Our waterfront is one of the defining features of Burlington – and one of the most cherished. But we’ve lost ground on waterfront access and protection in the last term of council.
Hits & Misses: Council voted (6-1) to disband the Waterfront Access and Protection Citizen’s Advisory Committee after two years – ending a city-wide citizen’s voice to council on waterfront issues. Several councillors said they only supported the committee because it was an election year, and disbanded it after being elected – thereby putting their own political needs ahead of the public good. But on the up side: several original members, joined by new members, are continuing the work of the committee as the independent Burlington Waterfront Committee, a city-wide citizen’s group run with support from my office.
Council voted (6-1) not to proceed with a review of policies in the Old Lakeshore Road area of our downtown waterfront during the current Official Plan Review – despite the fact that more than 2000 Burlington residents joined the Save Our Waterfront movement in 2010 to request a review of current plans, which call for highrises in this area in exchange for a shoreline path. We already have the right to acquire shoreline during redevelopment, through existing parkland dedication policies – that’s how they do it in Oakville. We don’t need to trade height to get it.
Council voted (6-1) to sell an existing walkway along the shoreline between Market St. and St. Paul to the private homeowners who back onto that land.
Lastly, the majority of Burlington council (4-3) voted at Halton Region to buy up and tear down the historic beach neighbourhood for $10 million to acquire 1% of non-waterfront land, some of which will almost certainly be used for parking cars. Save for one property, the existing homes are not on the waterfront; don’t impede public waterfront access; and are outside the environmentally sensitive areas and dynamic beach.
These decisions diminish public involvement, access and neighbourhood vibrancy along our waterfront. I did not support them, and actively campaigned in favour of the public interest on these issues.
The Road Ahead: I will continue to advocate for public access to the waterfront and protection for the unique beach community. Regional staff will report back in 2015 on the status of discussions with residents to voluntarily sell their properties. It will be an opportunity to revisit the idea of acquiring these properties at all. Regarding the sale of waterfront land between Market St. and St. Paul St., staff must report back on a purchase price this year. If the proposed price is too low, council can refuse to sell and retain this land for a public walkway. During the Official Plan review currently underway, staff will report on how other communities protect and acquire waterfront land. I’ll be looking for options for Burlington. Lastly, council is waiting for the Ministry of the Environment’s review of the proposed wave break and expansion of LaSalle Marina and its impact on the Trumpeter Swan population. I support more boating opportunities for residents, but will not support any expansion that could harm the swans or surrounding environment.