By Ryan McGreal
Published September 26, 2006
Yesterday, Hamiltonians for Progressive Development (HPD) and the Ontario Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing reached a settlement with the city over city council's decision, in 2005, to expand the urban boundary by 1,254 hectares around Hamilton International Airport.
Raise the Hammer asked Michael Desnoyers and Jack Santa-Barbara, the co-directors of HPD, to explain what the ruling means for the city's plans.
Desnoyer explained that the settlement establishes clearly that the 1,254 hectares is a "study area", not an "urban boundary expansion".The council decision had specified that once the studies were complete, the area would automatically open up for development without a further City Council decision.
This is no longer the case. Once the studies are complete, the matter will have to return to City Council for further debate and approval before final urban boundary is expanded.
In addition, the settlement stipulates that the study period must include "extensive public consultation," a process that may take another five years to complete.
We believe it does protect these valuable agricultural lands in the short term from any sort of automatic expansion and at least gives the public another opportunity for input. A significant task for us as a group going forward will be to press for the public consultation and ensure that the process is transparent.
The studies will also be able to establish more accurately how much the city will have to pay to service the aerotropolis lands. Last year, Mayor Larry Di Ianni said, "I can tell you this, categorically, that if the city has to come up with a hundred million dollars to make this project go, it's not on for me. I'd be against it."
However, the final decision will ultimately rest with a different Council after at least one, and possibly two, more municipal elections.
Desnoyers and Santa-Barbara both suggested that the economic assumptions that underlie the aerotropolis concept may change before the studies are complete. Desnoyers wrote, "we cannot predict with certainty the impacts of declining fossil fuels on this airport but the industry in general is suffering under the high cost of fuel."
Santa-Barbara went further, arguing that Hamilton's entire transportation strategy will have to adapt to reflect the changing global energy situation. He pointed out, "the costs and availability of liquid fuels will affect not only the airline industry, but any business dependent on cheap transportation.
If employment lands are developed around the airport (regardless of whether they are related to air transport), reductions in the availability of cheap liquid fuels could have a dramatic impact on their future profitability, and therefore on employment.Santa-Barbara believes that as the availability of cheap fuels declines, the economic model underlying globalization - on which aerotropolis development ultimately depends - will become less viable.
He noted that an economic development plan based on relocalization of energy and goods production "would look very different in terms of types of businesses which will thrive, and therefore the types of employment that will be attractive, vs. the City's current approach."
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