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Sale of waterfront land at Market/St. Paul streets cited for no public shoreline at proposed Blue Water project

blue water aerial

The sale of publicly owned waterfront land between Market/St. Paul Streets in Ward 2 in 2013 has been cited to support no public shoreline access for a proposed redevelopment at Blue Water Place and Avondale Court in Ward 4.

The applicant seeks a rezoning to redevelop two single-family home properties into 35 two-storey town houses plus 4 two-storey semi-detached dwellings with underground parking. The properties, at 105 Avondale & 143 Blue Water Place, are at the end of two single family home cul-de-sacs east of Paletta Lakefront Park, with one parcel fronting onto Lake Ontario.

blue water site layoutThe site is zoned residential “low density” and only allows single family homes. The zoning seeks a “medium density – exception” designation to permit the redevelopment into townhomes and semis.

Burlington’s Official Plan has several policies on waterfront development, including provisions to seek public shoreline access during redevelopment applications, using tools such as parkland dedication and Section 37 Community Benefits.

The Official Plan calls for a continuous Waterfront Trail along Lake Ontario either immediately along the shoreline, or near the Lake or Bay, where feasible. Under parkland dedication, a minimum 15 m wide strip of land from the stable top of bank along the shoreline “will be dedicated to the City.” When extra height or density is requested, the city can use Community Benefits provisions under Section 37 of the Planning Act to encourage the creation of waterfront public open space.

Council voted to retain “windows” at Market/St Paul but sell “parkette” between them.
Council voted 6-1 in 2013 to retain “windows” at Market/St Paul, South of Lakeshore, West of Guelph Line, but sell “parkette” between them.

However, the Blue Water applicant cites the recent sale of public waterfront land between Market Street and St. Paul Streets in Ward 2 (by a 6-1 vote – I didn’t support) to defend not providing public waterfront access as part of the Blue Water redevelopment.

“…Council has set recent precedents regarding waterfront lands they already owned. In 2013, Council approved the disposition of publically owned lands in favour of alternative forms of waterfront access. The lands in question … are between the Market and St Paul Street right of ways,” states the Blue Water Planning-Justification-Report

Against the recommendation from city staff to retain the lands and provide an exclusive use lease to the abutting land owners until needed for public use, council voted to create Windows-to-the-Lake at each road end and dispose of the public waterfront parcel through sale to abutting land owners. Part of the rationale, notes the Blue Water Planning Justification Report, was limited opportunity to continue waterfront access beyond this site “given the residential properties to the east and west.”

The report concludes: “It is our opinion that dedication of trail lands on the [Blue Water/Avondale] subject lands would not work towards the City’s objective of a connected trail system.”

The report also references two other waterfront developments – Bridgewater in Ward 2, currently under construction at the foot of Elizabeth & Lakeshore – and Easterbrook Townhomes, behind the Royal Botanical Gardens in Ward 1. In both cases, public waterfront access was obtained during redevelopment. The report asserts that these are different than Blue Water/Avondale because they were adjacent to public parks – Spencer Smith Park and Royal Botanical Gardens, respectively.

In addition to lack of public waterfront access, the proposed Blue Water/Avondale development will require removal of more than half the 369 trees on or near the development site, and building sewer access (the properties are currently on private septic systems.) Additional key details of the proposal are below.

Neighbourhood Meeting:

A neighbourhood meeting on this proposal (open to all members of the public and media) is planned for Sept. 14. Details below:

Date: Wednesday, Sept. 14

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Paletta Mansion, 4250 Lakeshore Road

Resources:

Additional information on the Blue Water/Avondale project, including the applicant’s supporting documents (links below), can be found on the city’s webpage dedicated to this project here: 143 Blue Water Place

Supporting Documents

Contact:

For more information, contact the planner on the file here:

Name: Jenna Puletto
Mailing address: 426 Brant St, PO Box 5013, Burlington, ON. L7R 3Z6
Email: jenna.puletto@burlington.ca
Phone: 905-335-7600, ext. 7824

