A proposed expansion of Hamilton’s urban boundary continues to generate a strong backlash.
City Councillors received public comment on Wednesday on a staff recommendation to add 1,340 hectares of farmland to the urban growth area.
The urban boundary expansion would be designed to help accommodate a projected population increase of more than a quarter-million residents over the next three decades.
The city is mandated by provincial policy to determine how and where to plan for forecasted population of 820,000 people by 2051.
Most delegates who addressed councillors on Wednesday, including Environment Hamilton’s Lynda Lukasik, are calling on elected officials to follow through on their climate crisis declaration by saying no to further sprawl and meeting provincial growth targets through intensification.
“Look at what’s happening in the world,” Lukasik said, adding that with “wildfires, floods, heat domes, the climate crisis is making itself known in extreme and frightening ways.”
“We need to act urgently and accordingly,” Lukasik said.
Hamilton 350’s Don McLean told councillors, “there is a very large opportunity to expand the density of the population within the existing urban area.”
“We don’t have to do this all through high-rise,” added McLean, pointing to the potential for laneway housing, secondary suites, and “repurposing a lot of empty parking lots.”
Mike Collins-Williams of the West End Homebuilders Association counters that an urban boundary expansion is needed to address a lack of supply that is pricing home buyers out of the city.
Collins-Williams said Hamilton’s council is facing a choice: “Will we ensure enough housing of the right type is built for a growing population in our city? Or will we continue down the path of unaffordable housing and an exodus of young families from our community?”
He stressed that “when existing residents are priced out of Hamilton’s community, they drive until they can find housing they can afford, that meets their needs.”
Councillors heard that the public response to a survey about expanding or maintaining Hamilton’s urban boundary has “far exceeded our expectations.”
Steve Robichaud, the city’s director of planning, estimates 19,000 responses.
“Our preliminary guesstimate is approximately somewhere between 7,800 and 8,000 survey forms were returned to the city by mail,” Robichaud said. “In addition, we were up to at one point approximately 11,000 emails that we still also had to process.”
“We were hoping maybe two to five per cent response rate,” Robichaud said. “We are probably closer to almost 10 per cent.”
Stoney Creek Coun. Brad Clark has indicated, via Twitter, that almost all of the survey responses received and reviewed by his office are opposed to an urban boundary expansion.
Robichaud insists the responses are still being tabulated and the goal is to release the results in mid-September.
A Hamilton City Council vote on whether to expand the urban boundary is expected later this fall.