April Progress Report

It’s been a busy month! There is a lot going on in Burlington right now. To wrap it all up here is my April 2018 progress vlog.

 

Reports & Recommendations

Our city staff have presented reports and updates on a variety of issues this month that may be of interest to you.  Here is a list of items available for your review.

Mayor’s Inspire Burlington with Glen Murray

I’m thrilled to share that we hosted yet another successful Mayor’s Inspire Burlington event on April 25th at the Royal Botanical Gardens.

Glen Murray, the Executive Director of the Pembina Institute and the former Minister of the Environment and Climate Change joined us for an insightful and educational talk about building an environmentally sustainable city.

I was inspired by the number of Burlington residents who joined us with ideas and passion about how we can work together to create a brighter future for our next generation.

I want to thank Conservation Halton, Centre for Climate Change Management at Mohawk, Burlington’s Sustainable Development Advisory Committee, Sustainable Hamilton Burlington, Burlington Green and 100in1Day for setting up exhibitions for our guests.

Burlington Vimy Oaks

In honour of the 101st anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, we planted two “Vimy Oaks” at the Burlington Cenotaph this month.  These oaks are the direct descendants of the original oaks at Vimy Ridge.

Our veterans fought for our freedom, and our oak trees will be a constant reminder of their sacrifice.

100In1Day Coming to Burlington June 2nd

For the first time, 100in1Day is coming to Burlington!What is 100In1Day and how do you get involved? Watch the video below to find out.

Make a Request to the Office of the Mayor

My office is happy to respond to questions on various issues, requests for congratulatory letters or certificates, invitations to events or requests for a flag raising or proclamation.
There are easy-to-use online forms for each of these requests on my website.

Proposed Community Benefits for 421 Brant Street

A report outlining the proposed Section 37 Community Benefits for 421 Brant Street has been released by the Planning Department. This will be presented at the Planning and Development meeting on Tuesday, April 10th.

On November 13, 2017, Council approved applications to amend the Official Plan and Zoning By-law, as modified by staff, to permit a mixed-use development with a height up to 23 storeys at the north-east corner of Brant and James Street across from City Hall.

I did not support the approval as I believe the height is excessive for this location.

Section 37 of the Planning Act is a planning tool which allows municipalities to accept “community benefits” when granting increased density and/or height through a change in zoning or official plan policy.

The report heading to the committee next week outlines the recommended direct and indirect community benefits that Planning staff is recommending for approval, as noted below.

Direct benefit vs Indirect benefit

  • A direct community benefit is a monetary contribution.
  • An indirect community benefit has a public interest but doesn’t involve a direct monetary contribution.

The direct benefits listed below have been negotiated under Section 37 by Planning staff. The indirect benefits were identified as part of the development proposal outlined in the November Planning report in support of the approved 23 storey development.

Here is the list of community benefits that Planning staff are recommending for approval:

• To assist in the pursuit of long-term affordable housing, the Developer agrees to a discount of $300,000 to be used against the purchase price of up to 10 dwelling units within the subject development, or in the event that a purchase(s) is/are not to occur within the subject development, the Developer agrees to provide the City with a cash contribution of $300,000 prior to condominium registration. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of $150,000 towards the public art reserve fund to be used within the publicly accessible privately owned easement area referred to in subsection (v) and/or in the future Civic Square expansion area. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide a direct community benefit of a $50,000 contribution towards the future expansion of Civic Square. [Direct benefit]

• The Developer agrees to provide one (1) publicly accessible car share parking space (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000) and contribute to the City’s emerging car-share network by accommodating a car-share vehicle for a minimum of two years starting from the first occupancy (indirect community benefit assessed at $50,000), or equivalent.

• The Developer agrees to provide public access by way of an easement to be registered on title for lands located at the northeast corner of Brant Street and James Streets, the minimum dimensions of which are in the form of a triangle measured at 16m by 16m (an indirect community benefit assessed at $75,000).

• The Developer agrees to provide eight (8) visitor parking spaces (indirect community benefit accessed at $400,000).

• The Developer agrees, and it is enshrined within the amending zoning by-law, that increased building setbacks, including widened sidewalks on Brant Street, James Street, and John Street, and view corridors on Brant Street and James Street to City Hall and the Cenotaph (indirect community benefit accessed at $250,000).

