Recently, the Province of Ontario came out with new legislation called the Places to Grow Act and the Greenbelt Act, designed to promote "smart growth".The acts call for more intensified land uses and protection of natural heritage systems and agricultural land. (See Provincial Initiatives for more information about these acts.)
The Province requires municipalities to identify sufficient "employment land" to encourage jobs in Hamilton versus requiring Hamiltonians to commute to Burlington, Toronto or elsewhere. It makes sense to live and work in the same area; it cuts down on the need to drive a car and encourages walking, cycling and public transit use.
The key question though is where will the employment lands be located in Hamilton?
The City's growth strategy, driven by provincial population forecasts is a key determinant of what Hamilton will look like over the next 30 years.A public consultation process is planned to explain options for where employment lands should be developed.
·Should the city expand our urban boundary to create the AirportBusinessPark and how large should it be (current discussions go anywhere from 500 to 3,000 acres)?
·Should the city protect its current employment lands or allow some of these lands to be converted for commercial uses?
·Should the city spend more time developing a brownfields redevelopment strategy?
·What changes are needed from the provincial government to make brownfield re-development economically viable and how can we influence that?
These may seem like rather mundane questions but the implications are significant.For example, loss of agricultural land around the airport may be something we will regret 20 years from now, as the price of oil makes it prohibitive to import food from California.
If the urban boundary is expanded to the airport, will there be pressure over time for more sprawling residential growth along the pathway that the water and sewer pipes follow through rural lands?
For an additional perspective, visit CATCH (Citizens at City Hall).
The City is holding Open Houses on April 7 and April 15. I encourage you to attend one of these sessions and put your stamp on what kind of growth you'd like to see in Hamilton over the next 30 years.