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Mayor Clarifies Some Key Points When it Comes to Development in Burlington

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The Hamilton-Halton Home Builders’ Association recently posted on their blog some information regarding housing and development growth numbers in Burlington. The Burlington Post also did a news story on the information.

The association states that “According to the Region of Halton approved growth strategy, the City of Burlington is expected to add 8,300 units between 2015-2031 to accommodate for growth. This equates to a minimum of 519 units per year over this period. Since 2015, the City of Burlington has achieved an average of 421.5 units. At this rate, the City of Burlington will fall 1,556 units short.”

The numbers provided by the association are a snapshot in time and inaccurately portray the full story of Burlington’s growth.

Further, there are many units that are approved, but not yet built that would not be captured in the unit counts. There is no deadline to start a project once approved, and developers across the region and in Burlington have sat on approvals. For example, the 17-story Berkeley was approved in 2009, but only began occupancy in 2018 — almost 10 years later. The planned 8-storey medical centre has not started construction.

The number — of both people and jobs — count towards the downtown’s growth targets. The city has done its job of approvals, but can’t force developers to do their job and actually build them in a timely period. See the city’s latest report on the 2019 Development Charges Process.

These are the facts:

  • According the Halton Region’s Best Planning Estimates, Burlington’s share of growth is 185,000 people by 2031.
  • According to the 2016 Census, Burlington is at 183,000. With known and approved development underway (including almost 1,000 units being built at the Burlington GO station alone), we are already at our 2031 targets — 12 years early.
  • With additional development being proposed, we will be well past our share of growth by 2031.
  • The challenge for our community is that Best Planning Estimates (BPEs) are tied to infrastructure — everything from roads to community centres to transit investments. BPEs are also used to calculate Development Charges so that growth pays for growth. (Growth doesn’t pay for growth, even at the best of times — see a previous post on my website).
  • When a community overdevelops by blowing past its BPEs, well ahead of schedule, we don’t have the infrastructure in place to support the population surge. The result is a congested city where traffic improvements, transit routes, seniors and community centres, and sports fields are at capacity or overcrowded.
  • In addition, when we reach our BPEs well ahead of schedule, we’re not pricing our Development Charges (DCs) accurately. DCs are based on planned population, and we are growing faster than the planned targets. That means taxes go up to make up the difference. This is one reason why Milton — the fastest growing community in Canada — had the largest tax increase of all Halton municipalities last year at over 8%.
  • So, city-wide, we have already taken our share of population growth out to 2031 and will be above our share by 2031.
  • The downtown has specific growth targets of 200 people or jobs per hectare by 2031. According to staff analysis done in conjunction with a recent development application, we are currently at 174 people or jobs downtown. According to staff, we are well on track to meet or surpass our growth targets if we built only 60% of the units in known or anticipated development projects.
  • Over-development, quite simply, is development that is well beyond the growth outlined in Official Plans, Zoning Bylaws and Best Planning Estimates. Over-development leads to a congested city that negatively impacts quality of life. Over-development leads to tax increases to make up the shortfall between the costs of community services for the new population and the Development Charges collected. For reference, staff used the word over-development more than a dozen times in describing the Adi development application at Martha and Lakeshore, which was rejected by staff, council and the majority of the community. It was ultimately approved by the old Ontario Municipal Board, further evidence the system is broken and undemocratic, and weighted in favour of “the sky’s the limit” projects — not community-based planning.
  • The recent changes back to the OMB format by the current provincial government, are a huge step backwards for community planning and democracy — giving an unelected, unaccountable individual at the tribunal the authority to overrule elected councils and the citizens we represent.
  • The Interim Control Bylaw is a pause in development while we get our planning framework right downtown. The projects impacted are not shovel ready. They are in varying stages of approvals, with some having months of planning work ahead of them.

We can take the time to get this right.

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8 thoughts on “Mayor Clarifies Some Key Points When it Comes to Development in Burlington”

  1. David Levionnois

    Mayor, kudos for providing the meaningful and accurate facts supplied above and in your recent article in the Burlington Post.

    References in the Post to systemic deficiencies arising from overbuilding were insightful, accurate and continue to be warning siren for all residents of our beautiful city.

