Downtown Bureau

Busy Council Agenda Today

Today's Council meeting will give councillors the chance to ratify a number of important decisions made by committees this week.

By Ryan McGreal
Published August 15, 2014

This has been a busy week for City of Hamilton committees, whose decisions will drop on Council this morning for final approval. You will also be able to watch a live video feed of the meeting, courtesy of Joey Coleman.

Planning Committee

Tuesday's Planning Committee meeting was jam-packed with both issues and residents.

467 Charlton Avenue East

Planning Committee accepted the staff recommendation to approve a zoning variance for 467 Charlton Avenue East to build three new apartment buildings on the former site of a bowling alley and taxi depot.

Latest rendering of 467 Charlton development (Image Credit: Lintack Architects)
Latest rendering of 467 Charlton development (Image Credit: Lintack Architects)

The plan faces resistence from some local residents in Stinson neighbourhood, who fear the project will impact their view of the Escarpment "green wall" and result in the loss of mature trees and damage to the Escarpment Trail.

However, the newest renderings of the plan, which are based on surveys of the site and measurements of tree heights, indicate that the impact on escarpment views will be subtle and minimal. The report itself maintains that only four trees will be removed and the buildings will not impact the sloped land south of the Trail.

Shoppers Drug Mart, King and Dundurn

At the same meeting, Councillors agreed with the staff recommendation to reject a plan by Shoppers Drug Mart to build a new suburban-style store at King and Dundurn behind a large off-street parking lot.

Overhead site concept (Image Source: City of Hamilton)
Overhead site concept (Image Source: City of Hamilton)

The plan is being driven by property tenant Tim Hortons, which insists on top visibility at the front of the site with a two-lane drive-thru behind it.

Planning Committee agreed that the plan does not meet the city's policy on creating a dense, urban, mixed-use development that supports active transportation and transit.

Hermitage Ruins Partial Removal

Planning committee also approved a Heritage permit application by the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA) to remove unstable parts of The Hermitage ruins on Sulphur Springs Road.

The Hermitage
The Hermitage

The HCA still needs to submit a detailed methodology for removing and stabilizing the remains of the for approval by the Director of Planning.

The manor was built in in 1855 by George Gordon Browne Leith but destroyed in 1934 when a fire broke out during a party. Its last owner, Leith's daughter Alma Dick-Lauder, lived in a small wooden house built on the ruins until her death in 1942.

The ruins have stood ever since, and were acquired by the HCA in 1972 as part of the purchase of 120 acres of land in Dundas Valley. They were designated under the Heritage Act in 1990.

They have become progressively more unstable and HCA says it may soon collapse if the remaining walls are not lowered to a "stable height" of 1.5 - 2.5 metres.

Durand Neighbourhood Secondary Plan

Planning committee also voted to approve Ward 2 Councillor Jason Farr's motion to direct planning and economic development staff to work with the Durand Neighbourhood on a Secondary Plan. With a Secondary Plan in place, the City and community can direct new growth to ensure that it supports healthy neighbourhood development.

Public Works Committee

The Public Works committee also had a busy agenda at its meeting on Thursday.

Red Light Camera Program

The City maintains Red Light Cameras at 13 locations. Red Light Cameras automatically photograph cars that enter a signalized intersection after the light has turned red and mail the owner of the car a $325 fine. Last year, the program generated a little over $5 million in revenue after sending out 15,569 tickets.

Public Works committee voted to approve another six locations:

Strategic Road Safety Program

Some of the money from the Red Light Camera fund will go to re-establishing a Strategic Road Safety Program with the goal of reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries from automobile collisions.

The program will include improving existing pedestrian crossings and adding new ones, reviewing the City's speed limit policy and other initiatives to improve safety.

Hamilton's rate of collisions, injuries and deaths has remained steady for the past decade, and an earlier iteration of the Strategic Road Safety Program was disbanded before it had a chance to make any improvements.

Two-Way Conversions

Public Works committee approved a motion to prioritize the two-way conversion of Wentworth Street and Sanford Avenue between Delaware Avenue and King Street, a distance of 500 metres and two blocks.

Wentworth Street, looking north from Delaware
Wentworth Street, looking north from Delaware

Sanford Avenue, looking north from Main
Sanford Avenue, looking north from Main

Committee also aproved prioritizing the two-way conversion of Victoria Avenue from Burlington Street to Barton Street, a distance of one kilometre.

