Scobie once again serves the public interest - members of council don't do quite as well.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

February 7th, 2019



On track 101There has been a lot of confusion about just where Burlington is in terms of the provincial government Places to Grow policy. That is the program that sets out the longer term population growth plans.

The provincial government set the level to which population is expected to grow and determines where that growth should take place.

A population growth target is given to the Regional governments (they are called two tier set ups) and a number to the single tier government; Guelph and Toronto are single tier governments. Burlington. Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills are part of the Region – making us part of a two tier system.

Burlington’s Planning department has never offered anything firm on just what the city has in terms of population and what is expected in the short term future. The planners just kept saying we are guided by the Places to Grow policy. The developers would claim that their development was part of reaching the Places to Grow target.

Many thought the target had already been met. The then Councillor Marianne Meed Ward kept saying the target for 2031 was being met and that we were in fact ahead of the requirement.

The target for 2041 is known at the Regional level – Burlington doesn’t know what its share of that number is going to be.

Much of the development in the downtown core is being driven by that Places to Grow policy.

Gary Scobie, a retired Burlington resident and frequent effective delegator, did some homework and came up with some numbers that suggest Meed Ward was right – we have reached our 2031 target or are so close that with the developments in the pipeline the city will reach its target handily.

Here is what Scobie had to say in his Growth Targets 101 presentation.

The Urban Growth Centre is where the development is taking place.

The Urban Growth Centre is shown with a red dotted line that is sometimes a solid red line. It extends as far north as Prospect Street. Total area is 104.6 hectares (ha)

Urban growth centre

In 2016 there were 156 p&j (a combination of people and jobs) per hectare in the Urban Growth Centre.

The goal for our UGC is 200 p&j per hectare – thus in 2016 we had achieved 78% of the goal.

The 2031 target is 104.6 ha x 200 p&j for a total of 20,920 people and jobs in the Urban Growth Centre.

In order to meet the 2031 target the city needs to add 4,540 p&j in the next 12 years.

Is that possible? Scobie thinks so and he offers the following data to make his point

Approved projects
These developments will add 2824 p&j in the not too distant future which will make Burlington short 1626 of the target. Note that Scobie uses an estimate of 1.5 residents per housing unit.

There is more maintains Scobie and he points to projects that are “in the works”.
In the works

Pearl and Lakeshore

A development planned for the corner of Pearl and Lakeshore is to be 29 storeys – a record high for the city.

Scobie, who shares the view of Mayor Meed Ward, maintains the city does not need 20 storey towers to meet the Places to Grow population target.

He suggests that the projects in the works will add 1355 people and 180 jobs for a total of 1535 p&J and that permitting buildings that are between eight and 11 storeys will let the city reach the objective. No need for the 20 plus storey towers that will destroy the small town feel that residents want.

“We don’t need more 20+ storey buildings to reach the target. Mid-rise building can get the city to the point where it has met the growth requirement and allow a more human scale of development.”

Is Scobie right?

Gary Scobie

Gary Scobie: Are his numbers right?

Hard to tell – none of the Councillors who heard the Scobie delegation asked city staff if Scobie’s numbers were right.

The Gazette has fired off an information request to Mary Loy Tanner, the former Planning Director who oversaw much of the development that has residents upset enough to elect a significantly different council.

Our question to Tanner is:

On Tuesday, February 6th, Gary Scobie made a delegation to Council. A copy of the slides he presented is attached. Are the numbers Scobie presented correct?
If they are incorrect could you set out where his numbers are wrong.
Thank you  🙂

A question we have for the members of council who heard the delegation: Did the cat get your tongues or did you agree with Scobie? At the end of his delegation there wasn’t a single question asked. Not what they were elected to do or did we get that wrong?

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11 comments to Scobie once again serves the public interest – members of council don’t do quite as well.

  • Tom Muir

    Joe Gaetan strikes a serious chord. He asks if the OP will be given any weight at LPAT. Here is a copy of an LPAT Case Management Conference (CMC) Notification. This is the new Hearing format.

    A person other than the appellant(s), the municipality or approval authority who wishes to participate in an appeal initiated under subsections 17(24), 17(36), 17(40), 22(7), 34 (11), 34(19) or 51(34) of the Planning Act must file a written submission with the Tribunal Registrar. The submission must explain the nature of their interest in the matter and how their participation will assist the Tribunal in resolving the issues raised in the appeal. The submission is to explain whether any decision or non-decision of the municipality or approval authority, which is the subject of the appeal before the Tribunal:
     Is inconsistent with a Provincial Policy Statement,
     Fails to conform with a provincial plan, or
     Fails to conform with an applicable official plan.”

