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Are we getting enough benefit to warrant 23-storeys at Brant/James? A summary of the staff recommendation and My Take

To committee Nov. 1, council Nov. 13

City staff are recommending modified approval for a 23 storey highrise at the northeast corner of Brant and James streets, originally proposed at 27 storeys, including a rooftop patio. The site includes five properties – 421, 425, 427, 429 and 431 Brant Street, from Wardell Insurance to the corner of Brant and James – which the applicants have assembled.

Given the scale of the project and significant variance from existing Official Plan and Zoning provisions, the city can take negotiated Section 37 community benefits. Should the application be approved by council, staff will start those discussions and bring a proposal back to council for approval at a future date.

Three city trees will need to be removed, at the developer’s cost, with compensation provided to the city via replanting or cash-in-lieu of $3,750 (for all three).

More detail on the proposal and My Take is below.

The Planning & Development Committee, which includes all council members, will discuss the application Nov. 1, with a final vote at council Nov. 13. Residents can attend both meetings and share their views on the proposal; you must Register as a Delegation in advance. Delegations are permitted up to 10 minutes at committee, five at council.

Recommendation Report

Date: Nov. 1, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Council Chambers, Level 2, City Hall

Council Recommendation

Date: Nov. 13, 2017
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Location: Council Chambers, Level 2, City Hall

Learn more by visiting the planning page dedicated to this application: 421-431 Brant St

Read the staff recommendation report: P&D Agenda, Nov. 1, Item 5.3

Summary of the Proposal

Staff recommended several changes to the original application for design and public realm improvements, detailed below.

Height:

  • Staff recommend a height up to 23 storeys, including a four storey podium, with stepbacks at the 4th and 16th floor (down from 27 storeys, including roof top amenity area).

Current and proposed permissions:

The current Official Plan permits 8 and 12 storeys on this property; the Zoning permits 4 and 7 storeys. The on-going Mobility Hubs Area Specific Planning process has identified this site within the Brant Main Street Precinct, and part of the larger Downtown Core Precinct in the City’s current Official Plan (these studies have not yet received council approval). This precinct responds to the overwhelming public feedback about the importance of retaining the character of Brant Street, by retaining a pedestrian-scaled character along Brant Street with maximum heights of 3 storeys on Brant and 11 storeys along John and Locust Streets.

Within the precinct there is a Special Policy Area to create a “civic node” that applies to this property and the one across the street (currently Elizabeth Interiors). Additional height, up to 17 storeys is allowed here to achieve significant building setbacks, sight lines to key civic features and the creation of new public space at the corner of James and Brant Streets to serve as a public extension of Civic Square. According to the staff report, the increased height would “highlight this prominent node and announce arrival into this civic node, through the provision of a landmark building, urban plaza, public art, enhanced landscaping, façade design, and a higher order of streetscaping.”

Density:

  • The proposed Floor Area Ratio is 10.29:1, where the Zoning By-law and Official Plan currently permit 4:1 and 4.5:1 (The floor area ratio is measured by adding the retail floor area, office space, indoor amenity area and residential floor area and dividing it by the site area).
  • The proposed density is 895 units per hectare, where the Downtown Urban Growth Centre targets are 200 people or jobs per hectare. These are minimum targets and can be exceeded, where appropriate, according to the Provincial Policy Statement (Section 1.1.3.5, pg 8) and Places to Grow (Introduction, p 9).
The Berkeley rendering
The Berkeley, currently under construction by the same developer.

Current downtown Density

According to a detailed analysis in the staff report (pp 23-27), we are on target to meet or exceed our density targets based on developments already in the pipeline, and expected. We are currently at 156.6 people and jobs per hectare, or 78% of the minimum density target. If you add current developments that have site plan approval, or are already under construction (including the Bridgewater on Lakeshore, the Joseph Brant Hospital expansion, the Saxony on Locust, Cherish Homes on Brant St, and the Berkeley at John/Maria/Caroline/Elizabeth streets) we are at 177.5 people and jobs per hectare – 88% of the goal. When you add current applications that are being processed, but have not yet been approved (including this one), and pre-consultations for potential development, we would exceed the target (215 people and jobs, or 107% of the target).

