GRIDS: Yesterday's Plan, Tomorrow

By Jason Leach
Published May 16, 2006

Having read through the final GRIDS plan, I must say I am disappointed but not at all surprised.

Even after 30 years of seeing Hamilton destroyed by sprawl and constant paving of farmland, we are planning for more of the same over the next two decades.

Many Hamiltonians knew that the provincial mandate of 40 percent intensification would be skirted around by council and our planners and those predictions have proven true. Only 26,000 of our predicted 80,000 housing units will be built in the current urban area.

Staff has managed to ignore the provincial mandate by including huge pieces of greenfield land designated for development as "intensification". In other words, more sprawl, more car-dependent growth, and worse health and social problems and all the other well-known problems with low density sprawl.

The Chamber of Commerce supports this plan that will only see big box stores succeed in our city despite the fact that roughly 80 percent of the chambers members are small businesses.

In fact, Canada's economy is largely made up of small businesses, yet in Hamilton we're sending a strong message that your business is not welcome unless you can figure out how to transform it from a storefront on King Street into a stucco box in the boonies.

Thank goodness this is an election year. With over 1,600 hectares (4,000 acres) of empty land in Hamilton, there is great potential to rebuild our city as many other cities around the world have done.

Unfortunately, building on brownfield land takes a bit of creativity and work, so we'll just pretend that King, Main, Barton, Kenilworth, Parkdale and others are booming away and allow for thousands of acres of farmland to be destroyed.

Think of the great neighbourhoods you've visited in Boston, Montreal, Vancouver or Toronto. The same can, and should be done all throughout Hamilton.

With rising energy costs and a gradual decline of globalization, Hamilton will need to have communities that are walkable with shops and services nearby. We'll also need to produce more of our own food and other goods and services.

This energy crunch may seem like bad news, but will actually prove to be very beneficial to local economies and cities that prepare for it. Imagine working at a plant in Hamilton making products destined for...Hamilton! What a novel idea.

Sticking with the status quo will have devastating effects for Hamilton. Unfortunately, GRIDS is a document that would have been right at home in the 1950s. Here in the twenty-first Century this sort of flawed thinking has the potential to be the final nail in our city's coffin.

Bring on the election.

Jason Leach was born and raised in the Hammer and currently lives downtown with his wife and children. You can follow him on twitter.

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted May 17, 2006 at 14:24:00

The basic problem with GRIDS and other recent initiatives amounts to effective dishonesty. There is no rational examination of options because there is usually no INTENTION of harm.

Mind already made up, most people go into unthinking denial mode when confronted with the slightest suggestion that their good intentions do not stand up to scrutiny (e.g. comparison with actual evidence for similar situations etc.)

As an example, an aquantaince at the City recently described how all projects must be signed off on their "triple bottom line" effects. Predictably, favourable assessments abound, even though the most superficial but honest assessment would commonly find neutral or harmful effects for the social and environmental spheres.

They do not INTEND negative effects, but because of defensiveness, lack the ability to objectively analyse anything. It's so easy to check off "social well-being enhanced" without actually having to think about it.

This is equivalent to dishonesty.

It is like the difference between premeditated murder and manslaughter - the intentions were different, but someone is still dead because of your actions.

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