NEW OFFICIAL PLAN PROPOSED: GROWING UP NOT OUT
April 12, 2017
A proposed new official plan aims to shift Burlington’s development from out to up.
“Burlington is at a very different point … compared to where we were in 1994 when the current official plan was created... Back in 1994, we had all sorts of room left for greenfield development and at this particular time we have virtually zero room left for greenfield development, so this new official plan is about transitioning Burlington from being a suburban community to much more of an urban one,” Mayor Rick Goldring told NRU.
While Goldring recognizes that Burlington has experienced significant changes and population and density increases, he says this plan formalizes the city’s focus on growing smart. It aligns population growth with transit and walkable communities, while protecting existing neighbourhoods.
“In the [proposed] official plan we’ve clearly defined where we want to see more density and we’ve defined it in five areas of the city where we have primary growth areas: … within our downtown, around our three GO stations and in an area of the city called Uptown.”
Goldring notes that those five primary growth areas account for about 5 per cent of the city’s land base. Therefore, the proposed official plan is able to protect rural areas and prevent significant change in established low-density neighbourhoods, including those in greenfield areas. Additionally, he says linking residential growth to transit is a key element of the plan.
Burlington chief planner Mary Lou Tanner agrees. She told NRU that while accommodating provincially mandated growth, the plan is premised on a commitment hat Burlington will not add new greenfield areas nor will it introduce development into rural areas.
“We are not looking to add greenfield land because we’ve made decisions about a firm urban boundary... We’re going to grow up and were going to build new neighbourhoods around our GO stations and look at how we grow downtown.”
For the primary growth areas, specific density and height increases will be contemplated through ongoing mobility hub studies and the development of secondary plans this year.
Additionally, both Goldring and Tanner consider the city’s aging urban plazas along its main corridors to be major redevelopment opportunities. The proposed plan identifies eight such sites, which it calls “Neighbourhood Centres” where the city will increase heights and densities. In most cases, official plan policies will increase heights from three to six storeys and densities up to 2.5 fsi.
Tanner notes several polices introduced in the official plan for the first time. These commit the city to supporting urban agriculture, encouraging public participation and engagement, and aligning transit with land use densities. The proposed plan also identifies a frequent transit network that aligns bus routes with current and planned densities to ensure the city can improve transit service.
“We’ve also put in what we call the frequent transit network which is the ridership network where we see transit and land use density really being tied together to get us to a point where we can provide 15 minute service, 15 hours a day, 7 days a week.”
Consultation on the draft official plan will begin on April 20 and continue for three months. Staff anticipate bringing the proposed official plan to council for consideration in late November.