Facebook Live From My Home

Going live from my home

I’m humbled by the interest and the thoughtful questions asked by our residents on how we are working to improve our city.  That was the case last night during my Facebook Live.

If you missed it or don’t have a Facebook account,  you can watch the recap at your convenience.

Thank you for joining the conversation, and I will have the list of questions and answers that were discussed on my blog very soon.

 

Facebook Live Q&A

My very first Facebook Live was a success! I want to thank everyone who took the time to join me on Tuesday evening.  As promised, I am posting the questions and answers discussed during the event. Some answers have been expanded to include additional information.

For those of you who couldn’t join me live, the video is up on my Facebook Page. You can watch it at your convenience.

There was a lot of topics covered during the hour-long Facebook Live.  I’m separating the Q&A into two sections.

This post will host questions regarding snow clearing, mobility hubs, transit and cycling.

The next post will focus on affordable housing, property tax, Meridian quarry, hydro wires over Burlington beach, electric vehicles, outdoor hockey rinks and my family’s Christmas traditions.

Why was the snow clearing so bad during Monday night’s storm?

The City of Burlington maintains approximately 1,900km of roads and 850km of sidewalks.  Monday’s storm was somewhat challenging in that the timing (rush hour) and forecasted amounts changed several times leading up to the storm. Our crews were also in the rush hour traffic trying to get to all the primary roads. Some pre-wetting with salt brine application did take place before the storm.  Snow clearing takes time, and we do ask for your patience when snow events occur.  Remember, on-street parking is suspended during snowstorms until the local roads are cleared. For more information head to www.burlington.ca/snow

Can you please explain clearly what a Mobility Hub is?

A mobility hub is an area surrounding a transit station that either currently, or has the potential to have, a high concentration of people and jobs to support a significant level of existing or future planned transit service.  Mobility Hubs also serve as major focal points for connections between a variety of different modes of transportation including walking, cycling and transit.

The Province of Ontario’s Regional Transportation Plan titled “The Big Move” (2008), defines both Anchor Hubs (Downtown Burlington) and Gateway Hubs (Burlington Go). An anchor hub is a hub that has strategic importance due to its relationship with and Urban Growth Centre, as a place that contains current or planned major regional destinations such as major institutions, employment centres, town centres or regional shopping centres, and has the potential to attract new growth and development. A Gateway Hub is a Major Transit Station Area that is forecasted to achieve a minimum density target.

As Downtown Burlington continues to grow, improved transit service will be required in order to ensure that people can get around, to and from the Downtown without reliance on cars. The existing terminal will serve as the focus for this expanded transit service over the long term and be integral to the success of downtown.

Could you clarify Mary Lou Tanner’s assertion that there is no record of the province mandating a Downtown Mobility Hub?

The identification of the Downtown as a Mobility Hub has its origins in the 2006 Places to Grow document, which identified Downtown Burlington as an Urban Growth Centre (UGC).  The Province identified 25 existing or emerging urban centres as Urban Growth Centres. The intent of the UGC’s was to:

  • Revitalize downtowns to become vibrant centres;
  • Create complete communities throughout the greater Toronto area that offer more options for living, working, shopping, and playing;
  • Provide greater choice in housing types to meet the needs of people at all stages of life;
  • Curb sprawl and protect farmland and green spaces; and
  • Reduce traffic gridlock by improving access to a greater range of transportation choices.

At the time the Growth Plan was being developed, Downtown had been the subject of on-going investment and revitalization efforts by the City.  The identification of Downtown Burlington as an Urban Growth Centre as part of Places to Grow confirmed the direction that the City was already headed in previous years through strategic decisions and investments.

The Downtown’s classification as a mobility hub is predicated on it being identified as an Urban Growth Centre in the Places to Grow plan. The City and Council are required to conform to all Provincial Legislation and planning policies, including the Growth Plan. Therefore Council does not have the ability to reconsider this classification through the current or proposed Official Plans.

