Categories: Development

Residents prevail on proposed two-tower overdevelopment in Alton – for now.

Alton traffic during morning rush. Submitted by Sapna Mistry.

Update to story below:

 

Residents prevailed on council to vote down a proposed redevelopment at 4853 Thomas Alton Boulevard, featuring two 19 storey towers as well as traditional and stacked townhouses, comprising 612 total units. Council voted 6-1 to refuse the application, with the Ward 1 councillor voting in support.

If approved the development would worsen already frustrating congestion in locals schools, parks and streets, residents said.  Something of a smaller scale with fewer units would be more in keeping with the area, they told council.

Delegate Jennifer Walker, representing the Residents of Alton Village, spoke of chronic overcrowding at local schools with nine elementary portables, and the existing “nightmare” traffic, describing one incident of a young girl hit by a car while riding her bike, witnessed by her husband and children.

“In your Grow Bold, build smart campaign you talk about ‘targeting growth to the right areas of the city.’ How is Alton, which is already a traffic, walking, schooling and parking nightmare the right choice for hyper intensification?” she said.

Beata Sikorski, also speaking for the Residents of Alton Village, said residents chose Alton Village and Burlington as their home “to escape from the congestion, urban sprawl and high-rise buildings that dominate the Mississauga and GTA landscapes.” Echoing concerns raised by Walker, Sikorski noted the development “will place an increased burden on infrastructure, schools and water acquifers.” The proposal, she said, is “completely out of scope with the current and future vision for the area and appears to sacrifice the common good of the community in favour of maximizing profit” for the developer.

Primary intensification areas are noted in orange, secondary in yellow. The proposed Alton development is in a yellow area, in the top right of the map.

Resident Ken White noted that the area is outside the primary intensification areas where the city aims to direct the bulk of new growth. It is in a secondary intensification area intended to “accommodate limited, site specific intensification.” Proposed developments in secondary intensification areas will be evaluated “to ensure that the proposal will not result in significant unplanned population growth beyond that currently permitted under a site’s existing Official Plan permissions.”

Kathleen White noted the proposal, if approved, “sets a precedent for any future development proposal in any intensification neighbourhoods that may be untenable for the greater Burlington community.”

The city’s citizen Sustainable Development Committee also rejected the project calling it “overdevelopment in comparison to a responsible development, and may overwhelm the area,” though the committee did praise several aspects including expanded greenspace, underground parking, bicycle storage, and potential bike/car share programs.

City staff had recommended support for the application, after they negotiated several changes to the original proposal based in part on Tall Building Guidelines recently endorsed by council. Council voted 5-2 July 18 (myself and the mayor did not support) to direct staff to bring back an Official Plan/Zoning amendment to a future meeting in accordance with several changes to the proposal, which included modifications in the tower design, layout, and greenspace, but not a reduction in height. Subsequently, staff did negotiate several changes to the proposal including increased amenity space, decreased tower width and floor plate (but no height reduction), increased distance between the two towers, removal of 12 back-to-back townhouses, and an overall reduction of 79 units.

The overall density is 305 units per hectare  (zoned for 110 per hectare, with a maximum height of 10 storeys). For comparison, downtown Burlington, a designated Urban Growth Centre, has a density target of 200 people or jobs per hectare.

It is widely expected the developer will appeal the decision to the Ontario Municipal Board.

More information can be found on the city’s website dedicated to this project here: 4853 Thomas Alton Blvd.

Read more about the city’s Intensification Framework and mapping here: Intensification Framework

My Take:

I voted to refuse this application both times it came to council. The proposal represents overdevelopment and overintensification. It’s also outside the city’s primary intensification corridor. It is in a secondary intensification area which aims to avoid “significant unplanned population growth beyond that currently permitted under a site’s existing Official Plan permissions.” This proposal would double allowed height and almost triple existing density permissions – very significant changes. We want to put intensification where it can be accommodated without negative impact on residents or costly infrastructure improvements. Residents made their case about the negative impacts this project would bring to an area whose roads, parks, schools and streets are already suffering congestion.

This proposal also reinforces my concerns with the rushed “endorsement” of Tall Building Guidelines by council Oct. 3, in a 6-1 vote (I did not support). When I wrote about the guidelines I outlined the risk, especially to the Thomas Alton project:

“The risk: we’ll get development applications that conform to the guidelines on setbacks or podiums, but are in places we don’t envision tall buildings. It will be very difficult to hold our ground and direct height to where we want it if the building meets our design guidelines, especially with the ever present threat of an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board (something no other province faces; reform can’t come soon enough!)….

“The city is sending the message that it’s open for developments beyond the Official Plan/Zoning, so long as they conform to the tall building guidelines. Consider the Thomas Alton Boulevard application for two 19-storey towers, along with towns, on land zoned for 10 storeys. Staff recommended (and council approved; I did not support) that staff  prepare an Official Plan/Zoning amendment to allow the development subject to certain conditions, including design changes that align with the tall building guidelines. Staff wasn’t proposing a reduction in height.”

Read the full article here: Tall building guidelines: Is Burlington headed for Vancouver without mountains?

Two final thoughts on this project. First, it underscores the need for residents to come together and voice their opinions about a project in person as well as online. It makes a difference when dozens attend the public meetings and appear at the council meeting itself to speak up, either as individuals or representing a broader group of residents. Council chambers was packed the night of this vote.

Second, there is a need for residents across the city to speak up about development in other areas, not simply their own. As one of the delegates said, each project has the potential to set a new precedent for other areas. If overdevelopment is allowed in someone else’s neighbourhood, what will protect yours? So get involved. There are a number of residents groups that are springing up. It would be great to see an umbrella citizen’s movement that brings these groups together on shared issues.

Your Take: What are your thoughts about this development, council’s two (different) votes on it, and residents coming together to advocate for better development in their neighbourhoods? Leave a comment below.

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. Got an idea or comment you want to share privately? Please, get in touch:

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