Open Door Session

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I’m hosting another Open Door Session.

Join me on Saturday, March 24th at the Burlington Mall, between 10 a.m – 12 p.m, for a friendly chat.

I will have a booth set up where we can sit down to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.

Contact my office to make an appointment or drop-in.  I hope to see many of you there!

To make an appointment:
Call: 905-335-7607 or Email: mayor@burlington.ca

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Burlington will successfully evolve to meet the future

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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 The city’s current Official Plan is out of date and doesn’t conform to provincial policy which is one of the significant reasons why the OMB did not agree with the city’s opposition to ADI’s 26-storey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.

 

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OMB Approves ADI development on Martha St.

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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.

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February 2018 Update

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2018 State of the City

2018 State of the City Address. Feb. 1, 2018. Mayor Rick Goldring and Tim Caddigan, Senior Director of Programming Cogeco

On Thursday, February 1st, I delivered my 2018 State of the City address to an audience of over 400 at the Burlington Convention Centre.

My speech celebrated the great accomplishments made by the City of Burlington, the residents and various organizations who call our city home.

Burlington is evolving in many ways. I’m very proud of the work being done to develop and leverage a strong brand that positions Burlington as a highly attractive business location.

The State of the City address will be airing on YourTV next week.

Tuesday, Feb. 13 @ 10 am
Wednesday, Feb. 14 @ 10 pm
Friday, Feb. 16 @ 11 am

You can also watch the entire event on my youtube page or read my full script here.

 

2018 Operating Budget Approved

Burlington City Council has approved the city’s 2018 operating budget with a 4.36% increase in the city’s portion of property taxes.

Combined with tax increases from Halton Region and the boards of education, the overall tax increase is 2.55% or $20.27 per $100,000 of a home’s current value assessment.

The 2018 budget is focused on community investments that deliver on the city’s 25-year Strategic Plan while ensuring the programs and services residents depend on are well-maintained and cost-effective. Investments, including much-needed funding to improve transit, are designed to meet the needs of our growing community

You can take a look at the copy of the 2018 operating budget online here.

Latest Draft New Official Plan

The Burlington City Council continue to have discussions over the proposed New Official Plan this month.

On January 29th, City Council approved the amendments made to the draft New Official Plan from the January 23 & 24 Planning & Development meeting. The amendments include lowering building height, parking and preserving heritage buildings.

I wrote about it in detail here on my blog for you to review.

You can read or download the revised new draft Official Plan here.

There will be 2 Open House dates for the public to review and discuss the latest revisions with the staff.

Dates are as follows:
* Monday, Feb. 12 @ Haber Community Centre in Community Rm #2, 6:30 pm – 8 pm
* Thursday, Feb. 15 @ City Hall Rm. 247 from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

A second statutory public meeting will take place to present the revisions.
That meeting is scheduled for February 27th at 1 pm and 6:30 pm. Delegations are not required to register in advance to speak.

Reverse Town Hall Q & A

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 here on my blog because I didn’t want to take away the time that was meant for resident speakers.

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

Aldershot Quarry Update

Last month, in an effort to obtain answers and clarifications to specific concerns over the Aldershot Quarry expansion, I organized a stakeholders meeting.

At the meeting were representatives from Tyandaga Environmental Coalition (TEC), representatives from Meridian Brick, MPP Eleanor McMahon, Councillor Rick Craven, Conservation Halton and Provincial staff from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) and Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

The meeting provided an opportunity for an open dialogue, and it proved to be very informative.

I remain committed to supporting the efforts of residents seeking to obtain information related to the Meridian Brick Aldershot Quarry operation, plans and regulatory requirements, including TEC’s specific areas of concern.

We will hold further meetings to continue the discussion, answer questions and provide any necessary clarifications.

Burlington’s Cycling Plan

We are looking for your thoughts and ideas about improving cycling in Burlington.

Your feedback will be used to help shape the city’s new Cycling Plan, which will guide the future of cycling infrastructure in the city.

Take the survey or visit a series of drop-in sessions throughout Burlington.

Province opening Cannabis store in Burlington

The Ministry of Finance and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario have identified Burlington as one of 40 municipalities set to have a cannabis store by July 2018. The LCBO will make the determination of where a cannabis store is located in Burlington.

Staff will continue to monitor the direction emerging from the Province and report back to Council with a recommended approach once the provincial regulatory framework is known.

The City of Burlington has posted links to helpful information at burlington.ca/cannabis, including to provincial and federal web pages.

The City of Burlington buys the office building at 390 Brant St.

The City of Burlington has purchased an office building located at 390 Brant Street, across from City Hall, for $17.5 million.

We have been leasing space at 390 Brant St. for employee use since 2005. Our Finance, Legal, HR, as well as some services from Capital Works and Parks & Rec. currently work out of this building. The reason for our purchase is to retain office space within the downtown and to diversify our assets.

The city will maintain the current tenants and contracts to ensure seamless operation.
All existing leases in the building will remain in place with few changes to the current operation of the building.

What’s Happening Burlington?

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

Wondering what to do on Family Day? There is no shortage of events around our area. Take a look at the Burlington Events Calendar to plan your long weekend.

 

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Reverse Town Hall Q & A

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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.

 

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