In her regular newsletter to constituents, Burlington Mayor Marianne Meed Ward took aim at the recent Ontario Land Tribunal decision that allowed a 29-storey tower at Lakeshore and Pearl to proceed against the wishes of Council who wanted it held to a 22-storey height. Wrote Meed Ward, “In its published ruling, the OLT made it clear it was choosing to give no weight to all the changes the community, council and city and regional planning staff have brought forward in the last three years to better align downtown development, including this site, with our community’s vision. It is truly shocking and devastating to see our input set aside, which is why Council continues to discuss its options with Legal staff.”
Meed Ward and most of the current council were elected in a wave of public opposition to the number of high rise buildings that were popping up in the downtown core and along Lakeshore Boulevard. The election of the new council in 2018, was followed by the departure of the City Manager and several key staffers including some in the planning department.
Meed Ward listed some of the steps the city had taken to try to mitigate the rapid pace of intensification.
“This term of Council has done everything within our legal jurisdiction to fight overdevelopment on behalf of our community, including:
• Revising the downtown Official Plan to remove many of the most egregious heights (including a 17-storey building in the middle of Village Square);
• Imposed an Interim Control Bylaw (ICBL) to pause the processing of development applications while the City studied the Major Transit Station Area (MTSA) designation downtown and at the Burlington GO station. The MTSA was the foundation for a previous OLT ruling against the City and used as justification for this most recent ruling as well. We were successful in getting Halton Region to commit to removing the MTSA from the downtown, and it now awaits approval from the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing;
• We worked with the Province to agree to adjust the Urban Growth Centre (UGC) boundaries downtown towards Burlington GO. The UGC is also being used to justify overdevelopment, including in this recent OLT ruling. The Province announced this summer that it would commit to making the UGC adjustment — we are still awaiting final sign-off, expected this month.
Concluded the Mayor’s message, “We are in the process of righting this ship, but it will take some time — particularly with a ship of this size. We will continue to fight as a city for what our community believes in, even if there is no guarantee of success. We have lost some of the battles, but we’ve also had some major wins as I described above.”
Burlington’s approach to population growth is in sharp contrast to Hamilton, where opponents of urban boundary expansion want to see many more high rise developments in the city core, as an alternative to single family housing development in the suburbs. In Hamilton’s case, the Minister of Municipal Affairs has warned that the “no-urban boundary growth scenario might run afoul of provincial Places to Grow legislation.