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.

 

Reverse Town Hall

I’m hosting a Reverse Town Hall this Thursday, January 18th, 7 p.m at the Art Gallery of Burlington to discuss the downtown Burlington in context to our Official Plan and the draft precinct plan.

Reverse Town Hall is all about coming together to share your perspectives. I hope to see many residents, developers and stakeholders this Thursday.

Date: Thursday, January 18th, 2018

Time: 7 pm – 9 pm

Location: Art Gallery of Burlington, 1333 Lakeshore Rd, Burlington

Burlington’s New Official Plan Update

There has been significant interest from many people about the proposed new Official Plan and as a result city staff have created a revised schedule of meetings.

Discussion with Burlington City Council about the city’s proposed new Official Plan, including the proposed new Downtown Precinct Plan will take place over the next two months.

If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to contact my office.

Tel: 905-335-7607 or mayor@burlington.ca

The meeting dates are as follows:

Jan. 8, 2018
1 p.m.
City Hall, Room 247, Level 2
Topics of discussion:
Sections of the proposed new Official Plan that relate to the rural area, agriculture, natural heritage, greenspace and mineral aggregates.
This meeting serves as a continuation of the Nov. 30, 2017, Planning and Development Committee meeting.
The public is welcome to attend the meeting or watch a live webcast. The meeting will not include further delegations.
Jan. 16, 2018
1 and 6:30 p.m.
City Hall, Room 247, Level 2
Topics of discussion: Employment policies, employment conversions and the mixed-use intensification area policies. This meeting serves as a continuation of the Nov. 30, 2017, Planning and Development Committee meeting.
The public is welcome to attend the meeting or watch a live webcast. The meeting will not include further delegations.
Jan. 23, 2018
1 and 6:30 p.m.
City Hall, Room 247, Level 2 
Topics of discussion: A recommendation report related to the downtown will be presented. The report will contain the supplementary information requested by the council (e.g. background information regarding the Urban Growth Centre boundary; proposed heights compared to the existing in-effect Official Plan; and potential redevelopment sites).

 

This meeting will consider a new staff report.
The public is welcome to attend the meeting or watch a live webcast.Delegations are invited to register.Note: All delegations are expected to be accommodated in the afternoon or evening session. Additional time may be scheduled if required.
Feb. 6, 2018
1 and 6:30 p.m.
City Hall, Room 247, Level 2
Topics of discussion: Growth management, implementation and any remaining topic areas identified by City Council. This meeting serves as a continuation of the Nov. 30, 2017, Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The public is welcome to attend the meeting or watch a live webcast. The meeting will not include further delegations.

Feb. 27, 2018
1 and 6:30 p.m.
City Hall, Room 247, Level 2
A second statutory public meeting to present any revisions to the proposed new Official Plan. The public is welcome to attend the meeting or watch a live webcast.

Delegations are welcomed but not required to register in advance to speak.

Links and Resources

 

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