According to the staff report, “The city only needs roughly 60% of the people and jobs proposed through development applications and development pre-consultations to achieve the minimum density target. Further additional development proposals and applications may come forward in the next 14 years to further contribute to the city’s growth projections.” (p 27)

Units & Parking:

  • 169 residential apartment units (down from 179 proposed)
  • A parking ratio of 1.2 parking spaces per residential unit in 4 storeys of below-grade parking, in addition to 8 dedicated visitor parking spaces, 1 car share space (with car) and 69 bicycle parking spaces (roughly 211 spaces provided up from 183 spaces proposed, with no visitor parking)

Current requirements:

  • 1.25 spaces per unit (224 total), including visitor parking, but there is no current requirement to keep these spaces as visitor spaces once built; they have been used as resident parking after the fact.

Traffic:

Staff have indicated the existing transportation network can accommodate increased traffic from this development, which is expected to generate 99 two-way vehicle trips in the AM peak hour and 103 two-way vehicle trips in the PM peak hour.

Office & Retail:

  • a minimum of 365 square metres of office space on the second floor (down from 870.8 sq metre proposed)
  • 900 square metres of commercial retail space at grade on the first floor (down from 1019.5 sq metres proposed). This is a 30% reduction of the current retail that exists today.

Current requirements:

Retail must be provided at street level in buildings on Brant; there is no requirement for second floor office.

Setbacks:

  • Building setbacks from Brant Street (2.95 metres), James Street (2.6 metres) and John Street (1.8 metres);
  • Building stepbacks and terracing above the 4th floor and above the 18th floor.

Current requirements:

There are no required setbacks from the property line in the current plan.

The view from the South side of John to City Hall.

Civic Node:

  • A 128 square metre (16 metre x 16 metre) visibility triangle (publicly accessible open space) at the corner of Brant Street and James Street; The visibility triangle would result in an extension of Civic Square on the east side of Brant Street and provide view corridors from James Street Civic Square, City Hall and the War Memorial (Cenotaph). A public access easement would be registered over this corner to ensure that the public function is maintained. It is expected that whatever is approved on the NorthEast corner, including the visibility triangle, would be repeated when the South East corner is developed (currently Elizabeth Interiors).
  • The view from Civic Square of the node, with building cantilevered overtop.

    The 3rd and 4th floors of the building are cantilevered overtop of the civic node, to frame the space and provide wind and weather protection.

  • Staff support a tall building height peak here to “highlight the prominence of this site as a civic node and to also reflect the substantial public realm improvements and design excellence that could be achieved.” (p 40)

Current permissions:

The city already has the right to take a 5×5 metre “daylight” triangle at this corner for turning movement visibility. Some, if not most, of the balance of the triangle could be taken by the city through parkland dedication, taking land rather than cash per unit (worth about $5500 per unit). I have asked staff for precise calculations.

Criteria:

Staff  reviewed the proposed development against 13 criteria in the Official Plan for evaluating housing intensification to protect neighbourhoods from potential negative impacts of intensification. Criteria include: adequate municipal services and off street parking; transportation system can accommodate any increased traffic; sun-shadowing; accessibility to community services and transit; buffering to minimize impacts (for example increased setbacks); and redevelopment on adjacent properties isn’t compromised.

There is further criteria to determine compatibility with the existing neighbourhood, which staff also assessed, including: scale, massing, height, siting, setbacks, coverage, parking and amenity area, so that a transition between existing and proposed buildings is provided.

In addition, internal departments and local agencies were circulated for comment, and none raised any concerns. Those circulated include: Halton Region, Halton District School Board, Halton Catholic District School Board, Burlington Hydro, the transportation department, the capital works Department, Burlington Economic Development Committee and the city’s citizen Sustainable Development Committee.

As noted above, staff reviewed this application through the ongoing work on the downtown precinct and mobility hub, as this project fall within the radius of the mobility hub (the John St bus terminal).

Staff also assessed this project through the Tall Building Guidelines, approved by council in May.

