Frustrated and Disappointed: Scobie wonders if it is all going to get away on us.

opinionred 100x100By Gary Scobie

November 6th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Once more into the breach. While there have been some good measures this new Council has brought about in 2019, on the most important issue you face, I am feeling frustrated and disappointed.

CORE rendering

Keeping the historic Chrysler Carriage House and leveraging its heritage to get additional height for a development many think is taking place in the wrong part of town.

I am delegating in opposition to the 27 storey mixed use condo application for 2093 etc. Old Lakeshore Road, in the middle of the
“football” between Old Lakeshore Road and Lakeshore Road. I would suggest nothing higher than mid-rise at this location and the
same goes for the site being planned next door to the east at the corner of Old Lakeshore and Lakeshore Roads. We don’t need
skyscrapers in our faces as we enter the eastern gateway to the downtown.

There was a time when a much larger bus termial existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal onm John Street - it was where people met. There were fewer cars, Burlington didn't have the wealth then that it has now. We were a smaller city, as much rural as suburban. The times have changed and transit now needs to change as well.

There was a time when a much larger bus terminal existed 25 yards to the left of this small terminal on John Street – it was where people met. Today this tiny structure has been defined as an Anchor Hub.

I am frustrated that the Interim Control Bylaw (ICB) has only four more months to run and Council still has not acted on its mandate from citizens to rid us of the Anchor Mobility Hub (AMH) and Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designations downtown. Nor has it moved the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) to the Burlington GO Station. These requests have been there since ECoB formed.

The three un-designations would free you from having to scramble to please the Local Planning Area Tribunal (LPAT) with your refusals to bend to developer demands to build high, build dense and build expensive on small sites in our downtown.

I am disappointed that instead Council is having the Planning Department spend time and expertise teasing out designs for downtown precincts (excluding Old Lakeshore precinct I might add) to please no one except developers.

This department should be using its expertise to support you in un-designating the downtown as an over-intensification project and reclaiming your right as a Council to decide on the intensification of our downtown that was already clearly expressed in the current Official Plan (OP). I attended the final Downtown Development Lab on Saturday and the crowd was not enthusiastic about either concept and was wondering why we were doing this exercise.

I last came here in June of 2019 and advised that your first priority to stop the further proliferation of high rise buildings near our
lakeshore like this one and in our downtown like others was to get us out of the cross-hairs of the development industry by making moves that Oakville Council in its wisdom did well over ten years ago. Instead we are still seeing applications such as this one that run counter to our vision of our lakeshore re-development and give developers an easy ride at the LPAT to gain height without maximums on small sites that only add to existing congestion and ultimately result in a rebuild of our downtown in their image.

Yet we are spending time updating an Adopted OP so it might pass muster under the over-intensification mandates you continue to allow to stand. You ignore the fact that our small Bus Terminal never qualified as an Anchor Mobility Hub because it has neither rapid transit nor dedicated transit to the Burlington GO Station Gateway Mobility Hub. You appear to ignore the ability you have to revise the boundaries of the Urban Growth Centre to direct high intensification like this building being applied for to the GO Station Mobility Hubs instead of in the downtown. Meanwhile the clock continues to tick toward the end of the ICB in March 2020.

The canyon effect along Lakeshore Road predicted ten years ago by Save Our Waterfront is about to come to pass unless strong measures are taken by Council.

model-3-d-0f-the-site

The canyon effect along Lakeshore Road predicted ten years ago by Save Our Waterfront is about to come to pass.

At one time, I think citizens believed that we had enough historic buildings in our downtown to forestall high rise developments everywhere. Alas, we have very few buildings designated as historic and protected. If one happens to be on a site of properties assembled by a developer, like this one with the Chrysler Carriage House, it is incorporated in a tiny corner of the new building as simply a cost of doing business and a token to those who care about history. Old buildings or interesting facades like Kelly’s Bakeshop are incorporated in the build to lower our unease that our downtown is being stolen from us, to make us feel more comfortable with the redo that is unfolding. I believe that most citizens realize that these small measures are little compensation for what is being lost in total – the vision that Council promotes of a continuing attractiveness, walk-ability and vitality of the small town feel of Burlington’s downtown.

Developers have been assembling properties for years in anticipation of the goldmine that awaited them in high rise luxury condos, with token retail and office space that is mostly unaffordable for the very people we want to stay in the downtown.

