Will new data convince at least three council members to change their vote on the Water Street land sale?

October 14, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  James Ziegler, a 24 year resident of St. Paul Street was one of four people who delegated at a city council committee meeting speaking in favour of the city retaining the land it owns along the edge of the lake between Market and St. Paul Streets.

Ziegler is a detail person, he tends to look at the information put in front of him and interact with it rather than react to it.

After delegating and listening to what he thought were very short-sighted views he sent Councillor Sharman (Ward 5) a note which we set out below along with Sharman`s replies.

I’m writing with regard to Water Street properties and the recent  committee meeting on this matter.   I’m disappointed the committee’s  motion on this matter and intend to provide additional comments and new  information to support the merits of a Water Street walkway.   Considering  the nature of your questions it appears you may have a rather fixed view  point and the valuation of this land.  By your questions you appeared to  be less interesting in considering an alternate point view and more  seeking to elicit comments that would support a predetermined position.  I  believe there was a deficiency in objective facts on the matter and trust  that you will listen to these with an open mind.

Goldring also has this chronic desire to either hide behind legal counsel justifying any sensitive decision, or, go ad nauseum through some sort of group hug consensus building process with the same members of the loud minority. You and your colleagues have chosen a short-sighted solution disregarding the need of future generations in Burlington for an expedient answer.   I believe you have been bullied by the threat litigation and very narrow  minded comments from the landowners.  This does not represent the value of  a potential park to the general community.

 Should the council choose to sell this land, they are acting against  several layers of adopted policy and I believe there are grounds for a  class action lawsuit on the matter.  A course of action I will participate  in.

I was appalled by some of the comments of the landowners and some  committee members.   These  statements demonstrated a sour attitude to the  general population and lack of faith in the people in our community.

James Ziegler presented a graphic that illustrated where a paved pathway could be built and the proximity of a pathway to the three houses that abut property currently owned by the city.  The property consists of three parcels: road allowances on each end and the old Water Street road in the centre.  The city has voted, in principle, to sell the land in the middle.  Reason for doing so appears to be financial and some legal history that the city does not want to talk about.

This is a sad reflection of the community I live in.  Councillor Mead Ward  was the sole voice thinking of the value to the public at large about this  matter.  The paternalistic and condescending  comments form Mr. Dennison  and Mr. Taylor were a very poor display of public governance.  In  particular Mr. Dennison pacing the floor behind the chairs as Councillor  Ward spoke to her motion could not have demonstrated any more clearly how he was fixated with his position and not willing to listen to any contrary  idea.  I don’t frequent the proceedings of council but was expecting better. (To be fair to Councillor Dennison, he frequently gets up and paces behind his chair – shouldn’t be seen as a reflection on what is being said or who is speaking.)

 There were other citizens in the room for the committee meeting on Oct. 2  who did not rise to speak however they spoke to me afterwards and  expressed their displeasure in the tone and attitude of the committee  members.

 Regarding the merits of a connected pathway, people on a run, walk or bike  ride are far less likely to go out to a dead-end requiring them to  turn  around and follow back to the original line of travel.   How many times on a run or walk have you chosen to back track on your route?  Likely never  or only when circumstances such as a closed path forced you to.

 The cavalier  comments regarding safety and potential malevolent behavior of  some irresponsible people,  made by the members and landowners were  exaggerations intended to manipulate the argument based on fear.  No  evidence was presented to support these claims. Yet they appeared to be a  significant factor in the decision.   Applying the same criteria and  comments made by the members most parks or large portions of parks in  Burlington and in the Province should be closed to the public. There is no  logic or facts to support these arguments. The police that I have talked  to on this matter do not see this as a significant security problem.  In  fact the opposite is more likely true, a short walkway is safer and easier  to manage than a dead-end. I have also talked to planners and landscape  architects on this matter.  The committee decision flies against  progressive good community planning.

