Aldershot residents Muir and Woodruff comment on what the Planners are thinking - they don't like what they are hearing.

opinionandcommentBy Pepper Parr

April 7, 2015

BURLINGTON, ON

Tom Muir has been a consistent critique of many city council decisions and an advocate for his community – Aldershot.

Greg Woodruff, a generation or two behind Muir, has also been a critic and an advocate for Aldershot.

WO yellowBoth had comments on some of the ideas that were floated by the Planning department at a recent community meeting in the community.
The proposed revision” revision said Muir in a note to one of the city planners, “has long been, historically, one of the biggest fears of Aldershot people – policy and wording revisions that can lead to wholesale block-busting and creeping destruction of a prime section of Aldershot character, heritage and history.

While this is technical, Muir sites a section of the Official Plan policy:

Part III. 2.2.3. h) Notwithstanding the policies of Part III, Subsection 2.2.2 d) of this Plan, the lands designated “Residential Medium Density” on the south side of Plains Road, between Cooke Boulevard and Filmandale Road, shall be subject to site-specific zoning regulations designed to protect the existing character of this portion of Plains Road and provide compatibility with the abutting neighbourhood to the south. Any exterior alteration or addition to the property shall maintain the residential appearance and character of the property.

Aldershot Plains Rd at WAterdown

Recently completed retirement home improves the look of the intersection but brings nothing to the community in terms of a place to go – no public amenities

“Changing this wording, and supporting zoning bylaws, so as to remove the requirements for site-specific zoning requirements – “shall” – to protect the existing character, provide compatibility with the abutting neighborhood to the south, and maintain the residential appearance and character of the property, is a sure recipe for just such a future. This is what a majority Aldershot residents have consistently expressed objections to. I live on Townsend Ave., immediately south of these lands.

“If these protections were desirable, warranted, and defensible in the present OP” asks Muir, “then what has changed that makes such protections not so in the present. These lands are certainly not realistically needed to meet any other superseding goals that I can think of. All I can see is that such revisions reward speculation and profiteering.”

“Such wholesale changes I cannot support. Notwithstanding that not all of the properties are equal, how does one choose which to protect and will that be defensible, among many judgemental factors? This is a very slippery slope.

“I think that in short order, given other redevelopments that are already underway on Plains Rd in general, this is exactly what appears will happen following such revisions. I already see signs of this, such as development/real estate companies speculating in properties in the subject section. I don’t want to see a replication of that recent redevelopment form in the subject area.

Planters along Plains Road have given what used to be a provincial highway a much more suburban look.  Hasn't slowed traffic down enough for most people - except for those who drive through the community.

Planters along Plains Road have given what used to be a provincial highway a much more suburban look. Hasn’t slowed traffic down enough for most people – except for those who drive through the community.

“It will destroy what is left of the low density residential, with some employment or commercial uses mixed in, and with green spaces and mostly attractive streetscapes. It will be replaced by concrete, brick and asphalt right to the street.

This is not an Aldershot Village Vision, but rather a Nightmare looming. This seems to me a critical juncture in the process.

Greg Woodruff, who ran against Gary Carr for the office of Regional Chair – more to have a platform that to win the office asks the politicians to “Stop saving the greenbelt and start saving us.”

Woodruff says he is “in favour of development and smart growth – that is not what is under way in Burlington. We are embarked in the stupidest type of growth seen yet. Let’s review the last several years in Aldershot.

Does the street look slightly nicer with newer buildings – yes.
Trees – less.
Businesses that are open at 7:00 pm – less.
Places for people to work and shop – less.
Dependency on cars – more.
Congestion – more.

Aldershot Village sign Plains Rd

Councillor Craven described the sign that was set up at the western end of his ward as “beautiful”.

The result is a kind of “bimbo” street that looks slightly nicer, but is devoid of actual value to residents. This trend is growing and accelerating across Burlington.

In the past developers chewed up cheap farmland and converted it into housing. Now that farm land is off limits they are just doing the same with commercial space. The city has just identified areas that can be redeveloped at the most profit – not areas where intensification makes any sense.

Previously the suburbs spread everything out and made the car king. Now we are moving to large swaths of apartment blocks completely devoid of any local services and placed around roads that were never designed to service so many. This is a far worse situation.

Aldershot Old Mercedes site

Greg Woodruff describes much of the development as giving a “kind of “bimbo” look – slightly nicer, but devoid of actual value to residents. This trend is growing and accelerating across Burlington.

