Politics

Local Developers Want Best of Both Worlds

By Jason Leach
Published December 05, 2007

Don't feel bad if you've been confused by recent media stories involving the building industry in Hamilton. if you're confused, it's probably because you've been paying attention.

First we have the proponents behind another big box complex in Hamilton complaining about the city's "delay" in processing their application to convert industrial land to the necessary zoning for big box retail.

All this fuss despite the well-known fact that current zoning bylaws are meant to prevent more industrial lands (read: job-creation opportunities) from being converted for homes or retail without first completing an evaluation of the city's current land inventory.

Let's keep in mind that these same builders and local policitians were the ones promising us job creation and new industrial development 'til the cows come home once we finish our highway network.

If huge pieces of land along the QEW aren't "prime industrial land", I don't know what is.

I completely respect and support the city's decision to make a proper choice and not be railroaded into a bad decision just because the folks behind these projects decided to complain to the media about it.

But hang on! Before you think to yourself, obviously the builders don't have time for more studies and reports, read this next news report.

This time, it's over City Council trying to move forward with a plan to increase Hamilton's insanely low development fees to match Burlington, right next door.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't it called the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association? It would make sense to eliminate the confusion and red tape often cited by these groups by having matching fees and processes in place in both cities, wouldn't it?

Apparently not.

Now it's this same development industry calling on City Council to do a "comprehensive study" before raising the development charges. For those keeping score at home, Hamilton's existing taxpayers are on the hook every time a new blob of "growth" proceeds on the outskirts of town.

I don't really care if that growth takes place or not - just have the new residents, businesses and developers pay their own way instead of relying on the rest of the tax base to bring these projects to pass.

So let's try to clear this up before we finish.

On one hand we're hearing the development industry stay, Knock it off with the comprehensive reports and studies. Just let me build now!

On the other hand, we're hearing them say, You can't make this decision without first undergoing some comprehensive reports and studies. It's irresponsible to act in such a manner!

So which is it? Who's right?

And why are Hamilton's local media trying to make the city look like the bad guy in both cases?

Sadly, we've seen this scenario play out time and again in Hamilton. Ultimately, City Hall is responsible for the planning and oversight of our city.

Private groups, on the other hand, only have themselves to worry about. That's why they can recommend skirting the proper process when it benefits them and then turn around and recommend bogging down the proper process, again, if it benefits them.

Perhaps most disheartening is the fact that you'll never read this side of the story in the local media. They've already chosen sides long ago, and will present their stories to have the city come out looking bad every time, even if it means publishing contradictory news stories two days in a row.

Further Reading:

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

38 Comments

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By markwhittle (registered) - website | Posted December 05, 2007 at 15:02:04

And what about private citizens who want to put forth viable projects like renovating a 70 foot building situated across the road from the Flamborough Casino into an indoor putting and driving range that's fully accessible for disabled children and their peers. This great project would benefit the city, yet to date not a single councillor has responded to the idea when it was put to them via their city hall email accounts. If this citizen taxpayer was a developer city hall would be falling all over themselves to see it come to fruition. One can only hope they see the light by spring at the latest. What kind of hold do developers have over council beside the fact they always donate to indiidual Councillors election campaigns. Which reminds me of another scandalous affair between ex-prime minister Brian Mulroney and Lobbyist Carlheinz Schreiber. Is there something similar going on here or what Jason?

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By Tybalt (registered) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 14:17:00

Mark, are you slandering anyone on Council particularly, or everyone generally? I find it so hard to keep up with your insane ravings.

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By liveD (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 15:33:00

As bad as they are these developers create jobs for people. What do the lefties do? Pontificate!!!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 06, 2007 at 15:41:11

Hey look, more empty insults. That poor "leftie" straw man is having the crap kicked out of it lately.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 16:36:10

the real issue at hand here is who controls the growth of our cities?? I think city hall should have their own growth plans and be able to stick to them. insane organizations like the OMB and stuff like this where developers go crying to the media is out of place. We elect the folks at city hall to run our city. Not some guy who bought a piece of land knowing full well what the zoning was and what would be required to change it, with little regard for city planning and growth strategies already in place.
Bad purchase. Welcome to a free society. You're allowed to purchase whatever you want. City hall is allowed to plan and manage their own growth.

The day we turn over the development of our city to people with no regard for the health of the city is a sad day indeed. Thankfully the only people on this forum who would support such a move aren't able to make a coherent point without calling people names (and still never end up making a point).

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By g. (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 21:48:23

why does the media make the city look like the bad guy in both cases? because the developers spend huge amounts of money on advertising in those same media outlets. ever noticed how large the new homes section is? ever thought about how much all those full colour ads cost? real estate is big business and it is no wonder that private companies like the hamilton spectator report "news" in a fashion that keeps their customers happy. media is in the business of selling advertising, pure and simple. they have absolutely no responsibility to actually be fair and honest and serve the populations which they cover. newspapers, television stations, and radio stations are not mandated internally to work for the betterment of society. would you trust a bank or the phone company to do the right thing?

