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Council: 96-townhomes on Prospect; Grant for Moonglade; Towers & towns in Alton; $2.5m for Mobility Hubs study; 2017 budget framework; Willow Ln sidewalk; Alton overnight pay parking; electronic vote recording

starlight townsIntensification, development, culture, budgets and parking – these items and more were on the agenda for committee and council meetings in July, just before council broke for the summer. Meetings resume in September.

Items approved by council July 18 include a development of 96-townhomes on Prospect; a $4000 grant for the Moonglade contemporary art festival at Brock Park in downtown Burlington Sept. 16; overnight paid parking in Alton, $2.5 million for a Mobility Hubs study; the 2017 budget framework which calls for a preliminary tax increase of 3.91%; a sidewalk on Willow Lane; and direction for staff to prepare an Official Plan and Zoning amendment for council consideration to permit two 19-storey towers and ? stacked and standard townhomes on Thomas Alton Blvd. in Alton.

A summary of some of these items, including My Take, follows. Information on how to find staff reports on these items is below.

96-unit townhouse development on Prospect approved (D&I July 12)

See stand alone article here: Prospect development

dawn-vic-render (1)Residents suggest greater setbacks, less density for New Street townhouses (D&I July 12)

See stand alone article here: New St townhomes

lakeshore-patioLive, amplified entertainment on patios approved, effective Aug. 17 if no appeals (D&I July 12)

See stand alone article here: Patio entertainment

Resolution on OMB reform debated, fails 6-1 (D&I July 12)

The province has announced a review of the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) which hears disputes over land use planning and development. A consultation paper will be released in the fall to solicit feedback. I brought a  Resolution on OMB Reform (DI-03-16) to the July 12 Development & Infrastructure Committee seeking support to advise the province to forbid appeals to the OMB of requests for Official Plan or Zoning Bylaw amendments, where a municipality’s OP and Zoning have already been approved by the Region and the Province. I believe municipal councils in concert with planning staff, residents, and the development industry, should be the final decision-makers on land use matters. The motion failed 6-1.

My Take: I remain committed to seeking OMB reform during the consultation process. I continue to believe that the best planning system is one without the right of appeal to the OMB, a system where the best opportunity for everyone to influence development in their communities is to get involved in shaping an Official Plan, elect representatives who will support it, and advocate to council on specific developments. This is accountable, transparent, free of charge, equally fair to residents and developers alike, and accessible to all – no need to have deep pockets to fund a costly OMB appeal.

See background articles here: Province announces OMB review;  OMB Reform – the time has come

3015 dundasRequest to remove 3015 Dundas St from municipal heritage register rejected (D&I July 12)

3015 Dundas Street, also known as the McCollogh-Greer House, is listed on the city’s municipal register of heritage properties. Built in 1885 in gothic revival style, the home is not formally designated heritage under the Ontario Heritage Act, which would prevent demolition. However, heritage assessments in the 1980s, 1997, 2003, 2014 and 2016 all determined the property has heritage value and should remain on the municipal register. By placing homes on the register, staff have 60 days to review a request for demolition, versus a requirement to issue a demolition permit in 10 days under normal circumstances. The 60 period provides time to determine whether to formally designate the home, and what supports or financial compensation might be available to the homeowner if the designation is against their wishes. Council chose to refuse the request to take the home off the register, to ensure sufficient time to review these options should a request for demolition be submitted. There is limited development opportunity on the site, given its location in Niagara Escarpment Commission, Parkway Belt West, Conservation Halton and Greenbelt protection areas.

My Take: Alongside Heritage Burlington (which I serve a council representative) I supported the staff recommendation to keep the home on the municipal register. The motion passed at council.

willow laneSidewalk approved for Willow Lane (D&I July 12)

A sidewalk will be installed on the north side of Willow Lane as part of road reconstruction on Willow Lane, Maplehill Drive and Oakhurst Road. No sidewalks are proposed for Maplehill and Oakhurst. Council approved the tender for the road work, including the sidewalk, at a total cost of $866,000. Willow Lane is a dead end street, with a connecting path to parks, trails and schools. Pedestrians range from 67 to 85 in the peak morning and evening periods. In the same time frame, there are roughly six vehicles. Residents on Willow Lane did not want the sidewalk, preferring to retain greenspace and the historic character of the street.

My Take: Council voted 4-3 to install the sidewalk on a recorded vote at my request. Alongside councillors Dennison and Taylor, I did not support the sidewalk. Thought the street attracts significant pedestrian activity, as a dead end street it has minimal vehicular activity at slow speeds. As such, I believe pedestrians are safe without the sidewalk, just as they are on the two neighbouring streets (Maplehill/Oakhurst) that won’t get sidewalks.

