|Hamilton Mayor, Bob Bratina|
The Hamilton Civic League concluded a questionnaire which determined that 82% of 349 households around the Aerotropolis boundaries, do not support the city’s plan to rezone thousands of acres of farmland for industrial purposes. 85% of those surveyed do not accept the city’s claim that there is a shortage of industrial lands to support industrial employment growth to the year 2031. Are you satisfied that there is a shortage of industrial lands to support industrial employment growth to the year 2031? If so, what evidence has been brought to your attention that has satisfied you. If you are not yet satisfied, what next steps might you think are appropriate?
It's no surprise that a poll of residents most directly affected by the so-called Aerotropolis showed their overwhelming opposition. The matter originally came before the Planning Committee in May of 2005. Because of the obvious interest and importance of this issue I along with some other members of the Committee insisted upon another special meeting to be held at a site within the affected community. A month
later an estimated 400 people showed up at Merritt Hall and heard two and a half hours of presentations, almost all of them critical of the plan. A number of specific questions and criticisms were raised by the presenters who likely felt that their concerns would be given consideration by committee members. Instead the matter was brought to an abrupt close at the end of the meeting when the local councillor moved the recommendation, to a chorus of boos. Public delegation continues to be a strong and effective way to communicate with members of council in committee, but there is a level of frustration apparent when submissions are not given consideration beyond the day of their presentation.
I expressed my personal disagreement with the recommendation at the time we were presented with the staff report on industrial lands. In my opinion the available brownfield inventory was vastly underrated because of how those lands were defined. 1386 sites were originally identified, then reduced to a final number of only 91. Here was the rationale. Although brownfields are broadly defined as "... vacant, derelict and underutilized lands” the 91 sites went to primarily the vacant part of the definition, because of the “diffiulty” of identifying sites that are abandoned or underutilized. The huge empty U.S. Steel parking lot would be an example.
Currently there are 23,000 people working in the downtown core, in an area far smaller than the proposed Airport Employment Growth District. We are continuing to add jobs either in renovated buildings or new ones being constructed on vacant lands and parking lots, utilizing existing infrastructure. The investment required to exploit the airport lands will be a huge gamble because there is no guarantee that development will follow. It leads to the question - how do we want our City to grow? Do we keep adding to the suburbs, or do we build on the land and infrastructure we already have? In the last two years we've started close to $200 million in development projects and pushed new tax revenues well over a million dollars. This outcome was not part of the assumptions for growth when Aerotropolis was first proposed.
Thanks Mayor Bratina for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian.