Video: Intensification is coming to Burlington’s Low Density Neighbourhoods

This affects almost every neighbourhood, on any street, by any house

Think your neighbourhood is protected from intensification? Think again.

The city says:

The vast majority of people in Burlington will not see significant changes to their neighbourhoods. Only five per cent of Burlington will see redevelopment.

Ask Grow Bold web page

Yet, going forward, zoning can’t be used to restrict townhouse developments, apartment walkups and semi-detached development in low-density neighbourhoods if that’s already permitted in the OP. That means these housing forms can go in almost every neighbourhood, on any neighbourhood street, by any house.  Only the Roseland and Indian Point neighbourhoods are excluded, limited only to single family housing in these low density areas.

This is not a hypothetical situation. A prime example is the Blue Water/Avondale townhouse application in a low density area of single family homes south of Lakeshore, east of Walkers Line. The existing Official Plan allowed townhouses, but the Zoning didn’t. Now we’re being told Zoning “can’t conflict” with the OP – you can’t introduce further restrictions on height, density or built form at the Zoning stage, if already permitted in the Official Plan.

Blue Water - Avondale Land Assembly | A Better Burlington
The developer assembled two lots, and under a revised plan is seeking to build 21 three-storey town houses, and seven two-storey townhouses

The developer assembled two lots, and under a revised plan is seeking to build 21 three-storey town houses, and seven two-storey townhouses. The density on the initial proposal was 24 units per hectare, just under the OP limit of 25. A rezoning was required to allow town houses; but under the new implementation, zoning can’t conflict or be more restrictive with the Official Plan built form permissions.

The developer has filed an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB).

No question, we need different kinds of housing to suit different needs; we’ve likely all lived in one of these at some time or another.

The key issue with planning is location: what goes where. These are medium density housing types that should go in areas with those designations – which are usually at the edges of low density neighbourhoods and/or on major road networks that can handle the extra density.

These medium density housing types shouldn’t be in low density neighbourhoods for a number of reasons, chief among them is loss of greenspace. Houses have a maximum lot coverage of 25% – towns/semis don’t – they are instead measured by setbacks. The end result is roughly 75% lot coverage, loss of greenspace and trees in established neighbourhoods – increasing risk of flooding because there’s less natural area for absorption. This is one of the reasons I suggested holding off putting semis in the OP low density areas until we have lot coverage and setbacks sorted out at the zoning stage. That initially passed at committee, then failed on reconsideration vote.

The other key issue is that we’ve been told that only “5%” of Burlington will change. That’s not the case if semis/towns/apartment walkups are permitted in low density neighbourhoods, without the ability to restrict this built form at the zoning stage, because zoning “can’t conflict” with the OP, we are being told.

This changes everything and means intensification is permitted everywhere, including established neighbourhoods. Our infrastructure isn’t set up for this, much less community amenities like parks, community centres and the like.

We need to be more thoughtful where growth should occur; let’s put growth in its proper place.

Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. ECoB Engaged Citizens Of Burlington was informed yesterday by Staff that some of these issues will be addressed through the Comprehensive Zoning Review (CZR) which will conform to the New Official Plan.

    The Planning Act requires the CZR within 3 years of the OP being adopted by the region (as part of the 2019 Halton Regional OP).
    Therefore applications in review between those two planning activities will require OPA & ZBA’s to the plan in force and effect (current OP).
    What this means is that the issues of concern for ECoB members will be deferred to Zoning – ie: grocery stores, amenities, design, function, character. However, Chapter 3 / downtown/ uptown policies could be strengthened to leverage the Zoning Review for some community value – as drafted Burlington will “sell the farm” – there is little left to negotiate when the OP is so obtuse in permissions as drafted.

    We too would like to see the types of developments permitted as of right through provisions set out in the OP – after all, the goal of the CZR is to implement the policies of the OP.

    Seems a lot like chicken and the egg with this process……

    Hope this makes sense – if not, DM me.

    • Thanks for the background Lisa. I’ve had email and verbal discussions on this with planning staff also. There’s a long email exchange that was circulated to councillors, and that I referred to at the Monday council meeting. Excerpts of that are below.

      Summary: ZONING “implements” the Official Plan, and “can’t conflict” with the OP. So, you put the height (3, 6, 11, 25+ storeys) and built form (singles, towns, mid- or high rise) you want in the OP, and then determine how to implement at the zoning stage, but zoning can’t provide further restrictions on height or built form that conflict with the OP.

      These issues also came up at the Feb. 28 P&D Committee and staff committed to providing some additional information. Staff have said they will have an update in the Council Information Package this Friday.

      Staff have also said they are working on some revised wording on this in the April version of the proposed OP; that will be released week of March 26. That is good news, and we will see next week how it will address the concerns that have been raised.

      As an aside, it is written into the OP that if/when the No Frills on Brant redevelops they must preserve a food function on that site, so it is possible to request these items at the OP stage (not leave it to zoning).

      See Chapter 8, Land Use Policies – Urban Area, p8-30, Section 8.1.1.(3.12.2) section b) (II) “The properties located at 535, 559 and 601 Brant Street shall, as part of any future development, include….(ii) retaining a food store function.” This is good news to many of us who live in the area and depend on this store. [Emphasis in the original]

      I think we are all trying to understand this, so we can provide the best input and ultimately make the best decisions for the community going forward. We will get more information in coming days (one more reason in my mind to slow this process.) In any event, here is the written information I have, to date, on this subject via excerpts from the email between myself and former Director of Planning, now Deputy City Manager that was circulated to council and referred to in the public council meeting:

      Staff: “Zoning By-laws implement the Official Plan. When a zoning by-law is passed, we are required as a municipality to confirm that it conforms to the Official Plan.”

      My Q: 1. “Can the zoning restrict built form in low density areas if that built form is already allowed in the OP “

      Staff: “Generally no unless the OP says that the uses are only permitted through a rezoning (similar to what is in our current Official Plan on how to go from 4 to 8 storeys in parts of the downtown).”

      My Q: “Can the zoning be more restrictive (in height, density, built form, land use) than the OP, in a sense “conflicting” with the OP? “

      Staff: “The zoning can be more restrictive but cannot conflict with the OP. For example, if a site has a “Mid-Rise” designation in an OP (and mid-rise is defined as 6-11 storeys), the zoning would be in that range height wise. Anything less than 6 or more than 11 would conflict with the OP.”

  2. Marianne
    Just wanted to let you know that we appreciate your steadfast resolve -particularly watching the council meeting tonight and the attacks that you undergo .It me left even more determined to do what ever it takes to support you until this council is changed .
    Way to go !!

  3. I guess that’s what happens when your development motto is “Grow Bold” – and that’s what we’re getting. Perhaps it should have been something more modest such as “Grow Logically based on input from the citizens”, but that doesn’t have any punch to it.

  4. On an earlier post you wrote in regards to this issue, “staff are preparing additional information about the types of developments that could be permitted, prior to the March 19 council meeting.” Is that additional information now available and where could I access a copy ?

What's your take?





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