My office has received feedback from the public regarding Burlington City Council’s vote to pass an Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL) on Tuesday (March 5) during a special meeting of council. Since then, we have consistently received overwhelming support from the community regarding this initiative.
The ICBL came forward through a staff report initiated by the Department of City Building recommending temporarily limiting the development of lands in the downtown Urban Growth Centre and the area around the Burlington GO station — a total 1.07% of Burlington’s land is impacted by this bylaw — for one year with a maximum extension of one additional year.
If the work under the ICBL is completed in under one year, staff will bring forward its recommended policies to Committee and Council at that time.
At the March 5 Planning and Development Committee Meeting we heard Heather MacDonald, Director of City Building, explain that staff has come forward now with this ICBL primarily because it was triggered by the Adi decision that was handed down by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB, now known as the LPAT – Local Planning Appeal Tribunal) in 2018 that allowed 26 storeys in a 4-8 storey zone. That was a game changer because it specifically referenced the downtown mobility hub as rationale in its decision.
The city asked for a review of that decision. We received notice that the review was complete and the decision would stand in November of 2018 — just a few months ago.
Staff considered the implications of that final decision and brought their report forward to the new council.
We heard from city staff that they have concerns around the intensity at the Adi site and with other development applications that they know of. The OMB relied heavily in their decision on the fact that the downtown is designated a Major Transit Study Area (MTSA) (as well as the mobility hub) based on the bus terminal located in the downtown.
The downtown is also designated an Urban Growth Centre (UGC). Staff said during the committee meeting that is why they felt it was important to take the time to study the UGC around the bus terminal to determine what its functions will be and its related density needs. MacDonald said the ICBL gives the City the opportunity to pause and evaluate what the future of that MTSA is and what its optimal uses should be.
A number of recent applications the city has received are well beyond the permissions provided for in the existing Official Plan (OP), or even the adopted/unapproved Official Plan, and the justifications for those new applications rely in part on the MTSA/Mobility Hub designation and specifically reference the Adi decision.
We need to undertake the mobility hub studies in a way that allows the city to avoid reacting to applications — but rather setting policy and becoming our own drivers of the planning and development that supports the community’s vision for our city. The ICBL gives us time to do that work without the pressures of simultaneously processing applications.
The work that will be undertaken through the ICBL study has not yet been done by the City. These are new studies informed by the recent Adi LPAT decision upheld last November. The valid work that has already been done by staff will be combined with this study’s new findings to complete the full picture of what our city will look like. Think of it as a puzzle that is still missing a few integral pieces.
While a letter from Minster Steve Clark last month did advise municipalities to consider pausing activities that may impact their OP while the province evaluates the municipal land-use planning process, no specific details or concrete timelines were given. My office responded to Minister Clark in a letter (Letter Minister Clark Feb 22) that indicated we would continue moving forward with our OP review as per the motion approved by our City Council on Feb. 5 while we await further details from the province.
What about other areas?
If staff or council wished to consider an ICBL for any other areas of the city, that would follow the same process that the downtown/Burlington GO ICBL has followed: namely a staff report providing a planning rationale for the ICBL, and the scope. Though other areas of the city are facing pressures of overdevelopment, those can be addressed by a vote of the new council.
In addition, the downtown in particular is unique in that we lost an LPAT case with significant overdevelopment due to an MTSA/mobility hub designation. Only the Burlington GO and downtown are provincially designated MTSA/mobility hubs, thus the need for the study in these two areas.
Timing and public notice
City staff told committee they had met any related Planning Act requirements for an ICBL. While no notice is formally required, the City of Burlington put out the staff report on its website 24 hours before it would be sent to the scheduled Special Meeting of Council for approval. To further inform the public, a statement from the Mayor’s Office was released to the media and shared on additional channels, including social media. There was also notice provided in the Mayor’s monthly newsletter.
When the Director of City Building was asked about why the ICBL was coming forward now, she responded that staff felt this was the right time to take pause, given the pressures of multiple new applications, and look at the pieces of the puzzle they have not yet had a chance to.
Applications while under the ICBL
While the ICBL has placed a pause on development applications, applicants can still submit them to the City of Burlington and staff will continue to process those applications, taking in comments from the public, up to the point of a statutory public meeting and recommendation. No recommendation will be made until the ICBL is complete and the policies arising from the study work are in place. The results of the ICBL study will then be used to guide recommendations on the applications that have come forward, at which time the application process will resume.
Results from ICBL
The results from the land-use study that city staff will bring forward to Burlington committee and Council will help develop policy that will be compatible with the Regional Official Plan, addressing outstanding conformity issues. Further, staff will ensure it also aligns with the growth plans laid out by the Province.
There will be two separate studies undertaken, one under the ICBL and the other from the previously passed motion by Burlington Council to look at modifying the Adopted 2018 Official Plan (OP), which has not yet been approved. We heard from city staff the two studies are separate, but it is possible the ICBL will inform work on the new OP modifications. Policies brought forward by staff as amendments to the City of Burlington’s current, enforceable and in-effect OP will then, if passed by Council, inform changes made in the development of the new OP.
View the Department of City Building’s staff report on the Interim Control Bylaw by clicking the link.
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.