Resident maintains the outgoing city Council and National Homes have in effect conspired to subvert the planning approval process for the 2100 Brant development.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 12th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

With an awkward quickie Special Meeting of Council where the city manager was dispatched and a Labour Agreement approved behind them, the new city council got down to the business of the city when the Standing Committee – Committee of the Whole (COW) met for the first time.

The meeting started with determining who was going to head up which committee and who the vice chairs were going to be. This is a sort of “pin the tail on the donkey” game for adults. One council member nominates another and the nominee graciously accepts.

Theoretically, a rogue Councillor could nominate themselves and begin the process of taking over the committee structure but that wasn’t going to happen with this Council.

Lisa Kearns was made Chair of the Committee of the Whole Workshops and the Committee of the Whole Budget.

Big job for a newbie and she handled it quite well first time around. There was one precious line when Kearns turned to Lisa Palermo, the Committee Clerk who was guiding Kearns through the process and asked: “Do I stop talking now?”

Landscape master plan

The number of units, 233, in the site gives a whole new meaning to intensification.

It was a mild agenda for the most part – until they got to the National Homes development for 2100 Brant.
Ed Door gave a delegation that set out the long disappointing process the Havendale community went through to get the development reduced from a 233 town homes to something in the 150 homes range. The best the developer was able to do was reduce the number of units to 212 town homes which Door pointed out would have a six foot deep backyard, not enough space for Councillor Sharman to stretch out in.

This development landed on the desks of the Planning department at an awkward time.

The then Director of Planning, Mary Lou Tanner had been promoted to Deputy City Manager and an interim Director, Bill Janssen, was brought in from Hamilton to provide some leadership.

Heather_MacDonald COB planner

Heather MacDonald, Burlington Director of Planning

A new Director of Planning was hired.  Heather MacDonald had to be brought up to speed. Meanwhile the 180 days the city planners had to come forward with a staff recommendation were melting away.

During this time period, National Homes, according to the time line Door read out, did everything they could to delay and obfuscate the normal procedures.

Then – the 180 day time frame the Planners had to give city council a report was up and National Homes filed an appeal to the Land Appeal Planning Tribunal, the organization that took over form the Ontario Municipal Board.

The standard procedure is for the LAPT to hold a Pre-conference hearing.  They scheduled one for December 18th.   Lawyers for National Homes sent the people involved a letter saying they wanted the Pre-hearing meeting to be turned into a settlement meeting to accept the changes that apparently were agreed upon with the planning department.

Doors delegation is a litany of disgraceful manipulations of the development application process in which he maintained the city was complicit.

Ed Doors explained that “The Havendale Advisory Committee was initially established by the former Councillor for Ward 1 (Rick Craven) in response to concerns expressed by residents regarding the application for development of the property at 2100 Brant Street by National Homes.

Aerial of the site

The site that is to be developed.

“The first official meeting of the group in September 2017 was chaired by the ward Councillor and included over 20 residents; a week later, the second meeting included representatives from National Homes and the City of Burlington Planning Department.

“It became apparent at the meeting,  that the residents’ overarching concerns, including non- compliance with the Provincial Policy Statement, the Burlington Official Plan and existing zoning standards, were not on the table for discussion, and the focus was to be only on specific details of the application.

“We were repeatedly assured by the former Ward 1 Councillor over the next several months that there was plenty of time for further discussion, and that the 180-day deadline would not be an issue.

“The City organized a Public Open House for October 12, 2017 to discuss the development proposal. Our Committee circulated 500 flyers in the local community, in both Wards 1 and 3. The meeting was packed; residents were upset.

“The Havendale Committee developed an Initial Position Paper that was presented to the City on October 27, 2017. In our letter of transmittal, we stated:

“The Havendale Advisory Committee… recognizes the critical responsibility and privilege of representing the concerns of the area residents, which includes residents of both Ward 1 and Ward 3. Our initial response to the National Homes Proposal includes research, analysis, and recommendations, and has been approached through significant consultation and discussion.

“In this Initial Position Paper, the Advisory Committee has prepared an outline of what might constitute an Alternative Proposal, to draw attention to the enormous opportunity for innovation on one of the last available tracts of vacant land in Burlington. Full consideration should be given to the incorporation of green building and sustainable community innovations that would further the goals of the Burlington community as a truly livable city of the future.