    As indicated this includes consideration of the OP. But it also considers the PPS and a provincial plan.

    So what Joe points out about what the Adi Martha St OMB Hearing chair wrote about not having specific PPS and Provincial Plan target criteria for developments under appeal, just consistency or inconsistency, as indicated, is alarming and needs explanation.

    From this any height or density might be stated as consistent or conforming if there is no target metric criterion.

    I have seen material from a planning presentation to the new Council that only mentioned the first 2 LPAT criteria and nothing about the OP. It was in the Council Planning Primer, and I watched the video of this meeting, and I saw and read this.

    When I can abstract this from the material I have I will submit it later when appropriate.
    I forget the meeting date right now, but it was in the first week of the new Council I think.

    Those interested might search for that.

  • Don Fletcher

    Hi Brian:
    Yes, Gary made a mistake in using the 2016 actual when referring to our 2031 target, but I think his subsequent material regarding the shortfall proves that his reasoning is sound.

    On the other hand, I am having difficulty understanding your logic. The “approved projects” must be considered as part of the fixed base, and cannot be included numerically as part of a scenario variable/ argument regarding the future direction to achieve our 2031 goals. In my opinion, your argument/ concluding question is therefore flawed, and has rhetorical value only.

    I believe Gary’s point is that 20+ storey developments within “in the works” + other projects over the next 12 years are unnecessary to meet our goals. While he vaguely advocates for the sufficiency of 8-11 storey developments, I am mystified as to how you determined that 31 x 4 storey + 13 x 8 storey buildings equates to the stated “in the works” projects?

    Regardless, we pay the planners to track and forecast these critical metrics, and in the apparent vacuum, engaged citizens like Gary wade in. Let’s advocate for the Planning Department to publish these statistics cumulatively with each application approved and as an integral part of the new OP development process

  • Brian Paulson

    I’m not sure where the numbers come from. I would assume a report somewhere. Perhaps that could be linked.

    Reading the article some numbers don’t add up. 104.6Ha x 200 p&j/Ha = 20,920 p&j for 2031, not the 16,380 noted in the article. 16,380 would mean 156.6 p&j/Ha, which appears to be the density in 2016, as per the article. 20,920 – 16,380 = 4,540 not 4,450, which means an additional 1,716 p&j need be added to the downtown on top of the current number and those added by approved projects.

    I also note that the chart shows 1,673 people added from the approved projects and then the number of p&j is shown as 2,824. I assume this means 1,151 jobs will be added by these projects? If so, then I would further assume a bulk of that is from the Hotel in Bridgewater and from the medical portion of Caroline & Elizabeth.

    Now that the numbers are sorted, I find it interesting how these numbers are being used to argue against height when most of the buildings are tall buildings. The average height of the approved projects is 17.5 storeys. Take away the 6 and 7 storey buildings and that average goes to 21 storeys. For the projects “in the works”, the average is 18.6 storeys. Not a significant jump over time, considering some of the approved projects have been in the approval stage for 8 or more years.

    The argument is being made that this could be achieved with 4 to 8 storey builds. Considering that the first storey must be commercial (mixed use designation), for the approved projects this means the equivalent of 44 buildings are needed at 4-storey, and 19 at 8-storey. For the “in the works” projects, the equivalancies are 31 4-storey and 13 8-storey. Therefore instead of the 13 buildings listed in both charts, 32 to 75 4 to 8 storey buildings would have been needed to be built by 2031 in order to meet the minimum density target.

    This perspective seems to be lost in the discussion. I ask, what would you prefer, 13 buildings in construction for 15 years or 3 to 6 times that many?

    • Gary Scobie

      You are absolutely right about the first error, Brian. Thank you for pointing it out. I must have transposed two digits to turn 4540 into 4450. I apologize for this. The needed people and jobs in the next 12 years should read 4,540. So, 90 more than I had listed.

      The rest of the confusion comes from less information summarized in the article than what I presented at the Planning & Development meeting. You’re correct in assuming 1151 jobs from the JBH expansion (1000) and the Bridgewater Marriott Hotel (151). This was in my presentation. The total still remains at 2824 new people and jobs once the approved projects I listed are done along with JBH & Marriott.

      Then we would be 1716 P&J short of the 4540 required by 2031, not the 1626 I erroneously had in my presentation. Then I talked about “in the works” projects that aren’t approved, adding another 1355 more people and 180 more jobs (from Amica at 1157 North Shore). This totals another 1535 more P&J, less than 200 away from what is required by 2031.

