OMB approves 26-storey condo tower near Burlington waterfront

BURLINGTON — The Ontario Municipal Board has backed a developer's plan to build a 26-storey condo tower across from the city's downtown waterfront despite the municipality's objections.

CEO Tariq Adi called the OMB's endorsement of the Nautique at the corner of Martha Street and Lakeshore Drive a "win" for his firm and Burlington.

"It's a bit of a catalyst that's going to happen now with development in the downtown. It's much needed," Adi said Tuesday, following the release of the decision.

Adi said the thrust of his team's argument before the quasi-judicial board was that Burlington wouldn't meeting the provincially mandate targets for density of 200 people and jobs per hectare.

The province has designated downtown a growth centre for intensification in an effort to corral growth in built-up urban areas while the city aims to make the core a transit "mobility hub," Adi said.

"So it's much more important that we build the housing and bring the people closer to those hubs to utilize the infrastructure that's there."

Adi said units in the Nautique range from roughly $400,000 to $2 million depending on size.

He called opposition to the proposal "political" and "NIMBYism," saying the building was "designed with the context of the neighbourhood in mind."

It will tower over apartment buildings, townhouses and a retirement residence in the area, but not so much over the New Horizon's 22-storey luxury condo complex and hotel across Lakeshore Drive.

Coun. Marianne Meed Ward, who represents downtown, argues the city doesn't need the Nautique to meet the provincial density targets, saying Adi's proposal represents more than 1,400 people and jobs per hectare.

"It makes no sense to me how it could be justified. This is the class definition of overintensification."

In an email, Mayor Rick Goldring said he was "extremely disappointed" in the OMB's decision, calling the board-approve height "excessive" and "not good planning."

"I know that many residents will be very unhappy with this decision and I share this reaction."

In a news release, Mayor Lou Tanner, deputy city manager, emphasized the need to enact a new official plan in light of the decision.

"As the ruling shows, our current OP is a liability; it is out of date and is open to challenge," said Tanner, who's also a municipal planner.

Meed Ward doesn't believe the proposed planning blueprint will stem the tall-building tide, noting it calls for 17 storeys in the area.

She calls high-density towers "dandy lions" that have the potential to destroy the character of downtown, add traffic congestion and make land values less affordable.

"As soon as you let one rise up, another one pops right beside it. That's what we're seeing."

In November, a proposal for a 23-storey building at Brant and James streets was approved and just last week an application for a 24-storey building came in, Meed Ward said.

In January, she noted, council rejected her suggestion to work with the province and region to take pressure off downtown by removing the growth centre and mobility hub designations.

The Burlington GO station is more appropriate for high-density development, she said.

905-526-3264 | @TeviahMoro

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