A decade of deliberations and a change of personnel on council has led to a new philosophy about development at Burlington’s City Hall.
During his State of the City address in January of 2012, then-Mayor Rick Goldring said under the Province of Ontario’s Places to Grow plan, the downtown area was designated as an urban growth centre.
“It is mandated, that our downtown should add more residents and more jobs,” he said.
Goldring also said council was ready to participate in workshops to look at the potential of downtown parking lots as development sites.
Later, in his second term as mayor, Goldring was vocal in trying to get developers to meet the City halfway in reducing the height of proposed high-rise residential buildings
However, Marianne Meed Ward took over the City’s top job when she defeated Goldring in the 2018 election. Along with her citizens elected a greener council with new members Kelvin Galbraith, Lisa Kearns, Rory Nisan, Shawna Stolte and Angelo Bentivegna joining incumbent Paul Sharman.
Last month, in her State of the City speech, she said council has approved a new concept that limits height of buildings in a number of areas including Brant Street, Village Square and nearby established neighborhoods but allows for high-rises farther north on Brant near Ghent Ave.
Meed Ward said council put a one-year freeze on downtown development to give it time to study the Major Transit Station Area designation that was used by the provincial land tribunal to overrule council and allow a 26-storey building in a zone which permits a maximum of eight stories.
Besides that 240-residential unit development by ADI Developments at the corner of Lakeshore Road and Martha Street, the temporary development freeze came too late to stop a 23-storey, mixed-use building with residential units, along with office and commercial space, currently being built by Carriage Gate Homes on the northeast corner of Brant and James Streets, across from City Hall;
A third residential high-rise project proposed by Reserve Properties at the southeast corner of Brant and James, on land partially occupied by Kelly’s Bake Shoppe, is currently before the planning appeal bureau.
The previous city council approved 17 stories with Meed Ward, at that time Councillor for Ward 2, dissenting. But Reserve Properties has appealed, wanting more stories.
“This (council) is a group of folks that has packed, I think, four years’ worth of activity into the first year, so I’m really looking forward to what we’re going to do over the next three years,” she said.
Meed Ward said as a result of the formation of the Mayor’s Red Tape Red Carpet Task Force, things are going more smoothly between developers and the City. City employee Mike Greenlee was given the job of liaising directly with business owners to remove obstacles and challenges.
The new council appears focused on alleviating traffic congestion.
In 2012 Goldring reported that ridership in Burlington Transit grew by seven percent.
However, Meed Ward said ridership has soared to 34 per cent among senior citizens and risen to 10 per cent overall in the last year after council instituted free transit for seniors in off-peak hours, as well as for low income residents and students under 12. Negotiations now are underway with the school boards to extend it to high school students.
By DENIS GIBBONS