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Burlington experiencing planning hassles

An Aldershot developer hopes to start construction of his controversial new building within a year despite the fact that working with the City of Burlington “hasn’t been positive”.

Marcel Leclerc, President of Chelten Homes, is an Aldershot resident and the developer of the property at 92 Plains Road East. He is in the “final stretch” of site plan approval for his new six storey mixed use building.  He started working on the project in 2016 and is only now beginning to see the end of the approval process.

“Its a very slow process but we are diligently working on responding to everything that the City asks us to do”.

Leclerc was optimistic when he first approached City planners four years ago but the planning process “turned out to be the opposite”.

“Burlington used to be looked at as an oasis of sanity between Oakville and Hamilton. It’s not viewed that way any more” said Leclerc.

The blame for his difficult experience goes beyond planning staff:

“I do understand that planners are subject to whatever political culture they have at the time”

“The culture has changed down there and everyone’s afraid to approve something that should be approved for the community because you have a few minority loud voices”.

Leclerc’s observations came at the same time city councillors received a report indicating that the Planning Department is over worked and under staffed. Interim Director of Community Planning Jamie Tellier wrote that; “there are significant workload drivers” including; 50 active major development files involving 40 tall or mid rise buildings, 30 major development pre-consultations, 11 appeals of major developments to the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal, 31 appeals of the Interim Control Bylaw plus ongoing projects related to the official plan, zoning bylaw, housing strategy and urban design guidelines.

Tellier wrote that the Planning Department “is out of balance“. At last week’s Committee meeting he described a department riddled with secondments, contract staff and vacancies. At one point he said the situation is “a mess”. City Manager Tim Commisso said half the staff are not in permanent positions.

Tellier said that although the planning department has a lot of superstars; “We just can’t respond to the demands of a maturing City”. He said the goal is to implement a one window service for customers.

Leclerc agrees: “I as a builder should be able to walk in there, clearly look at your checklist of what you want done and submit those reports. That certainly wasn’t the case. It was not our experience”.

The Planning Committee agreed in principle to recommend a four-phase plan to improve staffing in the Planning Department starting with the conversion of temporary staff to permanent.

Leclerc’s development proposal required both Official Plan and Zoning Bylaw changes that were ultimately approved by LPAT despite severe opposition from neighbours and critics of the LPAT process. His building will include 50 condos on 6 floors with offices at street level.

By Rick Craven


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