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Airport residential development approved

Jan 22, 2018

There’s been no progress in attracting any industry to the controversial Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD aka aerotropolis) that was finalized several years ago. But last week’s approval of a big residential development next door to the airport promises to double the population of Mt Hope.

Because the project has been on the books for several years, it falls under planning rules that were replaced at least five years ago and in some parts far longer. Consequently the residential subdivision is exempted from some rules protecting ecologically significant areas, from a ban on developing in rural areas, and from noise restrictions associated with the airport.

“It would probably not be approved today because of the airport,” ward councillor Brenda Johnson told last week’s planning committee as she moved approval of the Hotz and Son development despite objections from the private operators of Hamilton’s airport. The property is across the road from the Warplane Heritage Museum and a recently-built air cargo facility, and kitty corner from the airport itself.

“Hamilton International Airport has advised that the proposed development falls within their noise influence area, and as a result they are not in favor of any of the proposed zoning by-law amendments,” notes the staff report. “The development of more homes in areas surrounding the airport is not conducive to the future growth of the facility and they strongly object to these plans.”

That proximity will require some noise reduction features to be built into the 271 single-family homes and up to 440 townhouses on the lands. But because of the grandfathering of the development that condition only has to meet the standards in the official plan of the former municipality of Glanbrook.

It doesn’t take account of a long-planned extension of the north-south runway just to the west of the Hotz lands that promises to significantly increase the noise levels. The city has spent over $10 million acquiring lands to accommodate that runway extension.

Environmental protection rules have also been waived. The staff report notes “core areas” of the city’s natural heritage system on the property including a pond, wetlands and streams, plus an adjacent significant woodland, but explains that these don’t appear on the former official plans.

“In reviewing Map No. 4 of the Hamilton-Wentworth Official Plan [replaced in 2012], staff have found that there are no natural heritage features identified within the Plan on the subject lands. As such, staff are supportive of the proposed application and the amendment to the Rural Hamilton Official Plan.”

Similarly, current rules are acknowledged in the staff report that forbid using rural lands for stormwater ponds required for an urban development, but they are also ignored because “there are no policies in the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Official Plan that would prohibit the construction of the stormwater pond in its proposed location” outside the urban boundary.

At nearly 50 residences per hectare, the new subdivision should easily achieve the higher density required on greenfields by provincial law. Those rules are designed to increase transit use, and plans call for limited on-street parking that “cannot be guaranteed in perpetuity.” But current HSR service to Mt Hope is also very limited with the single bus line never more frequent than twice an hour, not operating on weekends or evenings, and even shutting down during the middle of weekdays.

The property is crossed by Enbridge pipelines and restrictions that have been controversial in other parts of Mt Hope will be applied including “prohibiting the landscaping, developing, or erecting of any buildings or permanent structures, including but not limited to, fences, decks, swimming pools or shed, over, under or upon the lands when an easement in favour of the utility exists, unless written approval is provided by Enbridge Pipelines Inc.” 

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