Beachway Park, Waterfront, Affordable Housing, Inspire Burlington and more: October 2013 Progress Report

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October 18, 2013

Upcoming Committee Meetings

Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan

At the September 23 council meeting City Burlington BeachwayCouncil approved several recommendations for the Burlington Beachway related to the 30 homes on the Beachway and Regional plans for a waterfront park. There were several recommendations approved by Council regarding the Beachway. I encourage you to read my blog where I have detailed the specific direction from City Council and include links to the staff report. There is also a brief outline available in the press release online.

The next step will be made at Regional Council on October 23. The outcome of that meeting will be sent as a separate update after that time.

Section 37 Community Benefits / Carriage Gate Development

I have heard from several residents who have expressed concern about the reduction in affordable housing as part of the community benefits of the development by Carriage Gate in downtown Burlington.

This is a complex subject. I believe it is necessary to provide some perspective and information about Section 37 Community Benefits.

Section 37 of the Planning Act is a planning tool that allows communities to negotiate “community benefits” in the form of facilities or services with a developer when increased height and/or density for a project is recommended based on good planning principles.

The fundamental requirement of a community benefits agreement are that the proposal must first and foremost represent good planning. It is important to note that planning staff first review a project based on its fundamental planning merits, and then refer to a separate staff person for consideration of community benefits.

Community benefits are only possible if a project is recommended for approval by municipal council on its own merits – if it makes sense for the community and is founded in good planning principles.

More information about Community Benefits is available on page 2 of the staff report prepared in 2007.

Community Benefits are voluntary but are negotiated alongside the approval of a development.

If the Planning Department recommends increased height and/or density for a development based on good planning, the project may be referred for a  separate discussion of community benefits. This is a process in which a developer is invited to demonstrate the community benefits that a project will offer and to discuss securing these benefits through a negotiated agreement. The planner assigned to evaluate the development project is not assigned to discuss potential community benefits. A different staff planner meets independently with a developer to discuss potential community benefits.

I believe that the Carriage Gate project is a good fit for our downtown. Downtown Burlington has been identified as an urban growth centre by the province which means that downtown will continue to grow over the next several decades. We will have many more people living and working downtown, which means more customers for local shops and services, more jobs, and new opportunities to attract business. This development includes a medical facility which will bring new medical services to the residents of downtown and across Burlington.

The “affordable housing” discussed as part of this project does not include a guarantee that housing will go to those most in need of housing.

Affordable housing included in a development by way of a Section 37 agreement will not address the issue of affordable housing for those in greatest need in our community. The “affordable” units will be available for purchase on the market, without any screening process or evaluation by the developer who is selling them.  Often times, in this type of development, these “affordable units” are bought by investors and the units will only be “affordable” once. After they are sold on the free market, the prices cannot be controlled. Further, the affordable units in this building will be affordable based on comparison of average prices across the city.

I recognize the critical need to address issues of affordable housing in Burlington and wider Halton Region. I have had discussions with the Region about potential opportunities to partner with third parties to create opportunities for more affordable housing.

I understand the concern that some residents have that that council simply gave in to a developer. This concern is also shared by some in the media. The challenge is that the process of negotiating community benefits is not compulsory, but instead is achieved by cooperation and discussion between staff and developers as part of the approval process. The resulting package of community benefits is presented to council in a transparent process that provide opportunities for public input and democratic oversight.

Almost all housing is produced through the private sector, by developers. We need to work together with good developers and appeal to their community mindedness to achieve the type of developments that build neighbourhoods and fit with our community. Increases in height and density should only be permitted when it makes sense. I believe that it does make sense in the case of this project. We need to work together with our community partners and the Region to address the challenge of affordable housing.

Waterfront Land Parcels/Windows-to-the-Lake

(Water Street Road Allowance)

At our October 15 City Council meeting, Council voted to approve the sale of the Waterfront land parcels and develop Windows-to-the-Lake at the foot of both St. Paul and Market Streets with benches and signage. In addition, funds will be used to enhance Port Nelson Park at the foot of Guelph Line.

