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This just in: OMB decision released on ADI proposal at Martha/Lakeshore – allows 26 storeys

City’s statement on decision below

This just in: The Ontario Municipal Board has just released its decision on the ADI proposal at Martha and Lakeshore, and has allowed 26 storeys. Staff and council did not support the proposal. The hearing concluded in July.

This is a devastating decision for the downtown.

You can read the decision here: OMB Adi Martha-Lakeshore PL150274-FEB-13-2018

Under limited circumstances, OMB decisions can be appealed. Visit Appeal of a Decision on the Environment and Land Tribunals of Ontario. It’s undetermined at this time whether this is an option here. However, we must explore this and use every tool available to fight this decision.

My Take is below, followed by the City of Burlington’s statement on this decision:

My Take:

The OMB decision to approve the 26-storey ADI proposal at Martha/Lakeshore is devastating for the downtown. This will be the new precedent height.

The decision referred to the Bridgewater at 22 storeys (and other tall buildings in the area); it also referred to the fact that the city had “received” other 23 storey applications (how that’s relevant is anyone’s guess; these were only “applications” with no approval at the time of the OMB hearing).

I am not confident that by rushing adoption of the proposed new Official Plan we will gain more control over planning; the proposed plan calls for 17 storeys for this site. The OMB approval is nine storeys higher. The Brant and James corners (north and south) are both 17 storeys in the proposed new Official Plan, but council approved 23 storeys on the north side and we just got an application for 24 storeys on the south side.

Developers can, and will, continue to ask for more than what is permitted in the existing or proposed plan.

The decision also referred to the downtown as an Urban Growth Centre and transit hub, thus the development needed to meet certain densities appropriate for those designations.

Until we remove those two designations from the downtown (Urban Growth Centre, Mobility Hub), we will not wrestle control of planning back into the hands of staff, council and the community. (Credit goes to Gary Scobie for suggesting these designations be removed, which is what led to my motion.)

My motion Jan 24 to move the Urban Growth Centre from the downtown to the existing Burlington GO Station Mobility Hub (as Oakville has done to protect their downtown), and to eliminate the downtown as a Mobility Hub, failed 6-1.

In light of this OMB decision, we have to reconsider this vote.

These designations were a key part of the OMB ruling, though the ruling applies only to this site, not the entire downtown. I can’t bring that reconsideration motion, as I didn’t vote in the majority. Another member would have to move it. Alternatively, a new council could make this change without a reconsideration motion during the next term of office, which begins after the municipal election in October.

I’ve received advice from staff that the UGC and Hub designations are part of the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe (Places to Grow), updated in 2017, with no further update for 10 years. However the legislation states that implementation of the plan allows the Minister of Municipal Affairs to “identify, establish or update…the size and location of the urban growth centres,” [Sec 5.2.2, 1(b)]. The plan further allows the Minister to review the schedules of the plan “at least every five years in consultation with municipalities, and may revise these schedules.” [Sec. 5.2.7 (1)]. The UGC is mapped on the schedules.

I will continue to look into opportunities to change the UGC and Hub designations. This will likely require advocacy to the province. With a provincial election coming up, ask all candidates whether they will assist with changing these designations.

The Official Plan is not a done deal after council adoption. Burlington’s proposed new Official Plan won’t be in force till approved by Halton Region, expected in 2019 when the Region reviews its own plan. Until that time, our existing Official Plan is in force. New motions can come forward till council adoption in April. Make this an election issue: ask all candidates, new or incumbent, whether they will make changes to the plan before regional approval for balanced growth not overintensification.

What can residents do? Use your democratic tools:

  • There is a provincial election coming up June 7. Ask all candidates who are running if they will work with the city to remove the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations from the downtown.
  • There is a municipal election Oct. 22. Ask all candidates who are running if they will work with the region to remove the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub designations from the downtown. There is still time: our new plan isn’t in effect until the Region approves it, which won’t happen until the Region begins its review of its own plan in 2019.
  • Finally, appear at the Feb. 27 Public Statutory Meeting and ask council members for a second vote to remove the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hubs designations from the downtown.

The City of Burlington’s statement on this decision is here:

Media Release

Statement from the City of Burlington on the Ontario Municipal Board Ruling on Adi Development – 374 Martha St.

Burlington, Ont.—Feb. 13, 2018— Today, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) released its decision on Adi Development Group’s proposal at 374 Martha St. The city is disappointed with the ruling, which allows for a 26-storey building at that location.

At the hearing, the city argued that Adi’s proposal for 26 storeys was not appropriate for that location for a number of reasons, including the fact that the proposal far exceeded the height limits allowed in that area, the need to complete an updated Official Plan and the longstanding public policy that the Bridgewater development will be the landmark building.

In its decision, however, the OMB states that the city’s current land-use policy for the site does not reflect Provincial Policy.

As the OMB noted in its ruling, “the evidence suggests to the Board that the current designation is no longer appropriate for the Subject Site and a proposal that is taller and more transit-supportive is both preferable and better implements the transit-oriented and intensification policies of the PPS 2014 and the GGH 2017.”

The OMB further notes that “While the provincial policy regime emphasizes the importance of a municipality’s official plan, there is no suggestion in the provincial policy regime that a municipality’s official plan may undercut provincial policy.”