Staff’s opinion based on their review is that the project represents good planning. Some of the key considerations noted in the report are the design of the building, increased setbacks from the property line which widen the sidewalk and allow for trees, benches and other public amenities, and the public triangle at the corner which provides views of civic landmarks, such as the Cenotaph beside City Hall, and expands the space of civic square when the road is closed. Both retail and office space are provided; the project brings more people downtown and helps the city meets its growth targets.

States the report, page 70: “It is staff’s opinion that the modified high density development recommended by staff represents an appropriate form of intensification and an efficient use of … under-utilized lands within the City’s downtown. It is staff’s opinion that the proposal satisfies the City’s objectives to develop downtown as a mixed use community; provide housing opportunities that encourage use of public transit and active transportation; achieve design excellence and provide development that is compatible with surrounding properties.”

My Take:

When changes are requested to existing Official Plan and Zoning regulations, we must ask “Do the changes materially benefit the community, without undue negative impact?” Can the outcomes of this project be achieved another way, without granting excessive height and density? “What’s missing – and is it significant?”

The benefits, achieved another way:

Regarding the civic node: We are entitled to take a 5×5 sqm visibility triangle, and take land (instead of cash) for parkland dedication, and we could have used these tools to achieve the civic node, instead of granting extra height and density.

Regarding design: Buildings over 11 storeys must adhere to our Tall Building Design Guidelines, so a 12 storey building would have to comply with good design; we don’t need to grant extra height and density to get it. As an aside, one of my ongoing concerns with the Tall Building Design Guidelines is they are used to justify tall buildings where they aren’t intended. We’re seeing that with this project, as well as the proposal on Brock/Ontario at 22 storeys – building heights proposed well above existing permissions. The height is being justified on the basis that it conforms to the guidelines.

Regarding intensification: We are well on track to meet our targets and need only 60% of current projects to meet them. A 12 storey building at half the size of what’s proposed would represent intensification and bring more people downtown.

Regarding commercial space: We are getting more office space – that’s good – but we’ll see a reduction of retail space by 30%. Going forward, we should write into our bylaws a requirement to provide second floor office space downtown, just as we already have requirements for retail at grade. When it’s optional, office space becomes a bargaining chip to negotiate extra height and density.

Regarding setbacks and wider sidewalks: We should also require minimum setbacks from the property line to achieve a wider sidewalk, rather than have to negotiate this with extra height/density.

What’s missing:

Despite the size of this project, there are no affordable units, no assisted living units and no rentals (this will be a condominium). There is no requirement in either the Official Plan or Zoning approval for a set number of 3-bedroom units, so the mix of units is up to the developer.

The bedroom mix is still being finalized, but the applicants have indicated that the units will be larger than typical units and there will be a high percentage of multiple bedrooms, proposed as: 20% – 1 bedroom, 60% – 2 bedroom, and 20% – 3 bedroom. However, there is nothing in the Official Plan or Zoning bylaw to compel this unit mix and it’s up to the developer what is provided.

Affordable housing has not been secured as part of the recommended Official Plan & Zoning By-law amendment, but consideration could be given to that as part of the subsequent Section 37  community benefits negotiations. However, as we’ve seen before from this developer on the Berkeley project, promises of affordability negotiated under Section 37 for the Berkeley were significantly reduced after approvals are granted (from roughly 75% affordable to 20-30% affordable). If we want housing for families, we need to cement it into the approvals and there’s no mention of this in any of the approval documents, no guarantee we’ll get it under Section 37, and no guarantee it will stay that way if we do negotiate it.

Negative impacts:

There are also negative impacts from a project of this size, including extra traffic and congestion, and sun shadowing to the North and East. The shadow east during the shortest day of the year extends past Holtby and almost to Crosby at 330pm and up to the No Frills plaza at 9:30am.

In March, the shadow reaches to Caroline Street, at 9:30 and past John St at 3:30.

See the sun shadow report filed by the applicant here: Shadow Impact Assessment.

Towers also escalate the price of land, and we’ve already seen the impact with land speculation downtown: if you can build 23 storeys on a plot of land, it’s worth more than if you can only build 4 storeys. With each new tower that gets built, land prices rise, and low density developments become almost impossible because the land gets priced for high density; single family homes and family oriented townhouses spiral out of reach. This compromises our stated goal of ensuring a variety of new housing options.

