Please Note: Below you will find a fuller version of my most recent guest column submitted to the Burlington Post that had to be edited down to fit the newspaper’s word count for print.
We’re heading into the final stages of updating our plan for downtown Burlington, as well as the entire city-wide Official Plan (OP).
- Council unanimously approved asking Halton Region through their update to the Region’s Official Plan (now underway) to adjust the boundary of the Downtown Urban Growth Centre (UGC) to generally align with the lands in proximity to the Burlington GO Station and remove the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designation from the downtown. This is another milestone towards community-led control of development in our downtown and one more step to help us better manage growth in our city as a whole. It’s not the last or only step, but a significant one as we continue working towards growth in the right scale and the right places.
- Final approval rests with the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH), who received an update during our meeting at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
- Background studies and recommendations on updating the downtown plan were released in June. Council will consider modifications at our Sept. 30 committee meeting, for a final vote at Council Oct. 7. Residents can register to speak (virtually) at either meeting or submit feedback in writing via email@example.com. Overall, the revised adopted plan is not only much better than the 2018 adopted plan, but better than the existing OP. There are some areas I’m reviewing closely, for heritage and scale. I will be posting a complete analysis on mariannemeedward.ca in advance of the Sept. 30 meeting for public comment.
Residents have repeatedly said they want to maintain the “small town feel” and heritage of downtown Burlington and expressed concern about a slew of high-rises. I share these values and have advocated for them since we began the OP review during the last term of council.
There were 6 tall buildings that were approved by previous councils, 2 of them were approved before my time on council (but one of those I was involved with as a citizen); and 1 was approved by the then-known Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).
Of these 7 that I did not support (either as a private citizen or a councillor), 5 are currently under construction — those are the ones residents are currently seeing.
We can’t go back in time and reverse these approvals, but there’s still time to ensure current and future applications for our downtown fit into our collective vision for the area. That’s the goal of the revisions to the downtown plan we’re now discussing.
In terms of the buildings downtown referenced, they are:
- Brock I: 472 Brock development by Molinaro Group, 14 storeys. Approved during my first term on Council; I did not vote in favour. Built and occupied.
- Brock II: 490-492 Brock development by the Molinaro Group, 22 storeys. Approved during the term of the previous council before this current one. I did not vote in favour. Under construction.
- 421 Brant St., north east corner of Brant/James, across from City Hall, Gallery Condos and Lofts by Carriage Gate, 23 storeys. Approved during last term of council. I did not vote in favour. Under construction.
- 409 Brant St., south east corner of Brant/James, across from City Hall, 17 storeys. Approved during last term of council. I did not vote in favour. Currently appealed at the LPAT to get 23 storeys (same height as building across the street from it).
- The Berkeley at 395 Martha St., approved in 2009 before I was on council. As a private citizen, I was active appearing as a delegate to Council – I supported the 6-8 storey medical/parking garage on the block (which was never built), but did NOT support the 17-storey apartment that was ultimately approved and is now built.
- The Bridgewater at 2050 Lakeshore Rd. Approved by a previous council in the 1990s, but is being built now.
- The Nauitque by ADI Developments at 374 Martha St., 26 storeys. Opposed by all of Councill but later approved by the OMB. Currently, under construction.
These 7 buildings are vastly outnumbered by the appropriate projects in Ward 2 and across the City that I have supported as my time as a councillor and Mayor.
The good news is our downtown continues to attract a wide range of built form. Of recent approvals, six are less than 11 storeys (the City’s cut-off for a tall building) and are in low- to mid-rise form (4-8 storeys). There’s even one semi-detached unit; and a good mix of jobs, including at the hospital redevelopment (7 storeys). Mid-rise buildings are viable, and the projects underscore that it’s just as important to ensure jobs, not just residential, as blocks in the downtown redevelop over time.
Please continue to participate in the process — we’re almost at the end of signing off on a better plan for downtown, and the city.
– Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.