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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.

Councillor Marianne Meed Ward
Please check out the articles covering issues that you've told me matter to you. I value your feedback on them because it informs the decisions I make. If you want to let me or others know about concerns or events in your neighbourhood, please get in touch.

My email is
marianne.meedward@burlington.ca

9 Comments

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  1. How dare they hold closed door meetings when deciding on important issues regarding OUR neighbourhoods, without even allowing our duly elected representatives to attend. NO, no more community “benefits”, all it amounts to is bribery. Keep the limit at seven stories. Why bother having limits at all, if they can be circumvented so easily. Cheryl Mahon

  2. At last night’s council meeting, participants put to rest the notion that community benefits are bribes or tradeoffs for bad planning.  Good planning is the first priority. I respect that some residents do not like the Brock/Elgin development proposal, but the other five councillors, the mayor, city staff, as well as Burlington’s Sustainable Development committee believe this proposed development to be good planning, community benefits or no community benefits.  To allow this idea to fester among residents–that community benefits are negotiated in some sort of back room, corrupt way, and to label them  “suspect”–is unproductive and frankly, irresponsible. Might we look at ways to include more public input when deciding how community benefits money is allocated? Sure, and council seemed more than willing to do this in the future.

  3. Community Benefits is no more than bribe money so lets call it the way it is. It should not be allowed.  If you must have community benefits then develop a standard so that there is a set fee to be paid for every exception and that money should go towards reducing property taxes.  Thanks Dick Seguin

  4. No question that your perspective is right on the money. The authorities are teaching the developers how they might proceed to “bargain” for more profitable construction. I believe that 7 stories is quite sufficient without turning Burlington into a downtown metropolis like Hamilton, Toronto etc. Had I wanted to live in that type of environment I would have moved there in the first place. Fourteen stories is beyond reason in my opinion and I would not wish to live anywhere close to that. Do we really want to teach them how to buy us off with OUR surroundings.

    Fred Young

  5. Is this money a bribe from our city to the developers in order to get the increased height for their building ? If that is the case I think it is awful !
    Robert

  6. Community Benefits without Community Input …..what kind of democracy is that…..sounds more like bribery to me.  Approval of 14 storeys is ANOTHER contravention of the Official Plan.  Why does Burlington have an Official Plan, when, officials use a blind eye  when reading it……..ie:Aldershot Plaza.  This was the last horrendous contravention to the Official Plan, now, Brock School Property.  What’s next?   The Official Plan as it’s treated, makes a joke of “democracy”.

  7. I think it is despicable that an official plan can be discarded with or without a
    community benefit, but in reality it really isn’t the community the councils
    benefit. One thing for sure the traffic on Maple St will really be intensified.
    Thanks for your sanity-keep up the good work. 

  8.  I think the Official Plan should be ENFORCED. Why bother having an Official Plan for the city if developers can bribe the city officials to drastically change the Official Plan with Community Benefits that don’t benefit the residents involved.  What happened to the mayors promise of being more open with the public.  Closed meetings without our representation is not being more open.  If Community Benefits (bribes) are to be done, the choice of Community Benefits should at least directly involve the residents affected by the change in the ‘Comunity Plan’  In other words, our neighbourhood should reap the benefits. Molinaro went behind the cities back to get the permit so why should the city give into him?

  9. Why not abandon the city’s official plan altogether it seems that it cost many tax payer dollars to put it together every so many years and then it is abandoned every time by developers and council, and city staff so what is the point of having it.  I’m one really mad resident over this issue, why make the study and make the rules if we aren’t going to follow them, I think it is time to get rid of the rest of council….good for you Marianne for sticking to your guns on this one!!!!!

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