City planners seem to have settled on religious devotion to a single formula imposed by their provincial masters; more density is better. Seemingly now freed from servicing the wishes of actual residents and backed up with “saving the green belt”; the agenda is to slow boil residents like frogs in water.

Chipping away local greenery tree by tree. Blocking out the sun building by building. Increasing congestion day by day. This is the only future offered to existing residents – endless and perpetual construction, greying and densification. Welcome to the intensification zone.

A better end game is to end up with a much greener and localized city than we started with; that is the point of density.  We want larger parks, more restaurants and things to walk to – you can’t make things greener by chopping down trees or get more businesses by putting houses where stores were. Yet that seems what city planners are pitching.

Population density doesn’t solve problems in your community if your community is merrily downgraded into endless apartment blocks. Sorry “Saving the green belt” cannot justify ever worsening living conditions for the rest of us.

Here is how we start turning the current direction around. “Smart growth” is when the increased density brings amenities into the community for the benefit of all – including existing residents.

1) Modify the zoning rules so that when redevelopment occurs the zoning stipulates that amenities come in with the development. In most areas this means high quality commercial space. 45% maximum lot coverage, 45% high quality parking, 10% green. Must have commercial venting and transport truck accesses.

2) A percentage of development fees must go into a fund for new park land – local to the area of development. This will enforce localized services and new localized greenery as redevelopment occurs.

Halton escarpment - long view up slopeThe only way to secure the “green belt” is to make sure that most people would prefer to live inside the “intensification zone”. This requires a focus on improving the liveability of the areas under intensification. Every development which brings in people without an obvious improvement to the community is negative.

“Dispense will the endless rationalizations presented by the city” suggests Woodruff. “If a development results in less trees, less shops, more people and more congestion – then the city is developing your area into a grey high density mess.”

The Planning department is in the process of testing ideas and listening to the residents in different communities. The Mayor is gearing up for a talk on intensification – his stab at helping people understand what is taking place.

If what Muir and Woodruff have to say is any indication on how the intensification debate is going to go – we are in for some feisty debate.

Neither of these man could be referred to as uninformed slouches.

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19 comments to Aldershot residents Muir and Woodruff comment on what the Planners are thinking – they don’t like what they are hearing.

  • Peter Rusin

    Aldershot should be renamed Cravenville, in honour of Rick Craven who is arguably the hardest working and smartest member of council.

    Aldershot has slowly and quietly been evolving into the vibrant and functional neighbourhood that is of benefit to the overall city. Craven knows how to work effectively with the development groups and his understanding of how being proactive on matters regarding land use planning and smart growth initiatives can bring positive results to the community including increased revenue and support for local businesses, affordable housing, and an overall great vibe; and he seems to manage all this in a highly transparent and accountable manner.

    Aldershot is well on its way as compared to say the downtown ward which is chronically choked by circus side shows.

  • “vibrant and functional neighbourhood” I’m confused as to how when I moved to Aldershot I could walk to a super market / department store, hardware store, pizza place, etc and now it’s all housing – yet my neighbourhood got more “functional”?

  • JQ Public

    Thank you Greg for offering up clear talking points about intensification. It is good when it improves a neighbourhood by adding not just more people living in high rises, but more useful community businesses like supermarkets, hardware stores and restaurants. It is not good when all it adds are residential high rises, increasing traffic, congestion and making no improvement toward a walkable neighbourhood that has places worth walking to.

  • Dewan Patel

    In 2006 the official plan sought out to protect the homes along the south side of Plains. Back then some families still remained. . You quote here the plan recommending not changing the residential character. We live on Townsend and my wife grew up on Plains just west of Waterdown Road so I am addressing this stretch of road. What has changed is that people have aged out of the homes. Families rightfully no longer want to own a home on Plains Road. The road was widened since the homes were built on a two lane road. This past year all the homes were for sale at a good value and no families bought. They are now vacant or have become cheap low income rentals. Believe me this will give the area its own character. The homes are in disrepair. While i do not want to back on to a concrete jungle nor do I want to back onto a slum with rats and raccoons taking over. The houses nead care. The official plan as is will not allow for any change. Down trodden houses will affect property values. We need to be proactive about the kind of zoning that would attract good builds. I would like to see an urban market of any kind — Goodness Me or Marilou’s as an option ?
    Mr Woodroff had some great suggestions at the meeting. Half of our block is behind is already being built as Seasons so there is a precedent. Let’s not have the OMB decide, let’s participate. A developer will go to OMB and win so let’s get in the conversation or sell and move further away from the main road. What did we expect backing on to the busiest road in Burlington.