National Homes image

The blue area denotes the Havendale community with 236 homes. The orange area is the proposed National Homes development where 233 homes would be built.

“We suggest that both the site and the size of the land in question challenges all involved to seek a solution through a spirit of collaboration. We are committed to a dialogue that will lead to a solution that meets Burlington’s housing needs and creates a unique and sustainable community.”

“We received no official response to this submission.

“On January 26, 2018 members of our Committee met with the former Ward 1 Councillor and the new Planner on File to review the key issues and concerns raised in the Position Paper, and to discuss our concern about the possibility of the 180-day deadline not being met. Both Councillor Craven and Lola Emberson assured us that this would not lead to an appeal by National Homes.

“Around the same time, our Committee commissioned a brief video about the Tyandaga neighbourhood and the impact of the proposed development on the community for future use at the Statutory Public Meeting. The video was funded through member donations.

“Members of our Committee met over the next several months with other Council members and the Mayor, with National Homes, with the initial and the subsequent Planners on file, and with other advocacy groups in the community, including the Age- Friendly Housing Association.

“Immediately prior to the Statutory Public Meeting, National Homes filed an appeal with LPAT because of the non-decision by Council within 180 days.

“When the Statutory Public Meeting was finally held on April 3, 2018 at the Committee of the Whole, our Committee members delegated effectively, and in fact were complimented by Council members for the quality of our input. At this meeting, our Committee tabled a proposal to establish a Task Force consisting of National Homes, City Planning, and a few residents to review the National Homes proposal and work towards a compromise that would satisfy all parties. All parties responded affirmatively to this suggestion.

Park distances

In the initial proposal there were no provisions for a park. National Homes revised the proposal and added a park less than an acre in size.

“Committee members lobbied over the next two months for the establishment of this Task Force, however it failed to materialize, due to lack of support from the former Ward 1 Councillor, the Planning Department, and National Homes.

“Our Committee was asked by the former Councillor to attend a meeting with National Homes and the Planning Department on May 29th, 2018 for a presentation on adjustments that were being proposed by National Homes. We were asked for feedback on these modifications within 2-3 weeks.

“We began our discussions and review as documents were being provided to us, and as we were drafting our response, we were notified by the City on June 25, 2018 that National Homes had in fact made a Re- submission with Updated Planning Justification on June 19, 2018.

“On June 28, 2018, we sent a letter to all Council, the City Manager, Deputy City Manager, Director of City Building, and the Planner on File, expressing our concerns with the process and the lack of meaningful consultation. No official response.

“An Open House was organized by the City on July 17, 2018, to give National Homes the opportunity to present their revised proposal to the community. Our Committee was given 10 days after the Open House to submit a written response to the City. We prepared a detailed Addendum to our Initial Position Paper, and submitted it to the City by the deadline.

“There has been no acknowledgement of, or response to, this submission, despite the inclusion of detailed questions requiring response by the City.

“In the Open House Notice, the City clearly set up the expectation for the process moving forward saying:

“No decisions about this proposal have been made yet. We are asking for your feedback on the revision before we make a recommendation to the Planning and Development Committee of Council to either approve or refuse the application.”

“Former Councillor Craven stated in his July 2018 Ward 1 newsletter: “The proposal is still subject to a review by City staff and a recommendation expected in the early fall.”

“In turning down our Committee’s request to make a brief delegation to the Committee of the Whole meeting on September 10, 2018, the Committee Clerk stated: “The confidential report on today’s Committee of the Whole agenda is to provide committee members with an update on National Homes appeal to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) regarding 2100 Brant Street.

“The subject of the report deals with the legal matter and not with the development itself. Therefore, no delegates are permitted to speak because the report is subject to solicitor/client privilege. … When the development matter comes back to committee that would be the time for residents to delegate.

“No report on comments from the public or the technical comments from the various departments and agencies was made available. No recommendation report was created for public comment, no comments on the re-submission from the public were posted, and this re-submission by National Homes never made it to a Planning and Development Committee meeting, during which delegations could have been heard.

“In fact, the entire participation and consultation process has been curtailed for our Committee.

“As you know, the former Council made last-minute decisions in camera, and in favour of the development application. National Homes has requested that the LPAT Pre-Hearing Conference scheduled for December 18, 2018 be converted to a Settlement Hearing.

