Citizens for a Better Brampton

June 14, 2017

Corporation of the City of Brampton,

2 Wellington Street West,

BRAMPTON, ON L6Y 4R7

Attention: Mayor Linda Jeffrey & Members of City Council

CFBB Brampton Vision – Worth a serious review

Here are some thoughts that are generally not new, but nonetheless have not been given adequate discussion regarding their individual merits, in our opinion.

As an introduction, Brampton’s growth is exploding, and greenfield land availability is in short supply. The emphasis is on residential construction which only worsens our reliance on residential assessment (now at 77%) to fund our municipal operations and local infrastructure capital needs. Brampton has long been a bedroom community for Mississauga and Toronto, reinforced by improved transit options like LRT and GO transportation connections to the commercial offices of those centres. The hope is that with improved connections, it will allow Brampton to become attractive for the commercial development that we so badly need.

As well, Brampton’s diversity in culture and population is making relationships with other emerging market countries like India a splendid opportunity for growth if we take advantage of it.

Negatives holding back commercial office growth development in Brampton:

1) Little market demand because of strength of demand in Mississauga and Toronto particularly (Brampton considered a bedroom community).

2) Slow improvements in frequency of ALL DAY 2 WAY GO service to Toronto.

3) Insufficient higher level government infrastructure funding commitments.

4) Inadequate commitment to funding hospital needs.

5) Poor and questionable Municipal leadership at political and administrative levels, and the overhang of a major lawsuit against the City over the handling of the “competitive dialogue” procurement process and the implementation of the City Hall expansion project.

6) Flood plain exposure and controls impacting entire downtown and its redevelopment.

7) Neanderthal thinking at the TRCA and their compunction to just say no to creative use of valleys and ravines.

8) Brampton bypassed for HSR (High Speed Rail) station stop that will connect Toronto to Windsor and the Innovation Technology Corridor.

9) Lingering negative reputation of cultural diversification.

 

Positive aspects driving community forward and countering negatives:

1) Exponential growth in population – 9th largest City in Canada and 3rd largest in the GTHA.

2) Although not providing any new hospital beds or a second ER, the opening of the new Peel Memorial Centre for Integrated Health and Wellness, with an Urgent Care Centre, will hopefully take some of the pressure away from Brampton Civic, one of the busiest ER’s in the country.

3) Breadth of the dynamics of cultural diversification and opportunities presented in emerging markets around the world.

4) The close proximity to Pearson International Airport, a world class hub facility catering to airlines around the world with convenient, frequent and direct flights to destinations far and wide.

5) The recent announcement of a new University planned for Brampton, situated close to downtown and adjacent to the Innovation Corridor.

6) Environmental Assessments approved and underway regarding alternative routes for the extension of the LRT to the Brampton Downtown GO station from the Gateway Terminal at Steeles Avenue.

7) Political alignment of all three levels of government representation

 

CFBB (Citizens for a Better Brampton) Vision for Brampton

(CFBB, formed 6 years ago because of the concern about the misadventures of the Municipal government and the City Hall expansion project)

1) Downtown Brampton has a rich history of successful entrepreneurship and agricultural pursuits which are still evident today in its inner core, with retail facades and heritage structures abounding reflecting its early and vibrant life, first as a farming and mill community, blossoming with the advent of rail connections and eventually now, as the municipal and administrative heart of the wider community, with government, museum, art gallery and theatre facilities. Its growth outside the inner City has been dramatic, and has assumed a modern somewhat atypical urban appearance of residential subdivisions, shopping centres and Malls, and the usual fast food establishments kept alive by the car and sprouting condominium towers nearby. Roads in grid pattern crisscross the landscape and the integration of highways show our commitment to high speed connections and the busyness of society today. Convenient rail and transit connections and frequencies are a constant topic of conversation, as efforts are made to wean us off the reliance on the car – with limited success, even with the much promised guarantee of infrastructure funding.

This picture of our urban landscape, thankfully punctuated by ravines, valleys, and flowered parkettes, is not dissimilar to many Canadian towns across the country. But what is perhaps different, is our simple, now less vibrant inner core, waiting all too patiently for the sound of renewal and refreshment, and excited voices carrying labelled bags scurrying from stores and shops, cafes, bistros and restaurants that provide animation and purpose. And, perhaps the sight of those who bring with them the elan of youth from a nearby university of innovation and creative thinking, mingling with the erstwhile visitor, the destination shopper, and the downtown resident simply undertaking the weekly trip for groceries and servicing needs, will recharge the batteries of yesterday’s heritage, the backbone – indeed the foundation – of earlier downtown Brampton. And together with architecturally sensitive and integrated new development and renovation, our inner core will once again be the attraction that it once was, but this time focused on the pedestrian, safely sequestered from the conflict with buses, cars, and delivery trucks, gridlock exhaust fumes, but easily served by convenient parking in all four quadrants of the downtown.