Finally, towers set a precedent. The staff report itself (pp 45, 65)  references other highrises downtown as justification for this one – using these buildings as precedent setting. If this project gets approved, it will similarly set a reference point (precedent) for the next application that comes along. We don’t want (or need) a forest of highrises in the downtown. Our tall building guidelines are also being used to  justify height.

If not here, then where should buildings of this scale go? Our highest buildings should be near GO stations – like the Paradigm project beside the Burlington GO with five towers up to 24 storeys. It was a lost opportunity at Aldershot GO where townhouses are being proposed.

In conclusion, we can achieve the benefits of this project – good design, a civic square, wider sidewalks, more people and jobs downtown – within the existing planning provisions, and without creating a precedent for tall buildings on Brant. We’re not getting enough to warrant going beyond existing height and density; we’re not getting affordable housing, have no guarantee of family-sized units, and there’s a 30% reduction in retail from what’s there now. Though the project aims to enhance the civic node with view corridors to City Hall and the cenotaph, in a “landmark” building, it’s this building people will notice given its height at almost triple City Hall – which will be mirrored across the street when that is redeveloped. The defining landmark should be City Hall.

In short, the benefits of this project can be achieved within existing planning permissions, without overintensification and the negative impacts that come with it.

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.

43 Comments

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  1. This was a very disappointing meeting for all residents of Burlington.

    Our City Manager James Ridge and Director of Planning Mary Lou Tanner supported the developer.

    The developer applaued the efforts of our Planning Department?

    Mayor Rick Goldring and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward voted against this proposed development.

    The other 5 councillors who do not live in the downtown area impacted by this development voted in favour of the developer.

    Let’s not let this dysfunctional process continue to occur.

    Visit this Facebook page concerning one of the next projects (Waterfront Hotel Redevelopment) upcoming. Join the growing group of concerned residents and voice your concerns to our Mayor, councillors and spread the word to all residents of Burlington. This is your waterfront.

    https://m.facebook.com/planbwaterfronthotelredevelopment/

  2. This one brings me to tears. This will only be the beginning of the demise of the quaint ambiance of the downtown, which I love to frequently saunter from shop to shop several times a year. The relaxing atmosphere of the downtown and lakefront will soon be lost .Deeply saddened! Just say, “NO!”

  3. Last night’s P&D Committee Meeting was a farce, with Marianne being the sole voice of reason. Mayor Goldring also voted against the application, when it didn’t matter. The citizens are supposed to be giddy about a structure here that will be three (3) times the height of City Hall, because Mississauga or New York have buildings much higher. We’re schooled to just get over our aversion to height. And besides, the Planning Department has somehow gleaned this summer that the public likes the number 22.
    Seriously???

    Three (3) times the height of the neighbouring City Hall is just bad planning and sets a dangerous precedent, There is however a municipal election next fall and hopefully some of our Councillors who voted for this application because they are not in touch with the residents won’t be returning.

  4. It’s so incredibly sad to see our downtown being ruined by such tall high rises. We moved here to get away from the concrete jungle. Soon the sun will barely break through to the street and no-one will want to walk our sidewalks because they are dark and uninviting. That’s what we have found in other cities; then the city plants trees to make it feel more green but even they don’t get enough light to flourish. Build the high rises near the highway and leave our open, friendly downtown and beautiful lakefront area alone. As for benefits, can’t see them being for anyone other than the developers who make a big bucks off the lake views. Thanks for listening.

  5. You did great last night Marianne. I agree with all of your commentary at the council meeting. I would have loved to have said my thoughts but did not ask for prior approval to do so. My concern of course is parking and also the reduction is retail space from over 15,000sf down to less that 10,000sf. To create vibrancy in a town we need retail and hospitality and parking. We should not be going backwards and shrinking.

