Amendments to the draft new Official Plan

Planning & Development Committee Meeting. Tue., Jan. 23/18

It has been a busy week for both residents and Burlington City Council.

It was just over a week ago that I held the Reverse Town Hall, which was a great opportunity for me to hear from the community on the future of downtown Burlington. There were many perspectives shared, and it helped me prepare for the Planning & Development Committee meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday, where we considered the Proposed Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan. Thank you to everyone who attended, you made a difference.

The concerns from residents that I heard at the Reverse Town Hall and from delegations at the Committee meeting included: building height, parking, public engagement, defer the Official Plan until after the 2018 municipal election, growth targets, downtown mobility hub and urban growth centre, and the need for balanced growth.

Many of your concerns resonated with me. I reviewed them closely, and I consulted staff to gain insight into the implications and potential opportunities.

I am pleased to provide you with a Committee update.

We listened and acted and made important amendments to the Proposed Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan.  I believe these changes significantly improve the plan and are reflective of much of the public feedback that was provided.

Downtown Precinct Map

Here is a summary of the amendments to the Proposed Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan:

  • Amend the proposed Downtown Core Precinct as follows:
    • Development shall be a maximum of 12 storeys; or
    • Development may be permitted additional storeys, subject to a site-specific zoning by-law amendment, to a maximum of 17 storeys subject to the following:
      • One additional storey for every 150 sq metre of office/employment floor space provided; or
      • One additional storey for every 8 public parking spaces provided in an underground parking structure

NOTE: I brought this motion forward because I heard loud and clear the importance of moderating the height in the area South of Victoria St. as well as the need for more parking in the east end of downtown

  • Change the north-east corner of Brant Street and Lakeshore, located in the Cannery Precinct to the Downtown Core Precinct with conditions as listed above.
  • Increase minimum tower separation requirement for tall buildings within the Downtown Mobility Hub from 25 metres to 30 metres which will create a greater feeling of openness around the buildings.
  • Include policies to allow additional density in developments that preserve heritage buildings based on square footage preserved. (I am very supportive of this. I look forward to staff providing details on how this can be implemented)
  • Direct the Director of City Building to include policy encouraging consideration of public-private parking partnerships in the Official Plan
  • Direct the Director of City Building to prepare mid-rise (6-11 storeys) building guidelines by the end of Q3 2018
  • Place targets for 2-3 bedroom units in residential buildings to accommodate families with children
  • Add the north-west corner of Burlington Avenue and Lakeshore Rd. to the special planning area to match the north-east corner.
  • Direct staff to work with the Region to review the Downtown Urban Growth Centre boundaries, and consider restoring original boundaries with the exception of Spencer Smith Park.
  • Change the rezoning application requirement for a housing impact statement for more than 200 dwelling units and add a percentage target affecting mid and high-rise residential to achieve affordable, assisted, and special needs housing, as defined in Halton Region’s Annual State of Housing report.

I also want to respond to the residents who said that approval of the Official Plan should be deferred until after the municipal election.  Council decided against this idea and here is why.

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

A new Official Plan means we can move away from a site by site negotiation and instead bring more certainty to the application process.  This is what residents have been very clear about.

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

Staff will be able to use the new Official Plan when working with developers even though the Official Plan won’t officially be approved by the Halton Region until some time likely in 2019.

Staff will continue to develop a detailed Downtown Area Specific Plan which includes matters such as transportation, parking and servicing.

I believe that it is not only important for the reasons I have outlined, but a responsibility of this Council to bring as much certainty as possible to our downtown planning.  Our current council has the necessary understanding of the development of the Official Plan.  It’s important that this Council complete the process.

The draft new Official Plan, with the above amendments, will be presented to the Planning and Development Committee on April 4, 2018.

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.