Why I Voted Against the 23-Storey Development Proposal

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421-431 Brant Street Development Rendering

On November 1st, the Planning and Development Committee approved a Planning staff recommendation to allow the development of a 23-storey building right across from City Hall at the North East corner of James and Brant Street.

The building would include 169 residential units, office space on the second floor and ground floor retail.

The Committee voted 5-2 in favour of this recommendation. I voted against this proposal.

Downtown Burlington is a very desirable area to live and work for obvious reasons.  There are great restaurants, unique shops and amenities including the Performing Arts Centre and proximity to the waterfront.

There are also great places to live, in existing modern high-rise buildings that were built over the last 20 years including 360 on Pearl, the Pearl and Pine Retirement Residence and the Baxter. None of these buildings exceeds 18 storeys.

In my view, our downtown has an appropriate scale of current development that provides an urban intimacy. The proposed 23-storey building across from the City Hall is not consistent with the present scale, and we should not approve it.

The development proposal is not consistent with the new Downtown Mobility Hub Draft Precinct Plan that was presented to council by Planning staff in October.

The Draft Precinct Plan called for a Special Policy Area at the corner of James and Brant that would allow building height of 17 storeys, assuming that certain public benefits could be achieved. I supported that plan and believe that this site is appropriate for a well-designed building that is either mid-rise or up to 17 storeys, not 23.

I understand the rationale for taller and more slender buildings, but a well-developed mid-rise or lower high-rise will fit the scale and form the character of our downtown that many residents have asked us to maintain. Planning staff have stated that a larger, wider and shorter 12-storey building can house the same amount of residential, office and retail space that the proposed 23-storey building would contain.

Our downtown, South of Caroline, can be shaped with well-thought-out buildings that are 17-storeys or lower that provide an inviting, pedestrian-friendly and attractive street.

Brant Street can improve without dramatically changing it.  The focus in our downtown should be distinctive and attractive design, not excessive height.

I am concerned about the negative consequences of this decision. We cannot look at this decision in isolation as there is reasonable planning rationale to mirror the same height and density on the opposite side of James Street.

I am concerned that this proposed development will have a considerable impact on the Draft Downtown Plan and undermine the confidence that residents are being asked to have for the City’s vision for future growth in the downtown.

Burlington City Council will make the final decision at our next meeting in the council chambers at City Hall on Monday, November 13th at 6:30 p.m.

If you’d like to have your voices heard, I encourage you to email the members of the council and me.  You can also register to delegate at the council meeting, which allows you to state your perspective publicly.


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23 thoughts on “Why I Voted Against the 23-Storey Development Proposal

  1. I send out kudos to Marianne Meade Ward and Mayor Goldring for being a great communicators through a variety of social media channels with relevant information that helps us better understand the issues that affect all of us. Most of the remaining elected officials are relegated to reminding us about leaf pickup schedules and road construction. Where are they in this most important conversation….yes, that is crickets I hear. Time to properly represent your constituents and earn you 100K+ part time job.

  2. Hello Rick,

    My husband and I are long time residents of Burlington since 1962. Growing up in the core (Rambo Crescent) and attending both Central public and Central High schools we have both come to the love the character of our small core area and are very distressed to see the path new development is taking in this area. The recent approval at the Committee level of this 23 storey building across from City Hall is very disturbing as it sets a dangerous precedent. That councillors would approve a recommendation to Committee against the Planning Department’s own document “the Downtown Mobility Hub draft precinct plan” dosen’t make sense. It conflicts itself. Where is the integrity here? What will prevent this same developer and others similar to approach a City Hall staff and councillors who seems so easily swayed by a developer who won’t back down to City Hall guidelines. Very dissappointed in the discipline or lack thereof shaping up here. This is shocking.

  3. Unfortunately, I just got around to reading Rick’s comments about the proposed 421-431 Brant Street development and I am sending this after the Council meeting took place on Monday, November 13th.

    I strongly concur and support Mayor Goldring’s comments about the proposed development. I also strongly support the Draft Downtown Plan which this development clearly does not comply with the vision for downtown Burlington that is articulated in the draft plan.

    I have not heard the outcome of the vote at the Council meeting this past Monday but sincerely hope that this proposal was voted down.


    Ron Gardner

  4. I am not a downtown resident, but I agree that the current low-rise signature of downtown fits aesthetically. I do not know any developers nor have I ever dealt with any but my impression is that the lure of profit surpasses a concern for what’s best for the rest of us.

  5. WE totally support Mayor Goldring’s Rationale for not supporting this project.
    Far too big and SO out of scale to its surroundings !!!

    Hansine & David Taylor

  6. It seems futile to be asked to attend downtown mobility hub planning sessions when buildings of greater height than that which is determined as a result of this planning process are permitted anyway.
    I am left wondering just what is the point of giving up my afternoon to contribute to a planning session when the height recommendations for new buildings are simply ignored.
    This is frustrating in the extreme.

  7. I received this email today Nov. 15th @ 3:52 p.m. and apparently the meeting was on the 13th. I certainly would have voted with the Mayor to turn down this
    proposal. Bad timing and I’m wondering why??

