I was recently talking to a neighbor about the city’s willingness to allow highrises in the Old Lakeshore Road area on our waterfront, which would take out almost all the heritage buildings.
“Why didn’t I know about this?!” she said.
It’s a comment we receive a lot at this website. But if you’re looking for answers, you won’t find many from the city. Thanks to you raising concerns and speaking out, the city has posted a “Vision for Old Lakeshore Road” on its website. The city also issued a press release on design guidelines for the area – a full month after council passed them – largely because you’ve made this an issue.
But the documents leave out key information about what council has approved for the area (read them on our ‘media and resources’ page).
Council made mess
Unless you dig through pages of links, you won’t read that the development option approved by this council – and outlined in the design guidelines as Option #2 – allow for 15-storey buildings and the destruction of almost all the heritage buildings. You won’t read that city council was specifically asked to take this development option off the table by such notables as former Burlington mayor Walter Mulkewich. Council refused.
You will read that in exchange for towers and heritage destruction, we’ll get one more block of pathway along the waterfront. You will read that the downtown councilor, Peter Thoem, thinks this overall plan constitutes “reasonable and careful development.”
City passes buck – blames “growth”
You’ll also find buck passing. The city postings blame the province’s Places to Grow Plan, which requires Burlington to “accept a reasonable share” of population growth. But the city doesn’t say that council determines where and how this growth occurs. It is well within council’s power to protect unique districts, as it has already done with the St. Luke’s and Emerald precincts downtown, which have a 2.5 storey height limit.
Area “unique” but city won’t protect it
You’ll read that the city is committed to protecting the heritage in the area. But you won’t read that council could at any time initiate full heritage protection under the Ontario Heritage Act for the 11 buildings in the area identified as having “cultural heritage significance.” Council has not done so. The buildings only have a “heritage resource” designation, meaning it takes 60 days, rather than 10, to get a demolition permit.
Public consultation that wasn’t
You’ll read that the city consulted with the public. Those consultations amounted to two meetings with landowners, and two meetings with residents in the immediate area. Between the two public meetings, council increased the height limits. The second public meeting, in March, was merely an information session to tell those of us in attendance what the city had already decided. You won’t read that the options presented to residents at the first meeting bore no resemblance to what the city eventually approved (click here to compare how city council’s approved plan differs from the options presented).
This is hardly a consultation, and certainly wasn’t city-wide.
1,000 people join campaign – 3 in 4 outside downtown
Yet this is a city-wide issue. More than 1,000 people have joined our campaign, three-quarters of them living outside the downtown area. Ten percent live outside Burlington – most of them former long-time residents, people who work downtown, or people who frequently visit our downtown because of its unique character.
As many of you have said, saving our waterfront will affect tourism and local businesses well into the future – positively if we get our plan right, and negatively if council simply allows the area to be developed like any other built up urban city (Toronto comes to mind).
What you can do
The Save Our Waterfront campaign will continue to investigate and give you the full picture of what’s happening. We will seek opportunities to influence city council members to do the right thing and stop development until there is meaningful city-wide consultations for a vision in this area that protects its unique character.
You can help by continuing to spread the word – tell your family, friends and neighbours to join the campaign, by clicking here.
Your support has already made a difference – and it’s the only thing that will continue to make a difference going forward.