(originally posted in burlingtonbeat.ca)
Burlington’s Development and Infrastructure Committee met on March 25 and approved a rezoning which will pave the way for a large and concentrated townhouse development on Ghent Avenue in Ward 2. Councillor Meed Ward cast the lone dissenting vote. She writes:
I am increasingly concerned about the pitting of urban communities against rural communities in discussions on intensification. We hear that we must allow the maximum intensification in the urban area “in order to protect the rural area.” We hear that we must sacrifice greenspace in urban settings to preserve greenspace in rural settings.
The job of protecting the rural area from residential and commercial development has already been done on our behalf by decree from the province, under the Places to Grow Act. We can’t take the credit for that, nor is that within our control. The rural area is protected, period.
Our job, and what city council and staff do control, is how we will intensify the urban area in response. The “how” is very important. Not all developments are created equal; some are good, others not so. Council has control over the how and the what of development in the urban area.
Provincial, regional and municipal planning documents are used to support intensification in the urban area. However, every single one of these documents states that intensification must “respect the character of existing communities.” Character is defined, among other things, by lot sizes, vegetation, architectural styles, types and sizes of homes, setbacks from the street.
The recent development that was approved for Ghent Ave introduced new types and sizes of homes (back to back townhomes), closer to the street, on much smaller lot sizes (greenspace on previous lots was 72%; greenspace in the new development will be about half that at 38%). There will be a net loss of 40 trees, plus four city street trees. There is no question the development is not in keeping with the character of the existing neighbourhood. A development of half or even two thirds of the size, using semi-detached and townhomes, with greater setbacks, would have preserved character and greenspace and met our obligations to intensify. The Official Plan here permits a range of density from 26-50 units/ha – this development went for the maximum, and character and urban greenspace are sacrificed as a result.
To use any of the provincial, regional or municipal planning documents to justify denuding and paving over the urban area in the name of intensification is an abuse of these policies. Out of fear of this development being appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board (and potentially granted), council does the work of the OMB for it, and turns us into handmaidens of the development industry.
The people who move into these intensified developments want trees, greenspace and breathing room, too, and we owe it to them as part of our responsibility for good planning. We should not be taking credit for protecting the rural area (the province has done that for us). We should not be giving up control of what we can actually decide, and that is ensuring that intensification respect the character of existing communities.
We’ve got a long way to go.
Marianne Meed Ward, Ward 2 Councillor