How can we maintain and protect the character of our older neighbourhoods in Ward 2 when the downtown is forecasted to change so radically?

The vast majority of downtown precinct plan is not proposed to change in a significant way. Forty-nine percent of the downtown mobility hub is public space and buildings. There are no plans for significant change to the Emerald and St Luke’s Neighbourhood. There are other areas that are proposed to include mid-rise and high-rise buildings. There are a number of heritage buildings in downtown that need to be considered and protected in and around areas that will be redeveloped.

It’s the area South of Caroline and Brant Street corridor that many people are very concerned about. I too have some questions that need to be answered.

In January, staff will present a detailed report on what we can expect in our downtown going forward because I don’t think we have enough information to make an informed decision.

What are you doing to solve congestion problems in Burlington?

During peak rush hour we have significant issues with cut through traffic within our city. What I mean by this is vehicles that exit the QEW congestion to use our roads as a bypass route.

We will be employing more reactive technology at our traffic lights.  This technology will have cameras and sensors that will be adaptive and reactive to current conditions.

The City will also install transit signal prioritization. This is a blue-tooth device on transit buses that will force signal lights to change so that public transit will have priority by reducing stops.

We need the Province to keep investing in the Lakeshore West line and other GO services.  In about 7 years, the Lakeshore West line will be serviced every 15 minutes. This will help relieve pressure on the QEW.

Within the city, we’re building mixed-use, walkable, compact, transit supported communities in our downtown and around our three GO stations. Eventually, I envision people living in our Downtown and GO stations without a car.  New developments in Burlington will offer car share programs where you can book a car to run your errands and do grocery shopping around the city.

Can you talk about the ongoing Burlington transit funding gap, service cuts and any potential plans for improvement?

In early September, City of Burlington Transit Staff presented council with a detailed analysis of the current state of Transit Service. Operational deficiencies were identified that resulted in hiring more full-time drivers and maintenance staff. In order to address these shortfalls, the transit operating budget for 2018 will be 15% greater than the 2017 budget. Our plan in the short term is to stabilize and address the operational deficiencies resulting in more reliable and predictable service.

There will be more consultation and public engagement in 2018 with our staff with regarding the future of our transit service.  I would expect more meaningful investment to increase our service being considered by Burlington City Council in 2019 as we move towards a frequent transit network plan.

Is the city working on cycling or transit opportunities for residents north of the QEW to get downtown other than by car? Love to be able to safely cycle or take a bus to some of the destinations and not worry about parking or traffic.

I’ve heard that this is critically important to many people in our community.  As a result, I asked and received council support at the Capital Budget Meeting on December 1st to provide funding for preparatory work to occur to assure that we are ready to build an Active Transportation Bridge over the QEW when the senior level of government funding becomes available.

In terms of transit, we need to expand with a frequent transit network. We simply need more frequent transit on major routes in the city.  What that looks like is to be determined by staff, but the desire is to have much more transit service than we do now.

There is no sensible city alternative to transport a person in a wheelchair from Oakville to Burlington besides a very expensive taxi ride.  Why can’t both communities meet and design an affordable and seamless plan for crossing city borders so that loved ones don’t have to pay so much just to visit from one community to the next?

I share your concerns.  We should be looking at Handi-Van as a regional service within Halton region.  We’ve talked about this before in the region, but I will bring up this issue again.

 

Continue to Facebook Live Q & A Pt. 2

Facebook Live Q&A – Part 2

For your convenience, I decided to separate the Facebook Live Q & A into two sections.  The previous post focused on snow clearing, mobility hubs, traffic, transit and cycling.

This post will host questions regarding affordable housing, property tax, Meridian quarry, hydro wires over Burlington beach, electric vehicles, outdoor hockey rinks and my family’s Christmas traditions.Some answers have been expanded to include additional information.

If you missed my Facebook Live on Tuesday evening, you can watch it by going to my Facebook Page.

