35 Plains Road development on the edge of a business park get approved for eight floors of residential.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

October 12th, 2017

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Two men, both from Aldershot, delegated at city council earlier this week – both had similar comments and both had problems getting their material into the record – no one knew what happened.

Greg WoodruffGreg Woodruff, who ran for Chair of the Region in the 2014 election, had comments to make about the development planned for 35 Plains Road. While he didn’t like the idea of an additional two floors of density being given to a site that is zoned for six storeys – that wasn’t his biggest concern,

His objections to the 35 Plains road development were that the building is not of pedestrian scale. It is important he pointed out that we not create buildings which tower over the pedestrian walkway

Woodruff pointed out that the building does not comply with employment usage. This application he said seeks to remove employment space requirement and still want the “mixed use” designation.

The building is close to a transit hub, which allows people to commute to Toronto and would also allow people to commute to employment uses in Aldershot. There are people doing that now in Burlington.

Woodruff thought that 70% was a good requirement because it would create commercial pedestrian densities if enforced. “We are far better served with creating employment usage in the area than just residential. There is no vibrancy or transit enhancement created by people commuting to Toronto and gone from the area all day. Vibrancy requires people here all day – which employment usage properly creates.

35 Plains Road AWoodruff then added that the 35 Plains Road proposal does not comply with the Aldershot Village vision. The vision calls for sites that have large landscaping and large generally open spaces.

Woodruff wants to see a minimum amenity area maintained. Zoning minimums are required because buyers can not asses reasonable levels. Creating a large number of small inexpensive low amenity units create a building were the major selling feature is low cost. Though this looks attractive at first long term it creates problems.

The developer wants the parking spaces reduced from a required 130 to a proposed 100 and have visitor parking reduced to 17 from the required 28 spaces.

Reduction of commercial parking is a mistake. While it is generally available vendors do no keenly enforce it.

Thus a shopper can park at once place and walk the near other businesses. At this site you can see someone using it and the adjacent bank without moving their car. However if customers cannot park easily vendors will enforce it – this requires movement of cars for every trip to every store.

We all know how this has worked out at the parking space at the No Frills plaza on Brant Street.

Woodruff told council of comments made by Brent Toderian at a public meeting. Toderian is a Vancouver based consultant who has done a considerable amount of work for Burlington who was asked:

How do you make density something that communities welcome?

Toderian Brent - blue shirt

The Toderian line of thought – make sure that you’re spending the value on things that make density successful.

Toderian responded: “I don’t support stupid density. I sometimes have as much concern about the YIMBY [Yes In My Backyard] movement as I do about the NIMBY movement. I don’t buy an absolute not-in-my-backyard, but I also don’t buy the argument that we should get rid of our zoning codes and have at it, build as much as we can. Both of those are the extreme.

Toderian was then asked: Explain density bonusing.

Toderian: “You have a base density, but [a developer] can increase to a higher density by negotiating amenities that make that higher density more livable. The key is to make sure that you’re spending the value on things that make density successful. Doing this “… gives the community a sense that the additional density is translating into something that’s going to support quality of life. They can see a connection between the additional density and amenities their community needs, but probably won’t be able to afford.

Woodruff doesn’t think the Planning department has taken to heart the Toderian line of thought. He suggested to Council that they were paying more attention to what the developer was asking for than they were to the zoning in place and the policies that had been adopted.

Muir with pen in hand

Tom Muir recognizes the difference between evidence-based policy-making, and policy-based evidence making.

Tom Muir, who has been delegating to city council for more than 25 years saw the same kind of thing happening but chose different language to make his point.

“In my 45 years of policy and issues analysis I learned to recognize the difference between evidence-based policy-making, and policy-based evidence making. This looks to be the latter – decide what you want first, and then pick the evidence.

Oftentimes, sections of the Policy Framework said to be used, are selectively chosen that support the recommendation to approve. Other parts raising issues of approval are sometimes stated, but not followed up on. As a result, the viability of existing business and commercial economic development is being sacrificed by planning recommendations such as this one. What I continue to find disturbing is the continued de-commercialization of Aldershot.

