More than a million dollars worth of talent was sitting around the council table when Grow Bold, Burlington’s new Official Plan, was approved recently.
That’s how much is on the payroll books for the mayor, six councillors and staff who spent long hours deliberating over it.
Now it’s time for politicians to put their money where there mouths are as they battle for seats on the next council.
In a sense the new Official Plan sets the framework for the 2018 mayoralty race, with Mayor Rick Goldring and candidate Mike Wallace on one side and Ward 2 Councillor Marianne Meed Ward on the other along with candidate Greg Woodruff.
Meed Ward was the lone dissenter as the plan passed by a vote of 6-1.
Essentially, council has made the decision to protect the city’s rural area and grow skyward in key parts of the urban area. Five per cent of the city will see growth, targeted to mobility hubs – areas around GO stations and in downtown and uptown Burlington.
Fifty per cent of the city will continue to be protected rural land; 34 per cent will remain established residential neighbourhoods; and 11 per cent will be land for employment.
The Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA) that includes Burlington is expected to grow from seven million people to 10 million over the next 23 years primarily as a result of the national trend of immigration.
“The plan as it stands represents overintensification in the downtown, the GO stations and established neighbourhoods,” Meed Ward said. “It will deliver a future city that erodes what makes Burlington unique and special, what we love about our city, and why we live, work, play here and welcome new residents who come every year, drawn by our great city to join us.”
Meed Ward said the mayor and most of council voted on motions that could add 27 high-rises in the downtown area. She also said new developments could reduce parkland dramatically.
Although Goldring has voted with Meed Ward on some height restrictions for new buildings, he generally is considered more pro-development.
“The adoption of the new Official Plan is a significant accomplishment,” he said. “It marks the first time a city in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area has adopted a new Official Plan at a time when communities are saying no to urban sprawl.
“I am proud of Burlington City Council for showing leadership to ensure 50 per cent of our city, which includes the Niagara Escarpment, will remain protected land for years to come and for laying out a path for Burlington that will manage growth in a way that is sustainable and livable for everyone.”
Mayoralty candidate Mike Wallace said, in general, the new Official Plan is a good thing.
“I’m in favor of mobility hubs around GO stations, but I’m not convinced the downtown is a mobility hub,” he said.
“I want downtown Burlington to be accessible to all of Burlington not just those fortunate enough to live downtown.”
Wallace said it’s important to have a fresh set of eyes looking at the Official Plan at the next stage of implementation.
“We also need to do a better job of engaging the community before decisions are made. At present, we’re basically informing people what’s going to happen.”
Another mayoralty candidate Greg Woodruff has called the City’s attempt at intensification in Aldershot, in particular, “little more than knocking down strip malls, putting up condos and declaring it a win.”
Councillors appear unfazed about a presentation to planning committee by realtor Joan Olech, who said research she has conducted indicates that any land granted by the Crown prior to Confederation in 1867 might not be subject to the City regulations.
She suggested rights granted by the Crown automatically are transferred to the new owner every time land is sold.
For example, Joseph Brant Thayendanegea, the founder of Burlington, was able to do so through a grant of 3.450 acres from King George III.
The new Official Plan is now subject to review and approval by Halton Region. Until the plan is approved at the regional level of government, the City of Burlington’s current Official Plan remains in effect and will be enforced.
The Planning Act requires every city to update its Official Plan at least once every five years.