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No need to rush to approve new Official Plan

To Planning & Development Committee Nov. 30, 1 & 6:30

The new Official Plan is almost ready for approval. A statutory public meeting will be held Nov. 30 at 1pm and 6:30pm to receive public input. That input will be considered prior to bringing forward a staff report recommending adoption of the plan in January 2018.

At the same meeting, committee will be considering the Burlington downtown mobility hub new precinct plan, which increases height and density in several areas of the downtown. See separate article on this section of the plan: 23 storeys is just the beginning

The new Official Plan covers a range of matters including: securing affordable housing, increasing parks, tree canopy and greenspace, sustainable development, mineral aggregates, waterfront access, economic development, public engagement, transportation, building design and overall land use policies.

There are several independent studies that will come forward for approval in coming weeks including development at the three GO stations (mobility hub studies) and the waterfront hotel site.

My Take:

The OP is the most important document we produce as a city, because it guides development over the next decade or more. Though the draft was released in April, we just received the revised version two weeks ago; it will take some time to digest the changes and ensure the best plan for residents. The target is to approve the new Official Plan in January. We shouldn’t rush it, but rather wait till all studies and area specific plans are complete.

There is much to commend about the plan; and there are a few areas that need further revision, noted below. Regarding the specific study areas noted above, I don’t support them in their current form (waterfront, downtown and GO stations).

Revisions:

  • Expand innovation districts beyond the area around the Ron Joyce Centre/DeGroote School of Business (Section 5.3, Schedule B). This area isn’t close to transit, housing, or related businesses, which are conditions for an innovation district. This may be an attempt to redeem putting an educational facility in the  middle of a commercial district cut off from retail, residential and transit, rather than a mixed use area. But creating an innovation district will just compound the issue. The city would be better served locating innovation districts in mixed use areas well served by transit, and close to shops and homes, such as the GO station mobility hub planning districts or the downtown – which already meets most of the criteria for an innovation district.
  • Add the downtown to the Strategic Employment Areas (Section 5.4). The downtown was included in earlier commercial study reports, but has somehow dropped off the focus, and is now considered a long term solution to employment. Whereas the identified strategic employment areas have vacant or underutilized lands, the downtown is currently being developed, and we need to capitalize on that with an employment strategy, or job opportunities will pass us by.
  • Any tall (12-19) or tallest (20+) developments should include affordable/assisted units. The current plan requires commitment to achieve affordable/assisted or special needs housing only in developments over 200 units; instead of a set number of units, the metric should be number of floors (Section 3.1.1.(2), (i)).
  • Drive-throughs are prohibited in mobility hubs, although allowed with a zoning amendment on urban corridors (Plains and Fairview, outside GO station range) (Section 8.7.1(2). Isn’t this where we want drive-throughs – along and within main transportation corridors? Existing drive-throughs are grandfathered into the plan.

What’s missing:

  • family attraction strategy through housing policies; Section 12.1.1(3) (l) (x) (b) encourages family housing through Official Plan Amendments in secondary growth areas or established neighbourhoods, but we are looking to avoid Official Plan Amendments in established neighbourhoods.
  • measurable targets for affordable/assisted and/or rental housing: the city will include affordable/assisted housing strategies and incentives in area specific plans, which will come forward later in 2018; the plan currently states that tools such as grants or property tax reductions could be used to secure affordable/assisted/special needs housing (Section 3.1.1 (2) (g). The plan also states that surplus city or publicly owned land will be considered for affordable/assisted housing before other uses (3.1.1(2) (c).
  • measurable targets for increased urban canopy and greenspace
  • brownfield redevelopment strategy, offering extra development rights in recognition of  cleaning contaminated sites; Section 4.7.2 offers potential financial incentives such as through a Community Improvement Plan, but contamination may be discovered on a site prior to a CIP being in place. Section 8.1.1 (2) (3) (v) states Urban Centres (like the downtown), mixed use nodes and intensification corridors will be priority locations for a brownfield strategy, but that hasn’t been developed in this plan yet.

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.

2 Comments

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  1. The Official Plan provides a framework for development but should do more to protect the downtown core from exploitation and preserve the history and character of the street. Engaged Citizens of Burlington is trying to direct the conversation back to City Hall and recommend that changes to existing zoning regulations should be in keeping with the character of the area with appropriate building heights and building set backs. Visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/170300306890636/about/
    to learn more about our community.

  2. Politics will never change! Choosing a perfect “busy time of the year” to fast forward approving a 25 year plan for the City of Burlington, tells us you have it “all in the bag”, your way. Shame on our City Fathers, we now know where we stand at election time.

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