While it may appear to be obvious on the surface that the best course of action to take would be to continue to hold the land, there is much more to this issue. This issue has been unresolved for over 20 years and I certainly understand why previous staff and councils have not wanted to deal with it.

To provide some background information – these land parcels are located behind three residential properties, between St. Paul and Market Streets, and are jointly owned by the Ministry of Natural Resources and the City of Burlington. The adjacent homeowners have expressed a desire to purchase the land for many years and quite recently, the issue has been brought forward by staff via a report that outlined three options for consideration:

  1. retaining the lands and developing a new city parkette;
  2. retaining the lands for future public use;
  3. selling the parcels to the adjacent residents.

This has been an unresolved issue for over 20 years; and it is not a simple issue. The current homeowners have invested a great deal of money in maintaining this land, including significant investment in a retaining sea wall for erosion protection. There have also been ongoing demarcation issues between public and private land that have gone through the courts.

I supported the sale of these land parcels for a number of reasons. Primarily, I believe it is the most fiscally responsible action we could have taken. If we went down the path to create a parkette, we would be responsible for compensating the adjacent homeowners for their significant investment as well as investing significant money in the development and maintenance of a potential parkette.

Safety is another consideration. A small parkette or trail  would be difficult to monitor and police. As well, the significant height of the land from water’s edge maintained by the sea wall, poses a safety hazard that would necessitate fencing. Transferring ownership to the adjacent homeowners alleviates the responsibility of shoreline protection from the city and minimizes the potential for vandalism.

Option 3 allows for formal development of two additional Windows-to-the-Lake with financial subsidization from the sale of the land parcels in between that will provide additional formal opportunities for public access to enjoy the waterfront. More money will be invested to make Port Nelson Park more user-friendly to enhance the park’s accessibility and provide more features. This park is already monitored by police.

When I addressed this issue at Council I stated that leadership is often about decision-making – and often those decisions are tough. Council and staff support maintaining waterfront access to the public; there are 12 locations along our waterfront that are accessible, including Windows-to-the-Lake and public parks. I believe the decision to further enhance Port Nelson Park and create two additional Windows-to-the-Lake is the most fiscally responsible and an appropriate choice for all of our residents.

Burlington Transit Service Changes

Burlington Transit

Burlington Transit is introducing changes to its service on November 3, 2013, as part of the final phase of its interim service plan.

These additional changes reflect added service options based on ridership statistics feedback from both customers and transit staff. Included are enhanced evening, weekend and holiday service and more frequent service on select routes across the city.

Full details are available online at Burlington Transit.

Community Energy PlanBurlington Community Energy

Last month, Brent Gilmour from QUEST (Quality Urban Energy Systems of Tomorrow) spoke at Inspire Burlington about Community Energy Plans.The City of Burlington has been working to produce a made-in-Burlington community energy plan.

Following Brent’s inspirational presentation, I focused my Burlington Post editorial on Energy.

Energy is central to our lives and where municipalities have not traditionally considered energy in strategic planning or land use planning, this is beginning to change. We must take the lead in energy planning and initiate collaboration with our residents, businesses, utilities, developers, and all levels of government to drive this forward.

I encourage you to visit Let’s Talk Burlington for an online discussion about:

  • How energy efficient are you?
  • Phantom Power
  • Energy Conservation Motivation
  • Transportation and Energy
  • Community Energy Actions

Parks and Recreation Update – Move to Haber Recreation CentreHaber Recreation Centre

To better serve the community and sports groups, the parks and recreation customer service team located at City Hall has moved to the Haber Recreation Centre.

As the city’s newest and largest recreation centre, the Haber Recreation Centre will become one of the primary, full service locations for parks and recreation business needs.

Customer service will still be provided at City Hall for program registration, space booking and general inquires. In addition, customers can also visit any other service location as listed at www.burlington.ca/servicehours to find a location in their neighbourhood.

Telephone Town Hall

On September 26th I hosted a telephone town hall, reaching out to residents as a means to provide an opportunity to learn more about our city and how making smart decisions about land use transportation and public transit will help us to build a more complete community.