• The Developer agrees to implement green technology and sustainable architecture elements into the subject property in accordance with either LEED certification standards and/or compliance with the City’s Sustainable Building and Development guidelines (indirect community benefit accessed at $300,000).

• The Developer agrees to implement City of Burlington Streetscape Guidelines Standards within the Brant Street, James Street, and John Street public realm areas, including the expanded building setback areas at-grade and the publicly accessible open space easement area outlined in (v) above (an indirect community benefit accessed at $150,000).

You are invited to attend the April 10th Planning and Development Committee meeting where this report will be discussed by Committee.

Burlington will successfully evolve to meet the future

This Op-ed was published in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, March 3, 2018. 

The City of Burlington has had many Official Plans, but none have received as much attention as our current draft Plan that council is set to adopt in April.

City building is constantly evolving, and we all want our city to grow thoughtfully and carefully. City Council is no different.

As mayor, I certainly want what is best for the entire community. I hear from residents that they want a more vibrant downtown and are supportive of the protection of our rural lands and those who are concerned about the future of our city.

This was most apparent when late last year City Council approved a 23-storey building across from City Hall at 421 Brant St. I voted against this development for three reasons; it is the wrong location for a 23-storey building, where the adjacent roads are narrow, this approval would lead to similar requests for similar height, and from a policy perspective, this was inconsistent with the proposed 17-storey limit identified in the City’s earlier draft Downtown Precinct Plan.

While residents are trying to digest this decision, we were recently informed of the decision by the Ontario Municipal Board to approve the ADI development at Lakeshore Road and Martha Street. The board sided with the proponent on a proposed 26-storey highrise plan. Again, in my opinion, this is the wrong location for the height of the building, and I am very disappointed that the OMB did not prefer a height that was comparable or lower to those in this area.

It is more important than ever that we approve our new Official Plan. The city’s current Official Plan is out of date and doesn’t conform to provincial policy which is one of the significant reasons why the OMB did not agree with the city’s opposition to ADI’s 26-storey proposal. Clearly, our current Official Plan is unacceptable in planning for an Urban Growth Centre.

With two tall buildings recently approved in the downtown, I understand why residents feel anxious about what is going to happen in the future. I disagree with the decisions to allow the 23 and 26-storey downtown buildings. However, I am supportive of well-planned and justified intensification in appropriately targeted areas of our city.

Burlington is not an island unto itself. We are part of the Greater Hamilton Toronto Area that currently has 7 million people and will grow to 10 million within 23 years primarily because 40 to 50 per cent of newcomers to Canada want to live in this area. We must accommodate our share of growth.

We also need to be realistic and acknowledge that Burlington is a highly desirable place to live with an amazing waterfront and rural areas that includes the Niagara Escarpment, great neighbourhoods, wonderful festivals and events that contribute to the creation of an inclusive and caring community. In addition, interest rates are low, undeveloped land supply is depleted, and single family house prices are high. This has made condominium apartments an attractive housing form to all demographics for different reasons.

It is simply not true that we will have tall buildings at every corner of our downtown. It would be wonderful to protect our downtown and limit growth to exclusively low-rise buildings, but this approach is simply not realistic. By only allowing low-rise buildings, we are making downtown very exclusive to those that have significant wealth.

After listening and considering input from residents, Burlington City council made many important amendments to the proposed new Official Plan. We reduced permitted heights and increased building separations, and heritage building preservation is addressed.

Once the high-level vision of our new Official Plan is approved, we can get to work completing the details to be included in area specific plans. City staff is currently working on new transportation, transit, cycling and parking plans. We will dramatically improve our transit system to provide reliable and frequent service along our key areas, including our GO stations.

I am confident that Burlington will successfully evolve to meet our growing population and economic needs. We will be champions for great design and continue to give careful attention to all the important city building details that have made Burlington the city we are so proud of. We need to plan for our children and grandchildren so that Burlington is an inclusive, environmentally and fiscally sustainable city for generations to come.

 

OMB Approves ADI development on Martha St.

Today, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) released its decision on Adi Development Group’s proposal at 374 Martha St.

