ECoB delegation urges the city to resolve the confusion over the urban growth centre and the John Street bus terminal.

opinionviolet 100x100By Roland Tanner 

January 14th, 2019



Glenn Nicholson delivered this delegation on behalf of Roland Tanner who was out of the country.

EcoB’s position with regard to the ICBL study is as follows. While there are elements within the report which we support, there is a key area where we believe the staff recommendation is in error.

Dwyer-Tanner-preg lady

Roland Tanner, co-chair of ECoB taking part in one of the Action Labs that were part of the public participation events that were part of the Taking a Closer Look at the Down Report.

Firstly, we would like to recognise the good work in the staff recommendations in their acknowledgement that the Burlington Go Station area needs improved zoning and height regulation. While we believe the Go Station is a far more appropriate location for a dense Urban Growth Centre neighbourhood connected to mass rapid transit, we do not believe this is an argument for bad development. For the Go Station area to become a vibrant new neighbourhood it is essential to have excellent zoning that insists on commercial space and retail and places reasonable limits on height. It is an opportunity for a truly complete community properly connected to transit. We support the staff recommendations in this specific regard.

Secondly, however, we do not support the recommendations regarding the downtown MTSA.

We acknowledge that current debate around the downtown MTSA revolves around which change is possible in which order. What these recommendations state is that we pass a new Official Plan and put in place zoning that builds the MTSA into all our city planning documents, at exactly the same moment as city planning staff have acknowledged that the John St bus terminal simply does not, never has, and never will function as a MTSA.

The staff solution to the assessment that the John St Bus terminal is not an MTSA perhaps makes sense from the perspective of municipal procedure, but it makes no sense from the perspective of logic or reality. The city must come into compliance with the Region, says the ICBL report, even if though, to put it bluntly, the Region is not in compliance with the laws of physics. The staff recommendation is therefore to continue to build the MTSA language into our planning documents, but to redefine MTSA, in this one instance, to mean what we want it to mean.

EcoB does not think this recommendation makes sense. To be flippant, if something does not look like a duck, or walk like a duck, or quack like a duck, and a consultant agrees that it is not a duck, and never will be a duck, is it really so unreasonable to insist that we stop calling it a duck immediately? If it’s instead large and grey and has a trunk and is a completely inappropriate resident of the local duckpond, does it make any sense to redefine the word ‘duck’ to describe something that everybody can see quite clearly is an elephant? We don’t think so.

Bus shelter - John Street

Debate centered to a large degree on the John Street bus terminal that most people didn’t think should have the status of a MTSA Major Transit Station area. Others want significant funds spent on upgrading the site. All the city has seen in the last six months is upgrade to the transit shelters.

A better way to square the circle of legal requirements and practical reality would be to make a clear statement that Burlington does not believe downtown is or can be an MTSA, and that zoning and density targets should reflect the impossibility of major mass rapid transit ever coming to downtown Burlington, regardless of higher level designations.

Because the fact downtown is not an MTSA gets to the core of the entire debate we have been having in recent years. Places to Grow and the subsequent growth plans were all predicated on the sensible objective of placing people near mass transit. Oakville asked its Urban Growth Centre to be placed in midtown because its downtown could not support mass transit. Our council did not, no doubt still thinking in a car-centric manner of the proximity of the QEW exit, and not of what the province was actually trying to achieve.

Places to Grow and successive provincial governments asked cities to place intensification near transit. That is the alpha and omega of planning logic over the last 15 years or more. Rightly. Burlington has gone down a road of saying transit existed where it does not and cannot exist. Yes, even if shuttle buses can be provided, as they should, from downtown to key areas and transit hubs across the city, that will still not make downtown a major transit hub. Because of this fatal misdesignation, we are in fact concentrating development in a place the Province was at pains to avoid – somewhere separated significantly from a major transit node.

Surely the time to stop pretending downtown is an MTSA is now. Right at the moment when staff have acknowledged it is not – in any practical way – an MTSA. Not in two or five or more years when we can persuade the Region to change. And not after playing games with language which developers and LPAT are unlikely to respect or acknowledge and might well appeal.

In short, building more inaccurate language into our documents must be an error, and we urge council not to accept the staff recommendation on this matter.

Since every element of the logical basis for downtown designation for major intensification was based on the concept of mass transit, and since we have now established that logic was at fault, we therefore ask council to consider a formal motion to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing making a public request for:

A) His clear guidance on how the downtown Urban Growth Centre can be urgently moved or modified, because of the faulty logic by which the UGC was first established.

B) How the province can work with the Region to speedily correct the error that was made when it designated John Street as a Major Transit Station Area.

Burlington MPP goes after Liberals on a point of personal privilige.

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna is said to have a simple answer on how to resolve the MTSA concerns.

We have already received multiple indications from MPP McKenna that the Mobility Hub designations are within council’s remit to designate or undesignate, and we believe Council should do so as soon as practically possible.

Time is of the essence, and we cannot rely on the tortuously slow process of multi-year municipal planning revisions to deliver these essential corrections to the mistakes of earlier councils.

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1 comment to ECoB delegation urges the city to resolve the confusion over the urban growth centre and the John Street bus terminal.

  • Harry

    The logic design would be, close the terminal on John Street, close John Street for regular traffic and use that for transit vehicles only. Have the GO Station on Fairview the main hub. And have Fairview bus lanes in both direction. Should levitate the traffic and have more people taking transit. How anyone ever can’t figure that one out, is beyond me. It’s a no brainer. Does Burlington need a better City Counselor or more food to feed them?

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