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 22:19:28


I love folks like liveD who post anonymously. What do you have to hide?

You can look me up liveD and actually see that we are making a difference.

Go troll somewhere else.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 06, 2007 at 22:36:35

exactly right g. That's my point above about city hall being responsible for running the city. The Spec, builders and other private business are in the business of making money.
They are free to do that here in Hamilton, but have to follow all the rules just like you or I.
If I want to get my house rezoned, I go through all the proper channels at city hall. I realize I'm not living on an island. What I do will affect others around me in this little thing called society. I don't have the option to go to the media and have them help me make city hall look bad because they won't let me put a car dealership on my front driveway. Zoning, rules, bylaws, official plans are all there for a reason. The citizens of Hamilton give input to city council who ultimately decides how this city will grow and operate.

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By liveD (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 07:35:03

hmag. I checked the phone book. You ain't there. You can look me up but you'll have to be a DaVinci codist to do so. Am not trolling just offering a different view of the world...or do you guys just want to pat each other on the back. Jason, businessmen are in the business of making money...duh! how true. But you can't make money unless you offer a service or product that people want to buy. Talk about a straw man! "Everyone who is in business just wants to make money. That is bad therefore all business people are bad!" Jason, give your head a shake, but don't always tilt it westward when you do!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2007 at 08:01:45

liveD, you're attacking a straw man because:

  1. We're not all "lefties", and
  2. We're not anti-business.

Hmag, to take a single example, is a business, and a successful, growing business at that. However, you seem to think that if you don't support unsustainable sprawl development that's somehow "anti-business".

Here's a different perspective: sprawl is heavily subsidized by federal, provincial and municipal public support, from highways and roads to subsidized oil exploration, tax incentives and low developer fees. Further, zoning by-laws actually make it illegal to build anything other than sprawl and artificially raise the cost of redeveloping urban land.

All these subsidies and other non-market distortions artificially boost the "demand" for sprawl. If developers and home buyers had to pay the real price for sprawl, fewer people would choose it.

This is market economics 101, in case you still think we're somehow anti-business.

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By liveD (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 08:54:19

I didn't say you were all anti business I was reacting to an earlier post that seemed to be anti business but at the same time you indicate that business is overly subsidized; why don't you factor in hospitals, ice rinks, parks libraries welfare, police services that mostly support people not business...factor that into your thoughts...as for Hmag...I will look at it but there's a distinction to be made between really making a difference and talking about making a diffdrence.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 07, 2007 at 09:31:39

You took Jason's comment out of context. He added, "They are free to do that here in Hamilton, but have to follow all the rules just like you or I."

In other words, he's not anti-business, but anti-cronyism.

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By Dave Kuruc (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 10:12:02

liveD

This is my last post concerning this because obviously you have too much time on your hands. I'm off to get H Magazine distributed and actually contribute to society.

How are you spending your day?

Probably calling the View rant line or even worse reading it.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 10:18:00

my comment wasn't taken out of context. It was completely distorted intentionally since liveD obviously has no point to make. there was not a single hint of 'anti-business' in my comments. I hope Hamilton's businesses succeed and prosper and make money like there's no tomorrow. But they have to play by the rules in the process. I don't think liveD would be so pumped about cronyism if he found out that his next door neighbour had won approval to put a roller coaster theme park on his front lawn despite clear city bylaws objecting to that.

Or maybe you would. You could man the popcorn stand and make tons of money. After all, people like popcorn and will buy it.

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By Larry Di Ianni (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2007 at 20:39:46

Jason, you may want to check out my recent article on 'assessment growth'. I also touch on the Fox/Waxman lands.

chrisecklund.com and follow my link.

As promised. Ottawa was great these past few days, by the way. Very cold. And the whole buzz was Schreiber/Mulroney. You political junkies would have loved it.

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By susie (registered) | Posted December 08, 2007 at 20:59:08

You all miss the point. liveD was merely pointing out that Jason's perspective about developers not wishing to follow the rules is an anti business stereotype. Who says they don't? And who says they aren't? Nothing in the news suggests that. In fact they seem to be so busy following the rules of a red tape bureaucracy that no development gets done. Today's Spectator was making just that point.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 11:24:51


Susie said: "In fact they seem to be so busy following the rules of a red tape bureaucracy that no development gets done."

What city do you live in?

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By liveD (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 14:22:42

hmag is probably the only person in the city that feels too much is going on in the business/development world. that should tell us all we need to know about this person!

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 14:48:00


WOW - you are really misinformed.

