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3 Reasons why the OMB approved the condo tower in Burlington’s downtown. The sky is the limit

There are no maximums – proposed height increases only become the new minimums 


In February, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved a massive, 26 storey condo at the corner of Martha Street and Lakeshore Road.

There are 3 reasons why the OMB ruled in favour of the developer.

Three Reasons

  1. All parties (the developer, the city, and other landowners) said more than the existing 4 to 8 storeys could be allowed. The city said 11 storeys would be appropriate; another party said 16. Because they presented “no…evidence” for why these heights were better than the proposed 26 storeys, the OMB’s vice-chair went with 26 storeys. [Clauses 107,111,114,115]
  2. The developer successfully argued the city is not on track to meet growth targets.  The Board refused to allow new evidence on the urban growth centre, yet concluded the “city may not quite meet the minimum required target for intensification.” [Clause 104] Weeks after the hearing, council received a staff memo confirming growth targets are on track for 2031.
  3. Because the downtown is an urban growth centre and mobility hub, 26 storeys is “preferable” to meet provincial intensification policies. [Clauses 59,63,68,115]. The Board noted there are no maximum heights for intensification [Clause 54].

What the PPS 2014 does not do is set a maximum target for intensification.  Implementation of the PPS 2014 logically requires that each application is to be considered on its own merits. The fact that an application may involve an official plan amendment does not mean that the proposed development is inconsistent with the
PPS2014. [Clause 54}

Three Things We Can Do

This ruling – if allowed to stand – has devastating consequences, not just for Burlington, but for other Ontario cities. There are three things we can do.

  1. Remove the downtown urban growth centre and mobility hub designations.  Otherwise, more applications representing over-intensification will keep coming.
  2. Remove the height increases in the new official plan.  With the OMB ruling there are no maximums – increased heights only become the new minimums.  The proposed downtown plan does not give us any control.
  3. Defend our existing Official Plan and growth targets as meeting provincial policies.

We need to take action; we need to take charge of our city’s future.

3 Reasons why the OMB approved the condo tower in Burlington's downtown. The sky is the limit
3 Reasons why the OMB approved the condo tower in Burlington's downtown. The sky is the limit

In February, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) approved a massive, 26 storey condo at the corner of Martha Street and Lakeshore Road.This ruling - if allowed to stand - has devastating consequences, not just for Burlington, but for other Ontario cities. There are three things we can do.

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. After living near downtown for nearly 30 years, I am wondering whether this will continue to be a good place to retire. I am dismayed at the changes slated for downtown. I do not want to see downtown turned into a sterile area of cookie cutter high rise condos with the usual chain stores at ground level. There are so many parts of the city that are perfect for this kind of development, a case in point being the condos going up by the Go station. Density can be increased on a human scale as so many European cities continue to show. Downtown Toronto is not a good model for Burlington.

    In the upcoming municipal elections I hope there will be a mayoralty candidate who is interested in the longterm health of downtown and who considers the needs of residents instead of the exclusive desires of developers. I’d vote Marianne Meed Ward for mayor!

  2. Hi Marianne –
    First and foremost to your 3 items, which we “can do” (and can only be done with unanimous council votes on the same wave length of thinking), is to definitely move the Urban Growth Centre and Mobility Hub from the downtown location, elsewhere! I suggestion Fairview, Harvester, Plains Road, but will not even argue your selection in that matter – “Just Move the Downtown Designations as it Now Stands in the Official Plan”. That will be a huge start in hopefully removing the ridiculous number and heights of buildings presently in the works for the downtown core. The Board’s quote of: there are no maximum heights for intensification, tells us we need to move “quickly and together” in putting these measures in place, sooner than later. Thanks for all your hard work.

    • Agree and thanks Sharon. The province has only designated two mobility hubs in Burlington – the downtown and the Burlington GO station. The city voluntarily added two more: Aldershot and Appleby GO stations. So, if we take out the downtown mobility hub, we still have one more than the province required of us, so we can make the case we are still doing our part to absorb growth. The Urban Growth Centre can be shifted to the Burlington GO station as well, without significant change since it’s already a mobility hub. In fact the densities are lower on UGCs than Mobility Hubs – 200 versus 300 people or jobs per hectare. So again, this shift would not negatively impact our part in managing growth, but would make a big difference to our ability to control reasonable growth downtown versus the overintensification hyper development we are now seeing.

  3. Why is everyone surprised! City councillors do not listen to its citizens, because apparently, they know best. The OMB are in their own little kingdom and apparently they know best so they don’t need to listen to the needs of the City. Citizen participation in decision making are only words – it does not exist. Just let the developers submit what they want to the OMB and save everyone all the time, trouble and costs.

  4. Certainly, as you say there are things the city can do! Unfortunately, knowing and doing are separate and distinct activities. Do I have confidence that the city (you excluded) has a willingness to do the right thing? NO!!!!

  5. At delegation this afternoon, the planner who defended and won the ADI OMB appeal said that the reason that the City lost the case was not because of the current or the proposed new Official Plan, it was because the City could not justify the building height. The City kept changing their mind at the hearing – 11 storeys, 17, storeys, etc. and they had nothing to back up their argument.

    Does the City have a way of appealing this decision through “an error in law”?I certainly hope the City will do whatever it can to appeal this ADI decision.

    We definitely need to rethink the Mobility Hubs and Downtown Urban Growth Centre and do whatever is necessary to make this happen. Along with having some employment lands re designated to allow residential/employment.

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