Yes, this is what our downtown Brampton could become, capitalizing on its heritage to provide the foundation for innovative development of hotels, residences, and destination and service shopping both streetside and sheltered galleria between City Hall and the Downtown GO Mobility Hub, along with environmentally designed and functioning offices for small and creative business for fledgling entrepreneurs and already successful enterprises.

 

And how could this happen?

1) Create a Downtown Redevelopment Committee or Tsar to oversee all aspects of the renewal, renovation, and refreshment of the Inner core, reporting directly to the City Councillors, with City Planning representation.

2) Ensure that the City will instigate the availability of expropriation procedures to encourage potential property holdouts to be reasonable in sale for the greater good.

3) Prepare an overall Plan for the area which would include developer and architectural inputs, public consultation, and appropriate involvement by all property owners, with appropriate City Hall approvals with time schedule respect and commitment

4) City Hall commitment to a schedule for implementation of basic catalytic public investments, including funding from other levels of government if possible and available

5) Municipal approval of a fair and standard procurement process for calling for private proposals for the development of various land uses as outlined in the Plan, such as hotel, condo, rental apartments, office, parking and retail opportunities

6) Instigate a ring road concept that would encourage non-inner core traffic to circumvent downtown by using an outer ring route – Steeles, Kennedy, Williams and McLaughlin and back to Steeles, thus reducing the gridlock occurring downtown at present

7) For those destined for the inner core and immediately surrounding area, because they live, work, want to shop, or visit, instigate an inner ring – Wellington, Chapel, Nelson, George and back to Wellington – for bus and car traffic, with convenient car parking in underground garages in all four quadrants (three are already built and operating), and one hugely expanded parking facility at the Downtown GO Mobility Hub.

8) Choose to extend the LRT north from Steeles in the centre of Main Street to Nanwood, then tunnel the tracks below the Etobicoke Valley for 1.3 km to the Peel Memorial Centre at Queen, and then elevate the line along Queen West, (joining the future Queen Street LRT) and run it adjacent to the CN Rail line to stop at the Downtown GO Mobility Hub.

9) This LRT routing would have the benefit of serving the new University conveniently and directly if the new University chooses the Rosalea site. As well, the underground excavation through the Valley would produce the soil necessary to berm the sides of the Etobicoke diversion channel designed as a River Walk, and remove the downtown exposure to the flood plain, allowing economical redevelopment to occur in the inner core. And further, it would allow the removal of the garbage dump now grassed over in Centennial Park, with infrastructure improvements completed at the same time, assuming appropriate funding from senior levels of government is committed and available.

10) To preserve the historic look and the heritage properties within the inner core, it is important to redevelop the core with complete sensitivity architecturally, environmentally and technologically. Intensive development needs to be focused on the periphery, such as at the GO Hub or on the west side of George, or on the north side of Nelson, both east and west of Main Street. As well, high density, mixed use projects need to be concentrated at LRT stations so that ridership can be optimized. That suggests that major increases in commercial assessment will have to come from the areas immediately surrounding the LRT stations – at Steeles and Main, at Nanwood and Main, at the Peel Memorial Health & Wellness Centre at Queen and Centre, and at the Downtown GO Mobility Hub.

11) The re-enforcement of the downtown heart of Brampton with new development and renovation of existing structures for re-use will provide a western anchor for the Bramalea City Centre at Dixie and Queen Streets, which would become the eastern anchor of a heavily developed Queen Street corridor, already planned for intensification by City Planning. Increases in commercial assessment can be easily projected with a fair degree of certainty.

 

Conclusion:

Should Brampton choose to accept this vision to shape its future, the following would be accomplished:

1) Brampton would become a world leader in City building for its inner city renewal, reflecting and preserving its past and melding it seamlessly into a new and extraordinarily relevant present and future.

2) Brampton would have rejected trends for starting fresh in City building on open fields, and have recognized that cities are best to preserve their soul, their past, their heritage, their beginnings and use them to champion their future path, their completeness as an evolving urban area of changing attitudes and decisions, and reflecting the trials and tribulations, the good and the not so good for all to see and experience. In other words, showcasing the evolution of our City and its residents.

