While out knocking on doors during the 2018 election season, I was met with some common questions:
I personally do not think we are ready for Cannabis stores and the flood of issues that will follow.
This has become very clear through my role as Vice Chair of Safety and Crime prevention on the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Board of Directors. There Municipalities across Canada agree that the Federal Government needs to help us address solutions to Cannabis issues such as the cost of testing impaired drivers, educating our youth about Cannabis use and controls of Cannabis smoke migration.
These are the everyday impacts that our community will face.
Our Police have stated that the cost of testing an impaired driver for alcohol is .40 cents while a drug test is $40.00. Who will pay for this? Residents are rightly concerned that people will be smoking Cannabis in their backyards while the smoke affects children playing next door.
We have a lot of work to do and it’s important to get it right.
Many people are concerned about the amount of growth that the Provincial Government has mandated for the Halton Region.
As of July 1st of this year, it came into law that the region must grow by 550,000 people over the next 30 years. This means that the Region will double in thirty years.
Burlington will learn what our quota is over the next few months, the quota will be split up between Burlington, Oakville, Milton, and Halton Hills.
The question that needs to be asked is, “Why would the Province mandate this growth?”
The answer is simple, municipalities own over 80 percent of the infrastructure in our cities and our asset management plans clearly show that we will not be able to afford to renew and maintain this infrastructure in the future. In fact, the City of Burlington identified we would have to start raising our tax base by twenty percent to address our future needs.
We, like other municipalities, have told the Province and the Federal government that we need financial help.
They did their own analysis and decided that if we had more people paying taxes while minimizing urban sprawl, we would have more people to pay the taxes.
What has been confusing is that some Candidates are saying we will meet or exceed our population growth and we don’t need this new mandated growth. In my view this is misleading, it misses the point and is meant to confuse and incite.
Our Official Plan clearly identifies growth to occur in the downtown and around the Go Stations.
This strategy will keep the growth out of our existing neighbourhoods.
These designated growth areas would be supported by transit and walking and cycling infrastructure. The benefit to the Downtown is more feet on the street, allowing the downtown to prosper.
Our research showed that cities that do not grow their downtown simply die. Look to our neighbours in Oakville, who chose to grow their uptown instead of their downtown. They now have over fifty store vacancies and what was once vibrant, now looks like a ghost town.
In 2002, our downtown was approved as an Urban Growth Centre. As a result, our city made significant investments to support this growth including the Pier, the Performing Arts Centre, and now the Museum.
I don’t think I have to mention that one of the first signs of decline of our downtown was the near loss of our downtown school. High rises also provide affordable housing, which is essential to keeping our population age balanced in the future.
This is much the same point as I made previously.
Some candidates are fear mongering, trying to incite the community to believe that our current Council and our official plan supports this idea. I have even heard candidates say that there are 30 permit applications in City Hall.
This is not even remotely true.
In my view, our official plan absolutely does not support 30 new high rises in the downtown, and staff has made this absolutely clear in all presentations. Simple math and economics should make this obvious, as even Toronto could not deliver this scale of development.
I point out that large developments take years and years to achieve.
Look at the Baxter being built currently in the downtown. It was approved for development over 30 years ago, and it has taken that long for a developer to build it.
For a property to be developed into a high rise, you must first assemble multiple properties. Then they have to go through a vigorous assessment that determines its impact on our community and whether it’s viable or not. Most potential properties will never see the light of day over the next 50 years.
This is the same principle as our existing official plan.
There have been considerable questions about the developments in Alton. One candidate is even claiming that he can stop it.
Let me begin by saying that the three developments in Alton were approved for development when Alton Village was approved over 25 years ago. There is no going back.
The Thomas Alton property could have been developed as of right now with no community consultation, but the developer applied for a change to the zoning for more density.
I know some residents wanted a park, but the city does not own the property, and the developer has the authority to develop.
Our council unanimously voted against the increase in density and the developer appealed our Council decision. In the end, on advice of our lawyer, Council was offered a settlement of reduced height and density. While I voted against the settlement, it passed with a 5 to 2 vote.
The Valera property in Alton was originally zoned for commercial, and the developer organized a consultation with the Alton community who supported a zoning change to residential development with some commercial.
There was a significant amount of community involvement with all the decision making, and again given that the property had been approved for development 25 years ago, there is not much we can do.
Alton West was also approved 25 years ago. There was no community consultation during my time on Council as the developer did not ask for any changes. Therefore, the developer is not required to consult after the fact.
I also wish to point out that the 26 story Martha Street development in the downtown was also unanimously turned down by our Council. It too went to the Ontario Municipal Board and the developer won the appeal and can now build 26 stories.
The 421 Brant St. development approved across from City Hall was also appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board. The developer was asking for 27 stories and given the result of the Martha St. development our Council chose to negotiate 21 stories, even though we felt 17 stories was appropriate.
There is now another appeal of the building adjacent. We approved 17 stories and they have appealed the decision.
In my view, we should not take on any of the population growth until we’ve developed a transportation master plan.
In a recent meeting with the province, I addressed this very issue, as we will not be able to accommodate this growth without some help.
In the meantime, we have already begun to address our existing traffic challenges by approving new intelligent traffic lights to be installed at key intersections. These intelligent lights will adjust based on real-time traffic, responding to the existing conditions. We expect them to make dramatic improvements.