City is pushing hard to get people to think about what they want their city to look like - speak now rather than complain in a couple of years.

News 100 redBy Staff

August 16th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

City hall is reminding people that there are public engagement opportunities now underway to help shape the adopted Official Plan policies that will guide development in the downtown core.

They want to know what matters most to you about downtown Burlington.

Their hope is that they (the planners) can work to gather public feedback about the downtown policies in Burlington’s adopted Official Plan. The process begins with a series of pop-up events. Additional public engagement opportunities to share ideas that will help refine and improve the downtown policies include two Citizen Action Labs taking place on Thursday, Aug. 22 and an online survey available at www.getinvolvedburlington.ca

All four buildings are within a five minute walk of each other.  These are basically done deals with others in the planning stage.  If this is what you want – say so – If this isn’t what you want speak up.

nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016

The Nautique – shovels will be in the ground within months and take close to three years to complete.

421 Brant

Due to go up across the street from city hall.

Brant looking north - Kellys

Approved for 17 floors – developer wants 26 – has appealed. To go up opposite city hall as well.

Details

Completion has stalled – they need another year to complete the job.

Pop up Events
City staff will be visiting a variety of locations and events throughout the community to talk with residents and identify what is most important to them about downtown Burlington.  They really want to hear what the average person thinks.  During the October municipal election people complained that city hall wasn’t listening.  They are listening now.  Let them hear what you have to say.

Pop-up Dates and Locations

Friday, Aug. 16 Burlington Farmer’s Market, 777 Guelph Line 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 17 Spencer Smith Park (playground), 1400 Lakeshore Rd.

Tansley Woods Library, 1996 Itabashi Way
11 a.m. to 1 p.m. & 2 to 4 p.m.

Sunday, Aug. 18 Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust St.

As they get a little older - they are ready for bigger challenges. This group works there way through a children's obstacle course.

Children’s Festival will be taking place on the weekend – planners will be out in force asking for your opinion.

Children’s Festival, Spencer Smith Park, 1400 Lakeshore Rd

Central Park (bandshell), 2299 New St.
11 a.m. to 12 p.m. & 7 to 7:30 p.m.

Monday, Aug. 19 Alton Library at Haber Community Centre, 3040 Tim Dobbie Dr.
5:30 to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Aug. 20 Appleby Arena, 1201 Appleby Line

Brant Hills Library, 2255 Brant St.
12:30 to 2 p.m. & 6 to 8 p.m.

Wednesday, Aug. 21
Brant Hills Library, 2255 Brant St. 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Saturday, Aug. 24 Burlington Farmer’s Market, 777 Guelph Line

Aldershot Farmer’s Market, 484 Plains Rd. E. 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Citizen Action Labs – Taking a Closer Look at the Downtown
At these public meetings, participants will work in small groups to discuss and identify what is most important to them about downtown Burlington.

Thursday, Aug. 22
1 to 3 p.m. or  7 to 9 p.m.
Art Gallery of Burlington, 1333 Lakeshore Rd.

Online Survey
An online survey will be available until Aug. 30 at www.getinvolvedburlington.ca to share input about what matters most about downtown Burlington.

Feedback gathered from all the public engagement activities will be used to inform the creation of two concepts of what the downtown could look like in the future. These concepts will be shared with the public in the fall for review and further input.

Visit www.GetInvolvedBurlington.ca to learn more about the re-examination of the downtown policies in the adopted Official Plan and upcoming engagement opportunities.

ECOB logoNot everyone sees the process city hall is using to gather feedback as the best there is. ECoB Engaged Citizens of Burlington, the group that organized the public debates in every ward that was to a considerable degree responsible for the changes at city council have written the planners with their concerns.

1. The Feedback summary of comment and advice received during the pre-engagement process includes a broadly fair summary of comments provided by ECoB during our meeting with the planning department.

2. Our impression in meeting with the Planning Department staff was of a good faith intention to carry out a better engagement process during the Official Plan Review than has been made in the past. ECoB welcomes the growing recognition of effective and genuine engagement in city decision-making processes. ECoB welcomes the opportunity to take part.

3. ‘Doing engagement right’ is a difficult, time-consuming and potentially costly process. It is important to recognize at the outset that the extremely restricted timescales will of necessity create an imperfect engagement process. While the OP Review provides an opportunity for limited additional input from residents over what was received in the initial ‘Grow Bold’ process, it will still be far short of what we would consider the ideal engagement process for a new Official Plan. We believe it is better to recognize these shortcomings now than to argue that a comprehensive engagement process can be carried out in the time available. This observation may be valuable in future engagement initiatives and the ongoing review of advisory committees and engagement in general.

4. The feedback received has been made anonymous in the summary sent to us. We believe it would in fact be advantageous to know which comments came from which groups and individuals. Purely as an example, one can guess that the stipulation that the Engagement Charter be referenced frequently came from the ChAT team. Likewise, there was contrasting advice on ‘pop-up’ engagement processes. Knowing who gave this advice might clarify why there is a discrepancy in opinion. The source of advice is highly relevant in assessing the value of feedback received, and for those attempting to understand how the engagement plan was formed. We believe there is no reason why the names and affiliations of all people consulted could not be included, in the interests of openness and transparency.

