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City Staff Presents Official Plan Downtown Concepts at Burlington Committee

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On Dec. 5, city staff presented the Planning and Development Committee with its report and the consultant’s report on the Taking a Closer Look at the Downtown Concepts and heard from several delegations who gave their input. We, as Council, also had the opportunity to ask questions of staff and share our own feedback on the concepts.

This was a receive and file of the report and a chance for staff and the consultant to take the feedback from us (Council and the public) and return in January 2020 with a preliminary preferred concept.

Please click the links below for the:

There were 10 registered delegations with some speaking in the morning and others during the evening portion of the meeting that started at 6:30 p.m. To view the presentation materials submitted by some of the registered delegates, please click the link: Additional Items Package – Planning and Development Committee_Dec05_2019 (003).

Here is a recap of some the feedback we heard from delegations:

  • Downtown’s future should reflect the vision of Burlingtonians;
  • Complete the process of the downtown plan as soon as possible and work with the Province towards removing or shifting the designations on the downtown;
  • Would like to see the developer community and City look at the downtown in moderation;
  • City needs to take a more “radical” approach to the downtown;
  • Would like to see Lakeshore Road be designated as a pedestrian precinct;
  • Council has been put in a difficult position of creating an Official Plan (OP) that please residents while meeting Provincially-mandated growth targets;
  • Concerns with how the downtown will be able to accommodate the Province’s growth targets and how traffic and infrastructure will be affected;
  • Concerns over the proximity of high densities in relation to the pipeline that runs along the beach area, up Elgin St. and under the Martha/Centennial pathway and Elgin Promenade;
  • Concerns that neither of the two concepts presented by staff will help keep the downtown at a “human scale” and preserve its “individual character and facade” in the future.

I asked of staff some questions raised by some of the delegations, such as:

  • Would there by any value in creating a “what if” concept that supported growth in the downtown but imagined without the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) and Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designations? Staff responded that conformity with the Province and Region’s growth targets was the test for the City’s plan, so anything brought forward has to conform to the designations on the downtown that currently exist.
  • Why did we start with the adopted OP that — based on the last municipal election results — was unpopular with the general public? Staff responded the adopted OP is the document that Halton Region is looking at and so that had to be the document the City of Burlington worked off of.

During my questions of staff, I had slides I referenced to help frame my questions and my staff direction (to view all my slides of my Mayor Meed Ward’s Presentation, please click the link):

  • STAFF DIRECTION (unanimously carried by committee)
    • Direct the Director of Community Planning, Mobility and Regulation that, in planning the recommended concept for the downtown based on good planning principles and practices, consideration be given to reducing the heights in the Brant St Corridor, downtown east side, Locust Ave and the foot of Lakeshore/Burlington Ave.;
    • And that the overall densities more closely align with the minimum target of 200 people or jobs per hectare;
    • And that the calculations of people/jobs per hectare (total and density) for the preferred concept be included in the final report, including estimations of Old Lakeshore Rd and Waterfront Hotel (based on current Official Plan permissions).
  • I framed my staff direction from the following points:
    • The consultant’s report (page 8 in Appendix A) listed themes and principles that were identified from public feedback to act as the basis of our new OP policies. I chose to highlight these:
      • Theme: Preservation of Connections to the Waterfront — Principle 13: Maintain public views of waterfront and pedestrian connections;
      • Theme: Built Form, Height and Neighbourhood Transitions — Principle 14: Maintain low to medium built form on Brant Street; Principle 15: Provide appropriate transition to low rise neighbourhoods; Principle 16: Permit greater heights in northern part of the Downtown; and Principle 17: Limit additional tall buildings on Lakeshore Road
    •  Building type definitions include:
      • Low-rise — up to 3 storeys;
      • Low-to-mid-rise — 4-6 storeys;
      • Mid-rise — 7-11 storeys; and
      • Tall (high-rise) — 12-plus storeys
    • The targets laid out by the Province are minimums, but they are NOT “meaningless”
      • They are tied to our Development Charges calculation, infrastructure planning, community services and so forth. When we reach the targets ahead of time, as we have seen city-wide, reaching our population targets 13 years ahead of schedule, our community infrastructure hasn’t caught up (e.g. Transit planning, crowded community centres, etc.)

MY TAKE:

This report is a receive and file and there will be a lot more opportunities for feedback from all stakeholders as we continue this process and the conversation continues — we’re not there yet. This is another step in the road that started years ago and something that can be completed properly by our March 2020 goal.

The biggest concern I have heard from the community, since 2017, is having significant height in the downtown east side precinct. I also noticed there were some unusual things happening in the apartment district in the concepts — the challenge is that there is some significant variations of height in that now consolidated precinct in the concepts, for example Brant/Lakeshore is different from the area around the hospital near North Shore Boulevard. There are significant tall buildings in the corridor of James St. — we have heritage buildings, a park there. I think when we talk about context and function, putting height there is an anomaly in my mind. The south side of Olga is right up against a single-family stable neighbourhood — it has townhouse, mixed-use retail suggested in the concepts.

I think transitional policies are so critical. I think strong, good planning shows what is good at one side of the street doesn’t necessarily belong on the other. We need strong transitional policies and I commend staff and the consultant on that ongoing work. I am also 100 per cent opposed to a road being forced through near Victoria Street in the Mid-Brant precinct.

We’re getting closer to the recommended changes to our Official Plan for the downtown. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I think we can be with some modifications and that’s why your input (feedback from the public) is so important.

RELATED LINK:

*Posted by John Bkila, the Mayor’s Media and Digital Communications Specialist.

 

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1 thought on “City Staff Presents Official Plan Downtown Concepts at Burlington Committee”

  1. We respectfully disagree with staff’s response. As we mentioned in our delegation the approach advanced by staff seems backward. We believe that the first order of business must be to have the Urban Growth Centre moved from its current downtown location – much further north – then address the OP for the downtown core and waterfront. We were not encouraged by staff’s recommended strategy to study how best to approach the issue. This seems both half-hearted and too little, too late. It was widely reported almost a year ago that our MPP, Jane McKenna, approached the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing to learn the proper approach and was told that all was possible. Why have staff and Council not already contacted the Ministry to begin the process? Coupled with the recent relaxation of the provincial government’s attitude towards municipal autonomy and local voice, there would appear to be an ideal opportunity to move forward.

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