I am in business and I realize what it is going to take to turn this city around. I do feel that too much OF THE WRONG kind of development is taking place here. Please tell me you aren't excited that a Lowe's or Leon's is opening here. ANY city can have these developments - I want the right kind of developments. If it means large tracts of little boxes on the hillside and monster parking lots surrounding big boxes - than no thank you! Wake up folks!

liveD - check out www.pps.org and do some reading on just makes a city a great place to live and come back and say something.

Try not to attack people online - it doesn't help your arguments.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 14:52:44

susie...my comment was not in any way 'anti-business' nor was it a 'stereotype'. it's the truth. in hamilton we routinely break planning guidelines in order to appease builders. hundreds of homes are being built right now with no building permit. and more will start this year. and next year and the year after.....

if you folks are so desperate to categorize everything in your lives into these cute little 'left/right' boxes then let me help you out. if you're trying to figure out the common thread among those who write for RTH and our 'angle' or 'slant' or 'bias' (or whatever you call it in lefty-righty land) it's very simple: we are tired of the status-quo. We are tired of Barton St. We are tired of centra/east Hamilton. We are tired of subsidizing suburban growth (while living on or near the aforementioned districts) We are tired of this city's well-deserved image. We are tired of the absolute lack of leadership and vision on successive councils. We are tired of BUSINESS AS USUAL.

Next time you have some friends in from out of town take them out for a night on Barton East. Or enjoy an evening on Kenilworth Ave. or parkdale or king or main or sherman....

If you can honestly say you are thrilled with the state of our city, then you're on a different planet than I am. The model of city development we have chosen the past 30 years DOES NOT WORK. that's not my opinion. that's fact. Proven by cities all over the world who have already been there, done that and are now fixing their mistakes. And it's also a fact when you consider Hamilton is located in the heart of Canada's largest, most prosperous region and yet we are unable to move forward. It starts with you and I - electing these politicians who haven't a clue how to run a city but looked pretty on TV or had their billboard plastered all over town by builders. We get what we vote for.
If you want 30 more years like the past 30, more power to you. I just hope with everying in me that you don't get your wish.

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By Matt A (registered) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 21:19:44

susie- 'nothing in the news says developers aren't following the rules' Are you kidding??! What about the recent articles in the Hamilton Spectator (that's the biggest 'news' outlet we have in Hamilton, in case you aren't informed)?? This article comes to mind: http://www.thespec.com/article/199224 ...and see what you find by searching for 'Vranich' (father and son are 'developers' in the city).

Developers certainly need to follow the rules... and that isn't happening as often as it should. Having said that, the rules unquestionably need to change. I'll give you an example.... let's say, hypothetically, that a Victorian home burns down at 362 John St N, and you are interested in buying the land to re-build a similar home. The lot is 19x85, had no previous parking and once had a home near filling the space (at least width wise). As the rules are now, if you rebuild, you must provide parking for two cars (near impossible, and unnecessary), you must have a front yard that is far longer than any on the street, and the maximum building 'envelope' you have forces the home to be no more than 13' wide!! (It was about 18' before). So, if you do follow these rules, you get a home that doesn't fit into it's surroundings... like putting on a polka-dot tie when the rest of your outfit is striped. It makes our city look disjointed and ugly.

So yeah... to reiterate: 1. the rules need to be followed regardless (and they're not always)... but 2. some of the rules need to change.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 09, 2007 at 22:27:59

Matt A You're touching on a topic that drives me nuts in this backwards city - it is now ILLEGAL to build a proper city-style development in Hamilton. Illegal to simply build something that coexists with our current built form. Shows how far the planning industry has fallen. They don't understand anything that doesn't come with a 4-car garage or huge, empty front lawn. I recall the Greek church at Head and Strathcona needing to get city approval to leave the firehall in it's current place. That's right. It has been there since the 1800's, but in modern-day Hamilton it is illegal. So basically they had to get permission (all a stupid formality at city hall obviously) just to leave it where it is and redevelop it. The original plans called for it to demolished (big surprise). I recall all the laughter at the neighbourhood meeting when the church reps told us the hoops they had to go through to redevelop that site. Would have been much easier, and cheaper to demolish everything and start from scratch. City hall needs to be completely reformed, from the ground-up. We should be encouraging development like we see in our old, urban neighbourhoods. Not making it expensive and impossible to simply do something that is the normal, proper way cities all over the world have been developed for centuries. Oh, and one more thing while I'm ranting....businesses on streets like Locke or James have to pay a fee to the city for NOT having their own parking lot. That's right. What do to if you want to avoid this fee? Demolish the building next door or pave over whatever little land you have. There are so many buildings with cool little carriage-entranceways (I'm thinking of one on Main West near Queen and another on John South at Haymarket) that would be awesome courtyard patios in Montreal or anywhere in Europe. Here, there are parking. James South between Bold and Duke has fabulous space out back. All parking. If any of those businesses wanted to convert their neat little courtyards into patio space to enhance life in the city, they would be charged by city hall for not having parking. There, I'm done.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 09:59:04

some more reading on these topics:

http://hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.ph...

