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Why is There Still Development Activity in Downtown Burlington?

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Residents have surely noticed development activity approved by the previous Burlington City Council is still taking place in Downtown Burlington. Here’s why.

The development projects for the downtown towers that are currently moving forward followed legal due process and public notification. They were voted on by a duly-elected council. You may disagree with the votes (as I do) but they were conducted properly according to legal rules in place. As a result of this, there is nothing that can or should be investigated.

The decisions have all been thoroughly documented on my website here in past posts, on a project-by-project basis, including who voted which way. Votes were typically 5-2 or 6-1, with me and sometimes one other councillor or the former mayor voting against. The exception is Bridgewater (on the south side of Lakeshore between Elizabeth and Maria streets), which was approved in 1993 — well before my time on council.

The more recent decisions — within the last two terms of council — are also available on the City of Burlington’s website on a per project basis, and on the calendar of meetings for council, with recorded votes as to who voted which way on each project.

All of this information is on the public record and has been for over a year.

For projects that were approved by the Ontario Municipal Board/Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, the decisions will contain the name of the individual adjudicator who made the ruling.

Where there are new applications coming, your current council can affect change. However, we have no legal remedy to undo previous decisions/approvals or put a stop to current construction.

What Your Council Can Do and Has Done

During the last municipal election, you as residents of this City voted in change and mandated a new council take back control of the development in our downtown and across the City. We have taken that responsibility to heart.

Since inauguration, this Council has been focused on resetting our Official Plan to more accurately reflect your voice and focused on new applications submitted that we can influence.

While our City’s downtown and the area around the Burlington GO Station are still under an Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL), new applications have still been processed up to the Statutory Public Meeting phase until the ICBL expires in March 2020. Applications in the catchment area that were processed before the ICBL was enacted, but hadn’t yet submitted a site plan, were also paused.

The decisions on these applications will come after the ICBL is lifted and we have new policies in place. Those applications will then be evaluated in light of the new policies and staff will come back with their recommendation.

It is important to reiterate that we have met our growth targets in the City. We are 10-12 years ahead – we are at roughly 174 people and/or jobs per hectare. We don’t need to overdo it in density.

Report Burlington Council received at a Sept. 12 Committee of the Whole Workshop.

At a Committee of the Whole Workshop on Sept. 12, Council received a growth analysis report that showed the City of Burlington has reached our population growth forecasts to 2031 already, largely due to the increased number of people living in each home. This has an impact on infrastructure capacity.

It is also important to highlight that there is misinformation out there that our Official Plan (OP) hasn’t been updated since the late 90s – that is simply incorrect. Our current OP was updated in 2008, post Places to Grow and provincial intensification targets. We have an updated plan and we’re on track to meet our provincial policy statement targets. We have a good plan in our downtown and this is more than double what is in our really good plan.

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8 thoughts on “Why is There Still Development Activity in Downtown Burlington?”

  1. The development going on in the downtown core, particularly what is slated for Brant Street is a disgrace. Very sad that our “small town” city is being changed so dramatically. This, of course, is the long term problem. The short term problem is the chaos that will result from years of high rise construction in the downtown core.

  2. Unfortunately, all true. I need a clarification on the statement “… We have a good plan in our downtown and that is more than double what we have in our really good plan.”

  3. At a recent LPAT settlement hearing for 92 Plains Rd. E where I was a participant, the applicant lawyer, in her cross examination of me, tried to argue, and really, to try and put words in my mouth, that the City OP was NOT up to date with the 2019 Growth Plan or the most recent PPS (2017 or 2019 I’m not sure).

    In responses to this Counsels’ repeated questions trying to get me to agree with her that it was in fact not up to date, I repeated my response that everything I had repeatedly heard about this question about the OP being up to date was the same as this story says – it is up to date with provincial policies.

    I found that the argument the lawyer was making that the OP was not up to date was disturbing as she was insistent and persistent. I finally got her to stop badgering me really, by stating that I had several times heard or read the Mayor stating that the OP was up to date with regard to the PPS and the Growth Plan, along the lines of this story.

