Plans for a smaller aerotropolis include an option that would urbanize 30 hectares more farmland than the amount approved by the Ontario Municipal Board. The staff report up for approval in mid–February doesn’t mention the industrial lands made available by last fall’s permanent shutdown of steelmaking on the 329 hectare former Stelco lands but declares there’s “no compelling planning rationale to change course now”. That is expected to be challenged in a January 30 public meeting organized by aerotropolis opponents.
The OMB ruling forced a reduction of the aerotropolis by about 125 hectares which is being accomplished primarily by removing more southerly areas. They include an outlying block at Fiddler’s Green and Garner that was added by council at the last minute on the request of the Ancaster Christian Reform Church.
“This area is disconnected from the rest of the AEGD, will create a disjointed land use pattern, is not currently accessible from Highway 6, and servicing will likely required significant upgrades to current systems,” notes the report of the consultant who did the detailed review being endorsed by city planning staff.
However, one of the two recommended boundary configurations responds specifically to the pleas of another religious institution. Option 1a calls for inclusion of a 31 hectare block to accommodate possible expansion of Redeemer University located opposite the block on Garner Road.
While this land would be added to the urban boundary under option 1a, the consultant doesn’t count it as part of the aerotropolis and consequently adds an equivalent area of farmland on Smith Road to “replace” it.
“Redeemer University College is surrounded on three sides by residential uses, which impede the College’s ability to expand its campus,” explains the consultant. “Although post–secondary education is allowed in both Prestige Business and Light Industrial designations in the Secondary Plan, designating this specific area across from Redeemer University College as Institutional will protect the area and provide a better fit for the future institutional use that will benefit the University, the city, and the students.”
The staff report doesn’t explain how the city can arbitrarily add an extra 31 hectares beyond what was approved by the OMB.
If that option is selected by councillors on February 18, it could strengthen the residential development arguments of the owners of the lands north of this area which would now be surrounded by non–industrial uses on all four sides – residential on the west and north, the institutional block to the south, and a hydro corridor to the east. The staff report is adamant that both recommended options reject new residential development.
“The city has successfully withstood the threat of new residential uses in the Airport Employment Growth District to date,” they declare. “Option 1 or 1a continues to support that position.”
Their report also emphasizes “that the expansion of the City of Hamilton’s urban area boundary to encompass the refined AEGD Secondary Plan lands is still appropriate and justified.”
Opponents of the plan contend that the city has grossly underestimated the re–use opportunities of older industrial lands along the bayfront – even before the US Steel closure announcement in October. During the OMB hearings, Environment Hamilton and Hamiltonians for Progressive Development pointed to tax records that indicated that at least 95 hectares of bayfront lands were listed as vacant, and over 900 hectares of other properties along the waterfront were receiving vacancy tax rebates from the city in 2012.
The two groups have called a public meeting about the boundary proposals for Thursday January 30 in the Volunteer Hamilton building at 267 King Street East starting at 7 pm. V