How do we plan on assisting older adults to remain in their downtown neighbourhoods? Is there a potential plan for co-housing?

One of the things I started was the Mayor’s Seniors’ Housing Task Force. We continue to have discussions on how to improve and promote processes to encourage more secondary dwelling suites in the city. Also, there are discussions in the community that would look at involving the not-for-profit sector to help facilitate seniors’ housing in the community for those who can’t afford the current prices in Burlington.

What are your plans for bringing affordable housing?

In our Mobility Hub plans, we have an opportunity to put in special community improvement plans that would encourage rental housing once we get some definition around the mobility hubs, the official plan designations, the area-specific plans and what the zoning bylaw will say.

We have received development applications for Georgian Court, which is in the Surrey Lane and Warwick Court area. Currently, there are 280, 2-3 bedroom condo units on the property. The application is for 1,450 rental units on that site. To be an inclusive city, we need to have more rental housing.

I don’t have a definitive thought on this project yet.  There is a lot to consider, and our staff is taking a look at the proposal in great detail because there are some issues to address before we determine anything.

What can you or will do to reduce our property tax?

It is unrealistic to think that property taxes can be reduced as that would result in a reduction in services. The reality is that we have a city that needs to be funded properly.  We need to have inflationary type increases maintain our services and our infrastructure. The proposed operating budget for 2018 has a 4.19% increase which includes increases in funding for: the base operations of the city; Provincially legislated employment standards impact; Transit Sustainability; Arbitrated Fire Settlement; capital infrastructure renewal and a new business case of Sports field Maintenance Enhancements.

Overall, when we factor in the Education Tax and the Region of Halton increase, our overall increase in property taxes for 2018 will be in the range of 2.49%.

 As a Tyandaga resident, I am very concerned about the health and environmental impact of the proposed clear cutting of 35 acres in a residential area for a shale quarry.  Will you endorse a request for review for the permanent protection of this green space?

This has been an active file in my office since the beginning of 2016.  This is not a simple issue.

I’ve had many meetings and discussions about the quarry with the Minister of Natural Resources, MPP Eleanor McMahon, Meridian, residents and I’ve attended the two Meridian information public meetings.

I believe we need more information than what we have now. The information shared so far by Meridian is insufficient, and clearly does not address the area residents’ concerns. We will continue to put pressure on the province and the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change to confirm their regulation process and give us some definition and input on how they will accept a site plan East cell that Meridian will be expanding in to.

I also met with Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner, who gave a presentation to the Tyandaga Residents back on November 16th.  I couldn’t attend the community meeting due to a previous commitment but met with Gord to see and hear the presentation he prepared.  His suggestion is for the residents to file a review with the Environmental Commissioner under the Environmental Bill of Rights. This is a legitimate avenue that I am respectful and supportive of.

What kind of things do you and your family like to do over Christmas time?  Any fun family traditions?

I’m married to Cheryl.  She has 4 daughters, and I have 3 daughters. Christmas is a very important time for our family to get together. We typically get together on Christmas Eve.  My wife has a tradition of buying all the girls new pajamas; they all try them on and gather around for a nice group photo. We have five grandchildren including one granddaughter who now will be part of that tradition.

One of the special times for me is on Boxing Day. I’m a graduate of Nelson High School, and at noon on the 26th my childhood buddies and I get together to play touch football.  This is something I look forward to every year.

What are your thoughts on Burlington being chosen to have a Cannabis store?

The decision to place a retail outlet in Burlington is one made by the provincial government. The city will work as closely as possible with our provincial counterparts to ensure we have input into the location. It is the city’s expectation that the province will follow the city’s zoning bylaw. The City of Burlington has information at www.burlington.ca/cannabis to provide links to helpful information, including to the provincial and federal information.

Can we get some outdoor hockey rinks?