    Would you please look into this issue and provide a rebuttal of the applicant lawyers argument.

    On a further note from this Hearing, the same applicant lawyer also argued that the adopted OP was in fact “legal” (ambigously to me) and was stating that the only factors limiting its policy use currently were determined by an application having non-compliance with the specific transportation, employment, and other matters of non-compliance as stated by the Halton Regions letter stating non approval on grounds of not in compliance.

    She was actually arguing that the use of the adopted OP in assessing the 92 Plains RD proposal was compliant with the Halton Region OP, and that non compliance had to involve an issue caused by the proposal in terms of the transportation, employment and other categorical grounds the Region cited for not approving the adopted OP for reasons of non compliance.

    I my view, these are all dangerous lines of argument being made to attack City decisions and their Policy basis. And especially at LPAT in this instance..

    On this point, after her repeated questions, all trying to argue this and get me to agree, I had to ask her, that as a lawyer, what was her problem with “legal”? She persisted still on this line and I took the position that the specific issues of the Region were not relevant as reasons to be considered just in terms of this specific proposal at 92 Plains – that is, did this proposal cause these issues? – but were general to all proposals and the entire OP.

    The Halton Region letter subject line included the words “non compliance” (or words to that effect as I don’t have the letter in front of me), so what was her problem?

    The LPAT Chair finally intervened and stated that the non compliance had been established and so ended that argument and we moved on.

    An explanation from the Mayor and City of this point would also really help residents in their understanding of what’s going on in this matter.

    1. Hi Tom,
      This is John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist. To answer a couple of the questions you raised: the City’s adopted Official Plan is not a legal document yet as Halton Region brought it back to Burlington City Council for modification because there were aspects of it that did not conform to the Region’s plan – modification work by the City is currently underway.

      The motion passed by Council during the Special Meeting of Council on Feb. 7 addressed some of the confusion about how development was being assessed, particularly around the status of the Adopted 2018 Official Plan that is not yet approved. That motion made it clear that staff are not to use the Adopted 2018 Official Plan and the existing Official Plan is still in full legal force and effect. (This was raised by Mayor Meed Ward in a post on her website earlier this year:

      In addition, Council approved a direction to “Direct the Director of City Building that until such time as the modifications that result from the work being undertaken, but not limited to, in (1) and (2) above are brought forward and adopted by Council and sent to the Region for approval, that the Adopted 2018 Official Plan policies not be given weight in evaluating development applications that may be processed in the interim period.

      I would encourage you to click the provided link for more details around this from the Media Release issued by the City of Burlington on Feb. 8, 2019:

      1. Thanks John.

        However, you didn’t provide information on my initial statements that;

        “the applicant lawyer, in her cross examination of me, tried to argue, and really, to try and put words in my mouth, that the City OP was NOT up to date with the 2019 Growth Plan or the most recent PPS (2017 or 2019 I’m not sure). In responses to this Counsels’ repeated questions trying to get me to agree with her that it was in fact not up to date, I repeated my response that everything I had repeatedly heard about this question about the OP being up to date was the same as this story says – it is up to date with provincial policies.”

        Can you please elaborate an explanation confirming this further situation regarding the OP?

        1. Hi Tom,
          John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist, here again. The Mayor provided explanations and responses to the statement that the City’s OP was not up to date in a previous post (link is here:

          But to provide a quick explanation, the City of Burlington’s growth targets were embedded in a 2008 update to its Official Plan and there was no change in density targets in the 2017 PPS — it didn’t change anything in population or density targets.

          We hope that helps clarify some misinformation out there, but please click the link to the blog post provided above as further down in the post, it provides more details.

          Thank you for commenting on the Mayor’s website.

          1. Thanks again John;

            That’s what I thought.

            I hope people pick this up.

            It’s very important because the developers and their planning and legal consultants are saying, as I stated from my LPAT experience, that the City is NOT up to date on the PPS, and Growth Plan and targets. Therefore, they are not consistent with either and this is fatal.

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