Any two-way conversion is a step in the right direction, but there is no good reason not to convert these streets all the way rather than a couple of blocks at a time.

Supercrawl Street Closure

Public Works committee also approved a motion to close James Street North between King Street and Barton Street and York Boulevard between Bay Street and James Street from Friday, September 12 at 10:00 AM to Monday, September 15 at 1:00 AM.

Map of Supercrawl street closures
Map of Supercrawl street closures

It was such a busy week, I'm sure we missed some important issues. Please add them in the comments below.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

23 Comments

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 10:21:09

why are they even bothering with these dumb two-way conversions that go 2 blocks? It just creates more confusion, and ends up resulting in a lame conversion since they need to make space for extra turning lanes so cars don't start driving the wrong way down a one-way etc.... All 3 of those streets could be converted to two-way traffic with protected bike lanes, street parking and 1 traffic lane each way tomorrow and nobody would miss a beat.

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By Beggars can't be choosers. (anonymous) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 21:21:22 in reply to Comment 103986

If you'd prefer, they can do nothing at all...

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 16, 2014 at 21:53:09 in reply to Comment 104002

like the last 4 decades? No thx. That routine is getting old

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By Beggars (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 05:57:42 in reply to Comment 104013

So's your whining.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2014 at 19:55:19 in reply to Comment 104002

Right, because the only alternatives are to do it half-assed or not to do it at all.

I've had quite enough of the self-loathing "beggars can't be choosers" mentality that is so prevalent in this city. It's past time we start expecting - and demanding - excellence instead of being grateful for crumbs.

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By Beggars (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 05:58:28 in reply to Comment 104010

If you don't like it, do something other than blog on the site. Why not run for mayor or council then? I'm sure you can get your merry band of posters here to vote for you.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2014 at 07:01:36 in reply to Comment 104024

First of all, why do you think writing on this site is the only thing I'm doing? Second, why do you think the only way to be politically engaged is to run for office?

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By Beggars (anonymous) | Posted August 18, 2014 at 21:42:22 in reply to Comment 104026

It'd probably be that whenever I see your name anywhere like the Spec or Cable 14, "community activist and RTH editor" seems to be the only tag with it. I don't see your name around unless it's discussing something that's been on RTH.

For your 2nd question, I'd say it's because this site has been running for years, with little to no action taken. So, that means 1 of 2 things, in my mind: either you are the vocal minority, and/or it's easier to whine and complain about how things never change, but yet nobody who is in office seems to share your passion. If that's the case, you'd need to get your voice out there, by running for office. Put your money where your mouth is, so to speak. That'd show whether you are the majority or minority in this city, n'est pas?

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 11:30:37 in reply to Comment 103986

It is puzzling. We're still waiting for John St in the North End to be returned to 2-way (soon i'm told). All that is left is the stretch from Strachan to Burlington, which passes two schools, a health centre, and rec centre. It is hard to see how or what is served by the current configuration (I assume it's the residual from when James and John were paired 1-ways ... why the remaining section of John was left unchanged isn't clear to me).

With regard to Wellington and Victoria ... I've assumed that when the City finally moved forward with reversion they would both be changed as a pair. Instead, we get a strange piece-meal change that addresses very specific users and problems (the move back to 2-way on Victoria north of Barton isn't based on the general case against 1-ways, but to address a very specific operational problem impacting EMS vehicles).

I'd like to hear more on the rationale for these piece-meal changes from City staff. What is the case for not doing more complete reversions? Cost? Technical considerations? Lack of support? Timidity? What?

Incidentally, has anyone noticed the markings on Cannon for the bike track? I saw white paint markings crossing at Ferguson the other day. I'd be interested to know if the City is following thru on what's been promised before it moves beyond rough markings.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2014 at 17:34:09 in reply to Comment 103990

iirc there's an industrial developer planning on building a small business/warehouse/factory complex at Victoria and Burlington and they demanded the 2-way conversion. If Hamilton General also requested the 2-way conversion, it was only included down to Barton just because the city was already looking to accommodate the developer.

Which reflects the Vrancor development at Caroline - doesn't matter how many citizens' groups demand change, apparently nothing happens until a developer asks to build something there. Shows who City Hall really works for, right?