Road diet approved for New Street to add bike lanes (D&I July 12)

See stand alone article here: New Street road diet

moonglade$4000 grant approved for Moonglade contemporary art festival (C&CS July 11)

Local non-profit No Vacancy has partnered with the Art Gallery of Burlington to stage Moonglade, a free contemporary art festival Fri. Sept. 16, 7pm-midnight, at Brock Park in downtown Burlington. This is NV’s third public festival, after Cirque in Village Square (2014) and Supernova on Old Lakeshore Road (2015). Council voted 6-1 in favour of my motion to offer $4000 in one-time funding for this year’s event. As part of the city’s ongoing review of festivals and events funding, this fall we’ll have an opportunity to discuss policies and criteria for funding existing and ongoing events. Currently, community funding is only available for new one-time events.

My Take: I’m pleased council supported the funding request. No other free community festival in the city celebrates contemporary art and local artists. I also believe that building community capacity means supporting ongoing as well as new events. We already support some events every year, including Burlington Sound of Music Festival.

Hip BandPhoto1$12,500 grant approved for CBC broadcast in Spencer Smith Park of The Tragically Hip concert Aug. 20 (Council July 18)

See stand alone article here: The Hip broadcast at Spencer Smith Park

$2.5m approved to study intensification at GO stations, downtown; $6.5m unfunded for Strategic Plan implementation (C&CS July 11)

Council has unanimously approved spending $2.5 million to hire contract staff to develop land use policies for the city’s four mobility hubs, which include downtown Burlington, and the city’s three GO stations (Aldershot, Burlington and Appleby). The work will allow staff to bring recommended updates to the Official Plan for these mobility hubs by June 2018. The funding will come from: Burlington Hydro reserve ($1 million); Policy Initiatives reserve ($500,000); Unspent Strategic Plan implementation funding ($250,000); Tax Rate Stabilization reserve fund ($750,000).

Meanwhile, staff have costed implementation of the city’s new Strategic Plan at $6.5 million, currently unfunded. Phase 1A of implementing the plan (Building the Foundation) and Phase 1B of the plan (Immediate Action) include 45 initiatives over the next five years. Nineteen of these initiates are unfunded, with the balance of 26 funded through prior budget approvals. Of the total $6.5 million unfunded cost, $3.9 million represents required plans and studies, and $2.65 million represents areas where preliminary work has been completed and implementation can begin.

Mobility Hub - Aldershot GO visualization
Mobility Hub – Aldershot GO visualization

The largest initiative is the Mobility Hub work, at a cost of $2.5 million.

Over the long term, staff are proposing adding or redirecting funding in the annual base budget in the amount of $580,000 to go toward Strategic Plan implementation. In years where there are unspent funds of $1 million or greater, an additional $500,000 would be directed to Strategic Plan implementation.

My Take: I supported the Mobility Hubs expenditure to get the work done, so we can be proactive in seeking appropriate development rather than reactive. Development applications are already in progress for two mobility hubs, specifically Burlington (Paradigm) and Aldershot. We need policies in place to guide these and future applications.

budgetEarly peek at 2017 budget suggests 3.91% tax increase

Council received and filed a budget report outlining parameters staff will use in preparing the 2017 budget. Inherent in the annual operating budget process are pressures of inflation, growth, resources and fluctuating revenues, compounded by infrastructure renewal costs. The preliminary forecast calls for a budget increase of $5.72 million, generating a city tax increase of 3.91%. That includes increased service costs and corporate expenditures of 2.51%, offset by .9% assessment growth (new corporate or residential taxpayers), infrastructure renewal funding  (1.45%) and business cases (new requests for funding) of .85%.

Over the last six years reflecting the term of the current members of council, the city’s annual tax rate change is 3.16%, with an overall tax rate change of 1.69% when Halton Region and education taxes are factored in. This compares to the six year rolling average of the Toronto Consumer Price Index of 2.04%.

Council expects to have proposed budget books for review in the fall. Budget discussions flow through the Community & Corporate Services (C&CS) standing committee, then to Council for approval. Committee and Council meetings are at City Hall, and are open to the public to attend or register to speak.

Key budget approval dates are as follows:

  • Capital Budget Overview (Nov. 21): C&CS, 9:30am-3pm
  • Capital Council Information Session (Nov. 24)
  • Public Engagement (July – November)
  • Capital Budget Review/Operating Budget Overview (Dec. 8): C&CS, 9:30am-3pm
  • Operating Council Information Session (Dec. 15)
  • Council Capital Budget Approval (Dec. 19): Council, 6:30pm

City Hall/Regional Offices closed (Dec. 26-Jan 3)

  • Operating Budget Review (Jan. 19): C&CS, 9:30am-3pm
  • Council Operating Budget Approval (Jan. 23): Council, 6:30pm

On-Street pay parking system approved for Alton residents

Alton residents will be able to buy one overnight, onstreet parking permit per household, at a cost of $30 per month or $350 per year, inclusive of HST. The permit allows residents to park within their Ward boundaries only. Inoperable vehicles cannot be parked onstreet, or for longer than 48 hours. Existing Neighbourhood Onstreet Parking Programs (NOSPPs) in the city will continue, allowing residents in these areas to park onstreet, overnight without charge. Changes take effect Sept. 1. This policy will be reviewed in one year.

