Community engagement on Aldershot development is currently a total fraud.

opinionred 100x100By Greg Woodruff

January 6th, 2020

BURLINGTON, ON

 

That headline is a strong statement but the 92 Plains Rd development is a case in point:

Planning department Staff did not come back to Council with a recommendation on the development application which gave the developer Chelten Developments Inc. an automatic Local Planning Act Tribunal hearing.

Tom Muir, also an Aldershot resident, has raised the issue of the Planning department repeatedly letting this happen: no accountability ever occurs. The current council has done nothing to address this issue. I’ve asked several times if Staff are attending LPAT hearings and if residents can get a heads up on what they are going to present. They don’t respond.

Currently, residents have no idea what the staff might present until the development application has already been settled and heading to LPAT. Council has done nothing on this practice.

National development Plains Rd Bingo hall

The development was originally for four stories of housing – the application was revised to six.

In the 92 Plains case, Tom Muir was able to get participant status at the hearing with a couple of other residents. Muir submitted several well-reasoned arguments as to process and development compatibility. He was doing the job Staff should have been doing. Some Planning Staff did attended the hearing but said nothing at that time.

Staff, who are paid by the residents through their taxes, should be on the side of truth or basic reality and represent the interests of the residents, assuming this is the will of council.

Because of the structure and process used by LPAT only people with accepted professional designations can give testimony. Staff have those designations. The developers have planners with the required designations. Staff chooses to be mute so the developer’s “land use planner” is then the only “planner” presenting evidence.

Muir, who consistently provides reams of evidence, which gets put into the file but is never heard at the hearing, because he is not a “land use planner”. If Burlington staff said the exact same words it would be “testimony” and the tribunal would have to take these points into consideration. However, since they don’t, the developer’s testimony is “uncontested”. The LPAT makes their decision based on what they hear and because there was evidence and testimony from just the one land use planner the LPAT Commissioner has to side with the evidence presented by the developer’s representative.

An LPAT decision made without any input from residents or council becomes just an elaborate farce.

It’s hard to tell if the LPAT system works or not; the negligence on the city’s part is staggering. Not only do they bungle the application by letting it go to LPAT because there was no decision within the required time frame. City staff doesn’t even say anything at the LPAT hearing. They could defend the settlement by backing up participants when the developer’s land use planner makes misleading statements.

92 Plains Go distance

Woodruff: This requirement was to take a point in the far end of the go station parking lot, not the entrance which is 600 m away.

That staff offers nothing at LPAT matters immensely because there is no evaluation of anything. The developer can just say anything true or not, real or not. For example, the developer said the development was within 500 m of the GO station. This requires them to take a point in the far end of the go station parking lot, not the entrance which is 600 m away. Would this have made any difference?

No one knows because the staff presented nothing. What residents present doesn’t matter. This because we are not “land-use planners” and cannot afford one.

Now we can get into an interesting discussion. Is the the city just insanely incompetent or is it deliberately “throwing the game”. The take-home point is “engagement” or “consultation” has nothing to do with what gets built. You either get planning staff to defend residents or we don’t have any say on development at all.

I have seen nothing that leads me to believe staff is doing anything differently than they were doing in the last administration. Nor, have I seen anything from the current council that directs staff to behave differently. Thus we are currently getting what we were getting from the old council.

That the LPAT system certainly sucks does not let the council off the hook. They don’t appear to be even trying to work the system. If the city was doing all that could be reasonably expected to give at least lip service to will of residents. However, the current new council is just working the will of the old council.

Putting the development in context.  Content taken from the developers application:

In 2008 the City of Burlington released its “Intensification Study” which intended to provide preliminary residential and employment intensification estimates to 2031 in support of the Sustainable Halton Plan. Within the study, Plains Road is identified as an “Urban Growth Corridor”

Staff outlined that there was potential for approximately 3,750 dwelling units and 7,500 residents along these particular growth corridors. The available GO Stations were an important component of the corridors, and these areas were identified as being suitable for higher intensity development. These figures were based on an estimate that indicated that future developments or redevelopments would be made up of 60% residential, 30% mixed use, and 10% retail/service commercial.