Muir made it clear that both the Provincial Policy Statement and the city’s Strategic Plan point to the need for commercial uses to be planned for and increased not reduced and the needs of existing business to be accounted for, not sacrificed. “But the proposal” said Muir, “contradicts what the policy calls for. It talks about complete communities, but goes in the opposite direction

“Aldershot is losing retail to residential builds. We are told there needs to be more residents to support retail, which is not generally true except for a grocery store. However, if you get the residents, but no longer have the land supply to build retail/commercial, and a cost structure that is not competitive, you still don’t get the commercial.

What seems to be missing is any representation of the present reality, of the real businesses, with real business value, real jobs with real employees, and real customers, who are being plowed under, forced to leave and maybe drive more. This is happening at an increasing pace. Who of you speaks for these folks? The only one around this table that made sense of this is Councillor Meed Ward.

Muir glancing

Tom Muir: Its pie in the sky to me, promising a Mobility Hub utopia where the business dead will rise again.

Muir argues that “we are told that the mobility hub plans will take us to another place with everything we want, and that we should celebrate, although here fanciful speculations are blurring proper judgement more and more, with each new proposal that comes along. Its pie in the sky to me, promising a Mobility Hub utopia where the business dead will rise again. I can hardly call this “good planning”.

Delegations are made before the meat and potatoes part of city Council meetings.

Council voted 6-1 in favour of the 35 Plains Road development that will be eight storeys in height with the first six floors being basically flush to the sidewalk – no set back and no trees.

Councillor Craven held a community annual meeting last week at which he brought his constituents up to date on the numerous developments taking place in Aldershot – the Gazette will report on that event soon.

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12 comments to 35 Plains Road development on the edge of a business park get approved for eight floors of residential.

  • Stephen White

    Excellent points made by both Greg and Tom. I hope either or both of these gentlemen are considering running in next year’s municipal election. It would be refreshing to have individuals who combine gravitas, realism and intellect on City Council.

    I attended last night’s Appleby Mobility Hub meeting. Sitting at one of the tables working through different scenarios it became increasingly evident that this planning exercise is not only unrealistic and fanciful, but flies in the face of reality. One gentleman at the meeting asked about planned densities for the area. The answer we got was that was not yet determined. He then asked about schools and got essentially the same answer.

    As you look through the plans for the Appleby Hub the grand vision is to plant intensified, high rise developments on lands presently occupied by industrial and manufacturing properties. What happens to the existing businesses? Do they get expropriated? We don’t have enough industry in this city as is, and our success in attracting new businesses is questionable at best. As for commercial developments just take a look at all the commercial businesses on lower level highrise condos downtown. Most are hanging on by a threat or have gone bankrupt. Mom and pop enterprises can’t afford the escalated rents charged by developers.

    Tom’s comment about “Mobility Hub utopia” certainly resonates with me and, I daresay, many other ratepayers.

    • At present it’s the same for the “Aldershot high density migrant worker zone” or as some call it “worker mobility hub”. The idea is to develop over Cooke business park with 22 story buildings. Goldring said straight out that he was in favor of the idea that the increased density would attract employers to the area. Goldring also seem to support removing the employment designation zoning everywhere around mobility hubs – though the report is incoming.

      The irony of destroying an area happily employing hundreds of people for the purpose of “attracting employers” is lost on everyone I’m afraid. Expect rents to increase and repair of the Cookie business park to drop off. Landlords will want to present themselves with an empty broken down business park when cash out time comes.

      As for your question Steve I think its the “beaches strategy” for these areas. The city just keeps hinting around that these businesses or people are unwanted and unprotected – people and businesses get the message.

      This is the most disgusting aspect of this all. With no public by in or real debate the city just selects areas and decides to drive off businesses or residents. They did it fist at the beaches now the party is expanding elsewhere.

    • Phillip

      Steven, your post is “spot on”! Greg and Tom are critically evaluating what is happening in Burlington and seem very aware of the disconnect between the residents of Burlington and a mayor & council that are increasingly out-of-touch but only too willing to do the bidding of the province. Certainly, the entire
      gang at city hall need replacing in November, 2018 followed by Ridge, Tanner, et al.

  • Hans

    Re: “…the difference between evidence-based policy-making, and policy-based evidence making…” – that’s brilliant.

  • steve

    There is certainly a need to do some serious house cleaning in the next elections. Starting from the top.

