Year in Review: January of 2019 - the change had begun. Little did we know how extensive it was going to be or how well council would work together.

News 100 blueBy Pepper Parr

December 27th, 2019

BURLINGTON, ON

 

We are about to enter a  New Year and celebrate the last year of the second decade in this new millennium.

How did we do last year? It was a momentous year for the city. With a new city council installed the last month of 2018 we began to see how different the new council would be as we rolled through the year.

But it wasn’t all about city council.

The people of the city were much more engaged – not as fully engaged as they would like to be – they are working at upping that game.

Developments were popping up all over the place.

Let’s look at the year month by month.

January 3rd – Burlington decided to work with a Strategic Plan that had a 25 year time-frame. The practice had been to create a Plan that covered a four year time-frame. Council decided  a Strategic Plan needed to be constantly  revised to be relevant and opted for a 25 year Strategic Plan.

We didn’t know at the time that this would evolve into what became known as the Vision to Focus level. More on that later in the year.

January 7th – The National Homes development at 2100 Brant – just south of Havendale, howled when they learned of a kink in the appeal process that was taking place over the proposed 233 unit development that got reduced to 212 homes.

National Homes image

Residents did not want to put up with the level of intensification that National Homes had in mind . They compared the 736 homes in a site to the north in a much larger site to the 233 National had in mind.

Ed Door, the citizen who delegated on behalf of the community set out in considerable detail how badly the development application was managed.

mike-taylor-walk-off-the-earth

Mike ‘The Beard’ Taylor died suddenly on December 30th, 2018

January 9th -The city announced it would hold a commemorative event on January 13th to celebrate the life of Mike ‘The Beard’ Taylor who died suddenly on December 30th. Mike was a member of Walk Off the Earth a Burlington musical group that went viral with a video that established them as a band that was making a difference.

There was a huge appetite for more influence at city hall and participation at the levels where decision are made. In the past residents who have been very critical of the way they get treated at city hall, are now telling the Gazette that Staff are reaching out to them.

“I don’t seem to have to chase people to get information” said one resident. Another mentioned that she was approached by staff in the Clerk’s office and asked to take part in a committee. “I didn’t know the staffer but she seemed to know who I was” said the resident.  Many people didn’t have much time for the Advisory committee process used in Burlington. “They tend to be controlled by the council member who sits in on the meeting and serves as liaison to council”, was the way one resident described them.

What we appear to be seeing at city hall is a small, subtle change.

Real estate report
When all was said and done in 2018, said a real estate agents report, sales were down 12% and inventory levels were down just over 20%. Sale prices settled at 1.9% below the average sale price in 2017. Not a bad result, given the doom and gloom we heard from many industry watchers.

Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservative government has announced a review of regional governments in Ontario.
Burlington is a part of the Regional government of Halton, which is made up of Burlington, Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills.

Council approves cannabis retail outlets: 

They first earned the right to determine what the city’s municipal government would do – they won the election.

On December 3rd, they assumed power.

And now they are exerting that power.

Monday night, January 16th, city council listened to some people who had an amazing amount of information on just what the newest industry in Ontario is all about.

During the debate council members listened to delegations talk about what they knew about the rules and regulations that were either in place or going to be in place.

In the end, meeting as a city council, the earlier part of the evening they were meeting as a Standing Committee, the voted 5-2 to permit cannabis to be sold at commercial outlets in the city. Mayor Meed Ward, Councillors Galbraith, Kearns, Nisan, Sharman voted for the motion – Stolte and Bentivegna voted against.

MMW at GTHA event

Burlington Mayor gets a province wide headline for her remarks on Ford policy – her peers begin to see Meed Ward differently.

January 16th – Sixteen mayors from the GTHA region met at Toronto City Hall at the invitation of Toronto Mayor John Tory for a closed-door meeting to discuss shared issues that cross municipal boundaries such as transit, affordable housing, and climate change. The Mayors agreed that no one municipality can fully address these issues alone, and with a federal election coming up, there was an opportunity for them to speak with a united voice on behalf of their communities.

Mayor Marianne Meed Ward then delivered a line that media grabbed and turned into headlines. “Instead of a hatchet, we’d like more of a handshake approach from the province.”

The rest of the province just got a look at the ‘chops’ Burlington’s Mayor has. We learned as well that Burlington is not the end of the road for this women.

Opened as the Burlington Mall  the site was renamed and is now the Burlington Centre. It will take a little getting used to – but it will stick.

