By the year 2020, two classes will have graduated from the new high school in Burlington’s Alton Community.

However, the community on the north side of Hwy. 5, between Walker’s Line and Appleby Line, will still be the city’s northern boundary.

Over the next 20 years, Burlington’s population will grow by 19,000, but the increase will result from intensification. Under the provincial government’s Places To Grow strategy guidelines, Burlington must boost its level of infilling to 40 per cent.

The debate, therefore, continues about the types of development to be allowed, the scale of development charges and how the city’s high standard of living will be maintained.

In his State of the City address in January, Mayor Rick Goldring said there is only potential for 450 more single-family homes in the Alton Community. Mayor Goldring said a line connecting Hwy. 5 with Hwy. 407, just west of Guelph Line, is Burlington’s urban-rural boundary. The city’s growth north of that line is restricted by the Niagara Escarpment and the the southern boundary of Milton.

“After the Alton Community is finished, that’s it,” he said.

Besides a new high school, the new state-of-the-art Alton Public Library and Recreation Centre will open this fall. The school, which eventually will have 1,200 students, will offer Grade 9 and 10 English and French Immersion programs to start with.

Speaking at a recent session of the Inspire Burlington speakers series hosted by the mayor, planner Dr. Pamela Blais said the pricing method of development charges in many cities in the Greater Toronto Area is flawed.

“Missed opportunities result from mispricing,” she said. “We have to make sure the prices we set reflect the costs.

“You can save a lot of money by moving to an efficient development pattern.”

An urban planner, Dr. Blais’ focus is on creating better cities by integrating planning, economic and environmental thinking.

Blais authored a book Perverse Cities in which she argues that accurate pricing and better policy are fundamental to curbing sprawl and shows how this can be achieved in practice through a range of market-oriented tools that promote efficient, sustainable cities.

Her philosophy is to set high development charges for buildings in areas where growth is not particularly wanted and lower fees for areas where growth is encouraged.

She said that sometimes the communication between finance departments and engineers is not what it should be and, as a result, pricing gets out of whack.

City manager Jeff Fielding said trying to assign development charges is a real art.

“It’s an area of negotiation between developers, the City and the Region,” he said.

Mayor Goldring said council needs to look at having development charges based on per hectare, rather than per housing unit.

He also said various types of uses must be considered.

“A fast food restaurant generates a lot more wear and tear on roads than an office building,” he said. “We need to make sure development charges are calculated accordingly.”

Marianne Meed Ward, who is councillor for Ward 2 which includes the downtown area, said the City is struggling to get developers to construct office buildings downtown because of the costs.

“There is a disincentive to build downtown because of the parking charges,” she said. “How do we get people to locate there?”

She said the real opportunity for Burlington lies in its employment lands.

Ward 4 Councillor Jack Dennison said he favors more density and a mix of commercial and residential uses in plazas like the Burlington Mall, Roseland Plaza and Marilu’s Plaza, at the corner of New Street and Walkers Line.

“It makes public transit more viable,” he said.

Burlington’s Transit’s ridership stats are so low that the bus system must be heavily subsidized by the City.

Goldring said a targeted approach is required to preserve and optimize the city’s employment land inventory to yield higher tax contributions, bringing in proportionally more revenue and making the City less reliant on residential property taxes. Burlington is expected to double its industrial/commercial revenues over 20 years by focusing on business intensification below the escarpment.

Following a series of negotiations, the City has been able to keep the superstore and head office of IKEA, which is moving from Plains Road East to a new location on North Service Road. The Swedish company is adding 90 new jobs to its team and the City will benefit from $1.7 million in total tax revenue and $10.8 million in development charges

Developing the area of North Service Road between Guelph Line and Appleby Line is the starting point for turning the QEW employment lands into Burlington’s Prosperity Corridor, Mayor Goldring said.

Because Burlington’s ability to build more homes is limited, its assessment is growing at a slower rate than neighbors like Milton and Oakville. Therefore it must look for sources of revenue other than property taxes.

Goldring said the City’s goal is to build more than 900,000 square feet of new industrial/commercial facilities every year, which will generate more than $600,000 in tax revenue; and create 1,526 jobs per year for a total of approximately 29,000 new jobs across the city by 2031. This will increase the opportunity for more residents not only to live in Burlington, but also to work there, improving their quality of life.

At the same time, he is hoping ‘The Big Move’ plan of Metrolinx receives adequate funding from the Ontario government and average commute times in the GTA can be reduced by 32 minutes, a huge benefit for Burlingtonians who work in Toronto.

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