Height, height and height are the top three issues for the city maintains ECoB executive member.

opinionred 100x100By Roland Tanner

June 12th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

It is eleven months since this council considered the application for 409 Brant Street.

At that time 24 storeys was a new and unwelcome maximum, blowing past the maximums set out in the then newly adopted Official Plan.

That was just the beginning. Since then we have seen multiple proposals come forward which approach 30 storeys.

ECoB – Engaged Citizens of Burlington hope and expect that Council’s eventual decision on this building, which will not be for some time, will be not to approve it in anything remotely like it’s current configuration. That will be the correct decision, and it is the decision the voters expressed their wish for last year. Sadly, however, we also need to acknowledge the likely futility of that decision, whenever it comes.

Because this application is about who controls planning in Burlington.

Pearl and LakeshoreThis Carriage Gate development will inevitably be appealed to the new LPAT/OMB, an un-elected, un-answerable, faceless, undemocratic agency of government which will decide Burlington’s fate on this development, as it will on most of the other developments which will be coming to Council in the months and years ahead. With the passing of Bill 108 into law and the return of the rules of the old OMB, but with slashed timelines, the minor improvements in planning procedure achieved by the introduction of the LPAT have been lost.

A de novo hearing can enforce any decision it likes on Burlington, and precedent suggests the tribunal will not show any interest in the years of work staff and council have put into developing a vision for downtown.

To deal specifically with the problems with this development, I could, as so many have done on other occasions, talk about concerns with wind studies and setbacks, traffic effects and heritage protection. But I would simply be repeating what we’ve all heard many times before.

Certainly this building is inappropriate for downtown. It has hardly any stepbacks. The 45 degree angular planes across Pearl and Lakeshore run smack-dab into the 29 storey vertical wall the building creates at about the 8th floor.

All the design elements in the world to break up the tower’s appearance cannot hide the fact that this it is attempting to fit the most units it possibly can on a restricted lot size. It will worsen what has already become a problem area for wind on Pearl. It will be another large block in what has become the Lakeshore Chasm, a high-walled concrete tunnel channeling wind and traffic into our downtown.

It is an application, which if successful, will drive another nail into the coffin into what was once a promising urban promenade between Pearl, Old Lakeshore Road and Spencer Smith, losing a large percentage of the lake views that set Burlington apart from other cities.

Nick Carnacelli

Carriage Gates Homes president Nick Carnacelli

We have to recognize what this proposal is: it is a statement that Carriage Gate Homes considers the wishes of Burlington City Council and the democratically stated wishes of the residents of Burlington to be irrelevant.

They recognize that the power lies elsewhere, and their application has been designed with that in mind. And that was before Bill 108 became law. It is designed to be negotiated at LPAT, not to be approved by council. The Interim Control Bylaw, while allowing the City time to work out its own approach to downtown planning, is likely to be simply a delaying process.

However, and council can correct me if this understanding is wrong, we believe developers can still submit their appeals to LPAT even while the ICBL is in place. The city’s greatly reduced timelines are not changed.

This is a bleak picture, not just for those who want to see a reasonable and balanced approach to development in Burlington, but for anyone who believes in local democracy. Urban planning is now the preserve of whoever can pay for the best lawyers. Millions upon millions of dollars are being wasted – money that could make developments more affordable, and money that the City desperately needs to make up for the revenue it is losing under Bill 108. Ironically, In ECoB’s discussions with developers, it seems there’s one thing we can all agree on – the appeals process is a costly waste of time for all parties. Moreover, it is a process which most other provinces in Canada avoid completely.

So we need to urgently address the few things that can be done in Burlington to reduce the focus on downtown, and which the province has made clear are within the city’s powers to do.

First. ECoB urges council to do all it can to immediately remove the Mobility Hub designation from downtown.

Secondly, also founded on information received from the province, we urge the City to explore everything it can to consider changing the boundaries of the Urban Growth Centre to focus on Burlington’s real transit-corridor around the Go Station and Fairview and to work for that to be adopted in the next Regional Plan.

Without doing so, ECoB believes whatever changes the city makes to the Official Plans and zoning are largely irrelevant. The expectations of development in the Urban Growth Centre will always trump the limits made by Official Plans in the eyes of LPAT/OMB.

Thirdly ECoB urges council to start doing everything it can to engage the leadership of other cities in a campaign for renewal in municipal authority. It is a campaign that needs to persuade all political parties to put local democracy and root and branch reform of the provincial planning process on the agenda. Local planning, by cities in partnership citizens, is literally the only way in which we have ever built cities we can be proud of.

Finally, ECoB urges Council not to approve this development when it eventually comes before them, and to continue to make a case at every level for the implementation of a democratically informed planning vision.

Roland Tanner June 11-Roland Tanner, PhD, is co-chair of ECoB and was a member of the Shape Burlington report committee.

Related link: Strange bed fellows.

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