Rural sector gets to bend the Mayor's ear - great ideas and an arrow pointing to the source of the problems - city hall.

News 100 greenBy Staff

May 16, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward wrapped up her final Red Carpet Red Tape focus group earlier this week around the kitchen table of Capstone Farm, the home of 2010 ward 6 candidate Vanessa Warren and some of the rural business community members. The Mayor thought it “was a perfect setting for this group and I’m very appreciative of Vanessa’s offer to host us around her beautiful farmhouse kitchen table.” It appears the Mayor wasn’t taken out to the barn.

There was a time when farming was the economy - Burlingtonès produce was sold around the world.

There was a time when farming was the economy – Burlington’s produce was sold around the world.

The Mayor maintains that “farmers and rural/agricultural businesses are a cornerstone of Burlington’s economy and a core part of our history and identity as a community.

“We are committed to helping them grow and thrive. There are many unique issues that face this group of businesses and today, we got into detail about what is most pressing.

Long the apple in the eye of the development community - it is the part of Burlington that xxx

Is there any really active, full scale farming taking place? The equestrian business thrives, a great pear orchard on the north side of Dundas but few, if any cattle, no swine. What is the long range plan? A playground for the rest of the province?

“The group had already done their homework, having met to brainstorm last week in preparation for our session today. This session included families that have each been farming in the area for 150+ years, passed on through generation after generation.

“In keeping with how our other focus groups were run, we started with a roundtable discussion on what the main challenges are to starting or growing a business in our rural areas, talked about what is already working, and brainstormed ideas about how to improve things. Since the session was more conversational, jumping from challenge to solution more easily, the structure of highlights will be more fluid than previous blog posts in this series.”

There was nothing "granular" about the pile of earth dumped on land yards away from an Appleby home. Three court cases and an appeal - Burlingtin was out hundreds of thousands in legal fees and the mountain of earth is still where it was illegally dumped.

This Appleby Line resident wonders if the Court decision will mean this pile of earth will be hauled away. Or does the decision mean she has a claim against someone for the damage done to the value of her property?

Key highlights:
• Urban planning (where there is much more clarity) vs rural planning (nothing granular) – Rural relies heavily on business/land owner for EIAs, maps, justifying, etc., and detailed planning is downloaded to landowner/farmer (so before we can even do anything creative, we must do most of the work because there isn’t enough clarity around our land use).

• Regulations that lack clarity or defined “tipping points.” There are a lot of definitions in documents like the OP and beyond that are lacking, such as:

o “key feature”
o “natural heritage system:
o “adjacent to”
o “existing use”
o “special events” (and why only 6? And when are EIAs necessary?)

• Regulations that are so onerous as to favour large scale/big finance and exclude small business (they have the money, staff and expertise).

• Prolonged timelines are an issue with multiple agencies, most specifically and most often the Niagara Escarpment Commission (NEC), the Halton Conservation Authority, and the City of Burlington. As applications cannot be worked on concurrently, the staged reviews across multiple agencies end up creating a very lengthy timeline. It should also be noted there are many times when NEC exemptions can be granted (and should be obvious at the outset), but still require a full application for review, creating very unnecessary delays and red tape. Can we get more clarity from NEC about what the easy and clarified checklist is, to understand what is going to be exempt so in good faith, they can get started — can we develop an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) of things that are likely to be exempt?

Building Permits: NEC is involved with almost all the lands up here (in the rural area); also, the Conservation Authority is involved too. Mapping has issues and much of it is not ground truth. Used to be able to get a permit in a couple of weeks (back in the 70’s). City of Burlington was felt to really mean “how can I help you get things done” vs now it is more like “here’s what you need to do, polite but not genuinely helpful”. Engineered stamped drawings for agricultural building all-of-a-sudden necessary. Now, things take 3-6 months to process with a lot of additional steps.

Second is on the building review side — should be at client’s option — if you are required with engineered stamped/signed drawings — then why is there 30-60 days wait to have it reviewed (it’s like having it reviewed twice) and even at the end of an expedited service they’ve paid for, they came back at the last day to ask for more info.

The sweet spot for every politician is ...

Regional Chair Gary Carr tastes some honey from an xxx on a pear farm in Burlington.

• In order to protect farming, we have to protect farmers and let them have other ways to make money on their land and this effects the OP. Everything seems to be a no before it’s a yes. Seems an effort to protect something – but what? Can that even be identified and communicated?

• Have an SME (Kelly) at the City has been really helpful lately to move through a lot of these processes and suggest alternatives so instead of just hearing “no” it becomes “here is what will get you to yes”.

• Can there be a pre-consultation option for all 3 agencies before complex projects start the application process? If it’s no – we can get to no faster that way and save lots of people time and money. Could there be a day biweekly that all agencies meet and do speed dating through a bunch of pre-consults with a form filled out ahead of time to triage and look at fire, public health, NEC, etc.

• Protect the steward of the land – the land owner – they respect the rural area more than anyone and we need to trust them.

It took $2 million out of the legal department's budget to pay for the tear long tribunal that decided the Jefferson Salamander was important and that an expansion of the existing quarry should not be poermitted. It was rural Burlington residents who were the force behind that battle - they were not to be trifled with.

It took $2 million out of the legal department’s budget to pay for the year long tribunal that decided the Jefferson Salamander was important and that an expansion of an existing quarry should not be permitted. Not a mention of the aggregate problem at the Red Tape event.

• Point of Access to Fields has become an issue – Public Works at CoB will come along and reditch a roadside and not replace the access as a level crossing with a culvert – it’s City Land right of way – who pays for the culvert?

• Need to review storm water management in rural areas – ditches and culverts that are full of silt and no longer working. There are municipal ditches on private land that land owners aren’t permitted to clean or maintain but need work.

• CoB interactive maps and zoning maps are not current on the website so it’s not easy to find out when you’ll need a permit. You can’t do any real pre-work yourself. City doesn’t offer GIS layers on the maps.

OVERALL TOP IDEAS:
• Let’s create a culture of service at all agencies that is a “YES” mentality. A “Here’s how we get to yes” mentality.

• More clarity in rules, zoning, definitions in policies and more encouragement of farm diversified use to help support their economic sustainability.

• Pre-consultation options to save everyone time and frustration.

Red tape red carpetMeed Ward was working full out that day. She went from her rural meeting right into the first meeting of the Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force, a group of business owners and thought leaders who will help distill all the information collected in the past two months and identify the biggest opportunities and most logical actions we can take to remove obstacles and help our businesses thrive.

There have been four private closed meeting with data, idea beefs and bouquets – but no one who doesn’t have a steak or an interest in the room.

Not the healthiest way to conduct public business.

The Mayor is opening things up – to whom and why to just the small special interest groups. She knows better.

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