    The parking problem is serious concern and when you build 2 and 3 bedroom units, these must come with two spots minimum per unit sold. There will be a hit on the value of these condos in the future without two spots. It will reduce demand. I know this first hand from living at Bunton’s Wharf and the Baxter. These potential purchasers will buy elsewhere if these condos are not built with the right amenities (hence affecting the future ‘value’ of these condos and desire to live in Downtown Burlington). No one will give up their 2 car family to live in Downtown Burlington. I never would. I NEED to drive because Downtown Burlington does not have all the shopping and amenities and restaurants I want in my life. Without adequate visitor parking too, our downtown core gets the overflow on the streets and in public lots (again I know this first hand from Kelly’s Bake Shoppe experience and also, I live in the downtown core and have lived at Bunton’s Wharf for over 3 years and the Baxter for over 3 years).

    As an avid condo dweller in Downtown Burlington, I’m certain these new units will start at about $600K and will top out at 1.5 million or higher. The market will dictate this. The 3 bedroom condo units are a rarity and this will come at a premium – and they should. This will keep them competitive with 360 on Pearl, the Baxter, Bunton’s Wharf, Bridgewater, Saxony and the Berkeley.

    I agree with progress. I agree we need to make our downtown more updated and polished. It is a beautiful building. I simply hope it is all for the best and now that it is approved, we can only hope it provides a better future for our downtown. The next application will be for the block on the south east corner of Brant and James (Elizabeth Interiors) and I hope that we maintain the same square footage of retail. This shrinking of retail space is very concerning to me. If you have a very small retail representation versus the amount of housing units, this reduces to vibrancy of the core and reduces the ‘draw’ for people to want to visit AND reduces people wanting to live there.

    These high rises could maybe not even sell out – this is always a consideration with the slowdown of our mortgage approval process and new legislation for the banks. We have many storefronts empty now due to developers owning virtually every corner/block/storefront in the core and NO small business owners wants to move into a store front with a 3 to 5 year lease. That does not make good business sense. The longer the lease, the better chance you have to recoup your initial investment to open your business. These developers have bought up the core for about 7 to 8 years now and we are now rapidly seeing the demise of the retail and small business in Downtown Burlington.

    With the slowing down in residential real estate condo sales and changing the mortgage approval processes for buyers, this could very well impact our downtown and leave us with empty storefronts for years. The developers own these store front buildings and are buying up all the property on Brant, John, Locust, Pearl, and Elizabeth, etc and they are not prepared to give long term leases to small businesses and the storefronts then stay VACANT. This concerns me.

    On the other hand, maybe the condo sales will skyrocket and not slow down and we will find new retail businesses that want to come to downtown Burlington and all will be okay. It is a transition process and I hope we all can weather the transition to high rise and new retail store fronts and keep our core together in this rapid construction phase for 10+ years.

    • Kelly…I see you have a very deep understanding of how downtown is developing and I too worry about how the transition will affect retail in the core. New buildings by their nature cost more for businesses to operate in than old buildings and this will cause some strain and upheval in the beginning stages. If this development is going to be marketed to the well-off and established rather than families being able to afford units in these buildings, I’m not sure it’s going to create as much vibrancy as I first thought. However I want to get your opinion on the parking issues.

      If the developer believes that they can sell the units with 1.2 parking spaces per unit, why would it make sense for the city to demand that they provide more than that? The city and residents would prefer fewer cars, not more. Are the developers crazy enough to try and sell units that don’t meet the needs of their clients? Or do you think they will be able to take advantage of public parking in the immediate area? If it were ‘saleable’, would you ever be in favour of a building without parking – where the units are only offered with bike storage and access to carshare like some new buildings in Toronto? That would seem to be the most affordable housing option available. Do your clientele park mainly in front of or on the block around the shop or do they park elsewhere (like the parking garage) and walk? How many visitor parking spaces would a shop like yours require?

      • First off let’s see what we have in the core already.
        Please note: I have lived in the Baxter for 3 years and Bunton’s Wharf for over 4 years.
        The Baxter, Bunton’s Wharf and 360 on Pearl are the 3 top condo buildings (and all built by Molinaros).
        Current values? Range from $550,000 for a one bedroom (740 SF) in the Baxter (least expensive building) all the way to $1,600,000 in Bunton’s Wharf and 360 on Pearl.

        Average condo price in these THREE condos in Downtown Burlington is about $1,100,000.

