**Updated June 5**
I want to thank all those who have reached out to all of Burlington City Council, City planning staff, the Halton Regional Chair and Conservation Halton to share your concerns about the proposed Millcroft Greens development and upcoming virtual public meeting.
Hundreds of residents have sent us the email petition or other similar messages outlining your collective concerns. This response back will be sent individually to each person who has contacted us.
The issues you’ve raised are very important to this council and will be top of mind in evaluating this proposal. These are exactly the kinds of issues that are raised in many other development applications we have received, and are front and centre in our decision-making process.
Rest assured your voices have been heard loud and clear, and will continue to be. No decisions have been made and we are all committed to listening carefully to all input we receive from residents by whatever means it reaches us. I personally keep all correspondence so your voices remain with me throughout this process.
To speak to the concerns about the virtual public meeting, I completely understand and share the desire from the community for the event to be live and interactive. That has been my goal and understanding from the beginning about how this virtual meeting would proceed.
For some background, as a city councillor I advocated for pre-application public meetings and organized and hosted them myself for 8 years. This allows residents an opportunity to shape applications before an application comes in, and it’s a critical opportunity to hear from the public.
In 2017, pre-application meetings became city of Burlington policy. However, they are now run by the developer not the city.
The Millcroft Greens pre-application public meeting is indeed run by the developer, though Iunderstand the confusion around my earlier use of the word “town hall” to describe it. It is a public meeting hosted by the developer, not the city.
I have always believed that the city should run these pre-application public meetings and will continue to advocate that the city run them, to avoid the very problems we are experiencing right now including that neither the Ward 6 Councillor Angelo Bentivegna nor I knew the meeting had been set, the notice had gone out or what the format was. When I learned, I did my best to notify as many people as I could on my blog and social, where many people evidently saw it perhaps for the first time, and led to the understandable confusion that it was my/the city’s meeting, which it isn’t.
I also completely understand the residents concerns about the format as proposed in the applicatn’s notice, particularly submitting questions in advance vetted by them.
All of this could have been and can in future be avoided, if the city runs these meetings. The city running these meetings would allow us to do what should have been done in this case which is ensure the Mayor and Ward councillor know about and agree to the format before the meeting is set, that details are nailed down before a notice goes out, that we ensure a live interactive component as long as we are under COVID19 restrictions, and ensure broad communication so residents can participate.
I have gotten involved in this matter for Millcroft residents to protect the public interest and voice in ensuring this meeting happens before an application is submitted, and that the meeting respects what residents are expecting, which is that it be interactive. I understand my involvement has been misperceived, and I’ll do my best to explain that my goal is and has always been to ensure that the pre-application meeting is not skipped before an application comes in, and further that the meeting format is such that it offers residents an opportunity to share your views, recognizing the limits we are all in during COVID19.
The public notice about the pre-application public meeting that residents initially received did not clearly indicate a live interactive component, or the complete details on how to participate, and this has understandably created considerable anxiety in the community. Future notices on upcoming virtual public meetings will include these details.
The applicant has offered to postpone the meeting to September 21. It is very likely this meeting will still need to proceed as a virtual public meeting, though it can adapted if conditions with COVID-19 change.
This additional time will provide an opportunity to finalize the details of a virtual public meeting and fully communicate them to residents so that everyone who wants to do so will have a chance to participate and know exactly how to do so with just a telephone, or if they prefer, a computer. Any input or suggestions you have into the virtual format are also welcome.
The applicant has also committed not to file their application until this very important pre-application community meeting can be held. I am grateful for their cooperation and understanding in this matter.
Virtual Public Meeting Format
Rest assured, the virtual public meeting will be live and interactive, using a similar format that was successfully used two weeks ago to hear public delegations at a City committee meeting. These delegations, coincidentally, were from members of Millcroft Against Development and We Love Millcroft on the topic of de-registration of the Millcroft subdivision.
Residents will be able to ask and receive answers to questions in real-time.
Participation is possible in a number of ways including dialing in by telephone, connecting via computer to the live ZOOM feed, watching the live webcast on the city’s webpage via computer, or watching the archived recording at a time that is more convenient.
Specific details about how to participate in the virtual public meeting will be sent in a second mailed letter to residents closer to the meeting date, and posted on the new dedicated webpage for the Millcroft Greens Proposal below.
Creating a specific web page for a pre-application proposal is a new feature just launched last week that provides an enhanced level of public engagement even earlier in the planning process.
I want to thank our planning staff and communications team who worked to make this happen. You can subscribe to the page to receive updates and notices throughout the planning process.
I’ve received a number of questions from residents that I would like to speak to below.
Q: Can the meeting be postponed until an in-person meeting can be held?
A: Some residents have asked if the development proposal and application process can be put on hold until an in-person meeting is possible. The short answer is no.
When a proposal is in the pre-application stage, as this one is, the City cannot require applicants to meet with residents, virtually or otherwise, before they file an application. In this case, we do have a commitment from the applicant to postpone filing their application until the virtual interactive public meeting can be held in September.