I am extremely disappointed by this Ontario Municipal Board decision. In my opinion, the Board approved height is excessive and is not good planning for the site or for Burlington’s downtown. I know that many residents will be very unhappy with this decision and I share this reaction.

I want to thank the City’s staff, consultants and legal counsel for their work and effort defending the City’s position at the OMB.

You can read the full report here OMB ADI DECISION

Read the details of the application here.

Reverse Town Hall Q & A

Mayor’s Reverse Town Hall. January 18, 2018

When I held my Reverse Town Hall on January 18th, I received many questions from residents about the draft New Official Plan.

Some I answered at the meeting and some I decided to answer on my blog because I didn’t want to take away the time that was dedicated to resident speakers.

It has taken longer than I had hoped to get this out, so thank you for your patience.

Q & A

Can the citizens of Burlington count on the city planning department to support present regulations of the Official City Master Plan?

There is a perception with some people that once an Official Plan is in place, there should be no changes to the plan.

The Ontario Planning Act outlines a specific process to amend the official plan.
The Planning Department has to professionally consider all Official Plan amendments that are brought forward.

Each official plan amendment is unique, and the planning department must consider the effect of a proposed amendment in terms of:
• Consistency with the Provincial Policy
• Achieve intent of the goals and objectives of the Official Plan
• Impact on the neighbouring properties and overall compatibility and
• The fiscal and functional impact on infrastructure, services and transportation.

In September 2017, Edward Keenan of the Toronto Star wrote a column for the paper about this specific issue regarding the Zoning Bylaw. He contrasts the view that Official Plans and Zoning Bylaws should never be changed versus the need for change to achieve specific city objectives and to be consistent with Provincial Policy.

One of the challenges we have in Burlington is that our Official Plan is over 20 years old and the last major review of the downtown portion of the Official Plan was over ten years ago. There has been much change in the city over this time which suggests the need for a new Official Plan. The Official Plan must be up to date for it to be more defensible with the Ontario Municipal Board and the new Local Planning Appeal Tribunal which replaces the Ontario Municipal Board.

I live at 360 on Pearl. I currently have one parking spot but two cars. I’m already struggling to find parking. With new developments coming, where are we all going to park?

I heard many comments about parking at the Reverse Town Hall meeting. Parking in downtown Burlington always creates discussion.

Public parking in downtown Burlington was never intended to be for downtown residents. The spots are meant to be for customers and employees of the businesses.

People that live downtown have to consider their parking requirements the same way one would consider the need for a certain number of bedrooms. I am aware of some people who moved out of downtown Burlington because the development they lived in only provided one parking space and they needed two.

Any thoughts on moving the City Hall along the QEW corridor?

There are no thoughts to do this. Moving City Hall would remove about 400 jobs out of the downtown core and would take the economic impact of those jobs out of downtown. The cost of a new city hall would dissuade me from supporting a move.

If we have already satisfied the province’s growth for Burlington to date, why do we need to continue to grow?

Although the province’s minimum growth target will be met, the Greater Toronto Hamilton area that Burlington is part of is expected to grow from 7 million people to 10 million over the next 23 years primarily as a result of the national trend of immigration.
Halton Region (Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills) which is part of the GTHA is currently 550,000 and is targeting to grow to 1,000,000 people in 23 years.

Growth is happening all over the GTHA, and we are expected to accept our share. Our target for 2031 is 193,000 people, and our 2041 target will be defined by Halton Region in 2019.

Let’s assume that we were in a position to say no to growth. What would be the impact?

• Our real estate prices would increase at a greater rate than currently simply as a result of supply and demand. This would make it even more challenging for younger people to get a toehold in the Burlington real estate market.

• The percentage of people over 65 in Burlington is 19.3% which is near the highest in the GTHA. Without increasing the amount and variety of housing stock, ageing seniors would stay in their traditional homes longer than might be the case not allowing for more renewal or older neighbourhoods with younger families.

• Some stores would likely close as the percentage of the population that are seniors grows. Seniors spend less money than the family formation years of 25-55.

• School enrollment will be negatively affected if we are not attracting or keeping younger families in our city.

• Taxes could increase at higher rates than they might normally as growth in the number of housing units spread the costs of operating a city.

Why is Downtown designated as an Anchor Mobility Hub?

I will do my best to provide some history on this.