Mary Lou Tanner, the Deputy City Manager, comments: “In light of the OMB’s ruling, it is even more important that the city move forward with the adoption of the new Official Plan. As this ruling shows, our current OP is a liability; it is out of date and is open to challenge. The area-specific plan for downtown Burlington will strengthen the city’s position on development in the downtown by replacing outdated polices with a plan that better reflects provincial policy, while also protecting the character of the city.

“We can not continue to plan our city, especially our downtown, on an application-by-application basis. This is not good planning and allows others to make decisions on our city’s future.”

Communications contact:

Kwab Ako-Adjei
Sr. Manager of Government Relations and Strategic Communications
Office: 905-335-7600, ext. 7747


Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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  1. It’s disgusting that Burlington downtown is going to look like downtown Toronto, we all live in Burlington for many reasons, not Toronto. The skyline will be ruined and the traffic will be horrific. OMB ruling needs appealing.

  2. We just spent a long weekend in a mid-sized Ontario city that was thoughtfully and carefully designed to accommodate business, tourists, residents and government. Honest to god we are thinking of packing up and moving. Burlington Council is a joke. They do whatever they want, despite citizen input, and if the developer doesn’t get their way the OMB steps in and overrules council. Burlington sold it’s soul to Wal-mart and a few high rise developers so the OMB will always rule against them now.

  3. I’m finding the logic of Mary Lou Tanner difficult to follow regarding this decision. As former head of the Planning Department, Tanner seems to be using her department’s loss before the OMB to justify moving forward expeditiously with another “winner” from the Planning Department; the new OP? Interestingly enough, neither our existing OP nor our “new & improved” proposed OP would have permitted 26 storeys at this site, and yet here we are, Go figure!

  4. So the City ” . is disappointed with the ruling, which allows for a 26-storey building at that location”, in spite of the fact that City council voted against the proposal, and in spite of the fact that “the proposal far exceeded the height limits allowed in that area”, Does this sound familiar?

    City council approved the first tower across from City hall in spite of the fact that the majority of citizens, as evidenced by the number of delegations opposed the proposal, and in spite of the fact that “.the proposal far exceeded the height limits allowed in that area”, So why does council encourage citizen participation when council does what it wants regardless?

    In addition, “..the OMB states that the city’s current land-use policy for the site does not reflect Provincial Policy.”

    So it appears that City councils do not have any control over their own municipality. So what’s the use of even reviewing construction proposals when the OMB (read the Provincial Government) can over-rule their decisions? Why doesn’t the builder just submit their proposal directly to the OMB and by-pass the City?

  5. How much money has been spent in preparing the OP to date? How much more is to be expended before finalizing and receiving final approval for the OP? The taxpayers are being “ripped off for this farce”.
    Yes it is time for real change on Council. Keep working hard for us Marianne.

  6. And there is more to come. It is just the beginning of the final end of our historical downtown core.

    When Mary Lou Tanner, the Deputy City Manager, comments: “In light of the OMB’s ruling, it is even more important that the city move forward with the adoption of the new Official Plan.” She is either so naive or so clever when trying to convince the public that this is an ideal solution for the downtown intesification dispute. She doesn’t see or doesn’t want to see that the problem is not the lack of updated Ofiicial Plan but the fact that this document is only a worthless piece of paper, it is only a bargenning tool between the developer and the City officials. If the new Official Plan allows for i.e. 20 storey buildings in the downtown core the new applications will be asking for 40 or maybe 50 storey buildings and the “…City will still be planned on an application-by-application basis.” through a constant rezoning process, what Ms.Tanner so complains about.

    And it is not about tall buildings as such; it is about their location. Our City has very strong south-north corridors along Guelph, Walkers and Appleby Lines above Fairview Street. We could have had very dense commercial and high-rise residential developments along these lines, preserving our historical downtown at the same time.
    Why our neighbours from Oakville could establish a very ristrictive historical, untouchable zone, still growing outside this area, with even more intensity than Burlington?

    Unfortunately it is to late, it is a lost battle for Burlington. It is not only the OMB, these are also our elected representatives in the City voting in favour of the developers (Novpember 2017), what triggered the devastating results.
    And there is way more to come.

  7. When the City goes before the OMB do they retain lawyers and planners who have had success with appeals for other communities?

  8. Why even bother having a so-called official plan or even bothering arguing or fighting developers? You might just as well agree to “all” their proposals right off the bat because it will save a ton of money & because we all know the developers have “bought off” the characters who run the OMB as well as the mandarins who we keep electing to queens Park!

  9. If the “Provincial Policy” is the guide line for intensification of 26 (and the sky seems to be the limit going forward), I don’t see anywhere development has to be in the downtown area! Location, location! Burlington is vast, and there could be other more desirable areas to erect such out of context vertical masses that are not conducive for the downtown area. Oakville has done it, with success, and we can do it to if we can get the wheels in motion to change the OP for that to happen. On board: Mayor, Councillors (unified), and the Planning Departments. Stand firmly united and make it happen! Your work load to make this happen would be greatly minimized by the number of volunteers that would come forward – I, being one of them.

  10. Yes, this is a devastating decision for the downtown. However, having said this is just what the city planners have been recently supporting for even closer to downtown and the water front area – this is just the beginning of the end of the lovely Burlington downtown. While not you personally, we have all of the rest of the city to thank! If this is the best result that the current staff and council could achieve – then we need new people who are equipped with the skill set to achieve the needed outcomes when dealing with developers.

    The new legislation which will empower towns and cities to leverage their official plans is long over due – however, with an official plan even with the minor changes will only serve to achieve the same result!

    Shame on Burlington city council and staff – you should have fought smarter!

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