    • Tom Muir

      My wife and I walk frequently between Birchwood and far past Filmandale, but I have never seen the state of disrepair, downtrodden slum, rats, raccoons, or particularly numerous vacancies, as you describe the area.

      Please tell us which homes were all for sale this past year at good value? I saw several for sale between Birchwood and Cooke, but there are many, many more than this to the east to Filmandale. At the corner of Birchwood, a developer has purchased the former dentist office and is not sitting on it with a big sign out front with his name on it.

      The OP does allow change, rebuilds, and medium density, it just has to conform to the OP and by-laws. What kind of by-laws do you suggest?

      If you live on Townsend you do not back onto Plains Rd, so what are you talking about?

      You say that half your block is behind Seasons, but that is west of Cooke Blvd, so is not in the street section of concern, and is not a precedent. So again, what are you talking about? The street just south of Plains and behind Seasons is Fairwood Place East. Is that where you really live?

      The developers can try the OMB now, but won’t win, so we don’t have to give it to them.

      I agree we should get proactive, participate, and get in the conversation. But you really need to insert some true facts and accuracy into your comments.

  • Bill

    I own one of the houses between Cooke and Filmandale that was all the talk at the meeting. Dont have one of the fancy medical or commercial zoning some of my luckier neighbours have. Lived there 20 years. When the wife died I moved to our trailer. Could see no families want our house. In ten years time it will all be different so I will just wait it out . The cranky complaining old timers will be tucked in their nursing homes or worse. For now I’ve rented to a couple of students. When the house gets too bad to rent i will fence it with some chain link fence and make sure the grass gets no longer than 30 cm as per the by-laws require. My neighbours are doing the same. So you can enjoy the neighbourhood as is . Or how bout people like you Mr Muir putting your money where your mouth is- buy up these houses and make em your homes. That will keep developers away. Townsend will be fine without you. Plains Rd needs owners like you determined not to alter the homes. So step up. Oh? You don’t want to live on a busy road? That’s HOW EVERBODY FEELS. I was at that meeting. There was no “majority ” not wanting any change just some woman in a house dress and someone I suspect was Kris Kringle. The street is not good anymore for houses so let it be something.

    • Tom Muir

      If NOBODY wants to live on a busy road, why are we building and selling all those condos and townhouses, that multiply the condo and townhouse housing unit numbers on the street? This just makes the road even busier, and it spreads.

      You should have bought the fancy medical or commercial zoning. So don’t complain now. Lower you price and someone will buy it. Change is possible, but just restricted, as it was when you bought it.

      I sense a kind of greedy slum lord in you, which is just how you describe yourself in what you are doing with your house.

      I don’t want no change in the streetscape at all, just not concrete, asphalt and brick right to the sidewalk.

      Too many services and commercial uses have been and are being lost and turned into multiple residences.

      Surely we can do much better.

  • Bryce

    Too bad I missed that meeting as we were at our Florida home. I heard Ms. Henshell was there and spoke out on all our behalf. I wanted to support her and her words of late.
    A few years ago my wife worked with a group of ladies who implemented and manned their own speed trap device. It was to do with a specific street and controlling speeds. Craven lived just near and would drive by . Although they never caught him actually speeding they could tell by the look in his eye that he wanted to (but knew they were there). And I am not afraid to say it that I am one of the residents that does not want to see any changes thank you very much. I was lucky enough to retire in my 40’s and for the last 20 years have spent almost all my free leisure time in the area. My wife and I bike everywhere and are aware of the smallest details. I do not want to look up from my bike and see a tunnel–I will keep the motels and all our other buildings any day (I do not however approve of these hotels being used for temporary housing for welfare recipients and I have addressed Craven on that one. Keep them for better quality guests. It’s not the style of the building but the persons in them that matters).
    Furthermore my parents started here here and yes, having helped create the neighbourhood flavour does give our opinions more weight and more importance (sorry to say). As the younger crowd number wise may overtake next election it’s more important that our folk speak up louder.
    My wife and I go down south for winters so it really stands out to us when we come back all the horrible things builders have done. We fear what we will see this time. Keep our Aldershot the way it is and always has been. I must commend Craven on one thing; a few years ago he was brave enough to introduce reducing Plains Road back down to two lanes. He called it a Road Diet. It was the buffer we needed to protect ourselves from increased noise and traffic. It showed that the Councillor really thinks in the small village terms we crave. In this issue he was not afraid to stand up to the province. If us citizens had been more aware of this movement and become involved we may very well have our two lane highway back, a big factor in a better quality of life.

