Categories: DevelopmentDowntown & WaterfrontOfficial Plan & Zoning

23 storeys is just the beginning; more highrises coming in proposed downtown precinct plan. Speak out Nov. 30

23-storeys at Brant/James compared to City Hall.

Analysis & Opinion – The recently approved 23 storey building on the corner of Brant & James Street is just the beginning of highrises downtown, based on the proposed downtown precinct plan which will be discussed at committee Nov. 30 at 1 and 6:30 pm. The plan is expected to be approved in January, with more detailed Area Specific Plans coming in June 2018.

What you can do? Register as a delegate to speak on Nov. 30 for either the afternoon (1pm) or evening (6:30pm) sessions to voice your views. Changes to the plan will have to be made by motion at this meeting, which I’m prepared to do.

Read highlights below, and search your area for changes .



Heights increased from 14 to 25 storeys; growth centre boundaries changed to include stable neighbourhoods

  • The downtown is divided into 13 “precincts” (up from 8 in the current plan) each with their own height and zoning permissions. Where heights previously ranged up to 14 storeys (excluding specific sites granted more height through an application), they now include as-of-right heights up to 25 storeys. More details on the precincts are below. Visit here for a full size .PDF of the map: PB-81-17 Appendix A – Proposed Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan
Black line is existing Urban Growth Centre boundaries; red line is new boundaries, expanding into stable neighbourhoods.
  • The downtown urban growth centre boundaries have changed to include parts of the stable low density neighbourhoods in the Emerald and St. Luke’s precincts. This is very serious as it will put pressure on these neighbourhoods to meet the growth centre’s target of 200 people or jobs per hectare. This change was apparently done by the province and region in 2006 and has not been reflected in our current OP, nor even come to light until now.


  • There are a number of heritage buildings in the Downtown Core Precinct where heights are projected to go from 4-8 storeys to 17

What’s changing:

Orange area is Brant Main St Precinct, up to 11 storeys

Brant St from Pine to southern edge of No Frills Plaza: (Brant Main St Precinct orange area on map) from 4-8 storeys to 3-11, and 17/23 at Brant/James (thatched orange area on map)

  • Existing permissions are 4-8 storeys, will now be up to 11. There will be a 3 storey limit on Brant with potential to terrace back to 11 storeys facing John St. or Locust St. using a 45 degree angular plane from Brant. The South-East corner of Brant & James is a special policy area (thatched orange) allowed to go to 17 storeys. The North-East corner across the street has already been approved for 23 storeys.
Upper Brant Precinct (royal blue area), from 6 storeys existing, up to 25 storeys

Brant St at Graham’s Lane/Prospect/Ghent/Olga/Blairholm (Upper Brant Precinct) from 6 storeys to 25 (blue area)

  • Existing permissions are 6 storeys, will now be up to 25. Height on the east side will be determined by depth of lot, with one storey for each 4.5m in depth.

Downtown core precinct (light blue) goes from 4-8 storeys existing, to 17

John St, Lakeshore, Martha, Maria block: (Downtown Core Precinct) from 4-8 storeys up to 17 (light blue)

  • Existing permissions are 4-8 storeys, will now be up to 17. The block at Maria/Caroline/John/ Elizabeth has existing permission for a 17 storey condo (currently under construction), 6-8 storey parking garage and 6-8 storey medical centre.
  • There are a number of historic buildings in the Downtown Core Precinct, along James, Elizabeth Pearl, but heritage protection policies and site specific reviews won’t come till the Area Specific Plans are complete in June 2018. We’re giving height away without getting these protections in place, putting pressure on these sites to be developed to the max. It will be difficult to “downzone” development permissions after the fact where we want to protect heritage down the road.
Cannery Precinct, up to 22 storeys (salmon colour). Waterfront Hotel site marked with asterix.

