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23 storeys is just the beginning; more highrises coming in proposed downtown precinct plan. Speak out Nov. 30

23 storeys is just the beginning; more highrises coming in proposed downtown plan
23-storeys at Brant/James compared to City Hall.

Analysis & Opinion – The recently approved 23 storey building on the corner of Brant & James Street is just the beginning of highrises downtown, based on the proposed downtown precinct plan which will be discussed at committee Nov. 30 at 1 and 6:30 pm. The plan is expected to be approved in January, with more detailed Area Specific Plans coming in June 2018.

What you can do? Register as a delegate to speak on Nov. 30 for either the afternoon (1pm) or evening (6:30pm) sessions to voice your views. Changes to the plan will have to be made by motion at this meeting, which I’m prepared to do.

Read highlights below, and search your area for changes .



Heights increased from 14 to 25 storeys; growth centre boundaries changed to include stable neighbourhoods

  • The downtown is divided into 13 “precincts” (up from 8 in the current plan) each with their own height and zoning permissions. Where heights previously ranged up to 14 storeys (excluding specific sites granted more height through an application), they now include as-of-right heights up to 25 storeys. More details on the precincts are below. Visit here for a full size .PDF of the map: PB-81-17 Appendix A – Proposed Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan
Black line is existing Urban Growth Centre boundaries; red line is new boundaries, expanding into stable neighbourhoods.
  • The downtown urban growth centre boundaries have changed to include parts of the stable low density neighbourhoods in the Emerald and St. Luke’s precincts. This is very serious as it will put pressure on these neighbourhoods to meet the growth centre’s target of 200 people or jobs per hectare. This change was apparently done by the province and region in 2006 and has not been reflected in our current OP, nor even come to light until now.


  • There are a number of heritage buildings in the Downtown Core Precinct where heights are projected to go from 4-8 storeys to 17

What’s changing:

Orange area is Brant Main St Precinct, up to 11 storeys

Brant St from Pine to southern edge of No Frills Plaza: (Brant Main St Precinct orange area on map) from 4-8 storeys to 3-11, and 17/23 at Brant/James (thatched orange area on map)

  • Existing permissions are 4-8 storeys, will now be up to 11. There will be a 3 storey limit on Brant with potential to terrace back to 11 storeys facing John St. or Locust St. using a 45 degree angular plane from Brant. The South-East corner of Brant & James is a special policy area (thatched orange) allowed to go to 17 storeys. The North-East corner across the street has already been approved for 23 storeys.
Upper Brant Precinct (royal blue area), from 6 storeys existing, up to 25 storeys

Brant St at Graham’s Lane/Prospect/Ghent/Olga/Blairholm (Upper Brant Precinct) from 6 storeys to 25 (blue area)

  • Existing permissions are 6 storeys, will now be up to 25. Height on the east side will be determined by depth of lot, with one storey for each 4.5m in depth.

Downtown core precinct (light blue) goes from 4-8 storeys existing, to 17

John St, Lakeshore, Martha, Maria block: (Downtown Core Precinct) from 4-8 storeys up to 17 (light blue)

  • Existing permissions are 4-8 storeys, will now be up to 17. The block at Maria/Caroline/John/ Elizabeth has existing permission for a 17 storey condo (currently under construction), 6-8 storey parking garage and 6-8 storey medical centre.
  • There are a number of historic buildings in the Downtown Core Precinct, along James, Elizabeth Pearl, but heritage protection policies and site specific reviews won’t come till the Area Specific Plans are complete in June 2018. We’re giving height away without getting these protections in place, putting pressure on these sites to be developed to the max. It will be difficult to “downzone” development permissions after the fact where we want to protect heritage down the road.
Cannery Precinct, up to 22 storeys (salmon colour). Waterfront Hotel site marked with asterix.