3) Brampton would be seen to represent a different urban experience at its core, one with character and interest, one that celebrates the pedestrian in the urban core, a sometime throwback to early Scandinavian and European examples that are a delight to the tourist today.

4) Brampton would be seen as a place which shaped its own future by making decisions which reflected the wishes of those who actually inhabit the place and understand how it works, its past, and what its future can be, not dictated to by the insensitive, unknowing and uncaring politicos who see Brampton as a dot on the map, to be connected to other dots on the map with little similarity or commonality by a straight line, spending recklessly taxpayer dollars over which they have stewardship but no responsibility, mortgaging future generations with gay abandon.

Wow! What a vision! Can it be accomplished? Yes, it can. But it will take the commitment of champions working in harmony, with funding and leadership capability to market the concept.

Respectfully submitted,
Doug Bryden – Co-Chair – CFBB

www.cfbb.ca

 

CFBB OPINION:   Avoid any Sister City Agreements

For the Mayors’ staff not to communicate properly with the rest of Council is unacceptable.   The December 20th press release was a clear contravention to Council’s resolution and could very well be in violation of the City’s own Code of Conduct.  Mayor Jeffrey and Councillor Medeiros are the architects of this controversy and should make a formal apology to Brampton’s Tamil community for misleading  them to think a Sister City agreement was forthcoming.  Just like the recent Sister City Agreement with the Town of Ribeira Grande , Sao Miguel, Portugal,   CFBB feels that there has been little evidence over the years of any real economic benefit to the City of Brampton with these types of arrangements.  In our opinion, these politically motivated sister city agreements are just vote pandering and an excuse for Council members to take junkets at the taxpayers’ expense.  In our opinion, the best policy moving forward should be to avoid any new sister city agreements entirely.   Don’t we have more important matters for our Mayor and Council to focus their attention on?

Chris Bejnar and Doug Bryden

Co-Chairs CFBB

CFFB Opinion – A “confusing” Sister City Agreement with Vavuniya , Sri Lanka.

It looks like Professionalism, Accountability and Transparency might have been good New Year’s resolutions that should have been made by our Mayor and her staff for 2017.

In the attached Media Release issued by Mayor Jeffrey and Councillor Medeiros dated December 20, 2016, (since removed from the city’s website), the Mayor officially extended an official invitation to His Excellency C.V. Wigneswaran, Chief Minister, Northern Province, Sri Lanka, to visit Brampton to sign a “Sister City” agreement with Vavuniya, a city in Sri Lanka with approximately 70,000 residents. She did so without an approval by Council. Now, given the backlash, she has had to backtrack, resulting in considerable embarrassment to herself and the City.

Why does the City not have an established policy on not only what qualifications would be necessary to consider a potential Sister City relationship, but what are the economic and social benefits that would result from that relationship? To date, sister/friendship agreements from the past have yet to show any measurable economic benefits to our city. Why spend staff’s and Council’s time on such wasteful initiatives?

This matter surely does not rank very high on the list of important matters to spend precious time and energy on, given the significant outstanding issues to which the Mayor should be turning her attention.

Link to December 7th, 2016 Economic Development meeting minutes: 

http://www.brampton.ca/EN/City-Hall/meetings-agendas/Economic%20Development%20Committee/20161207edmn.pdf

Doug Bryden and Chris Bejnar

Co-Chairs CFBB

January 11, 2017

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Delegation Budget Comments – Chris Bejnar – CFBB Co-Chair

November 28, 2016

Good evening everyone,

My delegation tonight will focus on two important factors that impact the amount we have to pay on our residential property tax bill, unregistered secondary units and the unfair property tax levy for Healthcare.

Unregistered Secondary Units

We believe that secondary units are an important form of affordable housing that is made available to thousands of Brampton residents.  Without them many would not know what to do or where to go. As Brampton is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities and expecting another 290,000 residents in the next 25 years, secondary units are, and will continue to be an important and necessary form of housing in this city.

I also believe that everyone’s goal is to ensure that these units are all properly registered, and most importantly offer a safe and hospitable living environment our residents.

From the much referenced McCarter report, we know that a growing population directly impacts the operational expenses of the city. We also have learned from this report that only 23% of our property tax revenue comes from the commercial industrial base and a significant 77% is made up solely from residential property taxes. It’s encouraging that Council this year has moved to boost the commercial industrial base to a goal of 40%, however this will take many years if not a decades to achieve. We will still have the majority of our revenue come from the residential property tax base for many more years to come.