Pre-application public meetings are not a legal requirement under the provincial Planning Act. They are an enhanced level of public engagement asked for by the City to get early input to shape applications before they are filed. This public pre-application meeting is something I advocated for and practiced for eight years as a Ward Councillor and continue to advocate for as your Mayor. We are one of the only municipalities that have this requirement.
Additionally, we can’t stop applications from coming in that don’t go through this critical early step to hear public voices. We have a legal obligation to process applications when they come in whether they complete this step or not.
The alternative of receiving an application without any opportunity for public input via a virtual public meeting is simply not acceptable to me, though I know that some neighbouring municipalities have cancelled pre-application public meetings during the pandemic altogether. That is not an option for us. We cannot miss or avoid this critical opportunity in the process for residents to be heard, despite the restrictions of COVID-19.
So, we need to find new ways to conduct these pre-application public meetings amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, not just for this proposal but for all the planning matters we know are in the works or expected to come in.
We must develop a consistent approach that can be used with all planning and development meetings that will take place in coming weeks and months.
Q: How will the virtual public meeting ensure a voice for residents?
A: The Millcroft Greens pre-application meeting was going to be the first neighbourhood meeting on a planning matter that would have been done virtually, though myself and some members of council have successfully held other virtual town halls during this pandemic and before. Your patience and willingness to work with us to ensure that this virtual public meeting, whenever it occurs, is similarly successful will be greatly appreciated. Your ideas are welcome.
The intent of the virtual public meeting is exactly what residents have requested in your email petitions: to ensure that all members of the Millcroft community have a meaningful, interactive, accessible opportunity to have your voices heard.
There are aspects of this virtual public meeting that go above and beyond what has been able to be provided for in-person meetings:
- The virtual public meeting will be webcast live. No pre-application meeting has been live webcast before;
- The virtual public meeting will be archived on the City’s webpage for people to watch again, or watch at a more convenient time if they can’t attend the in-person meeting. This will be the first pre-application meeting that will have a video record;
- Any questions not able to be answered within the timeframe of the meeting will be collected and the answers posted later online. This doesn’t typically happen at the pre-application meeting stage; and
- The virtual public meeting allows more people to participate than would be permitted given the restrictions of venue size at an in-person meeting. Recent COVID-19 virtual telephone town halls have had thousands of participants, and our previous budget-related telephone town halls had more than 2,000; the city’s largest physical venue can only hold 750 occupants.
Q: If I can’t participate in the virtual public meeting, how else can I make my voice heard?
A: There are also some tried and true methods of public engagement that have worked before the pandemic and still offer additional meaningful ways for residents to make your voices heard.
In-person public meetings, virtual or otherwise, aren’t for everyone. Not all residents are comfortable speaking or raising their questions in a crowd, and the chosen date and time doesn’t always work for everyone given busy schedules.
Other ways residents can provide input throughout the planning process to council, staff, or the applicant include:
- individual meetings;
- forming residents associations to provide coordinated input; and
- to show numbers of residents aligned on a proposal, a petition is possible.
These methods have been successfully used before by other residents’ groups about developments in their neighbourhoods pre-COVID-19, and remain effective throughout this pandemic. Residents of Millcroft have already used all of these methods, and can continue to use them throughout this process.
Your voices have already been heard and will continue to be.
There will also be many more opportunities before and after the virtual public meeting for residents to share your input as this proposal moves through the planning process, which will take many months. This includes additional public meetings that, depending on what is happening with COVID-19, may be able to be conducted in person.
The Ward 6 councillor, city staff and I will be present at the virtual public meeting in September as will the applicant. I look forward to hearing your thoughts and participating in the dialogue.
A Commitment to Respectful Dialogue
A final word about working together. In my eight years as a councillor and now 18 months as your Mayor, I have asked for and done my best to model respectful dialogue on all the issues we face as a community. We don’t have to agree on issues — I value diversity of perspective.
I do ask people to refrain from personal attacks, name-calling, assumption of motive or other behaviours that do nothing to build dialogue. In my time, I’ve heard residents dismissed as “know-nothing NIMBYs” (and worse), and I’ve heard developers be referred to as “greedy and self-interested,” although somebody built the homes we all live in.
None of it is helpful and it takes the focus off of what matters: the very issues you have raised in your emails around greenspace, infrastructure and more. These issues are critically important; let’s keep the focus there.
As we go forward, I am asking everyone to commit to respectful dialogue on the issues at stake.
Thank you for your cooperation and I look forward to hearing from you and working with you throughout this process.
— Mayor Marianne Meed Ward
- Virtual Public Meeting scheduled June 17 for Millcroft Greens proposal
- City enhances public engagement in development applications with early notice
- Council Votes to Approve Staff Recommendation for a Deregistration Bylaw for Millcroft
- Joint Statement from Burlington Mayor Meed Ward and Councillor Bentivegna Regarding March 23 Millcroft Public Meeting Cancellation