Roland Tanner: 'We cannot keep telling residents, in effect, that what they want is not actually what is good for them.'

opinionviolet 100x100By Roland Tanner

July 12th, 2018

BURLINGTON, ON

 

I’d like to thank the council for hearing me this evening. As a candidate running for office in Ward 2 it is important I make a public statement on the issue of the 409 Brant St development. I also recognize there is little point in my taking up time by repeating statements which are going to be made or have been made by others in more detail. So I will keep this as short as possible.

In terms of the two heritage properties which are at risk by this development, I will simply state my opinion, backed up by hours and days of interaction with the community, that council should do everything in its power to make sure those properties receive every possible protection, and urge that whatever can be done to protect the interests of the current tenants and their businesses is done. Others can speak to that in more detail.

Brant st city hall on left looking north

City rendering of the east side of Brant Street across from city hall.

In terms of the overall development under discussion, I recognize the staff recommendation contains considerable improvements over the developer’s original plans, and has attempted to bring the development closer to the requirements of the new Official Plan. But my experience of resident’s desires for development in the core and in particular on Brant Street is very different from that outlined in the staff recommendation.

As you know, zoning for the rest of the Brant St Precinct is for 11 storeys with a 45 degree setback from the centre of Brant St, under the new Official Plan. Residents are willing to live with that. They understand the need for intensification, and some change in downtown is inevitable and desirable if done right. However, they have expressed a clear preference over many years for careful moderation in building height in downtown Burlington, especially on Brant St and on the Lakeshore.

Simply put, 18 storeys does not meet that preference.

Tanner standing

Roland Tanner: Candidate for the Ward 2 city council seat was also a member of the group that wrote the Shape Burlington report.

Your worship and Councillors, I suggest we either believe in local democracy, or we don’t. When a community expresses a clear, settled, longstanding and unambiguous consensus on a particular issue, elected public servants have a duty to listen and respond. And let me be clear, that consensus is completely unambiguous. It isn’t possible to speak to residents in Ward 2 in any number without it quickly becoming clear exactly what the overwhelming concern for them is. Unhappiness about over-development of the downtown is not just the preserve of the small number of people willing to spend a cramped evening at City Hall. Unhappiness is bordering on universal.

Yesterday at the Committee of the Whole meeting, there was a lot of talk about finding ‘win-wins’. The staff recommendation under discussion today represents a win for the developer and a win for City Hall, but not a win for citizens. We cannot keep telling residents, in effect, that what they want is not actually what is good for them. We can’t keep telling them that if they’ll only wait and be patient, they’ll like it once it’s built. That was what I was told by the then Ward 2 Councillor ten years ago and it’s what the citizens are still hearing today.

As long as that remains the message, the high levels of anger towards Council that unfortunately currently exist will continue to be the standard atmosphere in which Council is forced to operate. That’s not good for anybody. More importantly, it’s not the way it has to be.

Instead, let’s take the opportunity to make it clear that Council is on the citizen’s side and that it does hear and respect the overwhelming consensus of residents in Ward 2. We can’t keep treating citizens as the least important stakeholder on the list of people whose opinions need to be addressed. We can do development in a way that works for everybody.

I respectfully submit that Committee should reject the staff recommendation as outlined and request that the plans for 409 Brant St be brought in line with the Zoning envisaged for the rest of the Brant St Precinct, and not the Special Planning Area.

Please make this development a ‘Win, Win, Win’.

Council, meeting as a Committee, voted 6-1 to approve the Planning Staff recommendation.

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5 comments to Roland Tanner: ‘We cannot keep telling residents, in effect, that what they want is not actually what is good for them.’

  • HELENE SKINNER

    Things have to change…at City Hall

  • Elizabeth Hamidbasha

    What a great speech. I wish I’d been there to hear it. Roland spoke to the council the way most people are speaking to each other. Excellent

  • Many thanks for the kind words Stephen. Happy to chat in more detail if you want to contact me (info on website).

  • rob n

    People need a leader to create a vision and sell the people on the vision. Brant St development, so far, has been a messed up ball of string forced on the people.

    Council is there to serve the people, not to force decisions on them.

    If Council thinks Direction A is good, make the case, don’t dictate.

    If the people still dislike Direction A, and have put forward Alternative B, find a compromise. This is politics and a democracy after all.

  • Stephen White

    Great delegation Roland! You summarized well the perspective and the frustration many residents feel…not just in Ward 2 but throughout the City.

    These three references were particularly salient:

    “… I suggest we either believe in local democracy, or we don’t”.

    “We can’t keep treating citizens as the least important stakeholder on the list of people whose opinions need to be addressed. We can do development in a way that works for everybody.”

    “Unhappiness is bordering on universal.”

    Unfortunately, I suspect for the time being that your words are falling on deaf ears. Keep on fighting though. In the words of Bob Dylan “The times they are a changing”.

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