Revitalization

Rural Councillors Should Be Strong Urbanists

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 12, 2007

On her Hall Marks blog, Spec reporter Nicole MacIntyre invited readers to comment on the fact that most of the vendors at the Farmer's Market are not farmers and many are produce resellers.

In the comments, Nick Giannini, Past President and Committee Member of the Stallholders' Association and owner of N. Giannini Meat Market Ltd., wrote: "Farmers also left because of urban sprawl continuing into prime farm land" and "Councillors Mitchell and Pasuta should be leading the way to help preserve the history of the market".

To this we must add add: Councillors Mitchell and Pasuta should be leading the way to help preserve the prime farm land by opposing the sprawl development that is encroaching on it.

In a recent Planning Committee meeting, Mitchell and Pasuta, along with Maria Pearson, Brad Clark, and Lloyd Ferguson, voted to overturn the staff recommendation to deny Losani Homes' request to re-zone a commercial greenfield in Stoney Creek to residential. (The request was subsequently voted down in full council.)

Granted, the commercial greenfield in question is not prime farm land, but it would help to accelerate the trajectory of investment and infrastructure building that is encroaching on farm land.

Every new greenfield development moves the city's centre of gravity away from its geographic centre and increases the pressure to build more roads, widen existing roads, and expand further into undeveloped land - of which our renowned farm land is the most valuable.

Councillor Pasuta's support for the Losani bid may simply be due to inexperience; time will tell. However, Mitchell has has a track record of supporting sprawl development even as he drives a rhetorical wedge between the urban core, which he appears to resent, and the rurals he is supposed to represent.

If these councillors are serious about preserving farm land and rural lifestyles and economies, they should be among the most vigorous urbanists: encouraging densification and infill development; building relationships with "eat local" organizations and other groups that promote sustainability; and seeking above all to constrain the growth of property speculation and suburban sprawl.

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.

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By jason (registered) | Posted March 12, 2007 at 22:11:12

so far I like Pasuta...he'll learn the ins and outs soon enough. But the rest of them have no clue what they're doing. I've always wondered why councillors representing farming areas would support sprawl and oppose downtown so often. My first thought is to check their campaign donors list, but I haven't so I won't accuse anyone of bowing to the almighty dollar. Perhaps it's just plain ignorance of how cities, country-sides and everything in between really works. Or perhaps (the most likely choice) it's just another case of the ineptitude and stupidity that reigns supreme at Hamilton City Hall.

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By w willy (registered) | Posted March 16, 2007 at 22:08:00

It is sometimes hard to know where the farmers stand. Some want to preserve the farmlands, but where there is not a next generation that wants to take on the farm, then the possibility of cashing in on sprawl becomes tempting. But your general point about the potential convergence of interests around intensification between rural and urban, and about how that potential seems to be squandered by the likes of Mitchell, is well made.

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