Hamilton urban boundary vote deferred, after marathon meeting

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Published November 9, 2021 at 10:15 pm

Another 10 days or so is not much when the decision affects the next 30 years, and some time beyond.

Hamilton’s elected leadership put a pin in the urban boundary review vote on Tuesday night, after hearing live virtual delegations from nearly 50 concerned residents, builders and developers for more than 10 hours at a special general issues committee meeting. The vote will be held at a date to be named later, but before the end of November.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger motioned to postpone the vote at around 8:15 p.m., when councillors and legislative coordinator Stephanie Parapella returned from a recess. At that stage, they still had 30 video presentations ahead of them. The motion carried 14-0.

“This is a big decision, we’re all taking it seriously, and this is a big decision,” Eisenberger said. “The later it goes, the foggier the mind gets, need to be fresh and of clear mind when we do this.”

Before recessing, Ward 10 Coun. Maria Pearson, who was chairing the meeting, quipped that she had managed to snack on a few almonds in the course of the day.

At issue is the city’s growth plan for the next 30 years. Upper-tier Southern Ontario municipalities such as Hamilton are required to update their plan every five years. The Progressive Conservative government is expecting Hamilton to plan net growth targets of 236,000 people and 122,000 jobs.

That has led city staff to recommend a so-called ‘Ambitious Density’ scenario which would include expanding the boundary to allow for development on some 1,310 hectares of greenfields.

Builders and developers have stated this would improve affordable housing supply. Other delegators on Tuesday emphasized that sprawl increases costs and municipal tax burdens, and that eliminating high-quality farmland is shortsighted in a city that declared a climate change emergency in early 2019.

“This is a truly terrible idea,” Jill Tonini, an architect, said during a video delegation that ncluded a map showing underutilized areas in the downtown Beasley neighbourhood. “We need to amend our zoning laws to allow for ‘missing middle’ development.”

Delegates also affirmed that the urban boundary ties to food security. Most of the quality farmland that Canada has is in densely populated Southern Ontario. An oft-cited statistic from the Ontario Federation of Agriculture is that the province lost 175 acres per day to urban development across a two-decade span from 1996 to 2016.

“It is crushing to think of you paving over farmland when we have so little of it in Canada,” Cynthia Meyer, a Hamilton resident, said in a video delegation.

The province can impose a land use plan on a municipality. Craig Burley, a Hamilton tax lawyer, said in his live delegation there is an opportunity for the city within that reality.

“You can stand and fight,” he said.

Eisenberger’s motion did not mention a set date for the urban boundary vote, only that it would be as soon as possible. An announcement on a date could come early on Wednesday.

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