 On the mater of parking for the area, this was a red herring, It  completely missed the point,  It is a  walking pathway.   I will present  the council a map showing the populations served by the Water Street  walkway, within a 1 km range.  To suggest we (several thousand people,  many in apartments and without cars) have ample opportunity to drive to  Spencer Smith park or to crowd into the 50 usable feet of lake edge at  Nelson Park to see the lake is akin to the Marie-Antoinette  comment, “let  them eat cake”  People, the general population, need local  access to the lake within walking distance of their homes.

 I believe you and your colleges have grossly undervalued the  significance of adding over 400 lineal feet of public access to the lake,  compared to the existing 55 lineal feet of accessible frontage at Nelson  park.   You and others referred to this as excessive to put two parks  between 3 houses.  This is misleading to make a measure of scale by  counting the three houses.   I’m sure you will agree the three houses are  much larger than the average size house and lot size in the Burlington  core.  A better measure would be to look at the real dimensions.

Please reflect on the real motive why you voted against the Water Street  walkway and take another look at the matter.   As I said at the committee,  consider this generation and the next three generations that can enjoy the  Water Street walkway.   Consider what kind of city you are contributing to. The Vision in this regard should be thought of in terms of many  decades not the short term fiscal issues.   At the very least leave the  land available to a future council with a greater vision for the public  welfare.   This I use in the true sense of the word, faring well in mind  body and spirit.

 James Ziegler

And what is wrong with ideology?  That is what underpins  our vision and drives progress in our society.  Ideology is behind all transformation of community.   Without it we are rudderless  perhaps making expedient decisions but traveling without a compass.Sharman, the Councillor for Ward 5 responded with:   Mr. Zeigler: Thank you for your email. I appreciate your thoughtful and considered argument. I am curious to hear how you feel about Ms. Meed Ward’s position on not acquiring the properties on the Beachway for park, and perhaps even selling vacant lots to private owners? The fact is that there are inconsistencies in all of the arguments, that is normal because the devil is in the details.

Ward 5 Councillor Paul Sharman is usually very direct, tends to want to see data that is verifiable and expects to get his way.

I understand the higher level motives behind your argument, and in principle I agree. In my experience, in theory everything is practical, in practice it is not. Water Street needs to be resolved now, punting the decision to a future time is simply not helpful. We have parks we don’t maintain. And while I would love to have a path along the waterfront, the properties with riparian rights in the area of Water Street will not allow for further extension of such a pathway.

Councillor Sharman with Councilor Blair Lancaster. Sharman has dug himself into an ideological argument that he probably cannot get out of. Lancaster liked the sound of leasing the land and might be convinced to change her vote.

Each opportunity is evaluated on its own merits. The Water Street properties do not need to kept by the City just to satisfy a higher level ideology. The City policy is clear about acquisition of waterfront property when it is practical and logical to do so. Your view and that of Ms. Meed Ward versus the views of 5 of my colleagues and I are different. It happens.

Sharman is an avid cyclist. Were he to cycle through the pathway Ziegler proposes he would in all likelihood pause along the path and marvel at the view and tell himself – this is why I am a city Councillor of this city.

Besides, I am concerned that the location is so obscure that very few people will actually benefit, apart from the malcontent youth.  The proposal is to have two parkettes and to maintain the existing park 200 yards away. That will work quite fine. The City does not need to spend a pile of money to satisfy just a few people. We have bigger matters to address.

 Paul

Ziegler probably took in a deep breath after the Sharman response but soldiered on and replied with:

Dear Councillor Sharman:  Thank you for your reply.  I’ve forwarded your comments to my neighbours.   I don’t consider this a matter of ideology, for myself and my neighbours and our families it is a very practical matter.   This in not in the realm of conceptual notions.   It would be an aspect of many people’s daily lives.

I hope we will be able to convince you that this walkway will be a significant contribution with the potential to be enjoyed by many.   I see that you have some challenges to appreciate the importance of creating a 400 ft. walkway.   It will be linked to the walk along Lakeshore and the fact that adjacent lands will not be available makes it all the more important to create portions that are accessible.  

You may not be a frequent walker or runner so you may not appreciate the value of a linked pathway.  I hope my friends and neighbours will help to change your opinion.

James Ziegler.

Later in the weekend Ziegler passed along several of the graphic illustrations he plans to use during his delegation on Tuesday evening.

