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Burlington Council approves Interim Control Bylaw to push pause on development while undergoing land-use studies

Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward signs Interim Control Bylaw after Council’s approval on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

Burlington City Council approves interim control bylaw to restrict the development of lands in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and in proximity to the Burlington GO station for one year to allow for a land-use study


Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward signs Interim Control Bylaw after Council’s approval on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.

Burlington, Ont. – March 5, 2019 — At a Special meeting of Council, on March 5, 2019, Burlington City Council voted in favour of a staff report recommending an interim control bylaw (ICBL). The ICBL temporarily restricts the development of lands within a study area for a period of one year, with a maximum extension of a second year.

Here is a link to the staff report on the Interim Control Bylaw.

The lands in the study area include the Downtown Urban Growth Centre (UGC) and lands in proximity to the Burlington GO Station.

During the one-year “freeze” on development in the study area, the City will complete a land-use study to:

  • Assess the role and function of the downtown bus terminal and the Burlington GO station on Fairview Street as Major Transit Station Areas
  • Examine the planning structure, land use mix and intensity for the lands identified in the study area
  • Update the Official Plan and Zoning bylaw regulations as needed for the lands identified in the study area.

“We want to ensure new development in the identified study area is informed by the city’s transit, transportation and land-use vision and the opportunity to complete a land-use study will give us that ability. The cumulative growth pressures quickly emerging in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and the lands near the Burlington GO station at intensities well above the city’s Official Plan are an issue for our city and we need to study it to determine the appropriate planning policies.” – Heather MacDonald, Director of City Building

The recommendation to implement an ICBL was brought forward by City staff in response to two primary concerns:

1. Growth pressures that continue to emerge for the lands in the study area
City staff are aware of multiple pending developments in the application review stage where the proposed intensities are significantly higher than those anticipated by the Official Plan. In addition, there are many other expressions of development interest and land assemblies taking place in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and in proximity to the Burlington GO station where the intensities being considered are substantially larger than what is proposed in the current Official Plan or the 2018 adopted Official Plan which is currently under review.

2. The role and function of the John Street Bus Terminal as a Major Transit Station Area (MTSA)
The John Street Bus Terminal is identified as a MTSA in the Province’s 2017 Growth Plan. Its designation as a MTSA was relied upon by the Ontario Municipal Board in its decision to allow a 26-storey development at 374 Martha St, citing that as a MTSA, the terminal could support intensities well in excess of those contained in the Official Plan. The terminal’s capacity to absorb the transit impacts of significant growth plays a critical role in shaping the mix of land uses and transit development within the downtown UGC.

Quick Facts

  • An interim control bylaw (ICBL) is a tool available to Ontario municipalities as part of the Planning Act. An ICBL places a temporary “freeze” on the development of certain lands while a municipality is studying or reviewing its land use policies. The restrictions can only be imposed for one year, with a maximum extension of a second year. An ICBL may not be appealed when it is first passed, however the extension of the ICBL to a second year may be appealed.
  • Work to begin the land-use study will be initiated immediately by Department of City Building.
  • Developments in the study area exempt from the ICBL are those that have submitted applications for site plan approval, in accordance with the approved zoning bylaw, prior to March 5, 2019, the date which the ICBL was approved. Exemptions in the study area include:
    • 490-492 Brock Ave.
    • 374 Martha St.
    • 421 Brant St.
    • 442 Pearl St.

Links and Resources

Read report PB-36-19 approved by Burlington City Council
Learn more about interim control bylaws


I support the rationale behind this bylaw that staff has laid out in their report. I believe this is a very important and timely matter for City Council to proceed with at this time. The Adi decision handed down by the OMB in 2018 allowing 26 storeys in a 4-8 storey zone was a game changer because it specifically referenced the downtown mobility hub. We need to undertake the mobility hub studies, so we are not simply reacting to applications but setting policy for them. The ICBL gives us time to do that work without having to simultaneously process applications.

Given the number of applications we have received and those we know are coming — all of which are wildly above the provisions in our Official Plan — new or existing,  we needed to go ahead with the ICBL in due haste. This interim control bylaw is a temporary measure, not a permanent one, that will afford us the time and opportunity to do the more detailed land-use review work needed on our vision and policies. Once the land-use study outlined in the report has been completed, and any required policy changes are made, we will be in a better position to properly evaluate applications and ensure they align with updated policies and the community’s vision for these key areas in our city.

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2 thoughts on “Burlington Council approves Interim Control Bylaw to push pause on development while undergoing land-use studies”

  1. Remember the Board did not deal with Section 37 benefits. this is our chance to ensure a sustainable net zero energy and carbon building.
    “The City did not call any evidence on the community benefits it would seek or the
    criteria by which these s. 37 benefits would be identified. Ms. Bustamante testified that it
    is the City’s practice to do so only once a determination is made that a proposed
    development should be approved. In the circumstances of this case, with the City
    opposed to the proposed development, the Board was advised that no discussion has
    taken place between the City and Adi regarding s. 37 benefits and there is no
    agreement at this time on the language appropriate in the ZBLA regarding s. 37
    The Board finds that s. 37 benefits are appropriate in this case and the
    finalization of the language regarding the s. 37 contribution is a necessary addition to
    the proposed zoning by-law amendment.
    If difficulties arise, the Board may be spoken to.”

  2. Good work. We need to slow down so development can be contextualized in light of the Official Plan. We have moved too fast and the resultant hodge podge of downtown applications and high rises already underway are a big problem. Citizens asked for a stop to overdevelopment and so a rational, well-thought out approach is needed. Hopefully this will provide time for that to happen.

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