      In my presentation I then hoped that these would not be approved as requested, but would be scaled back to mid-rise in the 8 – 11 storey range in height. I adjusted the new P&J downward to reflect that and came up with between 595 – 820 more P&J instead of the 1535. We’d then be short about 900 – 1100 (I said 800 – 1000 in my presentation because of my initial error).

      I stated that there are enough other projects in the thinking stage in the UGC (Waterfront Hotel, Pine Street plus others that have not been publicized, plus the medical building that is supposed to be built at Caroline & Elizabeth) that we could probably likewise use mid-rise buildings (8 – 11 storeys) to fill in the 900 – 1100 P&J still required to meet the 2031 density target. I did not mention 4 – 8 storey buildings in my presentation.

      Yes, we have added many high-rise buildings under past Councils, deviating wildly from our OP and zoning heights. Those very buildings have actually helped to move up the P&J numbers quite well, as one would expect. But we don’t need more of them. My advice is stick with the current OP, approve only mid-rise from now on, and we will make the density required. Of course if the new Council could move the UGC up to the Burlington GO Station, we wouldn’t need any more density than already approved, since there are no specific targets downtown if it’s not an Urban Growth Centre. That’s just a dream of mine, for now.

      Thanks for your fact-checking, questions and comments, Brian. Hope I’ve cleared up any confusion for you and likely for others.

  • Tom Muir

    Jim and Don, You are right in asking – demanding really – that developers prove with data or metrics, that their application justification meets the provincial growth targets and is needed to do that.

    I have had enough crap talk about this justification. Show us the proof, not the one-sided yap of another consultant planner hired by the developer to say one thing already predetermined, and not give us an unbiased objective point of view with evidence based reasons.

    Fat chance of that.

  • Jim Young

    Gary does a great service to Burlington residents.
    It appears that every development application is justified as “helping meet our province mandated growth targets”.
    But neither the developers nor city planners ever give any kind of cumulative progress towards these targets when the next application is considered.
    Mayor Meed Ward did respond to Gary’s presentation by asking that staff make such numbers available.
    Without that information, growth and intensification simply get out of control.
    Citizens fear that point has already been reached.

    • Joe Gaetan

      Knowing how we are progressing against meeting provincially mandated targets should be part of the information package we and council receive for each development. Same goes for knowing how many parking spots are being soaked up by each development. Having said that, here is what the Adi 374 Martha St. decision had to say about the subject of meeting targets:

      [104] The Board heard evidence from Messrs. Ferancik and Lowes and from Ms. Bustamante regarding the ability of the intensification strategy, as implemented, to achieve the minimum targets of population and jobs required by the GGH 2006 and the GGH 2017. The upshot of the examination and cross-examination of these witnesses appears to be that the City may not quite meet the minimum required target for intensification.

      [105] This evidence was not helpful to the Board in the context of these proceedings.

      [106] The required target for intensification is a minimum target. Additionally, there is no test of ‘need’ in either the PPS 2014 or the GGH 2017 against which the Board is expected to consider a development proposal contemplated through an OPA and a ZBLA. Whether the overall minimum intensification target is being met is not relevant to the question of whether the proposed development is consistent with the PPS 2014 and conforms to the GGH 2017.

      Bottom line question is, have we lost control, or have we given it away? Hopefully LPAT will take a different approach and will give more weight to what kind of development the city and citizens want in the various areas of our city.

  • Terry Rose

    It’s common practice for developers to oversell the “benefits” of their towers. Your analysis at least removes the dubious benefit of helping Burlington to meet its growth targets. Your readers might be interested in how misleading is the word “storey”. For example your chart shows the three towers proposed at 1157 North Shore. They are respectively: 64.5M, 45.5M and 42.5M. The 17 storey (64.5M) is DOUBLE the neighbouring 12 storey condo at 33M.

    • Don Fletcher

      I concur. 360 on Pearl is 17 storeys, but it’s new neighbour, the Bridgewater, appears to be much higher than just 5 storeys. All storeys are not equal. Go down and have a comparative look for yourself.

  • Don Fletcher

    Thanks Gary.
    Consider replacing the recent 29-storey application at Lakeshore & Pearl with the proposed medical office building on Caroline between John & Pearl (both from Carriage Gate) on the “in the works” chart, just from a future optics perspective.

    Developers for too long have been selling their 20+ storey developments as a public service to the City in helping it to meet its’ provincially-mandated growth goals, with little to no reference to these actual/ forecast metrics. The Planning Department has generally remained silent, to our City’s detriment.

    It’s time these metrics become part of the public dialogue regarding all future developments.
    Without a full & complete understanding of these metrics, how can the City possibly determine the gap in growth potential of the current OP (with approved projects included) with the 2031/41 targets, and thereby begin to develop a new OP that has the probability of achieving them?

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