Cannery Precinct up to 22 storeys

This precinct includes two parcels: the existing Bridgewater Development at Lakeshore/Elizabeth/Pearl, currently under construction with a 22 storey condo, 8 storey hotel and 7 storey condo; and the foot of Brant/Lakeshore on the North East Side bounded by Brant, John, Pine and Lakeshore.

Waterfront Hotel site, Brant & Lakeshore

The area at the foot of Brant with an asterix is the Waterfront Hotel site, which is subject to a separate planning review. For more on that visit: P&D Nov. 28Waterfront Hotel survey and Residents Plan B for waterfront

 Existing applications

There are four developments in process for the downtown, which will be decided separately:

  • 26 storeys at Martha/Lakeshore: this application was not supported by council or staff, and was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board; the hearing was in July and a decision has not been released.
  • 22 storey at Brock/Ontario: this application is still being processed. A recommendation report to approve or deny is expected in the New Year.
  • 6 storeys at Elgin/Locust/Blathwayte: the site allows 4 storeys which has begun construction; the applicant is seeking two additional floors. A recommendation report to approve or deny is expected in the New Year.
  • 5 storeys at 2085 Pine: the project was approved by council this fall but hasn’t begun construction. The existing historic home will be preserved and incorporated into the development.


Emerald and St Luke’s precincts (light pink) will now include semi-detached units.

Emerald & St. Luke’s Precinct and all low density neighbourhoods to include semi-detached:

  • semi-detached units allowed in all low-density, single family home neighbourhoods. Since semi-detached units currently have different lot coverage and setback permissions, I asked staff to limit semis to the same lot coverage as single family homes, at 25%, and the same Floor Area Ratio as single family homes, which controls massing, to avoid monster semis covering most of the lot being built downtown. Those changes won’t be ready until the Area Specific Plan for the downtown comes back in June 2018. In my view we shouldn’t be approving semis until we have those specific details and controls on massing and lot coverage.

The plan was first released in September, with the updated version released early November 9, which doesn’t reflect a number of changes that were suggested.

The plan will be discussed at the Nov. 30 Planning & Development Committee meeting, in the afternoon (1pm) and evening (6:30pm) sessions. The plan is expected to be approved in January, with more detailed Area Specific Plans coming in June 2018. Any changes we want to see made have to be put on the floor by way of a motion at the Nov. 30 meeting.

Read the staff report and Appendices for the meeting meeting: Downtown Mobility Hub Precinct Plan


My Take:

If this plan goes through as is it will fundamentally change downtown, replacing the low-rise character and historic buildings with modern tall buildings. The magnitude of changes represents   overintensification and high rise congestion with no clear reason – since we can meet our growth targets under existing plan limits. We’re giving away height and getting nothing, like negotiating affordable housing, family units, public parking or heritage protection in exchange for more floors.

Since the approval of the 23 storey building, residents have made clear they don’t support highrises throughout the downtown, and are very concerned about added congestion, loss of small town feel, and loss of key retailers in some of our older buildings, like Kelly’s Bake Shoppe.

This process is proceeding far too quickly, and I will ask for an extension of time before approval. Though the Official Plan review started six years ago, half way through it completely changed from an update to a rewrite. We only got the downtown policies at the end of September, and only saw the revised version two weeks ago. We won’t have the Area Specific Policies for the downtown until June. We should not be approving the plan piecemeal, without all the detailed protective policies in place.

The new plan, downtown policies, staff reports and “track changes” version is over 2000 pages of reading for committee next week – and that’s just one item out of 74 reports and appendices across six meetings, including the 2018 budget.

Three weeks is not enough time to review and digest these documents, much less invite public comment. We cannot rush. The Official Plan is the most important document in the city, setting the stage for development for decades.

I will be asking for several amendments, including revisions to height permissions and deferring approval till June when we can consider all policies at the same time, and allow more time for public review and comment.

You can help by speaking in support. Register as a delegate for Nov. 30 and speak up on what changes you want to this plan.

Contact members of council to register your views (make sure to copy me too!):

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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