Cannery Precinct up to 22 storeys

This precinct includes two parcels: the existing Bridgewater Development at Lakeshore/Elizabeth/Pearl, currently under construction with a 22 storey condo, 8 storey hotel and 7 storey condo; and the foot of Brant/Lakeshore on the North East Side bounded by Brant, John, Pine and Lakeshore.

Waterfront Hotel site, Brant & Lakeshore

The area at the foot of Brant with an asterix is the Waterfront Hotel site, which is subject to a separate planning review. For more on that visit: P&D Nov. 28Waterfront Hotel survey and Residents Plan B for waterfront

 Existing applications

There are four developments in process for the downtown, which will be decided separately:

  • 26 storeys at Martha/Lakeshore: this application was not supported by council or staff, and was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board; the hearing was in July and a decision has not been released.
  • 22 storey at Brock/Ontario: this application is still being processed. A recommendation report to approve or deny is expected in the New Year.
  • 6 storeys at Elgin/Locust/Blathwayte: the site allows 4 storeys which has begun construction; the applicant is seeking two additional floors. A recommendation report to approve or deny is expected in the New Year.
  • 5 storeys at 2085 Pine: the project was approved by council this fall but hasn’t begun construction. The existing historic home will be preserved and incorporated into the development.


Emerald and St Luke’s precincts (light pink) will now include semi-detached units.

Emerald & St. Luke’s Precinct and all low density neighbourhoods to include semi-detached:

  • semi-detached units allowed in all low-density, single family home neighbourhoods. Since semi-detached units currently have different lot coverage and setback permissions, I asked staff to limit semis to the same lot coverage as single family homes, at 25%, and the same Floor Area Ratio as single family homes, which controls massing, to avoid monster semis covering most of the lot being built downtown. Those changes won’t be ready until the Area Specific Plan for the downtown comes back in June 2018. In my view we shouldn’t be approving semis until we have those specific details and controls on massing and lot coverage.

The plan was first released in September, with the updated version released early November 9, which doesn’t reflect a number of changes that were suggested.

The plan will be discussed at the Nov. 30 Planning & Development Committee meeting, in the afternoon (1pm) and evening (6:30pm) sessions. The plan is expected to be approved in January, with more detailed Area Specific Plans coming in June 2018. Any changes we want to see made have to be put on the floor by way of a motion at the Nov. 30 meeting.

Read the staff report and Appendices for the meeting meeting: Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan


My Take:

If this plan goes through as is it will fundamentally change downtown, replacing the low-rise character and historic buildings with modern tall buildings. The magnitude of changes represents   overintensification and high rise congestion with no clear reason – since we can meet our growth targets under existing plan limits. We’re giving away height and getting nothing, like negotiating affordable housing, family units, public parking or heritage protection in exchange for more floors.

Since the approval of the 23 storey building, residents have made clear they don’t support highrises throughout the downtown, and are very concerned about added congestion, loss of small town feel, and loss of key retailers in some of our older buildings, like Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

This process is proceeding far too quickly, and I will ask for an extension of time before approval. Though the Official Plan review started six years ago, half way through it completely changed from an update to a rewrite. We only got the downtown policies at the end of September, and only saw the revised version two weeks ago. We won’t have the Area Specific Policies for the downtown until June. We should not be approving the plan piecemeal, without all the detailed protective policies in place.

The new plan, downtown policies, staff reports and “track changes” version is over 2000 pages of reading for committee next week – and that’s just one item out of 74 reports and appendices across six meetings, including the 2018 budget.

Three weeks is not enough time to review and digest these documents, much less invite public comment. We cannot rush. The Official Plan is the most important document in the city, setting the stage for development for decades.

I will be asking for several amendments, including revisions to height permissions and deferring approval till June when we can consider all policies at the same time, and allow more time for public review and comment.

You can help by speaking in support. Register as a delegate for Nov. 30 and speak up on what changes you want to this plan.

