Joseph Brant got a better deal for the Indians than Burlington residents are getting from a local developer.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON May 18, 2011 Despite significant resistance to the to the Molinaro application to erect a 14 story apartment building on the site at Brock and Ontario Streets, a City Council committee voted to approved the project.

Ward 1 Councillor Meed Ward, like many, wondered why the city was allowing a building of 14 storeys to be build on a site that was zoned for 7 storeys.

Not only did the developer get to put up a 14 storey building where residents thought 7 storeys was the limit but the community gets a less than attractive structure.  The Molinaro family are said to be planning to move their administrative offices to the two floors of commercial space that will be at the base of the building.

Not only did the developer get to put up a 14 storey building where residents thought 7 storeys was the limit but the community gets a less than attractive structure. The Molinaro family are said to be planning to move their administrative offices to the two floors of commercial space that will be at the base of the building.

The need to intensify under the provincial Places to Grow legislation and the fact that the building would not put additional strain on the infrastructure in the area was enough reason for this Council to approve the project at committee.

The proposed building isn’t the largest in the area and it isn’t going to be the prettiest but it was approved and what’s done is done.

Not so fast says Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward. The developer proposed to give the city certain benefits in return for the additional height they were given and put forward a number of what area resident Mark Henderson called “trinkets” worth less then the value of one of the apartment units, which by the way have been registered as condominium units so they can be sold off one at a time by the developer should they choose to do so and market conditions make it possible.

The benefits the developer offered were valued at $500,000.and consisted of:

1. $250,000.00 towards the burial of hydro wires on the west side of Brock Avenue from Elgin Street to Ontario Street;
2. $75,000.00 towards a new play structure in a neighboring park;
3. $20,000.00 towards the construction of the pathway through the hydro corridor;
4. $55,000.00 towards the public art reserve fund;
5. $50,000.00 towards a landscape feature at the corner of Brock Street and Elgin Street; and,
6. $50,000.00 towards the parking reserve fund.

At first glance there is nothing particularly innovative or imaginative to the list and a contribution of $500,000 for an additional height of 7 storeys is close to an insult. Joseph Brant cut a better deal for the Indians than this.

The project will have a total of 315 units – which amounted to an additional 155 units, which at the bargain basement price of say $200,000 each if they were sold as condominiums, amounts to more than $30 million in additional revenue. Meed Ward and the community she represents want to squeeze the developer and get much more than the paltry $500,000.that was offered.

When delegating at the Council meeting that approved the project Mark Henderson asked who decided that $500,000 was adequate and, he wanted to know “who decided what the money was to be spent on?” Meed Ward has for some time been trying to create a situation where the residents of a community that was going to bear the impact of a development have direct input on these decisions and thus her motion to be brought to a Council meeting on May 24th.

At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 24, 7pm Councillor Meed Ward plans to bring the following motions forward (they will require 4 votes to pass):

1. Motion to refer Report PB 29/11 (on the Molinaro/Brock apartments) back to staff with an instruction to the Director of Planning and Building to refer the allocation of the $500,000 of community benefits for the Brock Avenue (Molinaro) project to a community consultation process involving the ward councillor and community representatives, and to provide a report with recommendations to council based on the community’s vision for how the $500,000 should be apportioned.

Meed Ward needs four votes to get this through Council – hers plus three others. She needs to do more direct lobbying than she appears to have done in the past and also needs to get her fan club on the telephone and the tom tom drums if necessary to drum up support with other Councillors.

A three dimensional rendering of the proposed site relative to others in the immediate areas does show that the proposed building is not as high as others already in place.

A three dimensional rendering of the proposed site relative to others in the immediate areas does show that the proposed building is not as high as others already in place.

Meed Ward is braking new ground here. She wants the community to have a much bigger say in how where they live and raise their familirs is changed. This is a significantly different Coucnil and we will find out just how pro-development they are. All of them were elected on platforms that called for greater public particiaption. This is one of those situations where the rubber meets the road. This will be a recoded vote.

If she can’t get the votes she needs for the first motion – she has another one (At a previous Committee meeting, Meed Ward had four ammendments that required Council to go 40 minutes beyond their usual shut down time of 10:30 pm – her colleagues were not happy campers.) The fall back motion is:

2. Review and report back on the use of Section 37 benefits as a whole (background, should it continue, pros and cons, etc) and provide feedback on how community involvement in selecting community benefits can be enhanced, as part of the Official Plan review process.

Meed Ward expects the second motion to pass. The first, a staff member advised, may not pass because it has the potential to delay approval of the entire project. Tough, the developer should have taken the initiative and put more on the table and asked the people who live in the immediate area for their thoughts.

Meed Ward has talked to people in the Planning Department and has been advised by others to solicit some community input on the community benefits. Her strategy seems to be to get her fellow Council members to bring the developer back to the table and contribute more on this project – and if they don’t buy that (and they should) then ask Staff to come back with a fully researched report on just what can and cannot be accomplished under Section 37 – a part of the Municipal Act that refers to what a municipality can ask of a developer who is seeking additional height and density for a project.

The site as it exists today.  Fourteen storeys is going to add significantly to the traffic and the demand on the infrastructure.  On the positive side it is a very short walk – less than a block, to Spencer Smith Park.

The site as it exists today. Fourteen storeys is going to add significantly to the traffic and the demand on the infrastructure. On the positive side it is a very short walk – less than a block, to Spencer Smith Park.

This is something new for Burlington, with the potential to change the way the city ensures that the citizens have a real, at the table, say in how projects are developed. It willdrive the developers bananas – but is an idea whose time has come.

Residents can register as a delegation to speak to City Council about these benefits. You must register with the committee clerk, Danielle Pitoscia (905-335-7600, ext. 7375) by noon on Friday, for the Tuesday meeting (Monday is the holiday).

 

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