Greenbelt triggers land use debate
Environmentalist, politicians dig in over city's growth
Hamilton Spectator File Photo
Environmentalist Don McLean
says the idea of predicating the city's future economic health
on the growth of the Hamilton airport and commercial development
around it is folly.
John Burman The Hamilton Spectator - Oct. 30, 2004
Battle lines are being drawn over a big white blob in the middle of
the multi-coloured maps of the proposed provincial Greenbelt that's
southwest of urban Hamilton.
The area in question occupies a huge chunk of open land on the east
side of Highway 6, almost to the Hamilton-Haldimand border.
It is not part of the Ontario Greenbelt.
The land has been set aside from the belt announced Wednesday for urban
growth and falls under the Greenbelt's companion legislation, for growth
in the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area.
Environmentalist Don McLean does not believe Hamilton needs so much
land for future growth.
Ward 7 Councillor Bill Kelly, chair of the city's economic development
committee and a member of the Hamilton's Growth-Related Integrated Development
Strategy (GRIDS) project, says this is where the city's future lies.
McLean believes opening up a large chunk of land for development --
even if it goes through the normal subdivision and zoning process --
will remove the incentive for developers to work at infilling and intensification
projects in the lower city where population has been declining.
"Why should anyone build (in the lower city) if they can go to greenfields
out there," he asked yesterday.
He also says the idea of predicating the city's future economic health
on the growth of its airport and commercial development around it is
folly because airports slow down when fuel prices rise and the cost
of oil is going anywhere but down.
"The only way we can have serious progress on infilling and intensification
is by saying no to urban boundary expansion," said McLean, noting that
is essentially what Burlington has done, limiting growth to its area
south of Dundas Street and Highway 407.
"Besides," he said, "we have enough greenfield lands within the existing
urban boundary to accommodate growth for 16 years."
"We have a chance here to say no to more sprawl," he said, adding he
finds it "disturbing" that the provincial government would lay out an
option for growth that could cool incentive to develop existing lands
in the lower city.
Kelly, however, says it is not that simple. The province's growth management
plan will insist at least 40 per cent of a city's growth be infilling
That means projects will have to be developed downtown and throughout
the lower city before new homes and commercial development can go very
far on the south Mountain.
The greenbelt plan effectively closes the door on future development
in Flamborough, around Waterdown and in Stoney Creek, said Kelly.
Because the Greater Golden Horseshoe Area -- running from the Niagara
River to the Peterborough area and as far west as Brantford, is expected
to attract another four million people in the next 30 years and Hamilton
is expected to be the centre of it, more land for growth is needed.
Kelly said the province could not close off three expansion areas and
not leave something open for growth .
The growth management plan estimates there will be 75,000 more jobs
in Hamilton in 30 years and as many as 625,000 more people, he said.
Having land available to accommodate that growth is "key to the city's
success," said Kelly
The city, he said, may need to grow to the southwest but any development
would be staged according to the GRIDS study, which will determine which
areas will get water and sewer infrastructure.
Kelly noted the GRIDS project's first priority is infilling and development
intensification in the lower city.
What the city is trying to do, said Kelly, is provide the incentive
for the jobs to come and the people who work at them will follow after
Where Hamilton had thought it was going to expand into the Winona boundary
areas, Flamborough and around Waterdown, the Greenbelt has closed the
Kelly, who met with the Hamilton-Halton Home Builders Association yesterday
and discussed the Winona expansion and other HHHBA concerns, said the
Greenbelt there could be readjusted someday when the plan is up for
a 10-year review because the lands there are already serviced.
Fred Tory, HHHBA president, said in a statement issued hours after
the draft Greenbelt legislation was tabled in the legislature Wednesday
that his group believes the Greenbelt is unnecessary and will only serve
to drive up the cost of homes.
It is not needed, he said, because Ontario already has controls on
the Niagara Escarpment and Oakridges Moraine and other environmental
controls to protect natural areas.
Ward 11 Councillor Dave Mitchell stands somewhere between the two poles
of the argument over new growth lands. He can see the need to set aside
space for Hamilton to benefit from the projected economic boom the province
sees on the 30-year horizon but he questions why some parts of both
upper and lower Stoney Creek have been included in protected zones as
prime agricultural land when they are not.
He can't see how the Greenbelt task force could think land between
the escarpment and Mud Street is grape-growing country and protect it
when the area has poorer quality soil than some areas of the parcel
designated for future urban growth south of it.
"Hamilton did not even have a representative on the task force and
no one came down here to ask the people who know what is good farmland
and what is not," he said.
"I do not want to sound too negative, the Greenbelt is a wonderful
idea. We need this to guarantee things develop right and protect what
we want to protect but I do have questions."
And he is upset that the area between Winona and Fifty roads in lower
Stoney Creek north off Highway 8, which the city had planned for development
and farmer-landowners earmarked as their retirement nest eggs.
"Now their entire plans, their entire lives are changed," he said,
adding he has been urging his constituents to turn out in force at the
Greenbelt discussion meeting scheduled in Hamilton for Nov. 18.
For more information on the Greenbelt, visit the Ministry of Municipal
Affairs and Housing website at http://www.mah.gov.on.ca/userfiles/HTML/nts_1_16289_1.html.