Is anyone listening to anyone else?

SwP thumbnail graphicBy Pepper Parr

March 9, 2018



“Why don’t you write about what the developers have to say on the growth that is taking place in this city” said a usually reliable source within the corporations that do the building and take the financial risks.

We responded with: The developers tend to be media shy, they don’t think they are going to get a break and their skill set usually doesn’t include much in the way of media savvy.

They build, they know what the rules of the development game are; they understand, in a way that few citizens do, just what the requirements are from the province, the region and the city planning department.

Brant lakeshore - Molinaro b

The height for a future tower went from 22 to 17 then to 15 and then back to 17 at a Committee meeting. It will get settled at the April 4th council meeting when the Planning department hopes to get the Official Plan they have written approved.

There is a property in the downtown core that had a 22 storey height designation, then in a single meeting it went down to 17 because a member of council had said he would clip the height in that part of the city because he had gone along with more height than many expected in another part of the city.

At the same meeting another member of council wanted to clip an additional two storeys off the building.

Developers wonder why they get treated this way.

Our source said the development community can’t have a balanced conversation with groups that don’t want to accept the fact that the city has been told its population must grow.

The developers don’t make the rules. Yes, they do look for ways around the rules – isn’t that what everyone does? When you are filing your tax return – don’t you take advantage of every deduction possible? If you got caught driving too fast and find yourself in a court room – do you not look for a lawyer who can ‘get you off’?

The difficulty the development community has is they haven’t managed to create an image of what they do?

Are they just out there to make a killing financially? Some are.

Are they there to create great communities? Is that there role in society? What do we expect of developers and is our expectation realistic?

Nick Carnacelli

Nick Carnacelli of Carriage Gate

Listen to Nick Carnacelli of Carriage Gate and ask him how he felt when he walked across the street to city hall with a cheque for more than $3 million and at that point he had nothing on the way pf permissions to build anything.

To Grow Bold all the players have to collaborate. That means the politicians have to play their part which isn’t to represent the interests of the developers but to represent the interests of their constituents – the people that elected them.

Those politicians have to hold the Planning department accountable and be prepared to send them back to their desks and re-think the recommendations they are sending the politicians.

Citizens have to inform themselves – understand what is happening and to hold the men and women they elect accountable.

The Planners have to up their game. The Mayor has said every opportunity he gets that the city has run out of space for the traditional single family dwelling with a back yard big enough for a swimming pool. We’ve know this for some time.

Has the city Planning department been grown to the point where it can handle and cope with the need to now deal with high rise developments?  The rate at which development applications are being submitted is swamping the department.

Has the city done any polling to find out just what the people of the city think and feel about growth and where it should take place. If they ever do, or have done, any polling let us hope that they bring in outside third party pollsters and not rely on their in-house questionnaires that don’t reach all that much in the way of population.

The city is at a very critical point in its growth.

The development community has to be more open – it needs to get its story out and defend what they are doing.

There is the chance to get it right – but only if all the players are at the table and only if the level of transparency is higher than it has been so far.

Troubling times ahead, cloudy skies with a silver lining in there somewhere.

Salt with Pepper are the opinions of the Gazette publisher.

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6 comments to Is anyone listening to anyone else?

  • Alfred

    Great idea Stephen, but the public forum should be city wide and address low, medium, and high density development. Input from the Province and our MPP. is crucial. How in the heck is the mandate established by this Provincial Government so confusing. This mandate compels planners, developers, and councilors to implement these guidelines. Clearly this Province is taking a build up, not out approach. But takes a step back when it comes to how high? A little more clarity would be helpful. Developers want only 2 things. Where to build and what to build? Our zoning by-laws appear to be a little behind the times. For those that think the constituents not the Provincial Government guidelines frame development in Burlington. They may want to read up on the Planning Act of Ontario. Or vote for someone else in the next Provincial
    election who can come up with crystal clear policies and height restrictions. More to your liking.

  • Susie

    My question is, how were the Draft numbers for heights of buildings initially determined? Were they pulled from a hat, had they heard rumour that certain developers purchasing specific properties wanted specific heights? When one says that Molinaro got cheated, I say that would only be the case if he had already requested that number to be the starting number in the Draft. Rightfully the numbers should have been what the present zoning bylaws are, which are low, and work up from there. Very suspicious high draft numbers right from the get go! If developers are not out for greed, then they have to realize that sensitive location properties that they have purchased are going to be height restricted according to the location. e.g. waterfront properties! These properties have had low height restrictions from the constituents since this OP was brought to the public for comment. An understood fact, with no appeals! Take it, or move it on to someone who will accept! Life holds no guarantees for anything!

  • James Smith

    If you will, a little context from one who’s been on both sides of this fence; both professionally and as an activist.

    Many years ago, the so called Pinedale estates kicked up a lot of fuss in the 5000 block of Pinedale, not far from Appleby line. The tower were going to ruin the neighbourhood, the east end, Burlington & likely the Province. The buildings are set back from the surrounding neighbours so that today when one drives by they blend into the built landscape. One has to wonder what all the fuss was about.

    Height is not the scary thing people make it out to be, built form is. In fact I have does solar studies that show that tall buildings actually shade the neighbouring properties less than smaller more compact buildings with the same or larger density. What should be negotiable is the form, reward better buildings with little or now curtain wall and interesting design.

    Good planning helps but building an interesting city means attracting thoughtful & visionary designers developers.