The owner has proposed to redevelop the subject site for a six storey, 49 unit apartment building with ground floor office/commercial uses.

The proposed building will front onto and have pedestrian access to the pedestrian network on Plains Road East. Vehicular access to the subject site and development will be maintained along Plains Road East.

The proposal will also be accessible via a mixture of public transit modes; the Aldershot GO Station is located within 500 m of the proposal (walking distance). Burlington Transit route 1(1x) provides east and west services along Plains Road, and is accessible just west of Birchwood Avenue, and immediately north of the subject lands on the north side of Plains Road East.

Woodruff

Greg Woodruff taking part in a Mayoralty debate broadcast by TVOntario

 

Take home points:
1) We need Council to change direction and insist that Staff defend the plans Council passes.
2) Tom Muir has basically done the work the planning department should have done.
3) Presently unelected LPAT Commissioner and developer consultants are deciding if we get to keep trees, stores, grass and sunlight in our community.

Greg Woodruff is an Aldershot resident who works as a web site developer. He ran for the Regional Chair in 2010 and for Mayor of Burlington in 2018.

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8 comments to Community engagement on Aldershot development is currently a total fraud.

  • Steve Tom

    Some of the opinions rendered in these responses are reckless and ignorant. Please get informed before you slander people who are likely highly professional and doing their job as required bully their profession. These responses are incredibly misleading and inaccurate.

  • Adam

    City staff not commenting on a development application happens all the time outside of Burlington. This is for many reasons. Many developers plan to go to LPAT no matter what, if the city provides feedback on a development up front this gives the developer time to prepare new studies and potentially discredit issues the city may have raised. It can also be a sign that the city doesn’t have any credible defence to the development. Burlington is currently facing a ton of development appeals at LPAT, I suspect they are picking their spots and fighting back on projects where they actually think they can win. It is hugely expensive to fight at the LPAT. I trust the planning professionals judgment on how to spend their time and money this vs. the residents. Planning is a technical and legal process and despite residents concerns there are many projects that can’t be legally stopped or altered. Given this project is a 6 storey building on an intensification area, close to the GO station and on a public transit route I think the city probably didn’t have much of a chance of opposing it.

  • Blair Smith

    Excellent analysis Greg – thank you. The LPAT process is deeply flawed as is the involvement and apparent commitment of COB planning staff. Something needs to change and quickly. As unfortunate as this situation and future encounters at LPAT are, they will pale once the full affect of Bill 108 becomes manifest with the reintroduction of ‘de novo’ hearings. Do citizens have a voice any more?

  • Lynn Crosby

    If we don’t have staff who will speak up and work for residents at these hearings and who instead sit in silence, while talking about how they work to engage citizens, then they should be replaced with staff who will! A couple of councillors from another municipality made that point in a recent conversation I and others were having. Staff either takes direction from council (which direction they should take in large part from resident input) and “gets with the program”, or they should be replaced with staff who will.

  • Steve G

    This way it is of their plate and not their doing?
    Not the first time is it?

  • steven craig Gardner

    Perhaps city planning staff either do not agree with or do not think what tom muir presented is relevant at LPAT?

  • Claudette Mancini

    First of all, you ought to be establishing just what constitutes Aldershot and what doesn’t. I live in Aldershot, according to geography, but not according to the city, who say I live in the downtown! And because of those boundaries, I live in a no-man’s land that has little representation and less say in whatever comes down the pike. As a result, perhaps you could rectify this anomaly once and for all, so that one side or the other can claim “ownership” and act accordingly. It would certainly help to settle a bunch of problems we face here because of this situation.

  • Carol Victor

    The Amica development across from the hospital is a similar situation. The developer has gone directly to LPAT without council approval and with residents in the adjacent condo only allowed written participation…….a real farce…..

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