Contact members of council to register your views (make sure to copy me too!):

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26 thoughts on “23 storeys is just the beginning; more highrises coming in proposed downtown precinct plan. Speak out Nov. 30”

  1. Stop the insanity! Burlington will turn into Mississauga with these giant skyscraper. Brant St is a 2 lane road in the downtown core. Really?

  2. Don Hollingsworth

    All of the proposed changes will make a few people rich at expense of the majority,and the inconvenience of the local residents .

  3. Marianne, has anyone done shadow studies on the impact that 30+ storey towers will have on surrounding neighbourhoods? We are about 400m from Brant Street in the new “Upper Brant Precinct”. I have nothing against going upward on Brant and Fairview in principle, but if it is going to be nothing but a wall of 30 storey condos along Brant (and how far inward?) will homes along Ghent, Prospect and Maplewood be looking at spending long parts of the day in shadow?

  4. Thanks to everyone for engaging in this important discussion. I want to encourage people to participate, so let’s keep it respectful of each other, and those who have a different perspective than us. Focus comments on the issue, rather than personal attacks or assumption of motives of city staff, other residents or anyone else. Such comments will be deleted. Staff put forward what they believe in their professional opinion is good planning. Anyone can agree or disagree with that position; state the rationale, rather that going after the person. Providing solid reasons for an alternative perspective helps us reach better planning decisions together. (PS I’ve posted this comment on all articles about issues which are contentious and people have different perspectives, to encourage vigorous and respectful debate).

  5. When a question was asked at a City Hall meeting about acceptance of the James/Brant 23 storeys as setting a precedence, the answer came back from one of the Councillors as not necessarily. Well, again we are treated like “dummies”, and looking at the new Official Plan and the 17 storeys for Brant St., closer to the lake, and the “special requests” for 22 that are already numbered, is very clear to me what decisions have been made. What views, opinions, or rights, do you think citizen taxpayers should have on layout of their community planning? Comes loud and clear to me that we have a voice – yes, but it is only for “formality sake”, as this planning has been predecided and put forward with too high a number before any proposals by developers have evenbeen released for public comment. One developer already knows what height he is getting before the site area has even been sold to him. Does this tell us something, and answer a lot of our questions at the same time? This is not what the paying pubic want to hear or see. We want fairness, honesty, and “real” sensible planning for our downtown core.

  6. I would like to comment on the impact multistorey buildings would have on small retail businesses on brant street. Nobody likes to stroll around these buildings, small stores encourage people strolling by and stopping to purchase from these stores. What a mistake this would be!

    1. Glynis Van Steen

      Unfortunately it is not so sudden. I used to attend the town hall meetings a couple of years ago, but the voting citizens’s views are falling on deaf ears. It is very disheartening that our city is quickly being destroyed by all this development that keeps getting approved. Queen’s Park seems to be running the show, not the locals. The Burlington core continues to be destroyed by traffic congestion and the highrises will create wind tunnels just like downtown TO and Mississauga.

  7. Do you really think that it won’t continue , building more high rises buildings downtown ? The time to STOP IT IS NOW , before it gets another foot in the door. There is no sense complaining if you are not prepared to , yell, scream, demand it stop. Remember , as a voter , you have the means to stop this ,

  8. I am sick and tired of council members who do not live in the downtown core making decisions that adversely affect those of us who live in the core. How would Craven like a 26 storey high-rise in his back yard? Actually, the Plains Road corridor would be the perfect place for high-rise buildings. What about ther Fairview corridor in Dennison’s ward? As noted, we are on target for intensifcation without adding to the downtown congestion.
    It’s disheastening as the people who could vote these councillors out of office don’t seem to care that much about what happens downtown.

