A LETTER TO RESIDENTS
Is November 13, 2017, the day that tall buildings broke Burlington? The exact moment a 5-2 vote by Council to allow a 23-storey tower across from City Hall was the moment our city changed. The moment residents' voices became a nuisance that Council shut out. It was the moment that our city was sold for profit and not for the current residents that add to our culture. It was the moment trust was broken and the moment the city we chose wasn't ours anymore. By this moment I had already spent years working hard to encourage the city to engage with citizens in the planning and development process for our future. But with this vote I realized that our Burlington, as we knew it, was broken.
A record number of delegations between November 2017 to April of this year earnestly brought the concept of reasonable development to Council and Staff through the Official Plan public engagement. Many believed that there was a functional process in place to advocate for a plan that reflected growth that promised economic success, vibrancy and inclusivity - but kept our identity and charm. Residents learned it was not possible to make progress within the civic process; the fox was already in the hen house and precedent had been set. The moment the precedent was set, that approved this tall building (and others), so incompatible with the character of downtown, was the moment our city became unhinged and seething with negativity and dirty politics. The behaviour seen in this election has been charged by a wave of record breaking resident engagement and a grasp by those looking to drive our city to a place we don't want to go.
Development in downtown Burlington is no longer about what we need or don't need, it is about what we get, despite the greatest opposition, now widespread across the whole city. The concept that unbridled development is a gauge of the health and success of our downtown is a fallacy. The narrative is strong and forceful, but industry does not create a healthy economy and community. We do. New wedges are being hammered into our Burlington to distract and create a false sense of support for growing bold. Young people believe that vastly increasing housing supply through these towers will be affordable, and resistance to towers means taking away their chance to live here, causing generational conflict. It must be clearly addressed that these developments are luxury. Much of the cost is driven from land bought on speculation, with the expectation to profit from the build. The product mix for these towers exclude young active types and families that don't favour luxury, nor is it within their reach. They want practical ease to the street that low rise builds deliver. This is why I advocate for low-rise downtown in a mix that invites new residents and business, not excludes. Retaining the culture while welcoming more mixed-use, more professional, more amenity space, more green space and more community space which brings us together to evolve our sustainable downtown. This can't be achieved based on what has been approved - we have to learn from this and ensure that future developments are compatible with our community values.
We must fix this broken process and restore trust by bringing residents to the forefront. This is within our reach when service to the constituents is the primary goal of city leadership. We can restore the faith in our city and can fix the system of the civic process. We can do this with leaders who have been in the thick of fighting for reasonable development and engagement for years, with capability and passion. I have witnessed the erosion of our city's character since the moment the tall building approval showed that residents are little more than perfunctory bystanders. The people of Burlington and Downtown need people who they can trust to carry the weight of change for the better, with strong commitment and passion to bring resident's voice to the table. I have shown this strength, commitment and passion over the last few years and hope you will elect me to continue this hard work for you. I believe we can fix what’s broken. We can support sensible growth. We can be respectful again. We can trust in the process and know that our elected officials are working for us. And we can heal and grow from this broken place, with new leadership and vision. We can do this together.
Monday, October 22, 2018, will be our moment to fix this. Fix the negativity, fix this process, and fix our future. We will elect leaders that listen to residents who are asking for hope. We will elect leaders that will restore and rebuild trust. We will elect leaders that can carry us forward. Because, together, Burlington is our place to live, work, and play; for generations to come.