Developer wanting to build a 29 storey Tower on Lakeshore Road gets a Rough Ride at Public Meeting

opinionred 100x100By Jim Young

January 31st, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

On Tuesday night  last week, I attended the Public Information Session for the Carriage Gate Development at 2069-2079 Lakeshore Rd. and 383-385 Pearl St.

Pearl and Lakeshore

Proposed 29 storey development will be kitty corner to the 22 storey Bridgewater development now under construction.

The proposed building is at Pearl and Lakeshore sharing the block with the ADI 26 storey building that was imposed on the city by the old OMB. Carriage Gate are seeking amendments to the Official Plan and zoning bylaws to allow 29 storeys in an area zoned for 4 (8 with permissions) It will have 280 residential units and 675 square metres of commercial space.

It will only have 280 parking spaces for residents and 11 visitor/retail parking spaces. Existing zoning requires 500. Setbacks are reduced from 2 meters to zero.

The developer suggested that the 26 storey building approved next door and others on Brant St. serve as a precedent. It was pointed out from the floor that the 26 storeys was imposed by the OMB and never actually approved.

It was obvious from the presentation, and introduction by City planning Staff, that the Official Plan rejected by the region and under review by city council, is still being referred to by both the developer and city planning staff.

nautique-elevation-from-city-july-2016

The Nautique, in the same block as the proposed Carriage Gate development has the approvals it needs. Testing to determine where the water table is being done – five levels of parking are proposed.

Citizens voiced concerns about the traffic this development will bring, particularly during rush hours, the lack of parking provided for owners and retail customers and the need to back trucks up to the service entrance on Pearl Street. Assurances that lakeshore would not be narrowed during construction were not forthcoming. Many of the city planning and developers comments were met with laughter or anger.

Details

Described as a “legacy” development when it was proposed back in 1985 – the Bridgewater will become the best hotel the city has – until the Waterfront Hotel gets redeveloped.

Asked if they really think about the impact on people or how disrespectful of citizens and council their proposal to build a 29-storey building in a 4 storey zone is, the developer’s representatives declined to reply. This brought derisive applause from those present. When one attendee asked for a show of hands from the audience there was not one hand raised in favour.

After the meeting I got an email from another concerned citizen. He fears that the height precedent was already established by the OMB decision on the adjacent ADI development no matter which OP is used. He wondered if the bedroom sizes, parking space allocation and minimum tall building footprint sizes would meet approval standards in Toronto or even Hong Kong. He was only half joking. He voiced concern about the huge gulf in understanding of what the process is and how best the public can present counter proposals.

That’s where the public expect their mayor and councilors to step up. People have a hard time understanding why city planners work hand in hand with developers to implement an amendment for 29 storeys that is so far higher than the Official Plan “In force and effect” which allows only 4, and why they still consider a plan reviled by citizens, rejected by the region and under review by council for significant changes.

Members of the public fear that city planners are being strung along; debating an amendment that should be rejected out of hand, eating up city planning time and expense while running out the clock on the 210 days the city has to respond to developers. When that time runs out the developers simply appeal to LPAT leaving the city in a position they cannot defend and looking foolish when the LPAT rules in the developers favour.

Kearns Dewc meeting

Councilor Kearns seemed skeptical, but reserved comment until she has time to consider the whole proposal. The Councilor has known about the proposal for more than a month.

Mayor Meed Ward, Ward Councilor Kearns, Councilors Nisan and Bentivegna attended the meeting. Councilor Kearns seemed skeptical, but reserved comment until she has time to consider the whole proposal, Mayor Meed Ward advised the audience, the developers and, indirectly, city planners; that a motion is coming to direct planning staff to only consider the “in effect” official plan and not the regionally rejected one.

Following similar outrage at the Public Meeting on the Proposed Development at 1157-1171 North Shore Blvd and a Councillors Workshop on The Planning Process, I reached out to Councillor Galbraith, Deputy City Manager Mary Lou Tanner and Planning Director Heather MacDonald to ask that a similar workshop on the process be held for interested citizens to help avoid this conflict. I received positive responses from Councilor Galbraith and Ms. Tanner. I am still waiting for Ms. MacDonald. Must I wait 210 days then appeal to LPAT?

Jim Young is an Aldershot resident who delegates frequently at city hall.  He is a member of a city Advisory Committee.

