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Council decides not to tilt at windmill; Turbine on pier scrapped and the intensification battle rages on  

Credit:  Joan Little, The Hamilton Spectator, www.thespec.com 26 April 2012 ~~

The pier, the pier, Burlington’s ever-changing pier!

The latest glitch, reported to a council committee last week, is that the proposed wind turbine on it poses a problem. It was to be hooked into the power grid, but the transformer station serving downtown Burlington is not adequately configured to accept the feed-in (surplus power).

There’s a way out. Configure the turbine to use battery packs, at a cost of $70,000, and pay for it out of the absurdly high project contingency allowance of $890,000.

Councillors were not impressed, and after much questioning and discussion, voted to scrap the turbine. It was to be symbolic, anyway, of Burlington’s dedication to energy conservation, but the city has done an admirable job cutting energy use throughout. As Councillor Paul Sharman noted, the public might prefer a cost underrun to an overrun. Amen! (And it cuts clutter on the pier).

Meanwhile, intensification is still a Burlington problem, evident at the last development committee meeting.

The proposal was to expand the Westwood 49-unit condo development at Plains Road and Falcon Boulevard. The issue was that it would encompass two homes on Falcon, now in both the official plan (OP) and zoning bylaw as single-family. No problem. Change the OP and rezone them, which was the recommendation, supported by four of the seven council members.

The planning rationale was that including the two homes was acceptable because it would just “square off” the mixed-use zone.

That’s not how neighbours see it. They see a four-storey, 37-unit intrusion into a singe-family zone (exactly what it is). They worry about the sanctity of single-family areas. New Horizon Homes presented a very attractive building, and their pitch is that the four storeys wouldn’t be next to existing homes – green space and a parking lot would be in between.

The “mixed use” corridor on Plains Road allows two to six storeys, subject to requirements, such as setbacks, parking etc. The original Westwood proposal is five. Some councillors tried to convince residents this proposal was a bargain, because the developer could build six storeys as of right.

That’s doubtful – it is almost guaranteed that so small a property could not accommodate six storeys and still meet standards. The building would be 60 per cent within the existing mixed use zone, but needs the land from the two homes to accommodate the project.

Aldershot Councillor Rick Craven and colleagues Marianne Meed Ward and Blair Lancaster opposed it. Residents haven’t given up, but are flooding inboxes of the other three councillors and mayor, hoping to change one vote at council on April 30.

People feel threatened when the OP and zoning can be altered at will because a lower-rise development (e.g. townhouses) isn’t as viable for a developer, and an OMB appeal requires lawyers, planners, etc. – beyond the pocketbooks of most citizens.

The OMB often sides with developers, either approving projects or telling appellants to negotiate a compromise. In other words, a developer has only to ask for the moon, and the OMB will likely order a compromise. That has happened in Burlington.

On another front, new city manager Jeff Fielding is no stonewalling bureaucrat. For years I’ve asked different staff people (and the former mayor) how much revenue the city receives from Spencers on the Waterfront restaurant, which is in a city-owned building in Spencer Smith Park.

Each responded that it was not public information. Figures could not be released. (Since when are city revenues secret?) Not Fielding. His rapid response was that the formula was confidential (which is reasonable), but the revenue isn’t.

The city received $246,453 in 2009, $301,088 in 2010, and $308,553 in 2011, which sounds reasonable. The public had been told that Spencers offered the best deal for the city; so their bid should be accepted. It was not credible that revenue was secret. Fielding is a no-nonsense manager who tells it like it is, and he has had the bravado to tell councillors respectfully to do their job. That’s refreshing. The city is in good hands.

Freelance columnist Joan Little is a former Burlington alderman and Halton councillor.

Source:  Joan Little, The Hamilton Spectator, www.thespec.com 26 April 2012

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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