  • Karen

    Big factor mentioned here people rarely talk about. House next to me on Plains in this pocket has been rented to a group of men. They are too old to be students and don’t seem connected in any way. In nicer weather two of them spend all day out back drinking beer. Weekdays too. The bottles and boxes pile up and the backyard is in ruins. No one does anything. Found out one of them is a parolee. Shouldnt say it but don’t want my kids out in the yard. We are kidding ourselves arguing to hold on to a “residential character ” when that character we speak of is long gone, replaced largely by a rooming house character. This will only get worse. There are three or four houses only worthy of protection including Galagher House and the Gables. When areas get a stigma it’s hard to recover. Our side streets are ever so lovely in behind Plains road with lovely flowers and lawns. We get to have our greenery in this way so on actual Plains Road maybe just focus on creating the best main drag around. Think downtown Oakville without the attitude! Or Niagara on the Lake minus the fudge stores. Imagine a Main Street people drive to look at its beauty and offerings! Dewan you are quite right- we are looking to move to a house on Glenwood or Shadeland or other similar lovely quiet leafy green street.

    • Tom Muir

      I’m sorry that you find two male renters of a single house, one a suspect parolee, who drink beer outside, on weekdays even, so offensive that you are willing, for no other logical reason, to blithely sacrifice about 35 houses that now have a special policy status that was provided in the OP for good reasons.

      Have you tried to be a compassionate neighbor and approached them?

      How can you say that this entire stretch of street has no residential character, but is of rooming house character, when you are so observably wrong based on even a casual look of the length?

      You are the one stigmatizing the area, and I find this a bearing of false witness.

      Do renters have no place in your world? Did you never rent? Do people (parolees for example) not get second chances in your world?

      If you think this stretch of Plains is going to be realistically transformed to resemble downtown Oakville, or Niagara on the Lake, by removing the protective status, and tweaked of course to remove other things you find offensive, you are not only dreaming, but showing your ignorance of what is preserved in these two areas that makes them what they are as special. They are all old, protected, and preserved streetscapes, built spaces, and houses, and all fit very well with the adjoining neighborhoods.

      Removing protections, and not replacing the subject houses and properties with something similar, and within the present OP and by-laws allowing some redevelopment, will result in what is being built as redevelopment elsewhere on Plains Rd – brick, concrete, and asphalt condo-like density, right to the street right of way.

      There will be no chance, unless mandated and regulated, for what you indicate you want to see.

  • Paul

    It is infact correct that all the houses between Birchwood and Waterdown Road have been for sale, or have sold in the past 1.5 years and also correct that not one of them were purchased by a family to live in. All but two have been sold. Your local realtor can verify.

    • Tom Muir

      Thank you for this information. It conforms to my less detailed impressions from observation.

      This personifies the issues and concerns as I expressed them originally. It’s already happening it seems in the form of general developer bets that the subject section of Plains Rd will have its protections revised away.

      As I said, “this policy revision possibility has long been, historically, one of the biggest fears of Aldershot people – policy and wording revisions that can lead to wholesale block-busting and creeping destruction of a prime section of Aldershot character, heritage and history.”

      “I think that in short order, given other redevelopments that are already underway on Plains Rd in general, this is exactly what appears will happen following such revisions. I already see signs of this, such as development/real estate companies speculating in properties in the subject section.”

      I might add that the idea that the broader residential area of Aldershot south of Plains Rd is still protected and not affected in terms of character and compatibility, is just a false one. Just look at the new PLains Rd redevelopments and how they relate to the so called protected neighborhoods to the south.

      There are about 35 houses in the entire section from Cooke to Filmandale. There are about 8 from Cooke to Birchwood, the block that you cite. You say that all have been for sale, and only 2 have not sold, and none to a family.

      This means that the developer money is speculating further than I thought that the block in question, and perhaps the whole stretch at issue, is going to have the protections removed.

      They have met with the city to apply the pressure the planners mentioned, and despite the planners saying no decisions have been made, the developers are putting their money down.

      I suspect, but don’t know, that other properties farther east have been similarly scooped up quickly when for sale. I’m concerned about one in particular, east of Birchwood that had a for sale sign up for about 2 or 3 days, which then vanished with no SOLD indicated.

