Residents say “no thanks” to community “benefits”

In exchange for approving the Molinaro building at Brock/Elgin at double the height and density allowed in the Official Plan, $500,000 in “community benefits” were negotiated. These talks took place behind closed doors in discussions with the developer and city staff with no community input, nor was I invited to attend on your behalf.

Those benefits are as follows:

  1. Section 37 Burlington$250,000.00 towards the burial of hydro wires on the west side of Brock Avenue from Elgin Street to Ontario Street;
  2. $75,000.00 towards a new play structure in a neighbouring park;
  3. $20,000.00 towards the construction of the pathway through the hydro corridor;
  4. $55,000.00 towards the public art reserve fund;
  5. $50,000.00 towards a landscape feature at the corner of Brock Street and Elgin Street; and,
  6. $50,000.00 towards the parking reserve fund.

At council I will be bringing a motion seeking community input on these benefits. Got an opinion on how the community benefits should be distributed?

Residents who have contacted me so far have expressed interest in the hospital, seniors, affordable housing – very different priorities than those listed above, and true community-wide benefits.

I’ve also heard from a number of residents, including 20 who gathered at my Ward 2 Citizen’s Advisory Committee last week, saying they don’t want the community benefits at all, and would rather keep the height at the Official Plan limit of seven storeys. I will be bringing that message to council, too.

I will also be bringing a separate motion to examine the practise of using community benefits to negotiate extra height and density as part of the Official Plan review scheduled to start in 2012. Specifically, should this practise continue at all (and I’m getting strong response so far that it shouldn’t) and if it does continue, how can we include the community, which is currently excluded from negotiations.

My Take: I’m concerned about the use of community benefits to negotiate extra height and density, and that’s why I’m bringing a motion to reexamine this practise as part of our Official Plan review in 2012. Burlington is one of only four municipalities in Ontario that use community benefits, and it’s fraught with complications. I believe the Official Plan should be respected with only minor variations allowed. Our plan is reviewed every five years – ample opportunity to make more significant changes that may be needed.

What do you think? Do you support the use of community benefits to allow increased height and density? Leave your comment below or email me at meedwardm@burlington.ca.

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