  • Sandy Walker

    I contacted Rick Craven on receipt of his September 2017 newsletter as follows:
    Hi Rick,
    Regarding the Aldershot Mobility Hub you state:
    The city envisions a significant mixed use neighbourhood with a variety of housing types, retail and employment opportunities.

    From what I could see in the Grow Bold documents, almost all of the current employment locations (including all located on Cooke Blvd.) will be wiped out. Mixed housing appears to be only related to the heights of the buildings they are proposing.

    On the positive side, we will no longer have to concern ourselves with overflow parking from adjacent residential buildings, as our businesses will no longer exist.

    Sandy

    Response from Mr. Craven
    Not true. Before the city agreed to convert the “employment” land around the Aldershot GO Station to mixed use, two full studies were done to determine if we could afford the loss of these lands. Both studies concluded that Burlington has plenty of employment land to service the needs for many years to come.

    My Response:
    Not reassuring for business owners on Cooke.

    Mr. Craven’s response:
    Well, we can’t help it if they decide to sell to a developer

    My Response:
    I did not get the impression that we would have a choice in the Grow Bold documents. It would seem that the extension of Queen Mary would go through our site, Etratech and others. This is not selling to a developer.

    Mr. Craven’s Response:
    The City hopes that the land remains available for jobs, but if the owners sell to a developer, then we will have to respond accordingly. Noting that these are one story buildings at a time when the land is worth more than the buildings, it is probable that deals are already being made, unbeknownst to the City.

    Has Mr. Craven actually read the Grow Bold documents?

    • Hans

      Mr. Craven needs to be looking for a job after the next election.

      • Phillip

        The really sad part of the fiasco that has become Burlington is that this mayor and councillors pat themselves on the back in the arrogant belief that they know better than the residents that they were elected to serve. And when they earn their pink slips in next October’s election, they will still believe that the electors are wrong and they are right. Roll on November, 2018.

        • Steve

          The most disturbing thing is how unwilling anyone at city hall is to listen to contrasting view points. When confronted with a logical position they rarely respond with anything of substance, they just repeat their talking points.

          As Tom Muir put it city hall is constantly engaging in “policy based evidence making”. No amount of logic, studies or peoples views that actually live and work in Burlington will convince them of anything. They have developed an ideology and no are clearly no longer willing to entertain any changes to it.

          Lakeshore returning to 4 lanes due to congestion from new residential high rises? Impossible! The lines have been there too long, can’t go back now, ambulances will make it to the hospital using magic and good intentions.

          Encourage bikers to use the myriad of separated cycling trails in the city and expand those trails? Insane! Bikers need parity on the road even though on road bike lanes are clearly statistically more dangerous.

          Increasing funding to Burlington transit as they constantly try and encourage people to take it? Farcical, we cut rush hour service and were cynical enough to call it “improved service for schedule accuracy”. We don’t need a functioning public transit system, biking and walking are great, in January, in Canada.

          I’m exaggerating of course but the sad thing is not by that much. People that don’t agree with them are often met with this undercurrent of “if you don’t like it, don’t live here”.

          Look at Rick Craven’s responses to genuine concerns from an employer, in his own ward no less! Just told “not true” even though city halls own plans would seem to give Sandy’s concerns real merit. Once you brand an area for redevelopment you get the feeling you’re not wanted and you move along.

          You think your city councillor would be advocating for a businesses needs in his ward instead of saying that we have employment land in the city, yes we do, look functioning businesses that employ people right on Cooke street! I’m not saying they will be their forever but his response is unacceptable, if I was Sandy I would be incensed by his dismissive attitude.

          It’s jaw dropping how unwilling they seem to take in to consideration the wishes and opinions of people who actually have to live in the city they are quietly trying to create. Thankfully it seems like bit by bit more people are tuning into whats happening, hopefully it leads to positive change.

          • I just think it’s constant bombardment from issue groups. While people are going about their lives – council and city is constantly being told by issue groups how they need change the behavior of residents.

            Craven actually believes that if you stuff 10,000 people in around the Go train, pave over Aldershot Park – a Hasty market might emerge. On that note he is right – the side effects of the scheme are all managed by “behavior modification”. E.G. Traffic will not exist as they will all bike.