But I still don't see why they didn't extend the 2-way road at least to Cannon or Main.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 17, 2014 at 22:18:34 in reply to Comment 104020

That's an interesting new tidbit I was unaware of. I knew about the industrial development, but hadn't heard anything about their request for 2-way, though it makes sense for the same reasons as the general argument for 2-way streets does.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted August 17, 2014 at 23:22:03 in reply to Comment 104021

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 18, 2014 at 07:00:51 in reply to Comment 104022

We will convert streets to two-way when developers ask for it, but not when residents ask for it.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2014 at 12:09:33 in reply to Comment 103990

My guess is that sheer timidity rules the day.

As for Cannon Street, the markings look consistent with the plan that was approved:

East of Victoria, the lanes will be separated by a buffer wide enough for planter boxes, made possible because the north curb lane is being reduced to curbside parking.

Cannon cycle track east of Victoria with wide buffer

West of Victoria, the buffer is much narrower because the north curb lane is being retained as a traffic lane during rush hour. The rationale is that the Cannon bus would otherwise fall behind schedule during rush hour.

Cannon cycle track west of Victoria with narrow buffer

At its busiest point, Cannon carries only 16,400 cars a day, which is a reasonable volume for a two-lane street.

Again, if Cannon and Wilson both had normal two-way traffic flows (York/Wilson was converted to two-way between Bay and Ferguson in 2010 and between Ferguson and Victoria in 2011), we wouldn't have to deform the bike lanes with too narrow a buffer to accommodate a brittle bus schedule.

Slowing traffic down - especially during rush hour, when people would be most likely to use a cycle track to get to school and work - should be considered a feature, not a bug!

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:15:51 in reply to Comment 103992

Yeah, I would put it to timidity too. Shame really. Perhaps the next election cycle will lend some political clarity to the matter.

Thanks for the info on Cannon. I wondered looking why the markings had the bike track so narrow at Ferguson. The eastern parts of the bike track look much better. I'm not surprised that this problem relates to the City's stunted approach to reversion.

Comment edited by RobF on 2014-08-15 13:23:23

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:33:30 in reply to Comment 103995

Generally it's related to the city's stunted approach to reversion. More specifically it's related to the city's ongoing determination to sacrifice active transportation initiatives so they don't impede automobile traffic flow.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:42:31 in reply to Comment 103998

I've always assumed the two to be one and the same ... one is the tactic and the other is the explanation/rationale.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 11:55:33 in reply to Comment 103990

(the move back to 2-way on Victoria north of Barton isn't based on the general case against 1-ways, but to address a very specific operational problem impacting EMS vehicles).

THIS is the case against one-ways! They don't work for anyone, anywhere except people wanting to go pedal to the medal through town. But for residents, shoppers, police, EMS, deliveries, cyclists, pedestrians they do not work. They add circuitous routes to everyday life, driving around and around blocks, doubling back once you realize you haven't gone far enough; out of the way routes for cyclists and EMS vehicles. Not to mention their damage to sidewalk patios. Why is College St in TO lined with patios, but Main St in Hamilton is a ghost town? Heck, when I drive to and from work part of my trip involves using someone's quiet residential street as a shortcut from my office on Main back over to King so I can go west. In any normal city, I pull out and go west on Main and family streets can become safe kid-friendly places again. No matter which angle anyone uses, one-way streets do not work except if we value our urban neighbourhoods as a 60-second shortcut via freeway.
The burden of proof is 100% on city hall and it's "planners" to explain why they allow these economic drains to remain in our city.

Comment edited by jason on 2014-08-15 11:57:43

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By RobF (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:02:33 in reply to Comment 103991

We agree Jason. You're preaching to the converted. I was asking for City staff to explain why. It was largely rhetorical, though. I don't really expect them to reply.

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By jason (registered) | Posted August 16, 2014 at 21:53:48 in reply to Comment 103994

Understood....I'm sure the reply will be underwhelming

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By kevinlove (registered) | Posted August 15, 2014 at 13:21:56

...also approved a motion to close James Street North...

Should be:

"...also approved a motion to open James Street North..."

There, fixed it.

Kevin's comment: That's a nice chunk of downtown to have car-free for a weekend. And it is good to be able to move beyond "part of one day" openings to entire weekend street openings. When the sky stubbornly refuses to fall, the next step is a summer-long trial project for a car-free downtown.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted August 16, 2014 at 19:56:01 in reply to Comment 103996

There, fixed it.

doffs hat

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By Beggars (anonymous) | Posted August 16, 2014 at 21:42:42

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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