Developers want to demolish and build new. You only have to look out your window at City Hall to see the blank slate that was 421 Brant Street. That is the dream of every developer. No trees, no buildings left, just a vacant lot ready to dig down deep for dungeon parking and building footings, set to rise to new heights each time. Wind or shadow issues? We’ve got experts who will tell you all is fine. No trees that will ever live past seven years because the beds are too small and too shallow? You can plant another one in its place. It’s all going to be wonderful with well-off people moving downtown to support the businesses that might or might not be left. What’s not to like?

This type of viewpoint might work at a true mobility hub where you can actually build from scratch a complete community for rail commuters, but it just doesn’t cut it in a downtown that actually does have some buildings, both high and low, that will stay for a long time and need to be built around in a respectful manner.

Members of Council, expect to see the developer of this application at the LPAT soon. In the meantime, please get working with Metrolinx and the Province to at least give you and your citizens a chance at saving our downtown, not frozen in time, but with a reasonable intensification target of our own making.

ScobieGary Scobie is a Burlington resident who has in the past delegated to city council.  His research has informed public opinion.

Related news and opinion content:

Is there anything that can be done to preserve the football?

Can the Mayor keep the dream alive?

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

17 comments to Frustrated and Disappointed: Scobie wonders if it is all going to get away on us.

  • Delegating is something we believe in but apparently the Mayor prefers we do not. On two occasions now , last one at October 28th Coincil meeting she has improperly claimed our delegations did not meet the Procedural By-laws. We find it hard but will if we have to, go to Court as what we had to say at both these delegations was very important information in terms of Council’s transparency obligations to Burlington taxpayers. Those who wish to see the typed delegation that was given to press at the October 28 meeting can obtain a copy from anneandave@gmail.com

  • Joe Gaetan

    The Domino effect is what happens when one event initiates a succession of similar events. Some may recall the U.S. government used the now-discredited domino theory to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War. The first domino that affected the future of Burlington as we know it, toppled in 2017 when the Province created the Places to Grow Plan. The next domino toppled as developers saw this as a business opportunity and assembled land to realize their raison d’etre, which is to develop a plot of land, to make a profit, and then to move on. No harm no fowl that is what they do.
    The next domino toppled when the City of Burlington council at the time, declared that our downtown “bus station” was a “Mobility Hub”, something that should never have happened.
    The rest is history. There is no doubt the downtown and possibly the city as we know it will cease to exist. Some think this is the future and label anyone who can’t see it that way, as nymby-ites.
    One person commented on the fact that few people delegated on the issue. The city has attempted to reinvent the engagement process (a work in progress). The two options presented in the “Get Involved” survey is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, the development ship has sailed and the downtown as yet has not rammed into a reality iceberg. If you take a look at the now empty space across from city hall it’s time to man the proverbial life boats.
    Sadly, the voices of citizens carry little weight in such matters, other than in the arena of public opinion, which as we know, is one reason why we have a different council than we had last year. Gary Scobie is one of a small cadre of citizens who tirelessly advocate, and we are lucky he does so.

    • James

      One could argue that the first domino was pushed well before 2017. When the Greenbelt Plan was put in place, our fate was sealed. No more outward growth (which is a good thing), escalating population increases, ever increasing need for housing, and only one direction left in which to grow. Up. We’re built out. There is no more land. So now we look inward and back to where early development first focused, downtown. Downtown will be the first to see the re-development of high-rise buildings, and through the coming decades that wave of re-development and heavy intensification will spread outward until it reaches the limits of our urban boundary. And then it will happen again. And again. Etc. That is, assuming the inevitable mass extinction event hasn’t happened by then. Happy thoughts 🙂

  • Adam

    Gary, I would like to understand how the concept of removing the bus station from downtown ties into the current “climate emergency”? Aren’t we trying to encourage people to take public transportation? Who has decided that downtown doesn’t need a bus station?

    I’m pretty sure the point of Mobility Hubs and Growth Centres is to build population density to ENCOURAGE public transportation, efficient use of roads, city services, create walkable communities etc. You are basically saying this is not good planning because you don’t like the “wind tunnel” or the “look” of towers. The rest of the world is intensifying, building UP, not out and curbing urban sprawl. Why doesn’t this work in Burlington? How do we say we are in a climate emergency but aren’t supportive of building communities centred around public transportation and where people can walk to parks, stores, restaurants and schools?

    • Gary Scobie

      Adam, I am sorry if my delegation confused you. I have never and will never advocate for the removal of the bus station downtown. I am advocating for removing only the “designation” of the terminal as an Anchor Mobility Hub. It is a Metrolinx designation that forces high intensification in the area around the station (much of the downtown).