We began with over 2,000 participants; and over 100 stayed for the full hour of the event. It was a lively conversation and along with several open questions posed by participants, we asked several polling questions. Not surprising – 83% of those who answered indicated that the car was the mode of transportation used for the bulk of trips within Burlington.

One of our goals in the Transportation Master Plan is to change that statistic and make it easier for residents to take at least one in five trips using either active transportation or public transit.

2014 Election Survey

In preparation for the 2014 Muncipal Election on October 27, 2014, the City is conducting a survey on preferences amongst residents for when and where to hold advance polls and to gather more information about online voting. Take the survey and add your voice to the discussion.

Burlington Vital Signs 2013Vital Signs, Burlington

Earlier this month, the Burlington Community Foundation released the second edition of Burlington’s Vital Signs – an annual check-up that evaluates Burlington as a place to live, work, and play by identifying trends that are critical to our quality of life.

The Vital Signs report offers information that we should all consider and provides some surprising statistics. It also provides us with reasons to celebrate.

I invited Colleen Mulholland, President and CEO of the Burlington Community Foundation to share with you some of the key findings in a guest blog.

About Town

Delegation from our twin city: ApeldoornApeldoorn, Burlington, Mundialization, Anniversary

Last week it was my pleasure to meet with the visiting delegation from our twin city Apeldoorn in The Netherlands to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signing of our twinning agreement.

Joining me and our own members of the Mundialization committee at the celebrations were Mayor John Berends and his wife, Teneke, Carel Meurs from the City of Apeldoorn, Jan Koorenhoff from the Apeldoorn Burlington Committee in Apeldoorn, Anne van Leeuwen, the Consul General of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, former mayor of Burlington Rob MacIsaac, and many citizen and student delegates from Apeldoorn and their Burlington hosts.

As part of these celebrations, we had a ceremonial groundbreaking of the newly designed Apeldoorn Park (formerly Elgin Park) on Elgin Street, west of Burlington Avenue. Mayor Berends announced that a new Burlington Park will open next year in Apeldoorn as part of our twinning relationship.

This beautiful small park will celebrate both the Netherlands and the Paleis Het Loo, a royal Dutch palace that has stood in Apeldoorn since 1684 and is a wonderful example of how twinning helps both cities explore their unique culture and heritage.

Gift of Giving Back Food DriveThe Gift of Giving Back

I met recently with Jean Longfield and John Tait of the Burlington Eagles Hockey Club. Along with their partners, the Burlington Cougars Junior A Hockey Club, the Burlington Barracudas Girls’ Hockey Club, and Notre Dame High School, the Eagles have initiated an outstanding community food drive that to-date, in just seven years, has collected and donated an astounding 481,410.47 lbs of non-perishable goods during their food drives in mid-November. That amount of food actually translates into an estimated monetary gift of $1,203,526.18 to our community, according to the most recent Ontario Food Association conversion.

This remarkable initiative will be held on November 5th and 6th at Notre Dame High School. More information is available on the Gift of Giving Back website and more details are available on my blog.

From the Mayor’s Office

Inspire Graphic Angus ReidInspire Burlington

Dr. Angus Reid, a name synonymous with public opinion polls, will be our guest on October 24 at 7 pm at The Burlington Performing Arts Centre.  Dr. Reid will speak about 22nd Century Community Engagement.

Learn about Burlington’s next generation of civic engagement and the new trends enhancing the relationship between government and the residents we serve.

Angus Reid recently wrote an editorial on polling and said, “Online community forums can expand the public square along dimensions never before possible. All citizens can be invited to participate in discussions on issues they are about.”

Join the conversation. I invite you to register now for the event on October 24th.

And save the date for November 20, 7 pm, The Burlington Performing Arts Centre for “Creative Cities” with Trevor Copp, Artistic Director of Tottering Biped Theatre and Jeremy Freiburger, Cobalt Connects.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact my office should you have any concerns or comments.

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