With debate around proposed expansion of Hamilton’s urban boundary continuing to be hot button topic, the city’s mayor admits there’s a lot of details that wrap around the “complex” issue.
Fred Eisenberger told 900 CHML’s Bill Kelly show that he’s not so much on board with the type of expansion the ministry of municipal affairs and housing is suggesting for Hamilton and that the right thing to do is to look for that growth in spaces already a part of the city’s infrastructure.
Hamilton’s forthcoming $3.4 Billion LRT development was predicated on inner city advancement as well as higher density development along its corridor and to Eisenberger, “that is the right kind of growth for the times.”
His interest also lies with “anomalous spaces” that have been surrounded by developments over time and potential extensions through “subpar” agricultural lands.
“Saying no to an urban boundary expansion is not saying no to growth, it’s just saying no to growth in the sprawl sense and kind of the outright lying areas,” said Eisenberger.
“It’s saying yes to growth in spaces we know we have available in our boundary as it stands today.”
The mayor says recent surveys that put the question out to constituents don’t really have scope on the complexity of the issue and says his support for an initiative will based on what he already knows.
“I think it’s rather unfair for us, for anyone to put this kind of a question on a survey or a poll because it really doesn’t give any of the individuals that are responding that the full picture,” said Eisenberger.
A pair of polls executed in the summer, one conducted by the city and another by noted researchers Nanos, came back with notably differing opinions allegedly from an examination of Hamilton’s general population.
The city’s survey, between June 22 and July 23, received more than 18,300 responses via mail and email with 90.4 per cent (16,636 respondents) opposed expanding the boundary.
Nanos’ poll — funded by the local and provincial realtors –– found that 38 per cent of 700 respondents to a phone survey between Aug. 24 and Sept. 18 supported expansion into farmland.
At issue, is the A Place to Grow: Growth plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe which mandated a number Ontario municipalities to set numbers for how each will expand urban boundaries to accommodate population increases based on Ford government estimates.
For Hamilton, Queen’s Park set a forecasted population increase of 820,000 people by 2051.
A city staff report, which included an assessment from land economist Antony Lorius, suggested 1,340 hectares of farmland would be needed as an urban growth area.
The finding sparked a deluge of community response at a council meeting in late August predominantly from those opposed to using cultivated land for development.
An op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator from municipal affairs and housing minister Steve Clark touted more numbers from an Oxford Economics study revealing Hamilton has become the third least affordable city in North America.
Clark refered to the city’s no urban expansion concept as “unrealistic” and “irresponsible,” submitting that Hamilton doesn’t have adequate existing land for expansion to accomodate the projected 236,000 new residents and 122,000 new jobs by 2051.
Eisenberger doubts the province’s numbers as much as the two survey’s findings suggesting the Ford government may have over estimated the need for expansion.
“I’m very skeptical of the projections that our staff are required to make their recommendations on,” Eisenberger said.
“That’s part of the challenge here, is that the province has set a bar. They set a 30-year horizon, they set population projections and then said, ‘You must adhere to these projections and provide for the numbers that are required.'”