Yes! The city has a program that will guide you on ways to develop an outdoor hockey rink. The city will help facilitate and provide you with some equipment to put it together.  They won’t construct the rink for you, but they will guide you through it.  Here is the Neighbourhood Rink Application

 Will the hydro wires along the beach be removed within the next 10 years?

That is the plan!

Halton Region is investing about $50m over the next 20-25 years to:

  • Move the hydro towers to the other side of the skyway bridge.
  • Buy some homes along the beach way. We’ve already acquired 12 out of 27 homes, and we expect to acquire more in the New Year.  They were all willing sellers; no one is being forced out.
  • Improve the Burlington Beachway Park and make it an attractive natural area that attracts people from the broader region.

Can you elaborate on Burlington’s plan to introduce vehicles to the grid (V2G) and distributed energy resources (DER) with mobile electric self-driving vehicle infrastructure – EV Charge Infrastructure?

I have great belief that electric vehicles are a great way for us to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Burlington has approved the installation of 20 recharging stations over the next five years at our public parking lots in downtown. I think we should do more to encourage and accommodate electric vehicles and we will do more over time.

After the floods of 2014, what did the city do to make sure this is minimized in the future if we get that type of downpour again?

The City of Burlington and the Region of Halton have committed approximately $130M to address stormwater issues as well as wastewater issues.  The money is to optimize the wastewater sewer system throughout the region.

There is Enhanced Basement Flood Prevention Subsidy Program that offers financial support for residents who are making the improvements to their home.  Information on available subsidies can be found here.

The City of Burlington in partnering with Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo launched The Home Flood Protection Program.  It offers residents a complete 50 point visual assessment of potential sources of water entry into the home for $125.  Burlington was the pilot city for this program, and due to its success, it’s now being rolled out in communities all over Canada.

After the storm, Burlington City Council committed another $20M to the stormwater infrastructure within the city.  We need to build bigger bridges with wider openings, so the water doesn’t get trapped behind the bridges. We’re also looking at all the creeks to make sure that there is no debris build-up that blocks the flow of the water.

November 2017 Update

 421 – 431 Brant Street Rezoning Approved

Monday night, at the City Council meeting, the members of council voted 5-2 in favour of rezoning 421-431 Brant Street to allow for a proposed 23-storey mixed-use condo building to be built across from City Hall.

The Building would include 169 residential units, office space on the second floor and ground floor retail.  You can read the detailed staff recommendation here.

I was one of the two who voted against the proposal.

I want to thank the residents who took the time out of their busy lives to share their insight and delegated on Monday evening.

Proposed New Official Plan Open House

Burlington’s proposed new Official Plan is out for public review.

It contains additions, deletions and modifications to the draft new Officiall Plan that was released in April. Our staff received feedback from agencies,stakeholders and the public that guided in producing the new proposed OP.

We continue to ask for your input.  Please join city staff at  upcoming public meetings to review and discuss the proposed new Official Plan.  If you can’t make it ou to the public meetings, you can email newop@burlington.ca or call 905-335-7642 with your questions or concerns.

If you haven’t been following, click here for a refresher on the New Official Plan Project.

2018 Budget Overview

The Financial Overview of the 2018 Proposed Capital Budget and Forecast was presented to the Committee of the Whole – Budget Committee on November 9th.

The 2018 Proposed Capital Budget is approximately $68.6 million with a strong focus on infrastructure renewal projects reflective of the city’s commitment to the asset management plan and the Strategic Plan initiative.

Committee will review the Proposed Capital Budget on December 1, 2017, with Council approval scheduled for December 11, 2017.

The  Proposed 2018 Capital Budget Book is available now for public review.

Remembrance Day

I am proud and moved by the number of Burlington residents who joined me on Remembrance Day to show their love and support to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

We had a larger than normal crowd at the Sunrise Ceremony at the Naval Ships Memorial Monument in Spencer Smith Park.  Brant Street was packed with the young and old who came to pay their respects as our veterans made their way to the Cenotaph.