5. The pre-engagement process primarily involved receiving advice from advisory committees of various sorts. Only two organizations (ECoB and the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Assoc.) are fully independent of City Hall. It would further clarify to know who, if any individuals were consulted and to ascertain their independence. ECoB’s position is that the current make-up and selection processes for advisory committees is in urgent need for reform, as recommended by the Shape Burlington Report in 2010, but not implemented. Ironically, most advisory committees, including ChAT, do not regularly interact with the public. There is a perception of a lack of transparency in the selection of citizen volunteers and the operations of the ChAT group. With the greatest of respect for the volunteers on the committees, some of whom are also ECoB members, these longstanding procedural problems weaken the validity of advice received.

6. Having consulted with our members and executive over the last week, there is certainly still concern among our membership that the engagement process will remain too superficial. As we stated during our meeting, we strongly encourage the planning department to ‘be bold’ with the engagement that it conducts to go beyond conventional methods. This should include acknowledgement of and clearly stated attempts to reach:

◦ People from all age groups. Meetings with school-age children a year or so from adulthood are easy and quick to arrange through civics classes and may provide a different but important perspective. The same goes for seniors groups (albeit seniors are traditionally well represented in ‘volunteered feedback’), but also commuters and young families. ‘Pop- up’ events may be most valuable if held, for instance, at ice-rinks or venues where young families take children to participate in sport, as well as malls and supermarkets.

◦ People of different ethnicities. Reaching out to local religious and cultural organizations can be an easy way to ensure people of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds are included.

◦ People of different income groups. Again, religious organizations and local and regional non-profits can advise on the many events and gatherings organized for people on low incomes.

Unless attempts to meet and address these groups are explicitly mentioned in the engagement plan, they are highly likely to be overlooked.

7. We mentioned during our meeting, but it is not included in the summary, the possibility of using local organizations to help with engagement. This would need to be done in a way such that the volunteer groups could not influence the information collected. Such groups could assist with delivery and collection of questionnaires, or explaining the engagement process to people who would traditionally not participate.

8. We did not mention at our meeting but would like to add the suggestion of an important education component to assist residents with learning about the planning process. A fear of a lack of knowledge is a major barrier to people participating in engagement activities. Such a program was provided for new councillors in 2018 – it could be adapted for the public. While the most frequently engaged residents become aware of the complexity of the issues at hand, other residents are naturally less well-informed. This can lead to unrealistic impressions of what is feasible in the provincial and regional planning context and to repetitive and time consuming covering of the same ground. This is where a prominent educational component, presented as separate educational meetings, plus a website and/or documentation, would be of value to both planning staffs and citizens.

9. Re: “Trade-offs and options – Avoid oversimplifying discussion to height alone”
By contrast lack of background information or education must not invalidate resident opinions. This phrase copied above embodies some of the problems that frequently arise when institutions undertake engagement. It is imperative that when questions are asked of residents, they are not asked in ways that lead to institutionally-desired responses. An example of such a ‘trade-off’ question is: “Would you be willing to accept additional height in return for a medical facility included in a development”. Height is a huge issue for many residents, and that opinion has to be recognised and acknowledged alongside all others, regardless of how problematic it is marry that desire with the current provincial planning context.

“Maintaining low-rise to mid-rise character”, or “lower heights in downtown”, are perfectly valid desires for a residents to have, and residents should neither be patronized to by an inference that they “don’t understand”, nor should their opinions be hidden by using engagement processes which lead to minimizing widely held opinions.

In summary – it is the purpose of engagement to find out what residents and other ‘stakeholders’ want, and then to see how the OP Review can best satisfy those desires within the context of the in force provincial and regional planning frameworks. It is not the job of engagement to shape opinion in ways which may appear more convenient.

10. Some of the most ‘scientifically’ valid and innovative methods of engagement available are being ruled out by time and budget. While time is certainly an issue, we would urge the City to consider an increased budget if it allows engagement at a scale, and of a validity, that has not been achieved before. The key objective must be to reach a representative sample of the vast majority of residents who, for entirely valid reasons, do not take participate in conventional engagement opportunities. We feel dollars spent at this stage will save expenses and points of conflict at a later date if an OP is put together that residents can broadly support.

Conclusion
The summary of pre-engagement gives a reasonable reflection of the advice we provided at our meeting with the Planning Department, and we have noted some items which we think could have been included. We do have concerns that some of the same processes which failed citizens in previous OP engagement efforts are likely to be repeated. Nevertheless, we believe the Planning Department is moving in a better direction with regard to engagement. Cognizant of the shortcomings of previous engagement exercises, we would like to see additional weight given to engagement methods by which “the city goes out to residents ”and not “residents coming to the city” thereby reaching out in as representative a manner as a manner as possible to the entire population.

While the timelines are extremely short, we still believe the City should set ambitious engagement objectives. If doing so demands additional budget, we believe the City Manager and Council should make the funds available urgently to ‘do engagement right’.

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