        Bunton’s Wharf (corner of Brant and Lakeshore) is ALL 2 bedroom units. 14 storey building.
        (My unit was a 2 bedroom and 2 bath with 2 parking spots)
        Total 60 units.
        60% of these units have two parking spots.
        Average age of residents is about 55 to 60.

        The Baxter (399 John Street) is 1 and 2 bedroom units. 12 storey building.
        (My unit was a 2 bedroom and 3 bath condo with 2 parking spots)
        122 total units.
        1 bedroom units have 1 parking spot.
        2 bedrooms have 2 spots.
        There is even an underground car wash 🙂

        NOTE: Rental prices are $2700 to $3500 so these are not rentable by younger people either.

        Developers could be crazy enough to try to sell something that does not meet the needs of the potential new residents (purchasers), but with the market slow down and mortgage rules changing for the especially the younger people (tighten up the lending rules) there will be WAY LESS younger people buying. The purchasers of condo living in Downtown Burlington are the empty nesters. It is very very very obvious. They want and will demand 2 parking spots. They go to Muskoka in summer and Florida in the winter. Some do still work. Some have home offices too…..and ALL require cars. They travel. They entertain. They can afford this lifestyle.

        The city can ask for fewer cars to come to the core but the reality of downtown Burlington is that it is lacking in vibrancy, retailers, good restaurants. It is not attractive to Lululemon coming to town. Fewer cars and then do what? Stay in the downtown core and do what? Hang out with 23 storey structures? Stroll to a restaurant? Stroll to Tamp for a coffee? Even I do that every day but it gets boring for a 25 to 35 year old.

        If a developer is thinking they can take advantage of public parking, I guess they can try anything but it is grossly unfair to the tax paying retailers.

        This new tower should be doing 1.5 spots per unit.
        20 visitor parking spots.
        Parking for the office floor – at least 2 spots per businesses that decide to rent office space.
        Retail parking for the business owner. One spot per retail store front.

        My clientele for Kelly’s Bake Shoppe (which can be over 30 to 40 customers an hour in peak times) park wherever they can. in front, in the side lot. They NEVER park at Locust. It is way too far and inconvenient to run in a grab cupcakes. Especially if you have small children. I would love to have about 30 spots.

        Kelly’s Bake Shoppe is an anomaly. It is unique. I am so grateful for all the customers we attract. The common commentary we get though is that ‘the downtown is so rundown’, ‘there isn’t much to do’, ‘once you walk the waterfront then what do you do?’.

        We are lacking a fundamental PLAN to grow this core. It isn’t about dumping 169 units (x 2 when you count the second tower on our block so that will be 350 units total) and approximately 800 new residents in these towers. What do they do? What is there to do in downtown Burlington? Seriously? What is there to do that interests younger people?

        Can they afford a million dollar condo? With Condo fees? No they cannot.

        We need more retail, more GOOD restaurants, more boutiques, more coffee shops, more wine bars, little markets, etc etc. This is a given – but if we are shrinking our retail, this makes no sense to me.

        WE DO NOT have anything interesting for the 25 to 35 years olds to do. Hamilton is exploding right now with a crazy awesome food scene and music scene and art scene and breweries and so much action. It is affordable too for this age group.

        Think about this – 169 units is almost the same amount of units COMBINING the Baxter and Bunton’s Wharf. What will all these NEW people do? 🙂

        • Thanks, Kelly! Sounds like downtown is due for some significant changes, regardless of whether high-rise gets approved or not. If developers think they can sell 27 stories, with constrained parking, and the market is as discerning as you have indicated, they won’t sell. I agree with your take that empty nesters make up much of the market for these developments, but with all the investors buying up properties downtown, it strikes me as odd to see them providing so little in the way of parking if that’s really what the market wants and needs. But the key is how do we keep Downtown interesting? People come for the experience and the lake. The more space devoted to car storage, the less space for people and experiences. But ultimately we need entrepreneurs to create those experiences. That is a harder problem than what size of condo to allow. We need to be able to attract those young people with dreams, talent and the ability to live wherever they want. Which means we have to build a great city, not just great to commute from, but to live. Hamilton is seeing that action in places like James North because they transformed from places to drive through into destinations.