My Take: I did not support this initiative, as it charges one neighbourhood (Alton) for overnight parking privileges that are available free in other Burlington neighbourhoods. That’s not fair, or good public policy. Staff had recommended a city-wide paid overnight parking permit system, with a limit of one per household, and grandfathering in existing NOSPPs until the sale of the home, at which time the paid permit policy would take effect. I supported that recommendation, but it failed at committee in favour of the Alton option.

alton - original
Alton – original proposal

Alton tower & town development supported in principle, with design changes

Council voted 5-2 to direct staff to bring back an Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw amendment to a future meeting to permit a proposed development at 4853 Thomas Alton Boulevard of 685 units in two 19-storey towers, as well as back to back and traditional townhouses, subject to modifications proposed by staff. Staff engaged an urban design consultant to assist in evaluating the original development proposal. The process led to the development of seven design principles. Staff got agreement from the developer to implement five of the seven principles, but without agreement on the remaining two, were not willing to bring a report recommending the project.

alton - revised
Alton revised proposal, with interior open space.

Those modifications don’t change the height or density, but do increase onsite greenspace and setbacks, narrow the floor plate of the towers, suggest square rather than rectangular shape towers, and propose greater separation between the two towers. Staff also recommended an increase in the overall amenity area. The developer agreed to add 1,700 m2 of common open space in the centre of the site, but that is still 63% short of the required amenity area for the site. Though staff were willing to make some amenity area reductions, even at a reduced rate approximately 2000 m2 of additional amenity area would be required.

Staff advised they would support a reduction in the normal parking requirements, to 1.25 spaces per unit, but note even with that the proposal is short 21 spaces. As such, staff would require submission of a Transportation Demand Management plan outlining steps to reduce on-site and off-site impacts of this parking deficit.

The site is currently vacant, and is zoned Residential – High Density, permitting buildings between 4 and 10 storeys, with a maximum density of 185 units per hectare. The proposal would increase the density to 355 units per hectare. The magnitude of change would trigger negotiation of Community Benefits under Section 37 of the Planning Act. These would come forward after a decision on the project itself.

My Take: I do not support proceeding with the development, even in accordance with the proposed staff modifications. I believe the proposal is too dense for the site, and will put undue pressure on existing community infrastructure in the area, such as schools and parks which Alton residents say are already over crowded. I also wanted more onsite greenspace and resident amenities, and would support some public parkland on the site. That said, I appreciated staff’s approach to this development application, to recommend changes to the proposal that would put staff in a position to approve it, rather than simply approving or denying the application as submitted.

Proposed electronic vote recording system to be discussed this fall

Council received notice at its July meeting that a motion will come forward in the fall to direct the City Clerk to purchase and install an electronic vote recording system in the Council Chambers, the cost to be charged to the capital budget for the Agenda Management solution. The proposal calls for suspending requests for recorded votes until a vote recording system is installed.

My Take: I have long been an advocate for automatic, electronic recorded votes, to replace the current cumbersome procedure which requires a member of council to request a recorded vote of an item, and those in favour, then those opposed must stand while the clerk reads and records everyone’s name. That said, I oppose any effort to suspend the ability to call for manual recorded votes until the electronic system is in place. Recorded votes provide transparency and accountability to residents of how council members voted on matters of public interest. It’s one of the foundations of our democracy. The need for accountability does not diminish while we wait for an electronic voting system.

How to find staff reports:

Staff reports on items that come to council for information or a decision are included in standing committee agendas. The city has four standing committees: Committee of the Whole (COW); Audit; Development & Infrastructure (D&I) and Community & Corporate Services (C&CS). Items go to committee first for discussion, then to council for a final decision. Committee and council meetings occur monthly.

The same approach is followed at Halton Region (all Burlington councillors sit on Halton Regional Council). The Region has three standing committees: Health & Social Services (where I serve); Administration and Finance; and Planning & Public Works.

Regional committees meet again starting the week of September 6; City of Burlington committees begin again the week of September 12. Agendas for city and regional committees are available online about 10 days in advance of the meeting dates.

To find city committee agendas and webcasts of meetings, visit the new city of Burlington online calendar, filter your search by “city meetings”, then click on the date of the committee. The committee date and acronym are noted after each item above, for ease of searching. The list of items above is not exhaustive. For a complete list of items approved at council, search the calendar for the July 18 council meeting agenda.

Regional committee agendas are available here: Regional Agendas, Minutes, Videos

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

What's your take?