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Burlington Post Column: The Next Steps in OP Changes for the Downtown

HEADSHOT_Mayor Marianne Meed Ward wChain

*This column first ran online at the Burlington Post’s website, and in print on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2019.

We’re getting closer to recommended changes to our official plan (OP) for the downtown.

We asked for your feedback on your vision for the area — that was followed by a survey on the two concepts for the downtown that closed last week. Drop-in sessions — where the public could come and speak to a planner — were held. There was also a walking tour and four action lab interactive workshops in October and November — all designed to hear and collect your input.

We fully expect that what ultimately comes back to council for a decision won’t be either of the two concepts presented as they were, but a recommended concept that incorporates public and council feedback.

A Dec. 5 committee meeting is the next step. Council will have an opportunity to discuss the concepts and provide feedback to staff. Residents can delegate at this meeting to share their feedback with us and staff.

Staff will then present a recommended concept at the Jan. 16, 2020 committee meeting, with another chance for delegations. Your continued input is integral to our decision-making process and ensuring we get the right plan for our downtown.

My preliminary impressions of the concepts are that they still represent overdevelopment. I’ll be looking for an option that is more in line with what residents have expressed throughout the OP process that began in 2017.

I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we can be with some modifications and that’s why your input is so important.

Here is just a snippet of the feedback I’ve consistently heard: Preserving connections and views to the waterfront; having mid- and low-rise buildings in the downtown with taller buildings toward Fairview Street; maintaining small-town character and preserving heritage in the downtown; and ensuring the downtown plan reflects the community’s vision for the area.

The Urban Growth Centre (UGC) and the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designations are a concern in the downtown. Earlier this year, council directed staff to review those designations following the completion of the scoped review of the OP.

Burlington residents don’t oppose growth, we all want it to reflect our vision for the community and ensure the right amount is in the right place.

— Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward can be reached at


*Posted by John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist.

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1 thought on “Burlington Post Column: The Next Steps in OP Changes for the Downtown”

  1. My name is Janice Emeneau. I have been a resident of Burlington for 13 years and have enjoyed living in the downtown. I am a retired urban planner with a Masters in Urban Psychology & Design and I believe the wisdom in the planning principles of Jane Jacobs to be true.

    In 2019 Maclean’s Magazine named the City of Burlington as the best community in Canada in which to live. If Council proceeds with either of the two proposals for a new official plan — I predict that within 10 years (or less), this will no longer be the case. You cannot destroy the downtown – the Goose that is laying your golden eggs – and expect Burlington to have the same appeal.

    The proposed scale and densities within the downtown core are not appropriate. They are not even remotely compatible with what is there. If you compare it to the continuing development of the main streets of both Oakville and Bronte — both are redeveloping at a scale that is denser than what was there BUT both designs are compatible with the existing structures. It is as if the Region of Halton took all the excess density – and instead of distributing it evenly – decided to put it all in the downtown of Burlington. Burlington will soon resemble the Toronto waterfront or “city centre” Mississauga. Either of the two proposals would radically change the nature of our small town.

    Both proposals would permit developers to replace almost all the buildings on the Main Street section of Brant Street with high rises – double & triple the surrounding highest densities. With so many high rises, there would no longer be a sunny side of the street. The downtown would become an unappealing labyrinth of wind tunnels. In downtown Toronto the underground PATH is preferable to walking on streets with buildings so high.

     Recent proposals to reduce the allowable parking within residential buildings comes with the understanding that the community will be walkable – but once you allow the replacement of the only grocery store in the area – how many daily amenities are left for people to walk to?

     And even if you maintain commercial at grade – what businesses will move in there? Shop rentals in new high rises are generally not be affordable to small independent entrepreneurs – the type of businesses that differentiate a robust and viable downtown Main Street from a shopping mall.

     And even away from Brant Street both proposals suggest replacing amenities like the Esso garage with 23 stories – double and triple the height of any of the surrounding buildings. The scale of either proposal is inappropriate in this location on this small footprint.

     PLUS the Esso garage and it’s convenient store would be another two of the downtown’s amenities that will then be gone. And it won’t help if there is commercial at grade. A small convenient store would not be able to afford the rent in a new building without the traffic generated by the gas station.

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