    • Stephen White

      Actually James, there are concerns around height because with height comes density and with density comes more people living and working in a confined space. And Pinedale Estates is a lot less congested than what downtown will become in the next five years.

      I agree with you that Pinedale Estates is a reasonable and indeed, attractive development. If that is what was being contemplated downtown it might actually be more palatable than what is now proposed. But we also aren’t talking about one or two or three buildings. The last I heard was that there were seven plans in various stages of design/development. We have one underway on Lakeshore Road, and a proposed redevelopment of the hotel. Moreover, we aren’t talking about 8, 10 or 12 stories. We are talking 20 storeys plus in many cases.

      Better planning and design is important. What is also important is a municipal government that genuinely listens to citizens’ concerns. Pepper’s question “Has the city done any polling to find out just what the people of the city think and feel about growth and where it should take place” is spot on. Another option would be a public forum comprising citizens, developers and city officials to develop a compromise solution to get us over this impasse. And of course, there’s the oft-repeated suggestion of delaying approval of the OP and Mobility Hubs until after the election.

      Yes…I’d like to live in a city with good planning. I’d also like to live in one where the Mayor actually takes a stand and exercises some leadership so that development doesn’t become such an adversarial process characterized by a power, knowledge and information imbalance.

  • Hans

    Re: “What do we expect of developers and is our expectation realistic?”

    How about that they read the City’s zoning by-laws and then bring a plan that conforms to those constraints along with their cheques? Does that ever actually happen?

    Editor’s note:
    Zoning bylaws and an Official Plan are not cast in stone. They are revised, changed, updated to meet changing conditions. Developers are expected to bring new innovative ideas to the planners – the planners are expected to use their professional skills and advise city council if a proposed development is good for the city.

    • Tom Muir

      Hans makes a key point, but here we have the Gazette basically dismiss it in what I think is a lack of understanding.

      First, the 22 stories referred to was a draft number, in a draft OP, along with all the other numbers and permissions that were all draft.

      This is a very big deal draft, you know, DRAFT, but not nearly final in the supposed due process that is supposed to be accorded to it if it is to be legitimate and honest.

      The Councilors were there doing their job (even if you don’t agree with how well this is being done) and it was one of the purposes of this single Committee meeting to debate and revise.

      Other areas with other draft permissions were also changed, besides the Molinaro property at Lakeshore and Brant noted in the Gazette story.

      For example, properties at James and Martha were a draft 18 story permission, and this was reduced to 11. Developer Mattamy delegated for this to remain at 18, and when it was not, they have since formally applied with a proposal for 18. This site is right across the street from existing single family residential.

      And the Gazette says that developers wonder why they are treated this way? What about the residents across the street and or up and down on James and Martha. More generally, what about existing businesses who will be put out of business? What about the numerous concerns of built form, height, traffic, parking, costs, livability, and so on raised by residents?

      So before the Gazette makes it look like Molinaro, and Mattamy, just as examples, have somehow been cheated, how about some little thought about the reality of this planning process, needed to get to a new OP, is definitely in order. Oh, I forgot that maybe thinking outside your own self-interest box is too hard an obstacle to get around.

      All the DRAFTS of the proposed OP are the raw material showing bits and pieces proposed by Planning. Some of these draft, new OP permissible heights were/are about 5 to 10 times higher than the existing OP permissions.

      If you have been paying attention, you know that this is the root source of the conflicts, besides the trump issues around process. Most people do not support these heights. Most accept something higher than now, and are not staunch opponents of any change. But what is proposed is just too much, and is seen as being totally unrepresentative of the residents.

      This is also a very big deal, for residents who have been pushed to squawk, and to organize opposition. It is especially a big deal for developers and landowners – there are billions of dollars on the table in the end point built form gross. And if builds can be 10 times existing permissions, this is translated as 10 times the land present value.

      So let’s not be playing the poor naive developer card, where they don’t know what to do, or what is expected of them, and are being hard done by, and cheated because a draft permission was reduced by the political process of Council, which is the only way these things can be changed.

      The Committee meeting was the place where everyone did get together – all the players. Planning outlined their staff report and draft plan. Council was there to listen, discuss, and mull over their thoughts about things. Ideally, there should be questions, but I was not there, so I don’t know if there were.

      Citizens and developers, and developer hired hands, delegated in person or in writing. These delegations amounted to several hundreds of pages, from numerous interests, by numerous consultants, planning, legal and corporate. Don’t forget, this is a very big deal.

      And if they didn’t listen to each other, whose fault is that?

      And despite the Gazette note to Hans, that “OPs are not cast in stone, Zoning bylaws and an Official Plan are not cast in stone. They are revised, changed, updated to meet changing conditions”, this is not the case at this stage. If this were so from the get go, then we don’t need a plan really, just a deal-making mechanism where the “stone” is turned to putty.

      This OP is in the process of being developed and then born. It is not ready for birth. It is being revised, changed, and updated to reflect the changing conditions of the due political and democratic engagement process in which everyone is supposed to get a say – it’s not over till it’s over.

      When formally approved by Council vote, it will be permissions that everyone gets. But we are not there yet, perhaps by far

      There was and will be more Councilor, residents, and developer/landowner debate. Already, there were several motions made by them to change certain things, including heights. Some were passed, and some were not.

      This is how it works – how it’s supposed to work.

      It’s sausage, so get over it.

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