2017 is a special year of commemoration for Canada, including Canada 150, the 100th anniversaries of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Passchendaele, and the 75th anniversary of the Dieppe Raid.

I am proud and honoured to be Canadian and thankful to all our veterans who risked their lives for our freedom.

Salvation Army’s Christmas Kettle Campaign

I helped kick off The Salvation Army’s  Christmas Kettle Campaign with Major Bob and three-year-old Zoey this week.

Christmas Kettles are found in over 2,000 locations across Canada and funds donated will support the work of The Salvation Army during the Christmas Season.

Major Bob tells me that he is still looking for up to 100 volunteers to be the Kettle Bell Ringers in various locations across our city.

If you can give the gift of time, it would mean more low-income families will be able to spend Christmas with special meals and presents.

To become a Kettle Bell Ringer, contact Major Bob at 905-630-5212 or sign up online.

What’s Happening Burlington?

Agendas, minutes and videos on standing committee and council meetings, as well agendas and reports for upcoming meetings, are available online.

The next round of committee meetings begin on November 27th.

 

Community Garden Lottery

The City of Burlington had one community garden in 2012 with 30 plots.  Today, there are five community gardens with 167 plots including thirteen raised accessible plots for those with limited mobility.

If you’d like to claim a plot for 2018, submit an application before November 30th and you will be entered into a lottery draw on December 1st.   Good Luck!

Why I Voted Against the 23-Storey Development Proposal

421-431 Brant Street Development Rendering

On November 1st, the Planning and Development Committee approved a Planning staff recommendation to allow the development of a 23-storey building right across from City Hall at the North East corner of James and Brant Street.

The building would include 169 residential units, office space on the second floor and ground floor retail.

The Committee voted 5-2 in favour of this recommendation. I voted against this proposal.

Downtown Burlington is a very desirable area to live and work for obvious reasons.  There are great restaurants, unique shops and amenities including the Performing Arts Centre and proximity to the waterfront.

There are also great places to live, in existing modern high-rise buildings that were built over the last 20 years including 360 on Pearl, the Pearl and Pine Retirement Residence and the Baxter. None of these buildings exceeds 18 storeys.

In my view, our downtown has an appropriate scale of current development that provides an urban intimacy. The proposed 23-storey building across from the City Hall is not consistent with the present scale, and we should not approve it.

The development proposal is not consistent with the new Downtown Mobility Hub Draft Precinct Plan that was presented to council by Planning staff in October.

The Draft Precinct Plan called for a Special Policy Area at the corner of James and Brant that would allow building height of 17 storeys, assuming that certain public benefits could be achieved. I supported that plan and believe that this site is appropriate for a well-designed building that is either mid-rise or up to 17 storeys, not 23.

I understand the rationale for taller and more slender buildings, but a well-developed mid-rise or lower high-rise will fit the scale and form the character of our downtown that many residents have asked us to maintain. Planning staff have stated that a larger, wider and shorter 12-storey building can house the same amount of residential, office and retail space that the proposed 23-storey building would contain.

Our downtown, South of Caroline, can be shaped with well-thought-out buildings that are 17-storeys or lower that provide an inviting, pedestrian-friendly and attractive street.

Brant Street can improve without dramatically changing it.  The focus in our downtown should be distinctive and attractive design, not excessive height.

I am concerned about the negative consequences of this decision. We cannot look at this decision in isolation as there is reasonable planning rationale to mirror the same height and density on the opposite side of James Street.

I am concerned that this proposed development will have a considerable impact on the Draft Downtown Plan and undermine the confidence that residents are being asked to have for the City’s vision for future growth in the downtown.

Burlington City Council will make the final decision at our next meeting in the council chambers at City Hall on Monday, November 13th at 6:30 p.m.

If you’d like to have your voices heard, I encourage you to email the members of the council and me.  You can also register to delegate at the council meeting, which allows you to state your perspective publicly.