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No need to pit Burlington’s urban communities against the rural

(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 Burlington's urban communities against rural communities in discussions on intensification.
I am increasingly concerned about the pitting of Burlington’s urban communities against rural communities in discussions on intensification.

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.

The job of protecting Burlington's rural area has already been protected from residential and commercial done on our behalf by decree from the province, under the Places to Grow Act.
The job of protecting Burlington’s rural area has already been protected from residential and commercial done on our behalf by decree from the province, under the Places to Grow Act.

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

 

 

 

 

Google maps tells the story - approval of the development means the end of the largest stand of trees in Ward 2
Google maps tells the story – approval of the development means the end of the largest stand of trees in Ward 2

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.

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  1. About 80 percent of Burlington had better take note; most neighbourhoods are not currently built up to the maximum density permitted by the Official Plan. All it takes is one or two people to buy a few of their neighbours’ properties on a lie and go shopping for a developer (that’s exactly what happened to us on Ghent). Before you know it, the neighbourhood is gone and your elected representatives are telling you it is too expensive to side with you because as a neighbour without a spare half-milllion dollars for a slate of experts, you’re a cheaper opponent at the OMB. It’s like the bad old days before there were Official Plans, zoning laws and Provincial Policy Statements at all. City staff and our Development and Infrastructure Committee are supposed to promote an independent, fair, faithful and reasonable interpretation of those planning laws, but instead both they and the mayor read out the 51 instances of the word “compatibility” in the URBAN development section of the Burlington OP.

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