All of the candidates running against Bernie Morelli in Ward 3 who responded to Raise the Hammer say they would actively work to keep the Pearl Company open.
By Adrian Duyzer
Published September 23, 2010
When news broke that the Pearl Company is closing due to ongoing struggles with City of Hamilton bylaws, the Hamilton Spectator quoted Bernie Morelli, Ward 3 Councillor, as saying that "there is a process that you have to go through" that "works in most cases".
I wrote Councillor Morelli not long after hearing the news, and asked him, "how are you going to fix this problem, and how quickly are you going to get it done?"
Morelli has not replied. At the same time, however, I also wrote every candidate running in Ward 3 and asked them three questions:
Tetley agrees that losing the Pearl Company would be "a travesty to not only Ward 3, but the entire City of Hamilton" and says that "The Pearl Company and other entrepreneurs who are working to remediate and re-use our numerous vacant buildings and properties will be one of my priorities" and that he'll put this priority on the "fast track".
Tetley criticizes what he perceives as a lack of leadership by Morelli:
He has not provided the leadership in promoting to city staff and council the programs and zoning changes necessary to attract and sustain new businesses in Ward 3. From his quote in the September 21st Spectator he clearly prefers to rely on the same old process that has failed us in the past, fails us today, and will continue to fail us in the future. In 2010 that is not acceptable.
It is well established that council can make exemptions and amendments when it comes to zoning. An example close to The Pearl Company was the support council provided in April of this year, for a zoning exemption to Northbrook Development Group. Northbrook's proposed plan is to establish a sports hub in the former Studebaker plant on Victoria Street. As part of that exemption Councillor Lloyd Ferguson was also able to gain council support for an amendment to allow gymnastic clubs to legally be built in the Ancaster Business Park.
Tetley believes that the Pearl Company is "only one instance of a much larger issue", namely that Hamilton, and particularly Ward 3, has "one of the greatest opportunities for industrial heritage building re-use in Canada [but] under the current bylaw, zoning policies and leadership the adaptive re-use of our heritage industrial buildings isn't only difficult, it is actively discouraged."
My vision includes, creating and implementing a Community Improvement Plan for Ward 3. This Plan is designed to allow the building of sustainable communities through the planning and financing of use, adaptive re-use, the restoration of lands, buildings, and the infrastructure supporting them.
We are faced with an ever increasing number of vacant heritage and industrial buildings in Hamilton and restrictive zoning and fees for redevelopment no longer make sense, and need to be changed. We need 21st Century plans and leadership to address the 21st Century issue that many of our old and vacant factories will never again be used for heavy industry. We need change to happen quickly in order to create an open and inviting system for investors and entrepreneurs to renew these building, preserve our industrial heritage and improve our industrial and commercial tax revenues.
DiMillo believes that "we do have to enforce, and support the by-laws". "[If] I had to make an educated guess, as a recognized activist, [Gary Santucci, one of the Pearl Company's owners] probably went ahead and opened up without going through the rezoning process." In spite of this, he says he supports Gary and the Pearl Company.
Truthfully, Gary got caught in a timing issue. The City of Hamilton has already revamped the zoning by-laws which have been approved by Council, and are awaiting Provincial approvals (any day now). These new zoning by-laws were created to provide opportunities to investors to reinvest in the lower city, without the red tape, and without the expensive re-zoning. Infact, Stage 1 which is the only one approved right now covers 80% of our ward. Planning department tells me that the concept is: if somebody has a good idea for a building, but it doesn't conform to the zoning or otherwise, the new by-laws will allow for it, providing it makes sense for the neighbourhood.
In reality, Gary should hang on to the building, and very very shortly the opportunities to do what he wants to do will be supported by the newly adopted zoning by-laws. Frankly, Morelli should know this, and should of told Gary about the City's new zoning and planning initiatives.
If elected, DiMillo promises to to help the Pearl Company "navigate the new zoning by-law" and "help mitigate a workable solution that will keep the Pearl Company operating".
Black believes the situation with the Pearl Company needs to be dealt with quickly. He offered numbered responses to each of my three questions:
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