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14 comments to Developer wanting to build a 29 storey Tower on Lakeshore Road gets a Rough Ride at Public Meeting

  • Adam

    I’m still confused. Understand that all DC’s might not be a “windfall” but how does the property tax part work? If the property is paying +- $50k in taxes now and in the future the residences will pay over $1m, how does the city not benefit financially? What extra costs would the city incur to completely wipe out that $950k annual tax increase? You are clearly more educated on this subject so please help me understand. Maybe your data is relevant to low-rise greenfield development but i’m not sure it is relevant for this type of intensification. At a macro level it appears that you are stating that it is better to have no growth in housing?

    Regarding the comment about infrastructure. I don’t beleive the city has to build new infrastructure with this type of development and I think that is the point of the provincial legislation focusing on intensification. The schools (under-utilized), roads, water, sewer, electrical and other infrastructure in already mostly in place. This is in contrast to building low-rise greenfield development (north Burlington) where absolutley everything is new. I would agree with you that the city will incur significant extra expenses to provide services to those types of developments and may not benefit financially, but this type of development is different.

    I’m not personally advocating for this development at all, I beleive it is too high and too much density. My comment was a reaction to the comment that “Development has to be contained, or tax increases will go on forever.” I beleive the opposite is true. There is no more greenfield develpment left in Burlington, if we reject intensification we will have no growth and we will all have to pay higher taxes. We will have the same number of residences paying increasing costs to run the city.

  • Penny

    Debora,

    When ECoB met with one of the developers we asked the question if the City needed more staff in the planning department? Was understaffing the reason the City was not meeting the 210 day deadline required Their answer was” NO – that is not the problem”.

  • Perry B

    I visited friends in downtown Toronto yesterday, and came away with a vision of the downtown Burlington of the future, and it is not a happy vision. The area is relatively new (the old Molson Brewery site) where the developers have packed several 35-story condo towers. Inside they are lovely, and for the lucky few on the lakeside, have magnificent views. But down in the streets, even mild breezes off the lake are accelerated to high speed gusts, which similarly blast the balconies. No parking is permitted on the streets, and visitors and service vehicles must compete for limited parking space underground. Fortunately, a streetcar corridor is nearby so transportation is not too bad and many amenities can be reached on foot.
    Burlington will not be so lucky unless the Lakeshore and Brant Street are closed in favour of some kind of LRT. It is time to put the developers (and their enablers in the planning department) in their place and stop this madness.

  • Stephen White

    Excellent points made by both Lynn and Debora. Thank you for your posts.

    The Mayor has stated we are following the OP posted on the City’s website. If Planning Department officials can’t wrap their heads around this realization and get onside then it is seriously time to look at personnel changes. In the private sector, employees who disobey a directive are cautioned and disciplined, and if the behaviour continues they are ultimately terminated.

    To Debora’s point about workload. Many of us have been calling for ages for a full organizational review at City Hall. This needs to happen now! If there are workload issues then steps need to be taken to rectify the problem. That may require reassigning work, changing the way work is allocated, eliminating duplicative steps, streamlining operations, automating processes or hiring more staff. Directors and senior management who knowingly tolerate this situation without investigating it, or at a minimum bringing it to the attention of the City Manager, are derelict in the performance of their duties.

    The size and scope of these developments is beyond ridiculous. The impact upon existing neighbourhoods will be horrendous, but then again, the developer doesn’t give a damn. They are only interested in making a fast buck. The negative externalities created in the form of transportation gridlock, congestion, lack of green space, etc. will more than exceed whatever short-term financial benefits accrue.

    Finally, where the hell is our MPP Jane McKenna on these issues? Silent it seems, just like her predecessor. As our provincial representative McKenna needs to weigh in on the impact these developments are having upon our community. The former provincial government’s plan to shoe-horn millions of people into the GTA at a time when communities in this province are dying or suffering significant population decline is ridiculous. I’m not advocating urban sprawl or ripping up agricultural land for development, but the GTA is clearly becoming overbuilt, and we risk experiencing the same kind of population density as Souther California, along with all the environmental degradation that has brought. The Planning Act needs to be re-written for the purpose of vesting more power and control in local municipalities and the public. We heard about Ford’s “For the People” mantra during the last provincial election. It’s time to deliver, and clearly time to get off the fence.