With Council looking at approving a tax increase of 3.6% in 2017, this is more than double the forecasted Canadian average inflation rate of 1.45% for 2016.

We all understand that these tax increases are to get this city back on track with many priorities like maintaining service levels, investing in infrastructure repair and replacement, as well as, enhancing core services with a focus on transit. I would imagine that these initiatives are for ALL residents, and not just the property taxpayers of the city.

So if Brampton’s main revenue source is primarily from residential property taxes,   I think we can all agree that this makes our City more vulnerable to the effects of having a significant population living in unregistered residential secondary units. Do we really know the numbers?

What we do know is that a landlord is in the rental business. Just like Peel Housing or private developers are also in the rental business, they are mandated to design, build and maintain a safe and clean living environment for their tenants. I’m sure we can spend a good hour or so going over all the by-laws and building code standards and permits that are required for constructing residential homes in this city.  By collecting rent, you now have an income property, a property that should be accessed at a higher rate by mpac. An income property that benefits the landlord financially with lower mortgage payments or extra monthly income.

By not registering their unit or reporting their rental income, the private landlords are not contributing their share to the delivery of education, city services, and infrastructure costs in this city. It is because they are taxed in exactly the same way as the property tax taxpayer that does not have a secondary unit in their home.  Is that really a fair system? Is it a sustainable system for the long term?

I believe that part of our problem is that we’ve allowed this issue to go on for so long investors are not treating the registration process seriously. By-Law enforcement has not kept pace or structured their department to look for violations during evening and weekends. We need to start realizing that the situation will only get worse, the anger of taxpayers will only become stronger and the future delivery of city services will be challenged.

So how can the taxpayers and citizen groups of this City assist Council for the advocacy of a revamped property tax system to organizations such as mpac and AMO. After all, it was the Province who passed Bill 140 banning Municipalities from making secondary units illegal. Passing a bill without offering any assistance to the municipalities for funding, sharing of information or new legal powers. It has left municipalities that receive a large percentage of residential tax revenue such as Brampton at a real disadvantage. It has pitted neighbours against each other, created an unfair tax burden on the majority of households, will affect the quality of delivered services and we will see above inflation tax increases for the foreseeable future. We need the investors and landlords in this city to finally realize that they contributing significantly to our higher property taxes. We need the landlords and investors of this city to realize that they need to pay their fair share to the future prosperity of Brampton.

Tax Levies

We’ve had an unfair tax levy put onto the property tax payers of the city to fund Phase 1 of the new Peel Memorial Healthcare facility in Brampton. A levy that only applies to the property owners in the city, yet allows anyone who lives here as a resident to benefit. In the past, the responsibility for building healthcare facilities has been the responsibility of the province, placing such facilities in areas of high growth and demand.

So why is it that the taxpayers of Toronto did not require a property tax levy for William Osler’s Etobicoke General Hospital redevelopment that’s currently underway, yet Brampton taxpayers did?

According to a statement from William Osler, the $330 million contract price will involve the construction of a new four-storey tower, will add approximately 250,000 square feet of space to the existing facility and house the services most urgently needed by the Etobicoke community.

Are we supposed to be grateful to the Province for its recent announcement to finally open all 608 beds at Brampton Civic?   A delay that affected the quality of our healthcare and labelled Brampton as one of the lowest ranked major cities for healthcare in the country?

What will the purchasing power of our hard earned tax dollars be in 8-10 years for the remaining $20 million of the $60 million tax levy when required?

How about the tens of millions of precious tax dollars that will be wasted because of the decision to build Peel Memorial as a multi-phase project? This should have been planned as a full service hospital right from the beginning based on many years of research.

We need this Council to aggressively call out the province for the poor planning of healthcare in Brampton and to immediately call on the Province to begin the RFP process for a fully funded Phase 2 of Peel Memorial that will include a second ER and a minimum of 200+ in-patient beds. It’s about time we start to become a bit more aggressive with this government or any future provincial government for the needs of our diverse, dynamic and growing city. We are the 9th largest city in Canada and 3rd largest city in the GTHA. We have seen growth that is unmatched by any other Top 10 city. The citizens of Brampton generate hundreds of millions of tax revenues to both the Provincial and Federal governments. So why do we continue to graciously accept inadequate funding for transit, healthcare and infrastructure that does not allow for this city to properly compete for investment dollars with our neighbouring municipalities. We can’t afford to keep funding these Provincial responsibilities with tax levies onto the property tax payers of this city.

Thank you

Chris Bejnar Co-Chair CFBB