  6. I guess with all the additional traffic downtown. I wonder how EMS, Fire Dept and Police will respond to calls downtown….maybe they could use a drone? It makes no common sense!!! Fix the infrastructure, roads first to ease the congestion. If you heard it here first…. When the first responders, can’t respond to the emergency because of the traffic congestion..

    Oh ya don’t forget about all the events that happen at Spencer’s Smith Park..

  7. The key for me here is “no affordable units”. I believe the City needs a regulation requiring all developers to include a minimum number of affordable, accessible and rental units in every condo building. Burlington is quickly becoming a city where no affordable rental apartments are available.

    • Downtown Burlington is an affluent downtown core. The housing is what it is. To ask of a builder or developer to make affordable units is not what his job is to do. He builds to make money and profits and create condos that will be $700,000 and more. 3 bedroom until will be over 1.5 million (my guess). Affordable units will be renting an apartment on Martha street or Brock St or Ontario Street.
      My opinion is that a builder should not be asked to provide affordable housing or ‘rental units’ in a luxury condo building. That is not the demographic he is building for – nor is that how a condo corporation works.

  8. First, we won’t get the benefits because the developer will rescind them afterward the way they always do. They are not to be trusted. Second, if we don’t need this monstrosity to be 23 stories to meet our target growth, but only need “roughly 60% of the people and jobs proposed through development applications”, then the maximum this building needs to be is roughly 60% of the 23 stories, or 14 stories. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable compromise to me, especially given that we know they will renege on the “benefits”

  9. Benefits are rather a misleading terminology, I certainly will not be benefited, MORE TRAFFIC at that corner and now a shadow on my street from a building 5 blocks away! …oh and they may make a few affordable units…How does that benefit me. Benefits, seriously.

  10. I totally agree with Marianne take, we don’t need or want tall buildings in the downtown core. I’m starting to wander who’s the City Staff is serving?

  11. “ARE WE GETTING ENOUGH BENEFIT TO WARRANT 23-STOREYS AT BRANT/JAMES?”
    Good question, below is what staff is recommending.

    “Approve in principle the application by 421 Brant Street Inc., to amend the Zoning Bylaw, as modified by staff in Report PB-62-17, to permit a mixed use building with a height of up to 23 storeys at 421 – 431 Brant Street, subject to Section 37 negotiations; and Direct planning staff to hold discussions with the applicant to secure community benefits in accordance with Section 37 of the Planning Act and to return to Council with a report outlining the recommended community benefits”

    This article provides several points for staff to consider when negotiating section 37 benefits, perhaps this question would be better answered when they have completed negotiations and council reviews their recommendation.
    I am confident staff with the assistance of our city legal department will overcome any difficulties that may arise and secure the best interest of the city.

  12. “ARE WE GETTING ENOUGH BENEFIT TO WARRANT 23-STOREYS AT BRANT/JAMES?”
    Good question, below is what staff is recommending.

    “Approve in principle the application by 421 Brant Street Inc., to amend the Zoning Bylaw,
    as modified by staff in Report PB-62-17, to permit a mixed use building with a
    height of up to 23 storeys at 421 – 431 Brant Street, subject to Section 37 negotiations;
    and Direct planning staff to hold discussions with the applicant to secure community benefits
    in accordance with Section 37 of the Planning Act and to return to Council with a report
    outlining the recommended community benefits”

    This article provides several points for staff to consider when negotiating section 37 benefits, perhaps this question would be better answered when they have completed negotiations and council reviews their recommendation.
    I am confident staff with the assistance of our city legal department will overcome any difficulties that may arise and secure the best interest of the city.

  13. This proposal as described is extremely depressing and to my mind represents a complete betrayal of the very principles enshrined in our official plan, which they should be defending, not flagrantly undermining. One wonders what responsibility they have to the elected representatives who have been mandated to protect the character of our city and who have spent decades working at proscribing a plan that reflects the needs and wishes of the electorate? This design is grossly inappropriate for this important location, to say nothing of the inability apparently built into the system to compel the developers to honour the design commitments they have made once the project has commenced.

  14. Councilor,

    This is an excellent and rational evidence-based reason argument of the situation, with planning details clearly showing this building is not needed in that location to achieve anything except multiple negatives for the city and downtown. We don’t need this to achieve our targets.