  • Penny

    Alfred, I did not attend the OMB Hearing for the proposed ADI Development on Lakeshore/Martha, but have been told by more than one person who was in attendance, that the reason the OMB gave ADI 26 storeys was because when the City Planner was asked what would be acceptable to the city at that location, she did not know. She went back and forth between 16 and 17 storeys and did not come prepared to defend her position.

    Don’t forget the reason ADI took the City to the OMB was failure to provide a decision on the application within the allocated time. This appeal had nothing to do with the existing Official Plan.

    I doubt that ADI ever asked or expected to get 26 storeys at that location. The decision made by the OMB, in my opinion, was to be a wake up call for the City of Burlington to get their act together.

  • Alfred

    Debora. Clearly our OP is outdated thats why ADI Dev. were permitted almost 3 times more height 26 stories than permitted in the OP. Burlington becomes disfunctional when it tries to rely on its old OP. When the developers expert Planners argue that the OP. is not in line with the new Provincial guidelines, that are supposed to be adhered to by all municipalities and that take priority over all OPs. Any OMB or LPAT member or judge not influenced by getting elected will always vote in favour of the developer. Smaller development eat up land and farmland a lot quicker than large developments.

    • Jim Young

      Alfred. There is no “best before date” on an OP. The province mandates that OPs be reviewed periodically for compliance with changing Provincial and Regional regulations.
      The “in effect” OP could have been updated to meet these without the wholesale capitulation of our previous council.
      Citizens accept the need for growth and the provincial targets for that. These can all be met by development at GO Mobilitg Hubs, Major Transit Intersections and Arterial Roadways without “HonKonging” our Downtown.
      Targets are already being met in Burlington.
      We can continue to do this sensibly to favour citizens wishes rather than developer bottom lines.
      Other cities already do this.
      It’s called Planning.

  • Adam

    Development is creating tax increases? Can you please explain? I believe a building with 280 units, probably each paying between $3000 to $5000 in annual property taxes would generate over $1m in annual taxes for the city. Also with +-$40k of development fees per unit about $11million in development fees for city and region. The annual costs to run the city go up each year. Without new development, property taxes for the existing residences have to go up. Am I missing something?

    • Perry B

      Adam, it’s not as simple as you make out. Every new residence does generate more taxes and development charges. But think of what has to be covered. More schools. More infrastructure. More roads to maintain. Transportation. Simple Inflation. And to top it off, upper tiers of government win votes by holding taxes down – and do it by silently downloading whatever expenses they can onto the cities. Yes, the buck stops here!

      The experience almost everywhere is that a municipality is lucky to just break even on growth. So yes, taxes will rise, along with your income and value of your property. What’s wrong with that?

      • Tom Muir

        I wish people commenting here would at least be versed in what they are talking about – especially about Development Charges (DCs).

        The DC Act strictly controls DCs so that at the most they can only be charged to recover from the developer what the Act calls “the need for service” caused by the development growth.

        I say “the most” because in fact they do not cover all the costs of the need for service. This too is determined by the DC Act.

        DCs are not charges on development per se. They are not windfall revenues to the city, like winning a lottery. The city has to provide the services that are needed.

        They are strictly calculated so as to recover the costs that the development imposes on the municipality that is required to build and provide the services the development needs in order to be built and used.

        Regarding taxes, yes every unit pays taxes, but if you look at data on the growth in per capita taxes in terms adjusted for inflation you will see a consistent and steady increase in this value.

        So really, in terms of the real cost of growth, in DCs and in ongoing taxes, the city does not even break even on the growth.

        So please do some homework and come back here to tell us what you find and where you found it.

  • Lindsay with an A

    The answer is quite simple and I don’t know why the Mayor doesn’t tell everyone. The City has an Official Plan, a Zoning Bylaw and several other policies that permit amendments. Without amendments, the policies give maximum and minimum limits on development such as density, height and setbacks. Provincial law permits amendments to be requested subject to analyses that show compliance with various criteria. These criteria are contained in the Official Plan. Every application for an amendment goes through these thirteen items (with more given in the 2018 draft OP). See Part III Section 2.5.2 a) Evaluation Criteria. None of these set maximum height or density values. Other Provincial policies set minimum population and intensification (people plus jobs per hectare) targets.

    So, once an amendment is requested all limits are open for discussion. There are no limits for maximum height and density. The arguments get very vague when talking about compatibility (compatibility is achieved with the existing neighbourhood character in terms of scale, massing, height, siting, setbacks, coverage, parking and amenity area so that a transition between existing and proposed buildings is provided). Height is mentioned but density has been omitted.

