City Backs Down on Airport Development Size

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 01, 2008

Citizens at City Hall (CATCH) reports that the city has backed down on at least one aspect of its dispute with the province on the size of the Airport Economic Growth District (AEGD), a planned industrial park around Hamilton International Airport in Mount Hope.

The provincial Places to Grow Act specifies that Hamilton needs to plan for 49,000 new jobs by 2031. However, the city has been using the number of 59,000 new jobs for the purpose of planning the size of the AEGD, arguing that they also need to replace 10,000 existing jobs they project will disappear by then.

The city's Planning and Economic Development Department has been in dispute with the Provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH) for more than a year over several factors in how the city is calculating the amount of greenfield land it will need to meet provincial employment growth targets.

Prior to the city's capitulation on the number of jobs the site needs to accommodate, the city's projected area of the AEGD was four times as high as that of the Province.

The city also differs from the province in the following areas:

The Province has made it very clear in recent speeches that municipalities refusing to conform to provincial legislation on planning and growth - like Places to Grow, which limits sprawl and promotes intensification and brownfield redevelopment - will lose out in provincial funding.

Now Tim McCabe, the city's General Manager of Planning and Economic Development, is suggesting that the city and the Province can come to some sort of compromise on the remaining issues. At the November 27, 2008 committee meeting, McCabe said:

I mean I've been talking to the ministers office as well, and as councillor [Brad] Clark has said, they're digging in very tough on the Places to Grow. But their quote last week was they're also going to show goodwill and willingness with respect to some of the other matters that are of issue, that are not in the legislation, that we're having problems with.

HPD Forum Not 100% Accurate?

At the same committee meeting, Glanbrook Councillor Dave Mitchell expressed concern about the upcoming meeting on the AEGD organized by Hamiltonians for Progressive Development (HPD):

And we heard today that HPD - they're members of course of the community liaison committee out there at the airport, but they're also going through the community and putting on large community meetings. And I know everybody's mail box has been stuffed and so on, and the literature that's going out there is being advertised as one hundred percent accurate.

Well, I can't attend that Mount Hope meeting. I've got another meeting that night. Would it be appropriate to have one of our planners there, or somebody to listen to what they're telling the community? Because what I'm concerned about here is my phone's going to ring off the wall with concerns, and how are we going to get the concerns answered if there's people being led to believe that what they're getting presented there is one hundred percent accurate?

And that's going to create - could create a massive amount of workload out there. So would it pay to have one of our professional planners at that meeting as well?

[inaudible off-mic comment]

Well I don't think misleading people's democracy, but that's all right.

Michell also suggested that it is "kind of a conflict of interest" for HPD Chair Michael Desnoyers to chair a public meeting about the AEGD at the same time that he is a member of the community liaison committee that is guiding public consulatation through the AEGD planning process.

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 wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By concilwatch (anonymous) | Posted December 05, 2008 at 19:13:18

Ryan, am I correct in believing that John Munro's name appears in the official name of the airport?

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By righton (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2008 at 05:03:16

Councilwatch you are absolutely right. If it hadn't been for the persistance of John Munro in the seventies we would have lost the International status. It is proper that Munro's name be displayed, he did more for Hamilton during his tenure than any other politician. Federal money built Copps Coliseum and the Convention Centre during the economic slowdown of the late seventies and early eihgties and he established the Need Committee with such luminaries as Dr McIvor of McMaster U., Keith McIntyre Mohawk College,
Jack Shephard VP Dofasco, Harry Greenwood Labour Council, Ann Jones Regional Council, Bill Powell Mayor and his succesor Bob Morrow, Joyce Mongeon Business, Maurice Carter Chamber of Commerce. There were others but these were the heavyweights. I know of this because I was a lowly secretary to the committee, seconded from McMaster. Ryan, if we forget to name our pioneers they will forever be forgotten.

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2008 at 09:51:21

Hopefully the turnout to the HPD session was low. I know it would be 100% inaccurate information being presented. I attended a CLC meeting once and was thoroughly disgusted by the behaviour of Michael Desnoyers. He went against the very thing he and his cronies apparently champion, Public Engagement. His insulting language, tape recorder, facial expression and basically acting like a down right bully killed any opportunity for positive public engagement.

