Somewhere the vision that east end residents had for their community got lost.

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

April 15th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

A crowd that filled the city council chamber, spilled out into the foyer and had people sitting in the room adjacent, wanted to know what happened to the visions that were expressed at the public meeting four years earlier where hundreds poured over large drawings of what existed at the Lakeshore Village Plaza and what could be done to the site.

Everyone knew the plaza needed an upgrade desperately but what the developer had proposed was offensive to many.

Denise Beard at Lakeside Plaza visioning

City staff were on hand to help residents develop the vision they had for their community.

They wanted to know what happened to all the ideas that were expressed at the 2015 public meeting when residents talked about what could be developed and the amenities that might be available. People were excited and at the time the city was quite prepared to be an active player in the development.

More than a dozen staff members took part in the visioning exercise. There was a lot of enthusiasm. The then Mayor met with the developer – who turned out not to be the developer – just a representative for the developer.

An architect was on hand, a planner who once worked for Oakville and now represented the interests of the property owner was on hand to listen. It was an interesting start with a lot of potential.

There were some early stage drawings that showed great potential.

Then things went quiet for a while during the lead up to the municipal election that put everything on hold.

Prior to the election there was huge concern over the changes that were being proposed for the downtown area of the city. The east end of the city sort of got forgotten.

The Planning department got swamped with the number of development applications and the focus shifted to the downtown core.

Approval of one high rise tower opposite city hall and then the approval by the Ontario Municipal Board of a second 24 storey building resulted in the election of a new Mayor and five new members of a seven member city council.

Prior to the October election, in July of 2018, the public got to see what the developer wanted to do with the Lakeshore Village Plaza – they were stunned.

Lucy - M A St James at 1st open house July18 (2-4)

Lucy Belvedere on the left with ward 5 candidate Mary Alice St. James.

“Accepting this proposal” said Lucy Belvedere, ” will permit many undesirable taller buildings and allow the unbelievable and incompatible 900 residential units, in addition to the expansive 14,655 square metres for commercial use. It is ludicrous, over-crowded and completely unsuited to its surrounding neighbourhood.

Sharman pointing LVP

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman had a fight on his hands to hold his seat in the 2018 election.

For the residents a development of this size, scale and scope was just not on. The Council member would have lost his seat had the vote not been split amongst two women who individually were strong contenders but collectively they let the incumbent hold the seat.

The public had been led to believe that Joe Elmaleh was the owner of the property. He is the authorized agent for the owner, Joseph Popack, an American with a rough edged reputation based on his Crown Heights rental apartments that has him listed as #7 on the list of top 10 worst landlords in the Crown Heights area of Brooklyn, New York where he owns over 3000 apartments.

Lakeside Village Goldring - Zahoruk and Emilio

Former Mayor Rick Goldring, architect Cynthia Zahoruk and property manager Joe Elmaleh in discussion at the 2015 visioning event for the east end of the city.

In city documents prior to 2018, the owner is shown consistently as United Burlington Portfolio Inc. Then the name Glanelm Property Management begins to appear giving the impression that Joe Elmaleh is the owner.

During the Statutory Public meeting on the development Elmaleh was referred to as the developer.

Popack is the owner of the property, Elmaleh is the agent for the owner. There are some very good public relations reason for creating the confusion.

SKYWAY-WITH-SHOPPERS-SIGN

The plaza site as it is today – desolate and close to empty.

The Statutory meeting is a required event under the Planning Act during which the city planners explain what they have been given and the public gets to say what they think.

The members of council, the Mayor and the residents don’t like what they saw.

LVP aerial rendering

The four towers along Lakeshore Road would hide everything behind them.

During the questions and comments part of the meeting staff didn’t have very much to say, other than that there were a number of other city departments involved – Parks and Recreation and Transportation.

The meeting was not an occasion when decisions were going to be made. It was a Receive and File event – the report and public reaction are part of the record.

There wasn’t the feeling that anyone on the staff side had a firm grip on what was taking place or that a something even remotely like what had been presented would ever see the light of day.

That feeling used to exist within the hearts and minds of those who live in the downtown core learned the hard way that keeping their elected representatives fully accountable is not a part time job.

Frank Toews made the point when he told city council during the Statutory meeting that they were the “gate keepers” in place to prevent projects like this from getting beyond the talking point.

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