    City planning staff are competent and well educated. Mayor and Council, please continue defend the quality of life elements (excellent parks, libraries, sports facilities, etc.) and values. Many developers have little regard for the long term impact of their profit-based objectives.

    Speculative actions by developers push up land prices when they acquire sites and place faith in reliance upon past, poor decisions by the OMB to grant extraordinary degrees of density, combined with exceptions to introduce minimal services and insufficient parking. Please fight to ensure OMB is not reinstated, as its past, poor decisions have definitely resulted in reduced affordability.

    Thank you!!

  2. The Interim Control By-Law does not stop intensification – it simply slows it down and gives developers the opportunity to take the City to LPAT/OMB for non decision within the allowable 210 day period from when a development application goes into City Hall. The Interim Control By-Law can be extended for an additional year. To stop intensification in the downtown the Urban Growth Centre Boundaries need to be changed ( which is doable) and also the un designation of the Downtown Anchor or Mobility Hub ( which is doable). It falls to the City and Council to work with the Province to make this happen.

  3. Nick Carnicelli is the President of the Hamilton Home Builders Association. He is also the President of Carriage Gate Homes, the builder that built the Berkeley that is mentioned in this article which took ten years, the builder that has not built the once-promised medical centre next door, and the builder that reneged on the promised affordable units which were originally part of the plan which likely helped get the project approved. Carriage Gate is also the developer of the soon-to-be-built Twin Tower #1 at 421 Brant Street. For his association to write a blog about development in Burlington that “inaccurately portrays the full story of Burlington’s growth” is questionable at best.

  4. Suzanne Mammel

    Your notes above have an error. The UGC isn’t a TARGET of 200 person jobs per hectare, it’s a MINIMUM and always has been.

    Perhaps you should ask planning staff when building permits were issued for the Berkely. That is the true measure of if developers “sit” on projects when in fact the approvals process is just that – a long process.

  5. I feel development is being pushed more than necessary and far too fast. Many things are not properly considered to offset this high density goal, like parking, traffic, utility services, disaster accommodations and good transit system . It will be many long years before we are ready to give up our cars that make it faster and easier to get to medical appointments, children’s after school activities, shopping malls, to border towns and cities. We need cars in the busy world we live in. .parking spaces for both condo owners, apartment renters, and visitors We’re losing green grass and flowers and trees and space for residents to have a small piece of land to enjoy in their yard, townhouses without basements,driveways/garages, no space for a small flower or vegetable garden or BBQ area. lack of sun in back to back towns especially – see more mental health problems because of it. children need indoor play space during rainy weather/snowstorms in their home with their parents and family members. the family unit is being pulled apart . More than ever 2 parents must work and even then housing is out of their reach – they have university debts to pay off, they need larger vehicles to fit the required infant car seats and booster seats for their children. don’t make parking spaces smaller, please! Visitor parking is being neglected, especially downtown with all our wonderful festivals that draw people from out of town. Actually with such a large density area downtown, the sidewalks will be flooded with residents as well as visitors during these festivals.. retail space is small and too expensive to have specialty shops and boutiques for visitors to shop here. We have a beautiful waterfront and it’s taking second place to high rise buildings. We are so fortunate to have our city with access to waterfront, Toronto, Hamilton, and Niagara Region. This craziness about high density in the waterfront and downtown area is robbing us of sunshine, fresh air and the feeling of space around us. Quality of life is definitely deteriorating. We can’t bow to the developers so they can cram smaller living spaces at unreachable prices for young people starting out and seniors on fixed incomes so they can make more money.

    1. It would be truly wonderful if developers would work with the community and not just pretend to work with us; this creates conflict and distrust.
      Thanks to Marianne Meed Ward for providing clarification and for listening to the constituents of this great place…reasonable growth for quality of life for everyone who lives here.
      Carol Victor

  6. Kimberly Stevens

    The staff at MPP McKenna’s office, whether instructed to or by their own accord are vilifying the city and blaming the Mayor in particular for the Interim Control Bylaw. I witnessed this. Also saying it is “1-2 years” when it is clearly only one. I do not approve of that kind of politics. Thank you again Mayor Meed-Ward for being transparent, just as you were as a Councilor.

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