A big chunk of the city’s Book Road area that was to be taken out of the Greenbelt is likely coming back which has “thrilled” Hamilton Mayor Andrea Horwath.
“This is a win for Hamilton and a win for Ontario,” Horwath said in a statement Thursday afternoon.
“Our city has been clear in its opposition to this plan: how it was done and what it would mean for our agricultural and environmentally-sensitive lands.”
The initial provincial outline called for the removal of 795 hectares of the Greenbelt in Hamilton with some 727 hectares coming out of the Book Road Lands area located south of Garner Road West, west of Fiddlers Green Road, east of Shaver Road in the vicinity of Book.
In recent weeks, Hamiltonians have made their feelings known about the loss of the green space to development via public consultations, including a mid-September committee meeting at the Ancaster Fairground which drew hundreds.
During that session, Ward 12 Coun. Craig Cassar moved a notice of motion to revoke a July decision to engage with a provincial land facilitator following overwhelming public opposition to the elimination of environmentally-sensitive lands.
Cassar says he plans to withdraw his motion but insists Thursday’s announcement is only part of reparations the province needs to make to the city.
“We still have the forced urban boundary expansion, which is on the scale of three times the size of the Greenbelt land,” said Cassar.
“So in that sense, I would like the province still to return that land back to rural because we’ve proven that we don’t need it.”
With cabinet members at his side in Niagara Falls, the premier announced the reversal and promised not to make changes to the Greenbelt in the future.
He even went as far as to commit to a previous pledge to add 9,400 acres to the Greenbelt.
“It was a mistake to open the Greenbelt. It was a mistake to establish a process that moved too fast,” Ford said.
“This process, it left too much room for some people to benefit over others. It caused people to question our motives.”
Last year, the province took 7,400 acres of land in more than a dozen sections out of the Greenbelt to build 50,000 homes, citing the housing crisis, and Ford has faced large amounts of opposition to the plan since then.
The controversy resulted in Steve Clark resigning as housing minister, with Paul Calandra taking his place.
Clark’s chief of staff Ryan Amato had also resigned.
Ian Borsuk, interim executive director of Environment Hamilton says his main takeaway from the announcement is that it was made because of public pressure.
He says it’s a “good first step” but insists there’s a lot more to reverse including the abolishment of the Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Plan, Bill 23 and other land removal decisions.
“It’s absolutely vital that the public stay aware there’s still 2,200 acres of prime agricultural land being forced into the urban boundary,” aid Borsuk explained
“Bill 23 is still in effect and conservation authorities have had their powers and their authority stripped. So new development won’t be as dense, but it’ll be potentially on floodplains and the like.”
— with files from Ryan Rocca