Hamilton anti-sprawl activists start letter-writing campaign ahead of crucial vote

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Published October 21, 2021 at 8:48 pm

Anti-sprawl activists in Hamilton have launched a letter-writing campaign as they try to persuade the city’s elected leadership from eliminating arable farmland.

Under ministerial edict from the Ford Government, Hamilton is expected to plan for a net increase of 236,000 people and 122,000 jobs by 2051. A coalition of builders and developers are pushing to expand the urban boundary to allow residential development on 3,300 hectares of arable farmland. Social justice activists and environmentalists, organized under the Stop Sprawl HamOnt (SSHO) banner, are advocating to leave the urban boundary as-is, and find alternatives to solve the city’s affordable housing crisis.

The next showdown in the long-simmering issue will be at the city’s general issues committee meeting on Nov. 9, where a vote could be taken. Ahead of that, SSHO is encouraging Hamilton residents to write to their city councillors to advocate against the boundary expansion. As of Thursday night, more than 5,100 people had already sent submissions.

The SSHO group has set a goal of 18,000 submissions. That would be in the range of the number of responses the city received to the urban boundary survey it conducted in the summer.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said they did not want the urban boundary to be changed, and only 5.9 per cent said they wanted it to be expanded. Developer-backed groups have charged that the survey was distributed haphazardly.

More recently, a developer-backed poll conducted by Nik Nanos found 38 per cent support for boundary expansion among 700 randomly selected residents. There were two anti-expansion answers in the poll, and those elicited a combined 54 per cent response.

Along with the loss of farmland, the cost of building infrastructure to provide city services to low-density areas is another factor in the debate.

The City of Ottawa, whose old city/booming suburbs dynamic is similar to that of Hamilton, recently engaged Hemson Consulting Ltd. to update a study on the costs incurred by where development happens. It determined that there is a $465 per capita cost to service low-density homes in Ottawa, and a $606 per person saving from high-density infill development.

Hemson found that the cost of the former has increased in the past decade. The savings realized from high-density infill have also increased.

A full city report on the results of the City of Hamilton’s urban growth survey is available at hamilton.ca.

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