When is intensification overintensification?
The province wants intensification, but who is paying the price?
Development applications still ignore Burlington’s Official Plan (OP) and zoning. Developers are free to ask for anything, and municipalities must respond (and within time limits). No saying: “Outrageous — get lost!”
In Burlington, unfortunately, these documents are elastic, and have been disregarded time and again — not good at an OMB hearing. Height and density limits? What limits? If the height limit is 10 storeys, ask for 20 — you’ll probably get 16. Every time a developer can point to precedents, the case is harder to defend.
Apartments used to be limited to a density of 100 units per acre — 247 units per hectare in today-speak. By comparison the Adi proposal for Lakeshore and Martha is 26 storeys (originally 28) with a density of 1,410.9 units per ha. Zoning allows four to eight. (Disclosure — I live nearby.)
Parking is a huge issue for neighbours. Cars aren’t extinct. Parking requirements were tied to bedroom counts. Some still are — the more bedrooms, the more underground parking spaces required, plus 0.25 spaces for visitors. Now downtown, regardless of suite size or bedroom count, the requirement is 1.25, but developers, including Adi, want one per suite, with no visitor parking. Land is expensive, and underground parking costly — reportedly over $35K per space. And the more underground levels, the costlier.
To their credit, planning staff and council (unanimously) opposed it. Adi appealed, and recently requested mediation, which occurred mid-December. There was no press release on the outcome. I asked why, and was told any settlement would have to be approved by the board. Has there been a deal made? We’ll likely find out next Wednesday, Feb. 22, when that hearing begins.
In December another Adi proposal, in the Alton community, was refused by council (but recommended by staff ) for two 19-storey highrises (498 units) and 193 assorted townhouses. Again height and density were concerns, but area traffic was also an issue. City transportation staff was prepared to accept 1.24 parking spaces per unit — even with all those townhouses — when downtown condo parking (Burlington lowest standard) is 1.25. Wow!
Enter Carriage Gate Developments. They’re building the 17-storey luxury Berkeley condo at Caroline and Elizabeth. A selling point to council was the provision of “affordable” units — 72 per cent, later changed to 27 per cent! Are any now “affordable”?
They have filed a new proposal for Brant Street, taking in 421 to 429 Brant, extending through to John Street. It’s a condo, 26 storeys (plus rooftop amenities). One-hundred and eighty-three units, 183 parking spaces. Retail on the ground floor, office space on the second (great) with condos from the third to 26th. It will be marketed to downtowners, hyping the proximity of transit. Problem — Burlington Transit is underfunded and inconvenient.
An earlier OMB decision ruled height could be 12 storeys. That could fit nicely with our 8-storey City Hall, but picture a tower over triple City Hall’s height!
Adi’s proposal on Martha changed as a result of land swaps with the proponent of the Brant Street project. Adi owned the small parking lot on Lakeshore at Martha and the dental building at Pearl. Carriage Gate (or a subsidiary) owned a one-storey medical building midblock, and a Martha Street house needed to smooth out Adi’s property line. Now Adi owns from the medical building east (around 40 per cent of the frontage), plus the house, and Carriage Gate the west portion. Carriage Gate proposes 26 storeys on Brant, and Adi wants 26 on the east part of the Lakeshore property. What will Carriage Gate propose for the westerly portion?
The province wants intensification. Initial targets were 200 jobs and/or residents per hectare, but we’ve already exceeded that without either Adi or Carriage Gate. I hear regularly that residents hate the Toronto-style heights and density that back up traffic to Guelph Line at rush hour, and that they’re not being heard. What will residents do in the 2018 election? Just shrug and throw up their hands, or make changes to council?
What will residents do in the 2018 election? Just shrug and throw up their hands, or make changes to council?