A proposal to expand Hamilton’s urban boundary has brought community members out in force.
A special meeting of the city’s general issues committee heard close to five dozen public delegations on Monday, almost all opposed to adding over 1,300 hectares of farmland to the urban area to accommodate future residential development.
City planners and consultants say the expansion into so-called “white belt” areas is needed to handle a projected increase of 236,000 residents over the next three decades.
Under what is referred to as the “Ambitious Density” scenario, the city would plan to accommodate almost 80 percent of its housing growth within the existing urban area, through a combination of infilling and intensification.
The scenario is based on a planned intensification target which increases over time, from 50 per cent between 2021 and 2031, to 60 per cent between 2031 and 2041 and 70 per cent between 2041 and 2051, and a density of 77 persons and jobs per hectare in new growth areas.
Environment Hamilton’s Don McLean says an argument that the boundary expansion is needed to handle the projected population increase is flawed.
“We have depleted neighbourhoods that support schools, they can’t support stable small businesses,” said McLean, “we have the opportunity with intensification to address that” while utilizing infrastructure to its full potential.
McMaster University Professor Dr. Jim Quinn agreed that the need for more land is “exaggerated”, insisting that “grey fields can be developed, granny flats, garden suites, laneway housing can effectively be used to reduce the pressures of increasing population size.”
“If it means less single family homes will be available in the future, so be it,” said Laura Katz, “We are all going to have to start making sacrifices, myself included, because our way of life is not sustainable.”
Mike Collins-Williams, on behalf of the West End Homebuilders Association, was among a handful speakers in favour of the proposed urban boundary expansion.
“It is absolutely critical,” said Collins-Williams, “that the City of Hamilton recognize the scale of growth that is coming and to make realistic plans to ensure the city is positioned to absorb this population and thrive.”
“Hamilton can balance new growth to meet the needs of our community”, added Collins-Williams, “and aim to ensure residents can find housing that meets their needs, no matter what their stage in life.”
City Councillors, after listening to the delegations for several hours on Monday, voted to defer a decision on whether to submit Hamilton’s growth plan for provincial approval.
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark presented the deferral motion which calls on the city to conduct a mail-out survey to residents and to study the implications of freezing Hamilton’s urban boundary.
Clark argues that the current COVID-19 pandemic has made effective, in-person public consultation impossible at a time when robust, informed public consultation is needed.