      This is quite a big property with large gardens and is very treed, with a house that looks of at least historical, and perhaps heritage standing. It would make me sick to see this house and property demolished and clear cut.

      I think that what is going on, and what we will see in spades if the protections are removed, is inherent in the redevelopment process that is happening on Plains Rd.

      For example, lands previously with a small strip mall, west of the protected zone, are being redeveloped to the condo The Seasons. This project was allowed by the existing OP, and I don’t have a problem with this.

      Quite conspicuously, the house directly to the east looks to have also been acquired as part of this development, and frankly looks dusty, derelict and like a storage area that is part of the condo construction site.

      This west end of the block, outside protection, is redeveloped to much higher density and big value, with the directly east property made to look derelict, like it’s next, and indeed I recall mention of this. You can easily imagine, even see, the creeping demolition.

      At the east end of this block, at Birchwood, a speculating developer buys a former dentist office/house, and perhaps – I’m not certain – the house next door to the west. The dentist office looks to sit empty, and they may both be unoccupied, so we have another developer created creeping negative for the residential environment.

      I did see for sale signs on 2 or 3 more houses in this block, but did not know if they sold. You have now provided that information, so we now have all but 2 of the houses in this block owned by speculators. This suggests that the creep has become a gallop.

      So here we have some steps in how this block of the overall protected street section, is isolated, degraded and progressively made ripe for arguing for the stripping of protections in the OP, and redevelopment to very much higher value.

      This is what is meant by setting up speculative conditions for block-busting, and creeping demolition.

      This is the prime source of the pressure to revise the OP and by-laws, and requests for redevelopment approvals by interested and invested parties.

      It’s really, at bottom. about money, and very large amounts of money, that will be generated by removing the existing protections and allowing redevelopments to much higher densities, like The Seasons and other recent builds.

      I’m curious to know the extent to which this is going on along the stretch from Birchwood to Filmandale.

      If this pursuit of big money is allowed to flourish, even in now protected areas, and to self organize its own success, then this will be the Aldershot Village Nightmare.

      The city and politicians control this money creation process because they control the OP and zoning by-laws, so it will be interesting to hear what they say, and to see how they proceed and behave.

  • Paul

    If someone would buy one of the two remaining houses between Birchwood and Cooke to return into a home it would prevent the block from being one big building . It would interfere with developers making a big project. Infinity Developments own the houses east of Seasons and are not connected with the Seasons builder.

    • Tom Muir

      Besides the obvious, how might you suggest that be done with limited means of non-speculators?

      Why has Infinity not bought the two remaining?

      In any case, the city should be doing this, as the properties are now protected and they can keep the protections in place.

      The area is zoned medium density, and will allow more value capture if the zoning regulations are adhered to. This allows some changes, but not one big building.

      It should definitely not be up to citizens to play this game.

  • Paul

    They are a Toronto company and have a website
    You can google 40-58 Plains Road East or simply Infinitydevelopment.ca

  • Paul

    In addition to 40-58 Infinity also owns 70 Plains Road East. One west of the corner. Went by it today and it’s also taken on the look of the three at the west end. Guess this is the creeping you were talking about.

  • Paul

    BTW The former dental office on corner is not owned by the builder ( known for building houses) named on the building. Spoke to the owner on two occasions and this is the company they have hired to refurbish/ rebuild so the site may continue as a medical/dental building.

    • Tom Muir

      Thanks again!

      I looked up the Infinity Development and 40-58 Plains Road East websites and found them advertising a preconstruction status for a development in this location. I paste the text below:

      “40-58 Plains Road East is a new condo development by Infinity Development Group currently in preconstruction at 40 Plains Road East in Burlington. The development has a total of 75 units.”

      Surprised I am to say the least. The city never mentioned this at all, nor did Councilor Craven. I’m not aware that it was brought up at the public meeting on this.

      What is one supposed to think about this, except that it smells to high heaven. If it can fit within the present OP and by-laws, the ones that appear up for revision or repeal, then that would seem a very appropriate thing to bring up.

      The city did say it had been approached by developers, but nothing specific was detailed, and this should have been, so people have this knowledge when they are being asked what they think. Their thinking would be modified if they had been given this information.

      They were not informed of this, so how is anyone supposed to trust this process when these things happen, but appear to be unmentionable or deliberately hidden.

      When do the developers do the ADI thing and start trying to sell the places without approvals?

      This is the grossest form of speculation and deliberate strategic efforts to manipulate people and the process. The city appears to be implicated in this I’m afraid, as this is key information that was not revealed.