“This raises serious concerns for us.

“It is the position of the Havendale Advisory Committee that by rushing to agree to a confidential settlement prior to the swearing-in of the newly elected Council, the outgoing Burlington Council and National Homes have in effect conspired to subvert the planning approval process, and exclude consideration of the legitimate concerns of residents and of the newly elected representatives.

National homes - packed

Steve Armstrong giving a detailed analysis of the development from a citizen’s perspective.

“Our Committee believes that it would be appropriate for any Reports or briefings with respect to this settlement that were made to the outgoing Council by, or on behalf of, the Planning Department immediately be made publicly available in order allow proper and transparent consideration of all the facts.

“Proceeding with the settlement at this stage would set a precedent in Burlington. It would send a signal that contentious development applications need not be dealt with through the proper planning process in a municipality. Rather, if the municipality simply ensures that a decision on the application is not made within 180 days, the planning decision can be left to LPAT.

“We are of the opinion that the settlement outlined by National Homes legal counsel is not compliant with Burlington’s Official Plan, Burlington’s zoning regulations, nor the Provincial Policy Statement, and as such should not be endorsed by this Council.

“While we do not believe the current settlement is appropriate, we do believe that a negotiated settlement that addresses the concerns of all parties, including the public, is achievable. We would like to be part of that process.”

There is a lot or murkiness here. Council has been in a number of Closed Meetings with the City Solicitor. The public knows next to nothing about what this “deal” was with National Homes.

The Gazette has learned that Mayor Meed Ward met with member of the Havendale community last week and did some idea sharing.

When the Standing Committee meeting went into Closed Session on Monday to discuss the 2100 Brant development – all the Planners were asked to leave the room.

What many people cannot understand is: How did a situation like this come about?

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1 comment to Resident maintains the outgoing city Council and National Homes have in effect conspired to subvert the planning approval process for the 2100 Brant development.

  • john dolson

    Many thanks to Mr. Parr and Mr. Door for this informative article. Having read this and the 374 Martha Street LPAT Appeal result, a few conclusions come to mind. Provincial policies created over the last 15 years or so are biased towards over-intensification. Provincial appointments to Tribunal posts to adjudicate with respect to controversies in this area have been made to people with a natural predisposition towards over-intensification. Wealthy developers are eager to be the foot soldiers on behalf of the policy people to push these projects through. I assume that they have no vested interest in the type of development as long as they can generate high level support for some kind of development. The City’s Official Plan is not written to protect the citizens but must fall in line with the aforementioned policies and is written to protect future citizens, whether they exist yet or not. At this point a citizen might say then it is just left to us and council to protect our interests. As you can see from the article, that does not seem to be the case. The prior council abrogated that responsibility and it was just the citizens that are left defending themselves against a very well-oiled and well-funded machine.
    With really little organization compared to what I have described above, other than the general instinct of finding Mead-Ward’s flag flying above the smoke of push-polls and other well-funded out of town campaign debris, and following it to the finish line, I can say that I am really proud of Burlington residents for (almost) completely turning over the prior council.
    But, don’t stop now. I would encourage the citizenry to continue to engage with their councilors on over-intensification.
    For the 5 new councilors, I would say that you will likely become disenchanted with some of the ‘pecking’ that you receive from your constituents. But stay strong. We need you. There may be approaches from the other side; positive affirmations; offers for Leafs tickets and Carolina golf trips; Resist them.
    Former Mayer Goldring described the full process as follows. Over intensification starts with Federal policies. It then is left to the Province to figure out how to accommodate those policies. The municipalities are then mandated to take the Province’s direction. In short nothing can be done at the local level. According to Goldring, the mayor has the responsibility of an adult but the authority of a child. I am hoping that Mayor Mead Ward takes a different view.
    I also think that it is time for our local MP and MPP’s to show up, given that it is their policies that are driving this. So far they have been given a free ride. The number one issue in Burlington is over-intensification. It would behoove them to find a way to meaningfully insert themselves into this issue before their next elections. Our MP was recently rated the 35th most identifiable Minister out of a total of 35 Ministers in Ottawa. She would be of more use focusing on Burlington’s number one issue, as opposed to Ottawa.

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