames.

When a developer takes an application to the city – the Planning department has 120 days to make a recommendation to council.  That recommendation can be to not proceed or to proceed with changes or to give it a rubber stamp and tell the developer to bring in the cranes and start building.

The developers submitted their plan on December 17th, the Planning department told Council they didn’t think the application was complete.  There was a lot of scurrying around and the city was able to say that the application was indeed complete.  Close to 30 days of very valuable staff work was lost.  The city will tell you that there was no time lost – don’t believe them.

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns

Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns brought forward a motion at Council directing Staff to complete their work and make a presentation to Council before April 17th, 2022.   She wanted to be as certain as possible that the city did not find itself before the Ontario Land Tribunal for failing to deliver a report within that 120 requirement.

Nothing was to be built west of the line Plan B drew.

Included in all this are the brave efforts of Plan B – a small group of citizens who objected strongly to the concept designs that were being shown.  They had a concept that would keep development within a “thin red line”.

The city’s Mayor said: “We know the Waterfront Hotel is a key site in our city, right next to our cherished downtown waterfront park. We know we have to get it right, and the time is now, with the Waterfront Hotel study starting up again, and an active application for redevelopment filed.

“We also need to ensure the public has every opportunity to share their feedback. That’s why Councillor Kearns and I worked together on a motion to direct staff to complete the study and the application review within the required statutory time frames — so we can record a decision as a community on this site, and not risk an appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal for non-decision within the deadline.

“The best way you can shape the future of what happens here is to participate in both the study, as well as the development application review. We welcome your input and look forward to those discussions.”

Ward 2 City Councillor Lisa Kearns said: “We have heard loud and clear that residents place an extraordinary value on Burlington’s Waterfront. Development concerning the Waterfront Hotel site is extremely important to Ward 2 residents and to residents across our city. The outcome of an active development proposal is paramount to the future of our Waterfront and Spencer Smith Park, not to mention our downtown businesses and residents alike.

The development plans as they stand now will result in a Burlington few significantly than what is in place now.

Renderings that show the development relative to Spencer Smith Park and the Pier.

On the left is the view of the lake from Lakeshore Road at Brant. On the right the view from the same spot looking north up John Street.

What is at stake here is the heart of the city – Ground Zero – the intersection of Lakeshore Road and Brant Street and the look and feel of the downtown core for decades.

How different city Councils let things get to the point we are at now boggles the imagination.

Related news stories:

Plan B was trying to get some traction within the Planning department and with the public.

The time line of a very sad story.

Are there other options.

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