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Plans for more boundary expansions


Aug 01, 2017


In addition to the planned 3100 acre expansion onto rural lands around Elfrida, the city is spending nearly five million dollars to determine what other possible boundary extensions to accommodate predicted population growth.  The GRIDS2 study, named after the Growth Related Integrated Development Strategy conducted shortly after amalgamation, is being combined with a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) that was promised to developers as part of the aerotropolis settlement three years ago. 

The MCR is a provincial requirement before any urban boundary expansion can be approved. Combined with GRIDS2 it seeks to provide a justification from anticipated population growth for consumption of more agricultural land, but must also consider if the increases can be accommodated within the existing city limits.

Airport area landowners who succeeded in keeping their rural properties outside the airport employment growth district are hoping to convert them to suburban residences. Without a public process, city council agreed to accelerate the growth review on their behalf and to launch an MCR.

“The City of Hamilton will forthwith commence work on a City-wide Municipal Comprehensive Review comprising a review of the City’s future employment, commercial, institutional, residential land needs within and beyond the present urban boundary of the City (2031-2041),” states the settlement reached at the Ontario Municipal Board. “The Silvestri and Twenty Road West Lands identified in Schedule C will be included in this review.”

The settlement also asserts that the Elfrida lands are the city’s “first priority for non-employment lands” (i.e. for residential expansion), and that other rural lands along Twenty Road East “are the city’s next priority”. But with a projection that Hamilton’s population will climb to 660,000 by 2041, all these landowners are hoping to cash in on more suburban growth.

That hope may have dimmed since the provincial government decided earlier this year to impose further anti-sprawl rules that require more growth inside existing boundaries. They also compel much higher densities on greenfield lands including those already inside the boundary but not yet built-over.

The new rules compel cities to plan for at least 80 residents per hectare on greenfields (including anything added to the boundary), up from 50/ha last year. They also require that at least 60 percent of new growth take place inside the already built-up area (up from 40 percent in the earlier growth plan rules).

Both the MCR and GRIDS2 require some consultation with the public. How that is to take place was supposed to have been explained at the July planning committee meeting, but that didn’t happen. Just over $700,000 was budgeted both last year and this year for the GRIDS update as well as an additional $1.3 million so far for the MCR work.

By the end of next year, $4.7 million will have been allocated to the two processes. Three million of that is supposed to come from development charges. But that assumes the city actually collects all those growth fees that it can which doesn’t happen because of various exemptions and discounts.

Some of the spending overlaps with the Elfrida expansion plans. The first round of consultation on that took place in June although it focused on the details of the expansion and excluded consideration of not doing it. City officials say the Elfrida decision was made during the original GRIDS conducted between 2003 and 2006.

That position underlines the significance of the GRIDS2 and MCR processes which will determine if, when, and where more rural lands are urbanized. The GRIDS2 terms of reference promise “a minimum of two rounds of public consultation in the form of open houses will occur.”  The first will happen after “identification of the potential growth options” and the second will present the preferred option to “allow for additional comments and / or concerns to be expressed.”

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