“Challenges include the enormity of the plan, isolated location, high costs of servicing infrastructure, transit tax rules, difficult drainage patterns, changing provincial density rules, and the public determination to preserve agricultural land.”
News from Citizens at City Hall (Catch), a citizens watchdog group based in Hamilton, Ontario
Posted June 28th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
(A Brief Foreword from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper –
For anyone in Niagara, Ontario who may think this news from a citizens’ watchdog group the City of Hamilton is not relevant here, consider the following;
- There is continued growth pressure from the Greater Toronto Area, spilling around Hamilton and into the Stoney Creek, Grimsby and West Lincoln areas with people working in Toronto seeking less costly bedroom communities further and further out from the “emerald city”.
- There has also been a lot of vague talk around the Niagara regional council chambers in recent years about expanding urban boundaries into surrounding food-growing lands and green space in the West Lincoln area.
- And now we have a new Ontario premier in the name of Doug Ford, who was caught on a video earlier this year, telling a group of developers that he is in favour of selling off “chunks” of the province’s protected Greenbelt lands for housing.
There is most certainly a shortage of affordable housing in the Greater Toronto Area, but is allowing ever more low density sprawl into what are left of our food-growing lands and natural green spaces in the Hamilton and Niagara areas, the answer? Is there no other way to go?
How much more development in the form of low-density sprawl can our region of the country sustain before crossing a point of no return when it comes to preserving what are left of our green spaces?
These are important issues to consider, not just in Hamilton, but in Niagara as we approach this coming October’s municipal elections.)
Now here is the news from CATCH –
The City of Hamilton is pushing ahead with urbanization of over 3000 acres of farmland in upper Stoney Creek. The preferred plan for the Elfrida Growth Area housing 80,000 people was unveiled at an open house (earlier this June) with several presentations but no public question period.
The preferred plan retreats from the option with “the most extensive and connected natural heritage system”.
The greenspace shrinkage is partly explained as “lower development yields will result in less revenues for the city” and “difficult to service with public transit, disconnected and density not focused on corridors.”
The official objective is that “the Elfrida Community is envisioned to become a complete, healthy, transit-supportive, mixed-use community that is compact, well-connected and both environmentally and economically sustainable, through a long-term strategy that respects the neighbouring land uses”, but so far it is unclear how this will be achieved.
Challenges include the enormity of the plan, isolated location, high costs of servicing infrastructure, transit tax rules, difficult drainage patterns, changing provincial density rules, and the public determination to preserve agricultural land.
The plans promise a “transit-supportive” community to try to cut its residents transportation emissions but the isolated location will make that challenging. The area currently has HSR service no better than once every half hour even in rush hours, and as a result less than three percent of all trips are made by transit.
Service improvements are severely hampered by the area-rating tax system that forces local residents to pay the full cost of HSR upgrades. A modest attempt to increase the frequency of the Rymal 44 route was scaled back in 2013 to avoid tax increases.
The L-shaped land block (see map) lies south and east of Upper Centennial and Rymal, with Golf Club Road along the south side between Second Road East and Trinity Church Road and Mud Street as its northernmost boundary.
It was chosen as a future growth area nearly fifteen years ago but the provincial government blocked its inclusion in the official plan – a move that’s been appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board by both the landowners and city council.
That appeal began six years ago, and no hearings have occurred. However the city’s determination to proceed is evident in the spending of millions of dollars on consultant studies and its declaration that “an urban boundary expansion is required to accommodate future population growth.” There was no hint at last week’s open house that any other outcome is even possible.
Decisions on the location and size of the expansion area were made before provincial anti-sprawl rules were put in place.
Those now require that greenfield development achieves a density of at least 80 residents and/or jobs per hectare – about triple what was anticipated when the Elfrida block was mapped out by city planners. And it’s possible those density requirements will be ramped up further before the Elfrida expansion is completed or even underway.
Filling it up will take “a very long time” according to the chief planner and even then will require much faster population growth which has averaged just over 3000 a year over the past decade. The forecast calls for over 8000 a year from now until 2031 and then climbing to 10,000 annually in the following decade.
Servicing a new community of 80,000 people will be difficult given the current $3.5 billion backlog of unfunded maintenance of existing infrastructure. It’s further complicated by the fact that more than two-thirds of the Elfrida area drains south into Niagara watersheds so sewage flows will have to be pumped up hill before then can be gravity-fed to Hamilton’s treatment plant on Woodward Avenue.
Rising costs of climate change could also throw a spanner into the Elfrida spending requirements. In 2012 an extreme storm in this location dumped six inches of rain in three hours – a deluge that before climatic shifts would have been expected only once every 1000 to 5000 years.
CATCH (Citizens at City Hall) updates use transcripts and/or public documents to highlight information about Hamilton civic affairs that is not generally available in the mass media. Detailed reports of City Hall meetings can be reviewed at hamiltoncatch.org . You can receive all CATCH free updates by sending an email to http://hamiltoncatch.org/newsletter/?p=subscribe . Sharing links are available on the hamiltoncatch.org .
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