My Take:

One of my greatest disappointments as a councillor is not being able to convince my council colleagues to support the staff recommendation and retain the waterfront land for public use between Market and St Paul Streets. Now we see that decision coming back to haunt us, making it exponentially more difficult to acquire public waterfront land and even implement our own Official Plan waterfront policies. The public is offered less for more: no public access for more units. The argument against providing public waterfront access because a site is not currently beside a public park doesn’t – pardon the pun – hold water. It’s a short sighted approach. A continuous waterfront trail will only be built over time, in pieces, as redevelopment occurs. Waterfront redevelopments can’t be organized or timed to occur only beside parks first.

Lack of public waterfront access is just one of several significant concerns I have with this redevelopment proposal, including the substantial loss of trees and greenspace, increased  lot coverage and density, and the zoning change that fundamentally alters the character of this single family neighbourhood. The proposal also runs counter to the new policy directions proposed by staff to direct intensification to primary corridors, away from stable neighbourhoods. Read more about that here: Red light on intensification in established neighbourhoods

Think your neighbourhood is immune to this kind of redevelopment? Think again. This is a residential low density neighbourhood just like yours, now facing a major townhouse proposal. This project also demonstrates that decisions in one part of the city inevitably affect development elsewhere in the city, even years later. Developers reference these historic decisions as “precedents.”

That’s why it’s critical for residents across the city, and across Ward boundaries, to start working together to bring a common voice to council – and if need be the Ontario Municipal Board – on neighbourhood redevelopment. There are a number of individual residents associations across Burlington; it’s time for an umbrella group to join voices together. Interested in being part of that? Email me at marianne.meedward@burlington.ca and I can connect you to other like minded residents.

Key features of the proposal:

REZONING APPLICATION: The city has received a rezoning application to permit 35 two-storey town houses, four two-storey semi-detached dwellings and an underground parking garage on waterfront property between two cul de sacs off of Lakeshore Road at Blue Water Place and Avondale Court. The site currently holds two single family homes, at 143 Blue Water Place and 105 Avondale Court.

EXISTING ZONING: The site is currently zoned  R1.2 – Residential Zone (Low Density) in By-law 2020. Residential uses permitted in the R1.2 zone are limited to detached dwellings and other accessory dwelling units. A Zoning By-law Amendment is being requested to RM2 (Residential Zone Medium Density) – exception zone, to allow the built form of townhouses and semi-detached, which are not currently permitted in the existing low density residential zone.

WATERFRONT REGULATIONS: As a waterfront property, the site is subject to review by Conservation Halton. Development within hazardous lands on the shoreline (i.e. hazards such as as erosion or flooding) shall only be permitted subject to a permit from Conservation Halton, and if City Council considers the development to be consistent with the waterfront objectives and policies of the Official Plan. Further, development shall be set back from the stable top of bank at a distance which is acceptable to the Conservation Halton and the City of Burlington. The proposed development has a setback of 37 metres from the existing shorewall, according to the applicant’s Planning Justification Report.

PUBLIC WATERFRONT ACCESS:  The city of Burlington’s current Official Plan calls for a continuous Waterfront Trail to be implemented through development and/or redevelopment along Lake Ontario where there is sufficient land between the water and a public or private road. This trail may be comprised of two (i) a shoreline trail immediately abutting the Lake or Bay and (ii) a near shoreline trail located in the general vicinity of the Lake or Bay. The Waterfront Trail will be connected to existing waterfront public open spaces and where appropriate, other points of interest in the general vicinity of the waterfront. Development proposals along the waterfront shall provide for public open space and Waterfront Trail use, where feasible, according to the OP. A minimum 15 m wide strip of land from the stable top of bank along the shoreline and where appropriate, near shoreline links will be dedicated to the City as part of the fulfillment of parkland dedication. When considering development applications along the waterfront, community benefits provisions under Section 37 of The Planning Act may be implemented to encourage the creation of waterfront public open space which shall include such features as the Waterfront Trail. Such community benefits provisions may address increases in density and height.