Then I see him leave in his big v-8 gas guzzling polluter. I found out that he lives on Courtland drive ( a suburban street in the middle of the Country side off of Book Road) in a monster home and works in Burlington. This is the guy who talks about sustainable development, the loss of agricultural lands and peak oil of all things, give me a break what a hypocrit. I know now the only reason he is opposed to anything is because he is worried about himself and his property. He would be about a kilometer from the AEGD's westerly boundary. Give it up, you lost at the OMB last time, so quit wasting taxpayers dollars to support your own selfish needs.

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By mdesnoyers (anonymous) | Posted December 06, 2008 at 16:32:40

In response to comments by Balance,

I have choosen by virtue of my work with HPD to put myself directly in the line of fire and expose myself to public scrutiny and criticism. I have the courage and conviction in my beliefs to not hide behind an alias and prefer to debate issues and facts as opposed to unsubstantiated commentary.

You will no doubt be disappointed to hear that the turnout to the HPD public meeting exceeded our expectations and was attended by almost 100 people. Unlike the CLC meetings we encourage dialogue and exchange and provide more time during the meeting for questions and answers than actual presentation. You seem to know that it "would be 100% inaccurate information being presented". Perhaps you can share with all the Blog readers some examples so we can engage in meaningful debate. You also refer to my "insulting language" during a CLC meeting and again suggest you provide examples. One of the principal reasons we record the meetings is to dispel the sort of inaccurate depictions that you have described and I would challenge you to put some meat on the bones so to speak.

You make two final interesting comments which don't seem to make much sense.

It is true I reside about 1Km away from the proposed AEGD. However, I have no interest in any other lands within the AEGD or any other area of the city for that matter. If there were plans to expand the AEGD and jeopardize my property it would most likely not occur for 30 to 40 years from now when I will be at least 90. So a reaasoned individual might ask why then am I so concerned. I have been a life long resident of Hamilton and raised my 2 children here in Hamilton. I have witnessed the slow and agonizing degradation of our city to many aspects of poor planning and development. I cannot undo what has been done but have choosen to become actively involved in the future direction of our city. If this makes me a bad citizen than I am prepared to accept that label.

Finally, when it comes to spreading inaccurate information, I would advise you to familiarize yourself with the proceedings of the OMB appeal and the final settlement which are public record. The principle issue at the OMB was that the city was proceeding with an Urban Boundary expansion without conducting proper studies. The final settlement included an ORDER by the OMB to the city to complete studies according to the Municipal act including proper public consultation prior to a boundary expansion and also included the formation of the CLC. I hardly think we lost!

M. Desnoyers

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By Balance (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2008 at 16:43:35

I have read the facts and have found that the City was not undertaking an urban boundary expansion at all. That was alleged by the appellants. They were simply creating a study area for a potential urban boundary expansion following study and need. One of the key components of the policy the City successfully passed is to only consider the AEGD area for employment uses excluding sensitive land uses such as residential. This needed to be done quickly before all the land was optioned by residential development speculators.

Finally, it is the Planning Act, not the Municipal Act that spells out the requirements for urban boundary expansions and conformity with Provincial Policy. The City whenever they do planning exercises uses the CLC approach. They did so for the West Harbour long before. The OMB decision simply spells out the process which would have been followed regardless to make everyone feel better. It was not an order, it was a settlement to allow the process to continue. HPD is simply to be included on the CLC. HPD is a stakeholder just like everyone else in this community and no more important than that.

If the Province didn't think a boundary expansion for employment uses was necessary then all that land would have been in the Green Belt. They too support the AEGD as stated by Victor Doyle from the Province. It simply comes done to size which is presently being discussed. Basically, there will be an urban boundary expansion and the province supports that, it's just a question of size. There's no conspiracy here just the vocal minority creating the idea of one.

