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City to Protect GO Aldershot neighbourhoods

Dina Knight has been fighting for four years. The City of Burlington wants to help her.

On Monday, City Council formally requested that Mrs. Knight’s neighbourhood be excluded from a proposed new area of housing intensification adjacent to the Aldershot GO Station; now referred to in Planning language as a “Major Transit Station Area” (MTSA).

“I’m starting to think that …… my first job is trying to protect the community I live in from poor planning decisions, greedy developers, intensification quotas and targets, environmental issues, questionable traffic studies and a loss of our single family, low density housing. We are paying the price for these shortcomings”, Knight told last week’s Planning Committee meeting.

Council endorsed the Planning Committee recommendation to ask the Region of Halton not to include Clearview, Queen Mary and St. Matthews Avenues when it draws the final boundary for the new Aldershot MTSA. This will be done as part of the Region’s current Official Plan Review.

Knight’s neighbourhood of 56 single family homes was the subject of extensive research in recent years in response to the plan to create a “mobility hub” around the GO Station. The idea was to encourage housing intensification over the next few decades to permit more people to live within walking distance of the GO trains and buses, thereby reducing commuting by car. The result would have been high rise buildings replacing the single-family homes.

City Council acted on a motion from Mayor Marianne Meed Ward who, during her 2018 election campaign, promised to support the residents in their opposition to the intensification that had been proposed for their streets.

Meed Ward told the Planning Committee that: “The adopted official plan, first drafted in 2017 had high rise buildings throughout this neighbourhood. Completely inappropriate in my view”. “This neighbourhood is very much like (nearby) White Oaks and needs to be excluded from the MTSA boundary”.

The final decision on the MTSA boundary will be set by Regional Council, not the City.

City Council’s request was made easier by recent changes to Provincial legislation. Originally, a “mobility hub” was to be as a complete neighbourhood with a wide range and mix of land uses and densities. Now, the Province has created the concept of “Major Transit Station Areas” which focus less on complete communities and more on defined boundaries and density targets.

For the average citizen the difference might be moot, but for planning professionals it is significant. City Planner Rosa Bustamante explained to the Planning Committee:

“There are differences between the mobility hub study areas the City had been using in 2017/18 and the proposed MTSA areas the Region is now looking at through their municipal comprehensive review. So, in terms of the shift in focus, now for an MTSA, staff do not have concerns with the removal of those properties, understanding that the purpose of an MTSA through the Region’s process is to set a boundary and a density target to be achieved through redevelopment.”

Technically, the MTSA is eventually supposed to achieve a density minimum of 150 people and jobs per hectare, but this could take decades to achieve through redevelopment. There is some flexibility in the numbers. 

City staff want to take the matter one step further. They want to take advantage of a planning tool known as a “Protected TSA”. If agreed to by the Region, it would mean that opponents of the final Aldershot Major Transit Station Area plan, such as developers, could not appeal.

“If somebody comes along later and decides they don’t like the maximum height or the density limit they may try to appeal it at LPAT. That is not available to them. So, from a staff perspective the benefit and value of that is that we can really implement a community vision and we know that its defensible and it cannot be challenged at the LPAT in the future.” according to Bustamante.

Until the Region settles on the new MTSA boundary for Aldershot the neighbourhood may continue to be challenged by intensification. The residents and the City are currently fighting a proposal for two new six-storey buildings on nearby Masonry Court at the end of St. Matthews and Clearview Avenues. That issue is awaiting a hearing with the Appeals Tribunal and was coincidently discussed at length during a closed portion of Monday’s Council meeting.

Mrs. Knight opposes that six-storey building but is not opposed to intensification and building height if it is in the right place.

“The addition of many condo buildings to intensify the area along the main street of Plains Road, Cooke Boulevard, Waterdown Road makes perfect sense because these areas border commercial properties. They are accessible by main street to traffic. But it doesn’t make sense to build up, take over and drive through our quiet established neighbourhood”.

By Rick Craven

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