Burlington MPP Jane McKenna talked to staff at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for clarification about the Mobility Hub legislation.

“The first thing I learned is that “mobility hubs” are identified by Metrolinx’s regional transportation plan, but do not have to be reflected as such in any local planning documents.

“The growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, 2017, does not refer to mobility hubs. The City of Burlington council is free to remove these mobility hub designations from the local official plan.”  Burlington might be able to remove mobility hub designations but there isn’t a hope in hades that Burlington will move away from the concept of hubs which are understood to be locations where development is increased and transportation options intensified.

The City’s Planning department is well into some deep dive research and with precincts defined and mapping work done showing where different heights and density of residential will be located.

McKenna has muddied the waters with her comments. There will be three mobility hubs; one at each of the existing GO stations.

January 21st – The Provincial Offences (POA) Courts in Burlington and Milton are getting ready to relocate to one new courthouse at 4085 Palladium Way in Burlington.

The Milton POA Court relocated its services to the Burlington POA Court on Friday, January 18, 2019. On Thursday, January 31, 2019 the Burlington POA Court and all POA court services will move to the new Halton Provincial Offences Court.

January 22nd – After years of getting to the point where there would be a Private Tree Bylaw Burlington is now ready to put at least a toe in the water of a very controversial issue: can anyone just cut down a tree on their property.

The Roseland Private Tree Bylaw Pilot comes into effect March 1. Information sessions are planned.
City tree photo

The pilot project aims to protect private trees with diameters larger than 30 cm, historic and rare tree species from damage or destruction.

The two-year pilot will conclude in March of 2021. At the end of the pilot, a report with recommendations will be presented to City Council.

January 23rd – INTEGRITY: City Council met on Monday in the Great Room at the Paletta Mansion.  It was a closed session with two presentations being made:  A Workshop presented by Mike Galloway, CAO, Town of Caledon, on Governance for Elected Officials and Senior Management.  There was a second Workshop presented by Jeff Abrams and Janice Atwood-Petkovski, Principles of Integrity on Code of Conduct and responsibilities of the Integrity Commissioner.

The province requires all municipalities to have a Code of Conduct in Place and an Integrity Commissioner that the public can turn to should anyone feel that the elected officials and the appointed Staff are not complying with the Code of Conduct.

Marianne Meed Ward, now the Mayor, was a huge champion for a Code of Conduct – but she was never able to convince her colleagues to come up with something they couldn’t slide around.  The session on Monday was the first opportunity the new Council got to see what it was that they had to live by.

Clarity asked for.
January 25th – “We are three concerned Ward 1 citizens who believe council needs to act to clarify the status of the New OP and the supremacy of the Existing Official Plan (Existing OP).”

Woodruff

Greg Woodruff

Muir glancing

Tom Muir

Jim Young 2

Jim Young

The Region’s rejection of the New OP renders it null and void and, under the Planning Act, leaves the Existing OP “in Force and Effect” at present. Yet recent applications by developers for zoning or bylaw amendments to the City’s Official Plan appear to be receiving consideration under some kind of blending of both plans. This lack of clarity works very much in the developers favour.

Developers are submitting applications which, while paying lip service to the Existing OP to keep them compliant, incorporate features of the New OP in an attempt to cash in on its more liberal permitted heights.

Amica development rendering

The site proposal from the rear which overlooks a residential community.

There are many such applications in the works but one good example of this practice is the Proposed Development at 1157-1171 North Shore Bvd.  The developer wants 17 stories (62.5) metres in an area where the Existing OP designates 11 Storey (Max 22 metres). Regardless of the merits or otherwise of the development, the process by which it is being pursued by both developer and city staff is not only inappropriate, it is contrary to all the reasons citizens elected a new city council and creates very dangerous precedents no matter what revision of the OP eventually reaches the books.

“At the mandatory public meeting held jointly by the developer and city planners on January 9th, these deviations from the Existing OP; the misapplication of the New OP and many other issues were raised by citizens.

“Our concerns about the legitimacy of the process were completely ignored by city planning staff whose duty, we believe should be to defend the wishes of Citizens, City Council and Halton Region, all of whom have rejected the New OP and pending a rewrite of that plan following its overwhelming rejection by voters in the October election.

If that needs to be clarified to city staff, then we urgently request that council convene to provide direction to staff, as is their prerogative, to the effect that: “The Old Official Plan remains in force and in effect as mandated by The Planning Act, and is therefore the only pertinent consideration for amendment applications until such times as A Revised Official Plan is drawn up, adopted by city council and approved by regional council.”