    We can achieve what we want within the existing permissible rules, and legally have no determinative basis to apply the heights and density being proposed.The kind of development your evidence suggests is what the public wants and has expressed consistently, but it seems to fall on deaf ears.

    I like your economic analysis of the exponentially increasing effects on land prices that this proposal entails, leap frogging on previous builds.

    As I read in the Gazette on the increased rental costs that will follow this – 2 times according to the Kelly’s Cupcakes owners – small business owners will be put out of business, but staff lets this go, and is not in their vision for Brant St.. The construction impacts will be felt by everyone downtown on Brant St for years.

    Who needs this in general, not mentioning the traffic and parking congestion that residents also hate?

    And you note that the serious precedent setting effects for ever taller and denser builds is already happening, and featured in this staff report to support the build.

    I previously missed the reduction in office space, basically taken by the developers for another residential amenity use I believe. This is exactly the opposite of what is needed.

    Benefits cannot be trusted to come from this developer.

    Height is hated by residents, but I could live with 12 floors with an extra full floor of office.

    23 stories is just greedy as far as I’m concerned. It’s just speculation and planning bit the hook

    I agree – turn it down..

  15. I feel ok with the idea, but I didn’t see much about increased traffic from the added people and vehicles, all of which is coming off Lakeshore (already often congested at times) or down Brant Street with its multitude of traffic lights. That too would increase frustration of people coming to enjoy time in the core for dining or events. It strikes me that the key weakness to increasing density in the core is the lack of access for vehicles or credible transit options in the city.

  16. All this is nothing more than a joke! It is all about who can beat each other out in who can benefit more! You spent all the time on planning studies and height guidelines in your pamphlets on what would be appropriate for the location, and then nothing is followed as there now becomes “special policy” exceptions to the tune of doubling/tripling heights (Official Plan 8-12 storeys, and the Zoning permits 4-7 storeys). This surplus is all for “are we getting enough benefit out of this”! Stick with the guidelines and plans for size and heights that is proper for Brant Street, and forget about being swallowed up in greed. Greed is setting a precedence for the next 18 developments that are upcoming, and we have lost it right from the get go with this wrong process of thinking.

  17. It is hard to truly understand the City’s planning department rationale that the 23 storey proposal represents good planning when we have both zoning and an official plan that does not contemplate such intensification. Even more baffling is their rationale that we already have similar buildings so it does not set a precedent. Any concept of the City Hall square being a focal point will surely b swamped by this structure.
    Why do we even have an official plan and zoning? As a long time resident it seems development has just become a feee fall, all developers need to do is ask for significant deviations and they will surely always get more than any zoning or official plan permits.

  18. Marianne
    Thank you for your thorough assessment of this application. I hope we are able to maintain the human scale of our downtown.

  19. Excellent analysis Marianne.

    The residents of Burlington look forward to hearing all of your concerns, and presumably the concerns to be raised by the mayor and other councillors, answered by the Planning Department “on the official record”. It is time for accountability before this project becomes another precedent for the next proposed project.

    Specfically as you stated above can the Planning Department please answer your specific questions.

    When changes are requested to existing Official Plan and Zoning regulations, we must ask “the Planning Department”:

    1. Do the changes materially benefit the community, without undue negative impact?

    2. Can the outcomes of this project be achieved another way, without granting excessive height and density?

    3. What’s missing – and is it significant?

    As you stated the tall building guidelines seem to be the Planning Department’s justification for this project however there is no reason for them to apply in the first place under existing by-laws and plans. It seems simply because a developer proposes a certain height suddenly these guidelines need be complied with?

    Let’s get this process under control with a long-term vision for Burlington.

  20. I have not heard anything about how the additional traffic is going to move in and out of the downtown core. For those of us who live downtown, the trip down Brant St can already be challenging.

  21. Agreed 120%. If you’ve seen the YouTube video, you already know how this development will dwarf everything else in our downtown. What happened to the 17-storey maximum proposed for the Downtown Core precinct in the Mobility Hub study by who else, our Planning Department? Whoever on Council votes for this application “as-is” should join the unemployment line next fall; without any doubt!

What's your take?