This presentation on the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD) was submitted to the City's Planning Committee on behalf of Environment Hamilton.
By Don McLean
Published February 19, 2014
1. A fiscally and environmentally healthy Hamilton requires that the bayfront industrial lands be Council's priority in expanding employment and industrial assessment.
It is irresponsible to delay the cleanup and reuse of these lands and dump this problem onto the shoulders of our grandchildren simply because it is easier to destroy more foodlands.
It is particularly fiscally and environmentally irresponsible to locate warehouses and trucking centres on greenfield lands while there are so many opportunities for these uses on under-used bayfront lands.
2. While the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) determined the size of the AEGD, it failed to understand that there is far more available land along the bayfront than calculated by city consultants.
The detailed review of the industrial tax records of the city by the Hamilton Civic League in mid-2012 revealed hundreds of acres of vacant and underutilized land.
For example, the city records show over 600 properties receiving vacancy tax rebates. This alone represents an enormous on-going current fiscal loss that should be a Council priority to end.
The October 2013 announcement of the end of steelmaking on US Steel properties adds another 800 acres to the available lands inventory.
3. Comments have been made that these lands are not available because the city does not own them and those who do may not want to sell them. But compare that to the AEGD, where the city also does not own the land and where the majority of those who do are quite openly stating that they don't want to use them for industrial purposes.
The owners of brownfield sites face large challenges in achieving re-use of their lands for anything but industrial purposes.
The owners of the greenfield properties in the AEGD (whatever its final boundary) face no such challenges and fully understand that residential and/or commercial development is far more lucrative, and in immediate demand, than acceding to the city's wishes for their lands to be used for industrial purposes.
4. The climate crisis demands that we quickly shift to less polluting means of transportation. Both water and rail transport are immediately available on the bayfront; neither are at the AEGD. Even major highway access is far greater on the bayfront.
Air transport is the most greenhouse gas intensive shipping mode and the one least likely to be replaceable by non-fossil fuel alternatives.
5. Hamilton has a $2 billion accumulated shortfall in the maintenance of existing municipal infrastructure, and is falling another $200 million a year behind on this critical task. In this situation it is irresponsible to plan for a half billion dollar expansion in pipes and roads.
This is another example of dumping unsolvable problems on our grandchildren, and should be seen as shameful.
6. The cost per hectare to service the AEGD has most likely been increased by the OMB decision to reduce its size. Staff have determined that a portion of the AEGD can be serviced before constructing new trunk water and sewer mains.
The last Council wisely endorsed a phasing approach that limited development to the serviceable portion and until such time as it was largely complete before considering further AEGD development. Since the latter will require new trunks, the cost per hectare will be significantly higher, and Council needs to seriously re-examine the AEGD plans at that point.
In this regard, the pressure for residential and commercial development of airport area lands is a significant risk. The OMB, not Council, will ultimately make this decision. If it agrees with some of the landowners that their properties are "more suitable" for residential or commercial development, then the available capacity in the water and sewer systems could easily be captured by that development, leaving the city with a requirement to provide new trunks to service all or almost all the AEGD.
7. The identified service expenditures, plus the ongoing severe discounting of development charges by both provincial limits and Hamilton Council decisions, means the AEGD poses a significant financial burden on taxpayers.
The numbers are stark. City staff understand that provincial law denies municipalities 25 percent of growth costs. Hamilton's industrial development charge discount is currently a further 44 percent of the remainder.
The math shows we're only collecting 42 percent of industrial growth costs, with the remainder borne by existing taxpayers.
8. We have been told that burden will be much greater because additional subsidies will be provided to attract development, and the experience of the massive subsidies to Maple Leaf suggests this is a very real possibility. Council should not agree to this.
9. Two options are being recommended by staff. They are not equivalent. Option 1a exceeds the maximum legal AGED size of 555 net hectares determined by the OMB. The reason given for option 1a is that it will accommodate the potential expansion of Redeemer College onto a 30 ha parcel on Garner Road.
There is no need to expand the AEGD to achieve this goal. This can easily be done by option 1. The existing AEGD zoning allows for institutional uses.
10. The previous Council unwisely overruled staff and expanded the AEGD at the last minute beyond staff recommendations. This Council should not make the same mistake. The configuration set out in Option 1 seems most likely to achieve the objectives of minimizing servicing costs and providing a logical and defensible boundary.
11. Environment Hamilton objected to the AEGD and appealed it entirely on grounds of its violation of provincial policies, especially as set out in the Provincial Policy Statement 2005 and the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe ("Places to Grow").
We are extremely disappointed that the OMB chose not even to rule on those issues, but they remain absolutely crucial to the future of Hamilton and the Greater Golden Horseshoe. Council must implement them in good faith, not just provide lip service.
12. We can't afford more sprawl, and the AEGD as planned is the very definition of sprawl: a single-use, low-density development dependent on private transport.
The stated target of 37 jobs/persons per hectare is far below the level required for viable transit service, and the AEGD plans are sadly very unlikely to come anywhere close to achieving even this inadequate density.
13. It is very short-sighted to sacrifice foodlands if that can be avoided. Climate change is seriously undermining global food security. The current drought in California is an example. That state supplies half of the fruits and vegetables consumed in the United States.
Canada imports over 40 percent of its fruits and vegetables. The City's own studies on the future of agriculture in the Golden Horseshoe underline both the insecurity of food supplies in the face of climate change, as well as the problems with reduced agricultural lands.
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