There are an estimated 4500 people within a 100 metre radius of the pathway James Ziegler proposes be created along the edge of the lake between Market and St. Paul Street.

He then takes on the view that there aren’t that many people in the immediate area who would use the pathway parkette that is proposed and provides a graph to make his point.

Ziegler and his neighbours realize that they face a steep uphill battle.  Meed Ward is close to despondent – she just doesn’t see a 4-3 in favour of keeping the land or leasing it.  She would need three more votes – the Mayor is a possible, Lancaster is a possible as well.  Craven would rather die than vote with Meed Ward and both Taylor and Dennison see the revenue that a sale would being and they want those dollars for infrastructure work.

Several council members went on about the amount of park space on the eastern side of the city.  The Water street property is one of the few areas where parkland can be created.  The western side of the city has much more park space.  Will these arguments make a difference?

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3 comments to Will new data convince at least three council members to change their vote on the Water Street land sale?

  • Bobby R

    In your face – what do you expect since Sharman is clearly out of his depth!

  • In Your Face

    Councillor Sharman needs to educate himself firstly on property rights, riparian rights, and overall public process, so that he can speak more intelligently as to what can, and as in this particular case should be done by this city.

    The existing riparian rights DO NOT prohibit the city from being able to develop these lands for a park. Sharman is openly misleading people.

    Sharman should also be careful when publicly speaking about the relevance he implies exists between “malcontent” youth and good land use policy initiatives such as this case. The embarrassingly uninformed Sharman should be more worried about the “malcontent” spilling out from the council chambers, than from young people who could actually make positive use of waterfront parkette land.

    Time to squeeze the Sharman out of office, right behind Taylor.

  • I sent the following in an email to the mayor and all councillors.

    Please reconsider the issue of selling public waterfront land between Market St. and St. Paul St., running behind three private homes.

    As public land it will be available to local residence to visit the waterfront in a very different type of park than the beach, the pier and promenade and the existing windows on the lake. As a park, this will make a quiet area suitable for private reflection and quiet conversations, something well needed in our hectic world.

    My husband, Brian Coleman, and I moved to Burlington in 2002 and we love it. Prior to our move we lived on Water’s Edge Drive in a freehold townhouse that was situated on the lake with the Waterfront Trail (unpaved) between our home and the water. The trail cuts to the lake from Water’s Edge Drive, just west of 3rd Line, and follows the waterfront to Bronte. The residence of Water’s Edge Drive often cut the crass in front of their homes and planted flower gardens outside their fences to make a very pleasant environment for those using that section of the trail. There are also benches positioned along that section. In the 7 years I lived there there were only two problems with people using the trail. One was dealing with people who let their dogs off leash to run free. The other was when it was proposed that memorial trees would be planted on the trail that would block residents views. Memorial benches were allowed instead of the trees. You can easily see this section of the trail on Google Maps.

    If you look on Google Maps at the waterfront from the most easterly street in Oakville, (Arkendo) you can see a park that runs between the lakeside homes and the lake. I have visited this park on an beautiful summer morning and enjoyed the serenity. I know many local residents who do not front on the lake walk to this park. Having known people who live on this street and speaking about it, I believe parking has not been a problem as few people know it is there. I also understand that the residents who back on the park take pride and ownership to keep the area safe, as it is their best interest to report any rowdy behavior to the police.

    If you follow the shoreline a short distance west you will see Carrington Promenade. The street view easily shows the access. You can also see swimming pools and gardens on the private properties.

    Chancery Promenade is next west, then a short promenade off Bel Air Drive, then Esplanade Park, Raymar Park, First Street Park, (from Allen Street west)Dingle Park, then George Street Park. This gets you to Lakeside Park at the harbour. These parks have homes backing onto them.

    Why are you looking at selling the land on the lake east of downtown and trying to buy land on the beach strip? In my opinion you should not sell the land under consideration and follow Oakville’s example of creating as much public access to the lake as possible.

    Please vote to keep and develop for public use, the publicly owned property between Market St. and St. Paul St., running behind three private homes as Oakville has done successfully.

    Thank you for your attention and consideration!

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