Delegation to Council presented by Roland Tanner, co-chair, Engaged Citizens of Burlington, on Sept 10th 2019.

I am delegating today on behalf of Engaged Citizens of Burlington, and in support of the residents of Martha and Pine Streets who have registered their opposition to this proposed development. Engaged Citizens of Burlington is a registered non-profit organisation with over 600 signed up supporters, a growing percentage of whom are paid members. We advocate on behalf of the proper recognition of residents’ preferred solutions in all municipal matters, in favour of a stronger role for residents’ voices generally, and in favour of the reform of the province’s relationship with municipal government.

The residents of 402 to 410 Martha St in particular, and the residents of Martha St and Pine St generally, are now approaching their seventh year of uncertainty about development on the 2085 Pine St lot. A five year process concluded in 2017 with the residents’ wishes overruled and new zoning implemented to allow a 5 storey structure with numerous amendments to allow features which went beyond the city’s guidelines for appropriate infill development in this location.

Now they are being asked to start over, with a new and much larger proposed development on the same small lot. It is both unfair and no doubt emotionally distressing for residents to be forced repeatedly to fight the same battles, only for council-mandated solutions to be be discarded, even after substantial concessions have been made.

Elevation (approximate) looking east from Pearl St

The development should be rejected for the following reasons.

  • The lot size is inappropriate for a development of this size. Indeed it was recognised two years ago by many parties that the lot size was inappropriate for the smaller structure then proposed.
  • The proposal exceeds the maximum zoned densities for downtown DRM and DRH.
  • The proposal fails to meet the city’s requirement that developments are compatible with existing neighbourhood character such that in their scale, massing, height, siting, setbacks, coverage, parking and amenity area they provide a transition between existing buildings and the new building.
  • The small size of the site makes the the objectives of transitioning, setbacks and angular planes which are such a key part of the city’s design guidelines, largely moot.
  • The neighbouring buildings on all four sides range from 3.95 metres to 13.5 metres in height. Most are either recent builds or, as in the case of the neighbouring church, less likely to be redeveloped at least in the short term. The proposed building will tower over all these properties.
  • As with other current proposals on sites with existing properties of heritage interest, promises to protect and preserve the property, while welcome, will see these heritage buildings stuck jarringly if not ludicrously in front of buildings which make no attempt to compliment or honour their architectural heritage. Furthermore, there remains a fear, based on prior experience, that promises of community benefits such as heritage building preservation can fall victim to so-called ‘unforeseen circumstances’ which suddenly make preservation ‘impossible’.
  • The Burlington Urban Design Advisory Panel’s commentary was critical of the proposal’s height and lack of transitions to neighbouring buildings, and the lack of justification for full height in effect over the full site and a lack of the 45 degree angular plane often used to justify extra height. Their opinion was the the building was ‘overpowering and overshadowing’.
  • Heritage Burlington was critical of the ‘jarring’ nature of the modernist design in contrast to the heritage property, and the abandonment of attempts to integrate with the heritage building present in the earlier proposal.
  • In other words, there is considerable consensus from the city’s advisory bodies and the public about the inappropriate nature of this building.

In contrast, the applicant’s justification for exceeding all the city’s in force zoning and planning guidelines is very familiar to everybody in this room. As with all recent proposals, it relies heavily on provincial planning documents which were intended to shape development at a macro level, and uses it to argue for the abandonment of the city’s entire planning framework at a micro level. Mentioning the Urban Growth Centre, the Anchor Hub, the revised Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe and the Regional Plan is all very well, and we are only too familiar with the implications of each. Yet nothing – not a single word – in any of those documents states that cities’ rights over detailed lot-level zoning has been removed. If the current zoning, within the context of the city’s entire plan for downtown, meets all those provincial and regional requirements for density and growth, which it does, there is absolutely no valid reason for disregarding the current zoning to allow an inappropriately scaled development for the lot. In a sane planning world the province paints the big picture, and the municipality fills in the detail. Whether we are in a sane planning world or not at present, the city still needs to do its job and defend it’s right to implement appropriate planning and zoning.

ECoB urges the planning department not to recommend approval of this application when the time comes, and for council to reject this proposal when it comes before them for approval. ECoB suggests that, at minimum, council should insist on a building that honours the concessions made with regards to the previous application just two years ago.

Disclaimer: All illustrations are approximate and reflect our best-guess of accurate dimensions based on the development applicant’s plans and illustrations. For accurate and up to date information, please refer to the City of Burlington page on this application.