Comment 111404

By Selway (registered) | Posted May 04, 2015 at 22:32:20 in reply to Comment 111381

"I spoke against the initial parking lot at the planning committee back in 2009, arguing that it conflicted the then-pending Setting Sail Secondary Plan. Now that Setting Sail is in place, I can't believe it is still being ignored!"

It is weirder than that. The argument in 2009 and today is that the parking lot is an interim use and so does not impede the eventual use as residential/commercial. (I'll get back to that in a moment.) However, this time out, PED is also saying that when, in August of 2013, the Urban Hamilton Official Plan came into "force and effect", lands within the West Harbour Secondary Plan remained "subject to Non-Decision 113, which means that the West Harbour Secondary Plan area is not included within the Urban Hamilton Official Plan and that it is still subject to the applicable policies within the former City of Hamilton Official Plan." (Beasley residents may wish to ask their councillor to tell them what this might mean. )

What are the "applicable policies within the former City of Hamilton Official Plan"? Well, "Section B (Servicing Strategy) and Section C (Amenity and Design Strategy) would still be applicable." Thus:

"Subsection B.3.3 - Public and Private Parking The Plan recognizes the importance of PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PARKING facilities. In this regard, it is intended that adequate PUBLIC AND PRIVATE PARKING facilities are available and will continue to serve the City without interfering with the efficient flow of traffic movement. B.3.3.1 Council will maintain and enhance the supply of short-term PARKING in the City through the operation of the Municipal Parking Authority and requirements for the provisions of PRIVATE PARKING."

It is actually somewhat trickier than I have indicated, but here I have to confess that the explanation staff provides about the relationship between the West Harbour aka Setting Sail secondary plan and the legacy policies from the old Official Plan is not comprehensible to me.

Returning to the main issue (at least in the view of PED), staff go so far as to say that the expansion of the surface parking is an improvement.

"The proposed parking lot is intended as an interim use until the ultimate land use is implemented. While this may take some time due to market conditions and remediation costs, the proposed parking lot represents an improvement over current site conditions (vacant and underdeveloped former industrial land) while providing a needed service for Hamilton General Hospital."

Note the invocation of remediation costs. In point of fact, placing a layer of impermeable asphalt over contaminated soils is not an improvement. It adds to cost of wastewater treatment, and constitutes one more pollutant to be removed during the eventual remediation of the site. PED is in effect recommending that the owner of this property be granted a license to pollute, one which will allow him or her to earn an income by leasing the lot to the hospital indefinitely, and which is a disincentive to development.

Of course, the picture would change if the landowner was obliged by PED and by the client (HHS) to undertake some serious remediation of the soils prior to laying down the pavement. In that case, the parking lot would be a step toward the ultimate use. Deciding just how much clean-up would be a genuine help toward residential development would be a little complicated, but not more than the existing risk-management plan under which the land north and south of Barton is handled now.

The 1995 staff report on the original parking lot contains some sketches showing remediation to a rather shallow depth in the landscaped verges of the lot, but there is no discussion of what will occur beneath the asphalt. I can recall seeing hunks of this and that being removed, so something was done. But if the interim-use argument were meant to be taken seriously, one would expect to see staff discussion of the Phase I and II Environmental Site Assessments for both the 2009 lot and the proposed extensions, as well as the final Record of Site Condition for the 2009 lot. (A phase I ESA tells you what contaminants might be found, judging by the historical uses of the site; a phase II tells you what is actually there.) With this information one could begin to develop a plan for remediation. In its absence, the proposition that taking two patches of open, permeable land, laying down some gravel and placing some asphalt on top, is an "improvement", is, um, an exaggeration.

The secondary plan termed the Wellington Ferguson corridor an area of "major change". The change set out in the plan was primarily toward residential. HHS is transferring 300 staff from its Chedoke complex to the new building. Too bad they can't move downtown and just walk to work. But of course, for that to happen, we would have to sacrifice some of that surface parking to buildings. And why is that new hospital building where it is? Probably because HHS thinks its Chedoke lands are more valuable, probably for housing. So the mountain gets condos, and we get blacktop. Perfect.

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