Business as usual will result in results as usual for Hamilton. It's sad that so many residents have bought into this model (I use that term very loosely) of development. Our city is doomed until we get someone with half a vision.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 13:55:19

Trinity Developments is appealing to the OMB to remove the city's research park designation from their lands immediately adjacent to the Innovation Park at Longwood and Aberdeen, to allow for guess what? More big boxes. Rumoured to be a Loblaws Supercentre. This is prime industrial land in the so-called Innovation District. Guess they'll have to rename it.

www.trinity-group.com/?q=node/391

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 14:19:32

what are all the beige and blue boxes?? more stores?? it says on the link you posted that the proposed use is "automotive". I assume a new Canadian Tire??
If the rest of those boxes on the map are more box stores I think the folks on Locke South and Westdale might have something to say about this.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 18:58:39

I was confused by the 'automotive' designation myself, as I am told that they are definitely going for a retail rezoning. Perhaps an automall? Charming. Or perhaps their website hasn't been updated. I can only speculate. The Loblaws Supercentre is an unconfirmed rumour, but the OMB appeal is definite.

There is a public meeting re the Frid St. extension on December 18 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Hamilton Spectator Auditorium. Perhaps they will touch on it then. I will try to find out more and post a blog.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 19:45:52

I received more info tonight on an upcoming meeting about this. Yes, they are challenging the 'innovation district' zoning in an attempt to build a big box complex. I don't know which stores, but it's the same group involved at Clappison Corner, so if anyone knows whats being built out there it might give us some clues. Apparently local groups/associations are already on the ball (as I would expect in this neighbourhood) and are looking to ensure that the innovation district remains what it was intended for - high quality, high paying career jobs. Not anything else. This entire district could have a huge impact on Hamilton's future growth and ability to lure a decent hunk of 'new economy' jobs and employees to the city. We don't want to waste any land in this area on retail that could go anywhere.

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By Matt A (registered) | Posted December 10, 2007 at 20:49:28

yep. Count me in for opposing trinity on this one. I'll do what I can. I guess the Barn nearby at Paradise and King.. the Fortinos on Dundurn.. the Zarky's on Dundurn.. Goodness Me on Locke.. the Asian grocery store on Locke.. etc etc aren't enough places to buy food.

This site has some of the greatest potential for the city that we've seen in decades. It certainly will not be wasted on this kind of use if I can do anything about it. Luckily, it's also adjacent to three of the more powerful communities in the city as well: those south of Aberdeen, the Locke St area and Westdale.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 11, 2007 at 00:18:11

Don't forget the Fortinos on Main W as well. It's one of the biggest in the city. Maybe the Loblaws Supercentre rumour is just that - a rumour. Seems odd they'd put one so close to two Fortinos.

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By hmag (anonymous) | Posted December 11, 2007 at 11:15:05


With that plot of land right off the highway - I'm surprised it has taken someone this long to figure out they could potentially add LOTS of retail while attracting a lot of buyers really easily.

Wow - Hamilton's new slogan "Shop till you drop"

Really who needs this many shopping options?

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2007 at 12:58:02

highwater do you ahve a link to any info on the trinity appeal to omb? i can't find reference to it on omb website..thanks!

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 11, 2007 at 14:50:49

This was all I could find on the OMB website and it doesn't pertain to Trinity unfortunately.

www.omb.gov.on.ca/e-decisions/pl070386_%232593.pdf

It would appear the only way to view a file is to contact them personally and make an appointment.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 11, 2007 at 14:53:32

Interesting. I'd like to offer people an option for contacting the OMB about a case... not usre how to do that. I'd like to add it to the article I just wrote here (take a look, I made some neat-o animations for it!): http://hammerboard.ca/viewtopic.php?t=10...

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By highwater (registered) | Posted December 11, 2007 at 16:16:54

Great article Sean. I can't top that! And love the graphics. "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong..."

As for contacting the OMB, your quote from Nancy Smith pretty much sums up everything I could find on the OMB website about how citizens can become engaged in the process. I would also suggest nearby residents contact their neighbourhood associations.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 12, 2007 at 19:07:53

THanks... actually the Nancy SMith quote was added after I put the call out on this blog for information :-)

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By z jones (registered) | Posted November 05, 2009 at 08:16:12

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted November 05, 2009 at 13:53:35

Jason >> the real issue at hand here is who controls the growth of our cities??

If you own a property, you control it.

Jason >> The model of city development we have chosen the past 30 years DOES NOT WORK.

Exactly, big government and high tax rates have killed this city.

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