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By mdesnoyers (anonymous) | Posted December 07, 2008 at 23:10:40

You seem to have missed a couple pertinent facts in your investigation. Under direct questioning from Councillor Ferguson (Murray not Lloyd)in the summer of 2005, staff responded that an Urban Boundary Expansion would occur without having to return to council for approval. I believe it was Lee Ann Coveyduck who responded but I would have to review the minutes. In addition, the province clearly indicated in the letter of June 14, 2005 that they did not support the formation of the Special Study Area and that "the City should not proceed with the Special Study Area component of these amendments". The City choose to ignore this letter and despite the fact that many in the community, like yourself, would like to demonize HPD for launching an OMB appeal, the province of Ontario appealed as well. It would seem that one of the few things that the City has done in adherence to the Growth Plan is to protect the lands around the airport from incompatible uses.

I stand corrected regarding the Planning Act but stand by my statement that the OMB decision,as identified in the minutes of settlement that the City would "Consent to an Order of the Ontario Municipal Board" which not only set out the CLC but also in part its composition.

The Growth Plan and PPS clearly sets out that lands around airports should be protected against incompatible uses. It does not suggest as is often stated in City documents that the AEGD should be the #1 economic priority of the City. To suggest that the province would have included these lands in the Greeen Belt if it didn't support this idea is spreading it really thin. I have reviewed the many letters from Mr. Doyle and although they are supportive of the planning for an Airport Employment Growth District it doesn't specifically state they support the AEGD. This may seem like a splitting of hairs but is a very subtle but substantive point.

The Growth Plan only supports an Urban Boundary Expansion if the need for one can be demonstrated and the City has clearly not demonstrated that need. It has in fact violated numerous aspects of the Growth Plan which ultimately could end up having us up against the province in anouther OMB battle. If you recalculate the projected land needs using the comments from the MMAH in their letter of June 20, 2008 the net additional employment lands required to meet the provincial forecasts is less than 300ha or about 25% of what the city has suggested. At some poin the economic viability of the AEGD has to come into question because of the massive costs to service the area.

We are constantly accussed of being a vocal minority. Are the objections of the province also considered to be part of that vocal minority.

There is no conspiracy - just an abuse of process.

M. Desnoyers

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By Concerned (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2008 at 12:08:49

Typical M. Desnoyers, knows everything and everybody else is incorrect in their opinions/interpretations. Ignorance or arrogance?

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By blah (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2008 at 12:22:35

I've been following this so-called "debate" in the comments and all I can say to Concerned is, what a Load of B.S.! Mdesnoyers admits he got some details wrong and corrects it, he states direct facts that you can look up, then he explains exactly why he came by his opinions about the airport. If anyone's being "ignorant or arrogant" its Balance. Your comment doesn't add anything at all.

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By mdesnoyers (anonymous) | Posted December 09, 2008 at 16:32:22

To Concerned,

Quite contrary to your statement, I DON'T know everything. However, I have taken it upon myself to read literally hundreds of pages of documents, attend countless City held public meetings, Council and Economic Development and Planning meetings to become as informed as I can on the subject matter at hand.

When we hold public meetings I often begin the presentation by oddly enough suggesting to all those present that they not believe a word I say. I go on to provide the actual documents that they should read and how to find them so that they can become as informed as possible to make an educated decision. I make absolutely no apologies that I am well informed of the facts and would prefer to debate the actual facts as oppose to engage in a battle of opinions. This is not an easy task and admittedly even I will stray occasionally.

Why are we not debating the content of the original article? Over a year ago HPD vigourously argued that the Phase 1 study should not proceed until the Land Budget was complete. The city proceeded, drew a line on the map which immediately changes land use patterns, speculation and expectations. Now we don't know what the size of the AEGD should be but the damage may be done. Here is a fact to debate - If you take into consideration all of the comments expressed by the province in their letter of June 20 to the city and recalcualte the size of lands needed to meet provincial projections the "Aerotropolis" would only be 600 acres in size and not the 3000 contemplated. This assumes virually no Brownfield redevelopment and no intensification or build up of existing parks both required by the Growth Plan.

M. Desnoyers

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By JP7 (anonymous) | Posted October 12, 2009 at 20:26:07

Mr. Desnoyers, I am interested in participating in this fight to save our land as well. How can I get involved? Are there any groups that meet or email lists?

I will give you my email personally so as to not put it on here publicly if I get a response from you.


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