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Burlington pursues intensification - Growing bold

July 13, 2016
By Geordie Gordon

Burlington has taken the first step towards implementing the intensification goal set out in its strategic plan by crafting a policy framework that will guide its growth over the next 25 years. The framework will inform the urban structure, intensification and growth management policies of its official plan, which is currently under review.

Ward 11 councillor and planning committee chair Rick Craven says that Burlington has been talking about becoming a more compact urban centre for over a decade, but is only now that the city has begun to realize the goal.

“Council’s endorsement of this [framework] certainly is a strong step forward in not only ensuring the direction that we wish to go with regard to intensification, but also educating the public around this issue,” he told NRU.

Burlington planning and building director Mary Lou Tanner says that the policy directions, as set out in a staff report adopted by committee of the whole July 7, respond to how and where the city will grow in the next 25 years, given it has no greenfield land left to develop.

She says that the next 25 years of growth in Burlington will be completely different than the previous 25 years, during which the city expanded out towards its urban boundary. “It’s growing up-what we call growing bold-so it is absolutely a bold step forward in terms of how and where we’re going to grow,” she told NRU.

The report sets out eight policy directions for Burlington’s urban area. (The rural policies of the official plan are being considered separately.) The three core directions are to update the official plan’s guiding principles and land use vision, and establish new urban structure and intensification frameworks.

Tanner said that the policy directions evolved through a lot of thinking about how the city should grow, during its strategic planning process. The language in the strategy, which was approved in April, when it comes to growth and intensification, is very broad, Tanner said, and putting it into action requires a lot more detail.

“… Intensification requires a lot more detail in terms of where growth is going to occur, how it’s going to occur, what our priorities are for ensuring that we achieve a community that has quality of life, quality of place... This report really frames a lot more detail of how all of that is going to be achieved,” she said.

For example, the intensification framework “provides greater clarity and direction to the public, city staff and other levels of government as to where and how the city plans to grow and
intensify over time,” according to the staff report.

Previous intensification policies lacked the necessary policy framework that would have ensured site specific development proposals seeking to increase density conformed to a city-wide vision. As a result, between 2006 and March 2016, 72 per cent of the applications for residential units were located outside of the intensification areas established in the previous framework.

The new intensification framework sets out four intensification areas: primary, secondary, employment, and established neighbourhoods. Official plan polices related to these areas, according to the staff report, “will serve to establish clear expectations for the scale and type of intensification that is expected within each area and provide greater direction when evaluating proponent driven official plan amendments for increased density.”

Craven says that the new intensify cation framework is going to make a significant difference, especially when it comes to explaining the new directions to the public.

“That’s been part of our problem in Burlington over the past decade, our approach has been somewhat timid in [terms of] helping the public understand that we have to change from a bedroom community to an urban centre,” he told NRU.

The policy directions are scheduled to be considered by Council at its meeting July 18 and the draft official plan urban policies are expected in the last quarter of 2016.