Hamilton councillors vote to hold the line on urban boundary

An expansion of Hamilton's urban boundary into 1,310 hectares of rural land to accomodate future residential growth, has been rejected by Hamilton city councillors. CHEX News file

Hamilton politicians have voted to hold firm to the city’s urban boundary, and will try to accommodate future population growth through a combination of infill and intensification.

Meeting as the general issues committee, councillors voted 13-3 on Friday to reject an expansion of Hamilton’s urban boundary by 1,310 hectares.

The expansion plan was recommended by city staff, under what is termed an “ambitious density” scenario, to accommodate an estimated increase of more than 110,000 households by 2051.

A report submitted by planning staff said most of that growth, 66,000 households, would have been accommodated through intensification within the existing urban boundary.

15,000 new households would have been accommodated through growth into urban green fields and 28,000 through an expansion of the urban boundary, mostly in the Elfrida-area of Upper Stoney Creek.

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The province’s density targets project Hamilton’s population to increase by 236,000 people over the next three decades.

Opponents of an urban boundary expansion include Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger who says it’s “not a no-growth option, it’s a where-do-we-grow option.”

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“If we find that isn’t working in the next year or two, that it doesn’t meet the kind of objectives that we think are appropriate, then we can always adjust,” adds Eisenberger.

Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson adds that maintaining the urban boundary is about building an equitable, inclusive, climate-resilient city.

“We have a climate emergency, it has been so declared,” says Wilson. “In an emergency you have to take stock and change direction.”

Friday’s discussions represented the continuation of a meeting that started on Nov. 9, when city councillors spent close to 12 hours listening to public delegations on the divisive issue.

Supporters of the urban boundary expansion, including the West End Homebuilder’s Association, argued that the additional development land is needed to provide homebuyers with a variety of housing choices.

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Ancaster Coun. Lloyd Ferguson agrees, asking, “Where’s our children going to be able to dream their dream home? All that’s gonna to be available to them is condos.”

Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead adds that limiting supply of homes and expecting that you’re going to have more affordability is “defying gravity.”

The City of Hamilton commissioned a survey earlier this year, through which over 90 per cent of residents who responded said they opposed an urban boundary expansion.

The homebuilder’s association responded with a survey of its own, finding that 76 per cent of respondents would consider leaving Hamilton if their preferred type of housing was not within their price range.

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