  8. I agree with your assessment and am extremely disappointed in council for approving a building taller than the 17 storeys recommended by the Department of Planning. This sends a clear message that council members are more concerned with keeping developers happy than their constituents.

  9. Mayor Goldring, thank you for opposing the over development of this site. As neighbours directly behind you (to the west) at City Hall, we are very hopeful that you’ll also oppose the requested increase to 6 storeys at The Saxony. Residents, city and developer all collaborated to find the perfect 4 storey development agreeable to all initially. It was approved and construction began. Changing it at this point would entirely discard and disregard the wishes of the community that was so supportive. We’re confident that your principles would not be in agreement with this sudden shift. Thank you for listening to us. We’re counting on you to support the current approval of 4 storeys at The Saxony.

  10. what’s point of an official plan if something like this can get approved? and by the elected council that is supposed to represent it’s residents? residents didn’t want this. they spoke loudly. but their voices fell on the deaf ears of the council.

    I’ll repeat my comments here, that i posted on Marianne Meed Ward’s blog. look at other cities and learn. Oakville, a prestigious city, has no high rises on their main downtown strip. 5, 6, 7 stories. anything taller is on a back road, not on the main road.

    look at older world class cities. how about Paris? 7 and stories, but mainly 6 stories. and it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

    why can’t the density be spread across several buildings? what must there be a 23 story building right smack in the middle of downtown? this makes no sense.

    shame on council for not listening to their constituents.

  11. I believe 1.2 parking spaces per unit have been allocated. How can one expect that people in a 2 bedroom luxury apartment would have only one car?

  12. I echo Mayor Rick’s take on this matter ….. While intensification has always been on the books for Downtown sensible height & coverage rules need to apply! !!! Naturally Developers want as much as they can get….. More Money in their Pockets! Now is the time to fight this decidedly detrimental course of the majority of Burlington Council …. Where are their heads? As a Downtown Resident I abhor the lack of thought & wisdom that went into this decision! Let’s make our thoughts & objections known “Now” while there is still time !!! Bill Davidson

    Sent from my iPad

  13. Mayor, I agree fully with your vision of Burlington downtown. 17 stories or fewer buildings, are the sensible answer to maintaining an attractive urban landscape for our City. Thanks for your service.
    Ben Tuinman

  14. I am broadly supportive of the Burlington Mobility Hub approach and resulting plans, it is heartening to see such thinking in our urban planning. As such, agree with your position on this development.

  15. I’m with you. I also know how you feel. ADI wants to build a 7 unit townhouse project on Lakeshore Rd next to my existing townhouse project that I feel would be detrimental to the people living in the 116 units that make up our project.

    I emailed Paul Sharman, The Committee of Adjustment and I believe I sent a copy to you as well. One appeal has been turned down by the OMB and I have a feeling that no matter how much we protest that we will not be heard. The OMB will ignore us and grant another developer their wishes and not the people who will be affected.

    Thank you for taking the to time read this. My husband and I moved here in 2000 and voted for you as our councillor and then as our mayor. I have not been disappointed yet!

  16. I am with you on this. What is it with our council these days? Doesn’t any one of them like to look at the lake? We live near one of the largest lakes in the world and you have built a visual barrier in front of it.
    Don’t you think it’s time to celebrate our water front – look what Quebec City and Ottawa have done. They have created a welcoming place for their citizens.
    I believe it’s time to stop building high rise buildings in the downtown core; soon the only way our children will know we have a lake there is by showing them a photograph of how it used to be. Sorry for the rant! ; )

  17. Please do everything you can to stop this silliness. Soon there will not be a “downtown” Burlington. We will have to rely on malls, and more cars.
    Sadly, I don’t think Burlington will ever achieve a “downtown” like Oakville. We are doomed.

  18. I agree with Mayor Rick Goldring.. I believe 12 stories with same amount of residential , office and street space as proposed 23 stories would be best for downtown Burlington.

  19. Mayor Goldring – I do not understand the rationale of the five councillors who voted against you and councillor meed ward. The 23 storey proposal is ridiculous and massively out of context for the neighbourhood. The ever growing petition of constituents against this vote should be proof that this decision – if not reversed – WILL affect voters choices in the next election. I urge you to share this constituent’s opinion with your council.

  20. The ‘downtown Burlington’ core has undergone many changes since we moved here in 1951. Now, it is disappearing. We do not need a high rise/high density condo jungle. Citizen concerns have been ignored. Any new development should be no higher than the current city hall.
    More people and more traffic gridlock will make Burlington a less desirable place to live for the young and the old.
    Vote to keep the existing by-law of 12 stories as is.

  21. I fully support your rationale. I think that developers have recognized that the door is open to any height and density proposal. They now see the opportunity to create a smaller version of Toronto with high-rise buildings blocking the waterfront, casting huge shadows, creating wind tunnels and straining the inadequate infrastructure. Meanwhile, we have the same roads that were here 60 years ago, a City that is pushing for road diets, redundant bike paths, and a dated public transit system that doesn’t reflect the needs of today’s ridership.

    The City should not lose sight of why people chose to live in downtown Burlington – the small town feel with access to the waterfront, boutique stores and restaurants, theatre, art gallery and museum. Planning decisions made today could dramatically impact the next generation.

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