Council poised to sell public waterfront to homeowners; share your views

View of the lake from the public parcels of land between St. Paul/Market.
View of the lake from the public parcels of land between St. Paul/Market.

Community Services Committee, Tues. Dec. 16, 1pm, City Hall; Council, Thurs. Dec. 18, 6:30pm

The fate of a stretch of publicly-owned waterfront land between St. Paul Street and Market Street will be determined this week.

On Tues. Dec. 16, the city’s Community Services Committee, which includes all members of council, will discuss a staff report recommending the sale of three parcels of land jointly owned by the city and the Ministry of Natural Resources to adjacent homeowners at 235 Market Street, 2414 Lakeshore Road and 220 St. Paul Street.

The MNR, city staff and homeowners have now agreed to a purchase price.

According to the report, the purchase price of the lands “will remain confidential until after the transfers have been completed.”

Additional MNR policies require that the land must be sold at market value, and the city owned Water Street land must be transferred to the three landowners first before the MNR lands can be transferred.

The proceeds from the sale of the land will be used to “develop Windows-to-the-Lake at the foot of St. Paul and Market Streets in a minimalistic manner (benches and signage).” The Director of Parks and Recreation will report back with a concept plan for these parcels.

Any decision at the CS committee will go to the Thurs. Dec. 18 City Council meeting for a final vote.


Council voted 6-1 in October 2013 to sell the land to homeowners, against the recommendation of city staff (See reports below). The staff recommendation was to “Develop Windows-to-the-Lake at St. Paul Street and Market Street and retain ownership with an exclusive lease to the abutting land owners until required for public use.” This option, said staff, “is consistent with existing Official Plan and Waterfront Trail policies” and helps to “provide public access to the lake.”

Two other options outlined by staff were to immediately create a city parkette connecting the St. Paul Street and Market Street road allowances; or, alternatively, to sell the land and develop Windows-to-the-Lake at the street ends.

I did not support the sale, and brought a motion to create the city parkette. That was defeated.

* Report recommending approval of the stop up and closure of the Water Street land parcels. (L-29-14)
* Report PR-31-13: Water Street Land Parcels
* Appendix A: Official Plan Waterfront Policies
* Appendix B: Waterfront Trail Corporate Policy
* Appendix C: Aerial Map of Water Street Public Parcels

My Take: There is a new council and although it is the same members, and this decision is well down the tracks, there is still an opportunity (however slim) not to sell the land. I support retaining this land in public hands. The sale of this land is contrary to the initial staff recommendation, and city policies which indicate a preference to retain and build public access to the waterfront. I believe public waterfront, and vibrant neighbourhoods, can coexist here, as they do already in Beachway park, provided there is direct public access to the shoreline.

Hanging on to public land we already have, and knitting in new pieces through redevelopment opportunities could one day deliver a contiguous public waterfront trail. Parkland dedication policies allow the city to take a percentage of land (including along the waterfront) when that land is redeveloped with more units. Each unit added triggers parkland dedication provisions. It’s one of the ways Oakville has acquired public waterfront access.

The sale of public waterfront land we already own creates an additional hurdle to eventually create a public waterfront trail from Hamilton to Oakville, and beyond.

The adjacent homeowners have raised several concerns if this area is retained as a public park, including liability, noise, public safety and vandalism. I am sympathetic to those concerns, and believe we can manage them as we do in our other parks where these issues also sometimes occur.

Regarding the legal history in this area, our city staff were well aware of the legal background, yet they nevertheless recommended that we hang on to the land. I am satisfied that they did their due diligence on the legal matters before making their recommendation to council to retain the land, and I’m comfortable now, as I was then, in supporting the original staff recommendation to retain the land.

What you can do:
Regardless of the outcome of Tuesday’s discussion and Thursday’s final vote, it’s important for the community’s voice and vision on public waterfront to be heard. Do you support the sale? Share your views via the steps below.

Do you want the land retained in public hands? Join with the Burlington Waterfront Committee which is leading community efforts to create a long-term vision for public access along our waterfront. There are several options to show your support:

1. Attend the committee meeting on Tuesday, 1pm, and/or the council meeting on Thursday, 6:30pm, to support Gary Scobie from the BWC as he lays out BWC’s long-term vision for public waterfront access.
2. Contact Gary to coordinate efforts or share your views so he can include them in his delegation to committee
3. Register as a delegation to speak for up to 10 minutes at committee, or 5 minutes at council, on your vision for the waterfront.
4. Email all city councillors to express your views here: Email addresses
5. Share your views below.

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.

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


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  1. I have always supported the notion of keeping public waterfront lands in the hands of all Burlington residents. It just makes so much sense that views of the lake and access to the lake should be enjoyed by all. Once this public access to the lake is gone, it will never come back. Should we not be striving to create a vibrant accessible and inclusive city for generations to come, or do we want to mimic other cities in the world which have been ruined by short sighted planning decisions.
    Thank you Marianne for taking a stand on this.

  2. Seems that the citizens have no say. Look what happen to ‘save the waterfront’ regarding the condo that is going up. Nothing absolutely nothing should be built on the water side of the Lakeshore. Except a walking or biking paths. Do we want another Toronto? Builders always get their way.
    So sad.

  3. I support your position. The greatest fear that I have for the Burlington waterfront is that it will eventually turn out to be exactly like Toronto’s.

    Jim Clemens

  4. Good for you, Marianne, for taking your sensible position against the sale of this waterfront land. The public should be afforded full and fair access to waterfront lands, which are public trust resources. That yours was the only voice on Council taking this ‘public trust’ position is shameful. Residents of Burlington are indeed fortunate to have you on Council.

What's your take?

John Bryden, November 30 at Burlington Baptist Church

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