            Once people have “global good” in mind and are willing to tolerate “specific harms” – that’s the problem.

  • Dayna

    Let’s not forget the possible loss of amenities in Aldershot that is coming. Besides the known issue of losing Home Hardware and Dollar Tree, there is also talk of the RBC location right next to this being bought and developed into a matching residential building to this one.

    For a second, I considered whether you could build up the land the RBC is on and have the RBC on the first floor of the building while having residential above. But that would leave insufficient room for parking on-site, whether for employees or visitors.

    This same issue is a great concern for the proposed “employment uses” on 35 Plains Road. How can we have reputable and useful business occupy these insufficient commercial spaces, if there is nowhere for their employees or visitors to park?

    The City talks about “Growing Bold” and “live, work, play”, but I am seeing no demonstration of creating meaningful areas for people to work in the area. Most commercial/industrial business areas are either north of the highway or (more often) past Guelph Line. Eliminating the Cooke Business Park (which employees 100s of people)is hardly a solution.

  • Tom Muir

    Since people are stilling looking in and commenting here, I thought that, for the record, I would paste in here the rest of my delegation that I could not present in 5 minutes.

    2. Almost none of the public comments supported this proposal:
    – at 8 or 9 stories (6 was acceptable);
    – the massing with 98% lot coverage;
    – reduced setbacks,
    – surface parking configuration;
    – zero landscaping buffer with trees moved to the sidewalk, and raised landscape buffers ( so much for a City that is Green). Such buffers do not do well like earth planted;
    – Floor Area Ratio at more than double;
    – the very small commercial/retail included to justify “mixed use”, which was reduced in the revised proposal;
    – the loss of commercial to primarily residential. One reason given for conversion to residential was the restricted commercial floor area in the previous OP designation, at 3000 square meters, but the proposed commercial area is only 223 square meters (reduced from
    278), or less than 10% than the previously allowed that was considered somehow restrictive and justified residential conversion.

    Pretty much all of the facilitating variances granted here remain as part of the staff approved proposal, despite resident concerns.

    The staff report says there is no residential allowed on the ground level, however, part of that area is taken over for residential amenity area. How does this work? Amenity is clearly residential.

    As well, the amenity area was reduced further below standards, with one flimsy excuse being a non-existent but possible planned park area about 600 meters away.

    This list is another example of the over-development and make-it fit variances that characterize
    this proposal.

    3. The proposal is referred to as different scale and massing, and then only asserted to be compatible. I saw nothing of data and proof that this is based on “measurable quantities’.

    At 9 floors it will tower above the directly adjacent 1 or 2 story light industrial. I see no diverse land uses along this corridor to support compatibility as asserted in the staff report. 6 floors would match what exists very nearby, would fit better, and be supported by residents, including delegates, but that is rejected.

    4. The effectiveness of the revised surface parking configuration is not clearly rationalized or accounted for. How well the commercial would be served is not described.

    The overlap of residential with non-residential parking is not described or explained. It says that there is only one non-residential parking spot on site – what does this mean? How residential parking might impinge on commercial is not accounted for. Overflow from the Go Train is not accounted for.

    5.There is no explanation of how the limited commercial space problem is resolved to be effective and street-scape oriented.

    Overall, this proposal and recommendation to approve reflects to me the question of what is going on, and why should people waste their time if this is the way they are treated?

    And it signals that if the public engages city, and buys into a statement of agreed OP things and bylaws, or visions, they are fools to expect that such things will be respected or enforced.

    I have seen a lot of people, over time and more recently, state this very point about 6 stories on Plains Rd being what they agreed to, but now, with a proposal, it’s ditched, so too bad.

    The Mayor says, come on; get involved, but what for if this is what happens?

    Then he asks, what’s the difference between 9 floors and 6, besides 3 stories? Well, to start, people bought into 6 and they don’t want 9. The by-law says 6 are maximum. Everyone says that. And Councilor Craven tells us the building isn’t really 9 stories but 8.

    I guess it doesn’t matter that the by-law says that it’s 9, and there is an outdoor residential amenity area on the 9th floor, that will undoubtedly be improved by the condo owners and be used frequently, but whatever, it’s not really there is said.

    Where are we going?
    Thank you,

    Tom Muir

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