      I share your concerns on climate change and support reasonable versus high intensification downtown, most likely in the form of mid-rise buildings rather than high rises. This will indeed bring more people to live downtown and hopefully as you say, encourage more public transportation as long as we have more efficient transportation and transit plans to match this growth. We can support more people downtown, but we have to careful not to ruin the downtown experience and attraction with over-intensification.

      Thank you for commenting.

  • Blair Smith

    I give full marks to Gary Scobie for a thoughtful and necessary message to Council. It is time that they heard, and clearly, that many citizens feel that they have not been heeded with respect to the preservation of Burlington’s downtown core. I attended the meeting with several of my colleagues and I was surprised and disappointed by the reaction of several of the Councillors. It was defensive and, at times, close to belligerent. The phrase “are you aware” was bandied about as a mantra with Mr. Scobie on the receiving end of a series of self-justifying questions. Whether or not you agree with his opinions (and I do in this case), you would be hard-pressed to find someone who is more diligent in doing his research. If Mr. Scobie is ‘not aware’, then the problem is probably not with him but with the communication itself. It will be very interesting to see how this Council reacts to the Official Plan revisions to be brought before them next month. Spoiler Alert – every concept developed by staff contains a tall and taller building vision; none represent a ‘no more tall buildings’ at the waterfront scenario. In this sense, the people’s voice so clearly heard on October 22, 2018 may have fallen on deaf ears.

  • Don Fletcher

    I concur 100%. The current Action Labs are assuming that the Urban Growth Center & Mobility Hub designations for downtown will remain as-is, and that any development application decisions must be able to withstand the developers’ challenge at the LPAT. The residents cannot possibly get the downtown they voted for last fall with this scenario, so why are our planners taking this tack to obtain public opinion & buy-in? It makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  • Stephen White

    Great submission Gary! You have captured the anger and frustration that many residents across this City feel.

    These three quotes from your article really resonated with me:

    “I am frustrated that the Interim Control Bylaw (ICB) has only four more months to run and Council still has not acted on its mandate from citizens to rid us of the Anchor Mobility Hub (AMH) and Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designations downtown.”

    “I am disappointed that instead Council is having the Planning Department spend time and expertise teasing out designs for downtown precincts (excluding Old Lakeshore precinct I might add) to please no one except developers.”

    “The canyon effect along Lakeshore Road predicted ten years ago by Save Our Waterfront is about to come to pass unless strong measures are taken by Council.”

    Downtown Burlington looks horrible! It is hideous agglomeration of formless, ugly concrete edifices, and each successive new development is uglier than the previous monstrosity. The history and character of this City are being steadily eroded. Burlington residents voted for change in 2018, not a perpetuation of the same nonsense we endured previously. The time for optics is past. The time for action has arrived.

    Either extend the ICB indefinitely or take permanent steps to safeguard and protect this City’s history, character and heritage before it is too late.

    • Stephen, your last paragraph sadly hits the nail on the head. A good example of the city’s disregard for our history and heritage is the drinking fountain just outside the city hall cenotaph square that makes a mockery of Heritage Burlington proclamation of preserve and conserve. Check out the drinking fountain for yourself. It s just outside the City Hall cenotaph and was restored and placed there for the Queen’s silver (25 years Jubilee) by the Optimist Club. Her Majesty now has 67 years under her belt and has broken multiple longevity records. One does not have to look too close to see the rusted relic it now is. Preserve and Conserve clearly only applies when it is not the responsibility of Council. Anne had a conversation with a Councillor about the fountain when Councillor Kearns was a no show to discuss Civic Square issues and all he could say was there needs to be a plan! “Protect this City’s history, character and heritage before it is too late” is bang on but it looks like Council does not agree with you and the next three years may see it become too late.

  • Rob Allan

    Burlington has become a developers dream! I agree with Ray “no trees, no buildings left, just a vacant lot ready to dig down deep for dungeon parking and building footings, set to rise to new heights each time. Wind or shadow issues? No trees that will ever live past seven years because the beds are too small and too shallow?”

    With retail already dying, who is going to afford the exorbitant rents for the retail stores in the new high-rise buildings?

  • Judy Gilbert

    The high wall of condos is blocking off the lake! Our once beautiful lake city is ruined thanks to the city for allowing developers to take over our city. I am so disappointed.

Leave a Reply