Santa has arrived early for Burlington city councillors.
Already wrapped up, tied with a bow and under the tree is what might seem like a lump of coal!
If any of them have been snooping, they’ll find the charter of a new city-wide ratepayers group determined to watch their every move in election year 2018.
Burlington’s electors, who had been scratching their heads for a gift idea, got the hint about what their politicians needed most when council approved a 23-storey condominium building for Brant St. across from City Hall.
Susan Goyer, who has been named its first chair, said just prior to the vote local residents amassed close to 1,500 signatures in less than one week opposing the development.
Penny Hersh, a native of Montreal, who now lives on Pearl St. in downtown Burlington, said Engaged Citizens of Burlington (ECOB) already has a board of directors, committees and is in the process of incorporating.
“I’m not against intensification,” Hersh said. “I just don’t think we need 23-storey buildings on Brant St. I don’t consider the downtown core a mobility hub.”
Hersh said the core area does not qualify as a mobility hub, essentially a major transit station and the surrounding area of residences, according to the definition set out by Metrolinx, the Crown agency that manages and integrates road and public transport in the Golden Horseshoe region.
Aldershot resident Jim Young said he was first told a downtown mobility hub was mandated by the Ontario government. Later, he said, a member of City staff contradicted that saying there is no evidentiary record of such a mandate coming from the Province.
Young said putting up a 23-storey building destroys something of the downtown’s ambience.
“Citizens are furious,” he said. “We believe the downtown belongs to everybody.”
Young also said ECOB is getting support from the group Central Strong, which was formed to save Burlington Central high school and was successful in doing so.
At a recent meeting of the City’s planning and development committee, Jeremy Skinner asked the committee to instead develop mid-rise buildings, children-friendly residences for families and row townhouses facing selected transit corridors.
Skinner described mid-rise buildings as those no higher than 11 stories.
Integration of family-suitable design, he said, should occur in the planning of new multi-unit residential development. A good idea, he said, is to approve buildings with movable walls so that the residence can be reconfigured to create more bedrooms as the family grows.
Skinner suggested the construction of row townhouses is likely the fastest means of increasing the number of affordable residences for families with children.
At the same time Skinner recommended the City take a look at the vertical village ‘The Interlace’, constructed in Singapore and named Building of the Year in a competition organized by the World Architecture Festival.
It includes 1,000 apartments in a hexagonal arrangement. There are 31 apartment blocks, each only six storeys high, bundled in piles of four. Eight courtyards function as connectors with walkways leading residents through the communal spaces.
One interesting written submission to the committee concerning the proposed official plan came from Douglas Crosby, Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton.
In his letter the Bishop expressed concern that the draft official plan required surplus institutional lands seeking amendments for residential purposes to be considered only where the majority of residential units proposed were for assisted or special needs housing.
The Bishop said that as a regulated charity the diocese has fiduciary obligations to protect its charitable property and ensure that it is used to further the charitable objectives of the Catholic Church.
The proposed regulation, he said, could have a significant negative impact on the value of the land, thereby limiting the options for institutions such as the diocese to sell properties and use the proceeds to further their own programs, many of which help people in need.
Since he wrote the letter, the requirement in the draft official plan the Bishop was worried about has been removed.
Mary Lou Tanner, the City’s director of planning and building, reiterated the City’s desire to maintain 50 per cent of its land as agricultural. She also said 49 per cent of the downtown area will be preserved for parks and recreation.
Still, Mayor Rick Goldring said the goal is to have the city reach a population of 193,000 by the year 2031. The current population is 183,000.
That would still leave Burlington smaller than Oakville and Milton, which by that time will have populations of 246,000 and 235,000, respectively.