Grow Bold gets the boot from the Mayor

Mayor Meed Ward issued a statement this morning making it very clear what she had in mind. The Grow Bold tag line the Planning department had fallen in love with was out – and council will be looking at the “approved” Official Plan that the Regional government returned as deficient.

“Burlington residents have consistently raised concerns about over intensification and development in our City. During the 2018 election, they made their voices heard and clearly indicated the need to review the scale and intensity of planned development, especially in the new Official Plan.

“As a result, I am bringing forward a motion to re-examine the policies of the Official Plan that was adopted, though not officially approved, in April of 2018, and review matters of height and density.

“Halton Region has also recently identified areas of non-conformity, so this motion seeks to gain the time to address those issues.

“Once the Region identified areas of non-conformity, that stopped the clock on approving the new Official Plan and opened the plan up for any other matters of discussion. This allows our new city council the time to define what areas we want to study, undertake that work, consult with the community, and send back a comprehensive plan. We expect that plan to truly reflect the needs, best interests and vision of the community and its elected council.

“Further, we will immediately discontinue use of the “Grow Bold” term and related branding to ensure we are absolutely clear on our direction.

Pearl and LakeshoreJanuary 29th – Developer gets rough ride over 29 storey structure. A proposal for a 29 storey development on Lakeshore at Pearl got a cold reception when the developer suggested that the 26 storey building approved next door and others on Brant St. serve as a precedent. It was pointed out from the floor that the 26 storeys was imposed by the OMB and never actually approved.

It was obvious from the presentation, and introduction by City planning Staff, that the Official Plan rejected by the region and under review by city council, is still being referred to by both the developer and city planning staff. Assurances that Lakeshore would not be narrowed during construction were not forthcoming. Many of the city planning and developers comments were met with laughter or anger.

Asked if they really think about the impact on people or how disrespectful of citizens and council their proposal to build a 29-storey building in a 4 storey zone is, the developer’s representatives declined to reply. This brought derisive applause from those present. When one attendee asked for a show of hands from the audience there was not one hand raised in favour.

January 30th – Red tape + Red carpet
Mayor Marianne Meed Ward announced plans to launch and lead a Red Tape Red Carpet task force at this morning’s State of the City address at the Burlington Convention Centre and had a media release out before people got back to their desks.
Younger set meeting

In front of a sell-out crowd the Mayor spoke about her plan to help eliminate the red tape and bureaucratic delays that Burlington businesses have faced in their pursuit of growth throughout the city.

The Task Force will begin with a broad meeting that is open to the public to raise specific issues and concerns on topics ranging from permits, approvals, and other obstacles. A smaller task force of stakeholders will then be identified to come up with actionable recommendations that will be brought to council and shared with the Province by summer.

Dates and details will be announced shortly, and the Mayor suggested that anyone interested in participating at the task force level can reach out to her via email at mayor@burlington.ca.

Co-chairing the task force with Mayor Meed Ward will be Kelvin Galbraith, Ward 1 Councillor.

Budget: Staff came forward with a 3.99% tax increase fr the year  The Mayor had a   different number in mind and, despite putting millions intro the LaSalle Park Marina, council was able to bring in a budget increase of 2.99% – they had to raid some of the reserve accounts to do it.

January 30th – State of the city
During her State of the City address on Monday Meed Ward said her themes during her term of office would be: Partnerships, change and openness.

The business community got their first look at the women who was going to direct the direction the city grew in and the quality of life its citizens would enjoy.  She also put out the words:  – ‘four to eight storeys is more than enough for the downtown core’, that had the development community in a lather.

January was a full month – February was even fuller.

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4 comments to Year in Review: January of 2019 – the change had begun. Little did we know how extensive it was going to be or how well council would work together.

  • Penny Hersh

    ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS. So far I hear a lot of words but NO ACTION. “Grow Bold” may be gone from the communication pieces sent out by the City but nothing has changed.

    Unless Council is prepared to make some bold decisions regarding the Urban Growth Centre and the John Street anchor/mobility hub we will be “Mississauga on the Lake”.

  • Steve G

    Great to read. My favourite part….
    “Grow Bold gets the boot from the Mayor.”

  • Perryb

    Good review. Just a tip: “women” means several, “woman” is one. “Person” or “the Mayor” is also a good substitute.

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