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Old Lakeshore Road review won’t explore height/density or design, or include public input

To committee July 8; council July 15

The existing plan for Old Lakeshore Road
The existing plan for Old Lakeshore Road

At the request of council, staff have proposed a revised terms of reference for the study of the Old Lakeshore Road precinct along the downtown waterfront as part of the city’s Official Plan (OP) Review.

The revised terms will be discussed at the Development & Infrastructure Committee July 8, for approval at council July 15.

Key changes include that the study will not include a review of OP policies with respect to height and density, or design elements, and will not include public input in the first Phase. A second, optional phase of the study, would include public input and potential changes to the Official Plan and design policies for the area.

Phase I is essentially a peer review of the city’s existing policies in Old Lakeshore Road pertaining to public land acquisition and access to waterfront lands. This phase includes input with stakeholders and technical agencies, but not the public.

Additional items in Phase 1 include:

  • Investigating ways to secure public access to the waterfront, including strategic land acquisition and securing lands through the development application process; evaluating the pros and cons of such methods, and comparing the city’s policies to best practises elsewhere
  • Determine the viability of establishing waterfront assets, such as trails and windows to the lake
  • Identify any changes arising from recent updates to Conservation Halton policies.

An optional Phase II would provide recommendations on a range of tools to secure public waterfront access, and if warranted, recommend changes to existing Official Plan policies and design guidelines around waterfront access and land acquisition. This phase would provide opportunity for public input.

Phase II requires additional council approval following the completion of Phase I. The study is expected to commence upon award of the consulting contract estimated in the fall of 2013, with completion in spring 2014.

Read the proposed terms of reference for the study here.

Save Our Waterfront secured public input on waterfront.
Save Our Waterfront secured public input on waterfront.

My Take: Though there are welcome aspects to the study – such as a review of best practises on waterfront acquisition and public access – I don’t support excluding the public from Phase I, or phasing the project in a way that separates findings from recommendations. There is a risk that Phase II will not proceed, leaving us with information without recommended action, and ending the review before the public can participate.

This is contrary to everything the public has told us about their desire to have input on waterfront issues in general and the Old Lakeshore Road area in particular, dating back to the Save Our Waterfront movement in 2009. Save Our Waterfront brought together 2000 residents from across the city to seek a review of policies in the Old Lakeshore Road area in particular, and more public input on waterfront issues in general. They asked for and secured the formation of a city-wide citizen’s committee on waterfront issues in 2010, the Burlington Waterfront Access and Protection Advisory Committee.

The official committee spent over a year reviewing the Old Lakeshore Road area. They recommended a review of planning policy and design for public areas within the precinct, and consideration of options for public waterfront access and a related City acquisition strategy. The review was intended to lead to recommendations, and include the public. This was initially supported by council.

But these hard-won gains for public input on waterfront issues are slowly being unravelled by council as time goes on. The advisory committee was sunset at the end of last year (though their work continues via the Burlington Waterfront Committee), and now the requested review of policies in Old Lakeshore Road is narrowly scoped and excludes public input in the first Phase.

At minimum we need to complete both Phases of the proposed study. Best case scenario? I may be the lone council voice on this, but it would be to work with residents to review and recommend changes to improve policies for acquisition, design and public access in Old Lakeshore Road.

Your Take: What’s your vision for the Old Lakeshore Road precinct of our downtown waterfront, and is it reflected in existing planning documents? What would you change? Retain? Leave a comment here or email me atmarianne.meedward@burlington.ca.

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.

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