    1. Hi Ian,
      That’s not true about people outside of downtown not caring about the downtown core. Myself and a number of other Aldershot residents care deeply about the intensification changes that are going on in the City of Burlington, including downtown. Aldershot itself is also facing big changes with the Aldershot GO Mobility Hub plans. These plans suggest that Aldershot would be pre-approved to have 12-20+ storey buildings. The *Village* of Aldershot does not want to see these changes either. We already have a number of new developments in the area with under-sized retail space that isn’t attracting meaningful businesses — if they attract businesses at all. We are losing our Home Hardware and Dollarama not long from now, and are likely to lose the RBC not long after that.

      I agree with you though, that the councillors would be a lot more likely to take notice if these things impacted their own backyard directly.

      The best way to change the City Council is for everyone in the City to get involved with this and make their voices heard in the next election.

      1. Thanks Danya. I guess i forget that there are others who may not live in the core who care deeply about this wonderful city. Makes me wonder how many on council have accepted campaign contributions from developers. I know Marianne hasnt

        1. Hi Ian,
          The campaign finances from the past elections are all available through the City of Burlington website. You can see the corporate donations for each major candidate, and it isn’t difficult to spot the familiar names of developers on many of those donation lists. Googling “Burlington Candidate Financial Statements” should show the results you’re looking for.

          The one good thing to note is that recent changes have made it so that corporate and union donations are no longer allowed for municipal elections. This won’t change the fact that the owners can donate as individuals, but it should work to limit the donations a bit.

  9. This is so sad. We moved here a year ago, from a small town in the Maritimes, to be closer to family. We were drawn to Burlington specifically because of the small town feel, and the walkability of the downtown core. That will all be lost – the small retailers we prefer to patronize will be gone, and Brant Street will be a construction zone for the foreseeable future once the plan is approved and the developers smell big profits and swoop in. No one will want to stroll Brant Street, and you can bet that the throngs of people currently coming to the waterfront park will go elsewhere. We recently went to Dundas to see their main street – lovely, and not a high-rise in sight (same in Oakville).

    And so Burlington, recently lauded as one of the best places in Canada to live, will fall far down that list. There is no way now we will buy in Burlington, and we will look elsewhere once our lease is up. I’m surprised downtown homeowners are not up in arms: with all the construction and highrises looming over downtown neighbourhoods, I wonder if their property prices will fall.

    On a final note, while I’m surprised at the paucity of comments to this post, perhaps people are so disillusioned by the recent approval of 23 storeys on Brant, the thought of wading through 2000 pages of documentation by Nov. 30 (that’s in 5 days!) to speak at the meeting is just overwhelming. Why the rush?

  10. Why can’t the City learn from Chicago with it’s undeveloped waterfront or Paris, France where hi-rises are not allowed until 4 miles out of city. They could even learn from downtown Oakville!

    Jamming high rise apartments into the downtown is madness. Our roads and infrastructure can’t handle what we have now.

    Developers now control our city and all they are interested in is the almighty dollar.

  11. here is a thought why weren’t any high-rises built when they did all the cookie cutter town homes up on HWY 5 or The Orchid. Why do they have to be downtown, you think there isn’t any stores down there now wait it’s going to become a ghost town.

  12. More highrises are coming downtown??!! Are you serious???!!! We’re smothering down here and the traffic is ridiculous..and obviously it’s
    getting worse..daily!! Yes..please get New Street off that diet immediately!! And can the lights be moved a few feet so that they are at the bottom of Torrance?? Impossible to turn eastbound at rush hour..And why so many speed bumps..4-way stops and lights on Drury Lane??. A bit over the my opinion! What the heck is going on in downtown Burlington anyways????!!! Just so discouraging..Thank heavens we have you, Marianne. Without you I shudder to think…

  13. Intensification at sensible levels is what the city needs and will work so long as transit improvements are in place to prevent congestion and ggh emissions. City proposals however are not sensible. There are lots of alternative ultrahi-rise
    Corridors, north Brant St, Plains Rd, where I live, Appleby North, Upper Middle even along Dundas. I don’t see the need to destroy downtown to achieve density and intensification targets.

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Marianne Meed Ward

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. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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