PREVIOUS WATERFRONT LAND ACQUISITIONS/SALES: (From the applicant’s Planning Justification Report) “Further, it is our understanding that the City has only been able to acquire waterfront trail lands through two major developments:

The Bridgewater (New Horizon development) (Ward 2)

 The zoning for this development was approved in 2006. As part of the approval, a land swap occurred with the City to acquire waterfront trail lands for unused lands along Lakeshore Road. The trail lands were provided through Provincial direction of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Agency Act.

Easterbrook Townhome (Ward 1)

 The zoning for this development was approved in 2000. The trail lands were provided through Provincial direction of the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Agency Act.

In both cases, the trail lands were provided while the Waterfront Regeneration Trust Agency Act was in-force. Further, both developments are adjacent to significant established open space/ recreational facilities (Spencer Smith Park and Royal Botanical Gardens, respectively) allowing for immediate connections to exiting trails. This is not the case with the subject lands” at Bluewater/Avondale.

“Despite the acquisition of lands in the above two developments, Council has set recent precedents regarding waterfront lands they already owned. In 2013, Council approved the disposition of publically owned lands in favour of alternative forms of waterfront access. The lands in question, shown on Figure 24, are between the Market and St Paul Street right of ways. Council was presented with three options for the development of these lands:

  1. Create a parkette connecting the St. Paul and Market Street road allowances,
  2. Create a Windows-to-the-Lake at St. Paul and Market Streets and provide an exclusive use lease to the abutting land owners until needed for public use, or
  3. Create Windows-to-the-Lake and dispose of the Waterfront parcel through sale to abutting land owners.

Staff recommended Option 2 however Option 3 was approved by Council who noted that there was limited opportunity to continue waterfront access beyond this site given the residential properties to the east and west. Staff’s interest for a continuous trail is understood, however the Official Plan is flexible in its policies to allow for ‘where feasible’ scenarios. It is our opinion that dedication of trail lands on the subject lands would not work towards the City’s objective of a connected trail system.”

STORM WATER: Currently storm water in the area outlets through a pipe into Lake Ontario. The use of storm water management practices and other pollution control measures shall be used to protect and enhance water quality in Lake Ontario.

TREES: There are 344 trees on the property and 25 off site, for a total of 369 trees that might be impacted by the development. According to an arborist report furnished by the applicant (Blue Water Tree-Preservation-Plan), more than half of the trees will require removal; 146 trees will be retained, 159 will need to be removed due to the development, and 39 will be removed because “they have a high potential for structural failure.” Tree inventory here: Blue Water Tree-Inventory-Report

SEWERS: The majority of existing homes in this area, including the parcel for development, are currently using septic systems and are not municipally serviced. The development proposes installation of a new sanitary sewer to service the development parcel. There are 2 homes that have provided their own sanitary services to Lakeshore Road via 2 separate lateral services. These homes will also be considered and reconnected to the new sanitary sewer at the time of development.

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.

3 Comments

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  1. “That’s why it’s critical for residents across the city, and across Ward boundaries, to start working together to bring a common voice to council – and if need be the Ontario Municipal Board – on neighbourhood redevelopment.”

    I agree, if residents disagree with this proposal they should bring their voices to council at the appropriate time. If that doesn’t do it the OMB as a last resort would be available.

    Precisely why the OMB and residents rights to appeal must be retained.

  2. While I appreciate someone’s right to make a proposal regarding their property and that neighborhoods change over time this project is ridiculous. Why should the character of a neighborhood, quality of life and the enjoyment of a resident’s property be subject to the whim’s of a developer. They were aware of the zoning when the property was purchased but now want it changed to suit their wants over the wants and reasonable expectations of the current residents. City council and residents need to stand firm on development issues before the Burlington they represent and live in disappears.

  3. Trees? Look at the Ghent development site they were going to save some of them but they cut every one down. I believe these developers will do the same. Poor decisions by councillors have started the ball rolling to ignore the official plan and build whatever developers want.

What's your take?