Back in 2006, when the Places to Grow Act was passed in the Provincial Legislature, a Downtown Urban Growth Centre was defined for Burlington

Below is text from the Metrolinx website defining Anchor Hubs.

Anchor Hubs have strategic importance due to their relationship with urban growth centres and/or their role as major international gateways.

Anchor Hubs contain current or planned major regional destinations such as major institutions, employment centres, town centres or regional shopping centres, and they have significant potential to attract and accommodate new growth and development. Anchor Hubs have the potential to transform the regional urban structure and act as anchors of the regional transportation system.

In 2006 and 2008, it was clearly expected that downtown had the potential for more residents and more jobs which would require better and more frequent transit than exists now.

The last page of the document that you can access from the link below states that the Downtown Burlington Mobility Hub would have the lowest amount of transit activity when compared to other Anchor Hubs.

http://www.metrolinx.com/en/regionalplanning/mobilityhubs/RTP_Backgrounder_Mobility_Hubs.pdf

Even if the Anchor Mobility Hub designation were removed, it would not lessen the pressure for growth as the overarching designation is the fact the Downtown Burlington is defined as an Urban Growth Centre in the Places to Grow Plan.

How do you grow without a solid transit plan?

The bottom line is you don’t.

The City of Burlington has underinvested in transit for many years and the time to change that is now.

The first step is to stabilize the current service we have and address the operational deficiencies that were outlined in a very detailed report in 2017. Council supported an increase in the 2018 budget to do this.

Transit staff is working with external consultants on a longer-term transit plan, and we will see their preliminary work in the spring. I suspect it will take another 18 months before there is a meaningful increase in the level of service Burlington Transit is providing.

The City needs to make transit more attractive for more people and the way to do that is to improve the quality and quantity of service as well as market the service better than we have done in the past. You can have great service, but it needs the confidence of riders to be encouraged to use it.

Is the City doing enough to defend Zoning and Official Plan limits? Why are the rules changing and why are developers forcing special considerations – profitability?

The City is legally obligated to accept Planning applications when they are deemed complete.

This means that applicants can apply for whatever they decide. Developers, however, do not force the requested changes. Planning staff review applications and make recommendations that are based on good planning.

These recommendations can lead to amendments to the Zoning By-law and Official Plan. This is common planning practice in all municipalities and is a result when planners view changes to be in the public interest.

Planning staff make professional recommendations to Committee for a decision. Concerning defending limits, I would refer to Council’s refusal (staff report PB-100-16) in December 2016 of the applications for Official Plan and Zoning By-law amendments for two-19 storey apartment buildings and 612 residential units at 4853 Thomas Alton Boulevard. This development is now before the OMB.

What are we gaining in a rush for intensification and what tools are available to keep it under control?

I heard from the concern/question that the Official Plan should be deferred until after the municipal election. Committee did not agree to this proposal.

There are significant benefits to having a decision sooner rather than later. This will better address the significant public concern and interest for establishing greater certainty in the planning process and is noted in the above question.

A new Official Plan means we can move away from the site by site negotiations and instead, bring clear expectations to our planning. This is what residents have been telling us, delaying the Official Plan approval would only create more instances where unexpected outcomes can occur, similar to the reaction which led to 421 Brant Street (Council approved 23-storey building across from City Hall).

The staff has also confirmed that the City will be in a better position to plan within a clearly defined policy framework with an updated Official Plan that can be defendable by today’s current standards.

Staff will be able to use the new Official Plan when working with developers even though the Official Plan won’t be approved by the Halton Region until some time in the next 12-18 months. While it will be informative and not determinative, clearly we heard from staff that, with the Committee amendments, we are better off proceeding with the approval rather than delaying.

By moving forward and not delaying, it also means staff can start now begin to work on the detailed Downtown Area Specific Plan which is a more detailed plan that will include matters such as transportation, transit, cycling, parking and servicing. Many of the concerns that residents had will be addressed. The only way to get to this step is to adopt the draft Official Plan.

I believe that it is not only an important decision for the entire city but a responsibility of this Council to bring certainty to our downtown planning without unnecessary delays. Our current council has the critical knowledge and understanding of the draft Official Plan and Strategic Plan. It’s important that we complete this critical work.