    This is a developers’ delight and prepared by developers for developers that the provincial government bought in to years ago. Don’t blame the planners, they are just following the rules.If you don’t like it, go to Queen’s Park. This is what I hope Marianne has up her sleeve.

  • Lynn Crosby

    A few interesting things I noted at this well-attended meeting:

    The developer, Carriage Gate Homes, is now using the name Lakeshore Burlington Inc., for this application. Kudos to the resident who raised her hand to ask for clarification on this different name.

    Note that Carriage Gate is building the first “twin tower” across from City Hall, 23 storeys, as well as the 17-storey Berkeley at Caroline and Elizabeth Streets. When asked about section 37 benefits, Mark Bales of Carriage Gate Homes said that desired section 37 benefits should be discussed between residents and the ward councillor before an application is made. This prompted much laughter and shaking of heads. Since we haven’t been informed of any such discussions, presumably there aren’t any community benefits being considered. When the staff was asked whether negotiated section 37 benefits become a requirement which cannot later be eliminated, and the staff replied in the affirmative, someone asked how did the agreed-upon section 37 benefits at the Berkeley end up being eliminated? We were told that we are only talking about this particular development and therefore, no comment. Also it was confirmed that there will be “no geared-to-income units” here.

    Multiple times questions were not answered, we heard “no comment” more than once, we heard the word “premature” several times. It really does make one wonder about the point of this exercise. I urge people to read the wind study report, the transportation study report (when it is complete), and follow this application closely and provide comments to all of council, the developer, and planning staff. An area zoned for 4 storeys should not turn into a 29-storey tower, and I agree with Jim that the 210-day time limit appears to be used to the advantage of the developers to waste valuable time “negotiating” back and forth simply to run out the clock and head to the LPAT. The City needs to do a better job of rejecting applications out of hand that are this far away from what our OP allows and what the residents (and now council) obviously want. Being told “the City endeavours to answer in time” isn’t enough.

    A common refrain from residents is that this should be the development where the City fights back against this unwanted overdevelopment, and spends whatever money is required to make our position clear and win at LPAT, if need be.

    • Blair Smith

      Excellent points Lynn!

      It gives great comfort to have people such as yourself – committed, obviously focused and undistracted – at meetings such as this. Makes all the difference in planning ‘go forward’ strategies.

  • Debora with an A

    In any private business, when the workload of an employee or a department as a whole contributes directly to the continued missing of deadlines that result in severe ‘penalties’, the workload of those employees would be examined for efficiencies, redistributed, or managed differently. Any smart business would alleviate the workload of the overloaded department by refusing any unnecessary work, or work that does not meet certain established parameters of the department. In the case of the City of Burlington, as mentioned above and as mentioned by a resident in the public meeting, the City of Burlington Planners, and by extension residents (who continually have to repeat themselves in public meetings, delegations and in multiple communications to City Hall in various formats) are being ‘strung along’ by developers, with hours upon hours of unnecessary work reviewing applications that are so far out of the bounds of the OP as to be ridiculous and laughable (as was proven a number of times at this week’s public meeting) and that should be dismissed out of hand. Burlington’s Planning department should move to a ‘work to rule’ strategy, turning back those applications that do not meet even a first round of basic criteria according to the OP.
    Over time, developers amassing land in Burlington for development would know before they buy property here, that the City of Burlington works to the OP, which would eliminate the plea of builders who ‘can only make money by building at least 16 stories” after buying. Then, like regular real estate buyers, they have a decision to make as to whether or not they can afford to purchase.
    One wonders about the exact intention of a department that for years has continually complained about being overloaded with work, but has not done anything to remedy this situation. Is this bad business management or could it be, as some residents have suggested, intentional for some reason?
    As mentioned by many at City Hall, every OP has been developed over many years with vast stakeholder input, so it should be the guidelines with which everything is measured. With applications coming in left, right and center asking for 3 and 4 times the density as a first step and without good reason (only that there are other tall buildings, no real benefits), it seems there is a huge opportunity to make a change and fix a couple of big problems right away.
    Since developments don’t completely pay for themselves, smaller developments would translate to smaller necessary tax increases. As mentioned by one of Oakville’s candidates in last Fall’s election, “Development has to be contained, or tax increases will go on forever.”

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