The City of Hamilton is on the cusps of making recommendations and adopting decisions that will have an irreversible impact on the use of lands that are presently protected by Greenbelt legislation. The issue is what lands , if any, are to be removed from or included in the Greenbelt. Once agricultural lands or lands presently protected under the Greenbelt get removed from the Greenbelt and are available for development or other purposes, the chances of recalling such lands for agricultural or other natural purposes are remote.
Stewardship of such lands is thus of utmost importance and requires a short, medium and long term strategic view of how lands are utilized. Hamilton is blessed with having land resources that are invaluable to food growth and other important uses. As an example, the micro climate found in Winona is unique through North America and had provided fertile lands for tender fruit growth and other farming needs. Likewise, the need to protect strategic land assets across all of Hamilton and its amalgamated areas is likely the most important strategic decision that will be made in term of our future.
The Hamilton is thus kicking off a series entitled Green Not Greed, that seeks to bring to light issues that ought to be considered related to Greenbelt protected lands.
We begin our series with a chat with Rick Breznik, a Hamiltonian from the Watertown area who has been very vocal on this issue. Enjoy our chat with Rick:
1. From a series of emails you have sent to the media and to city councillors and other officials, it is clear that you have concerns around the treatment of greenbelt lands. Can you describe what your concerns are?
The City of Hamilton's staff report and recommendations is advising the City Councillors, the public and the Ontario Ministry that their recommendations are based on public input. This is false. The recommendation to remove the specific lands in Waterdown, east of Centre Road and south of the Waterdown Bypass, were not one of the recommendations they sought public input on through all 4 of their open houses. The specific recommendation was made by them after public consultation was completed. Therefore they are giving everyone the false impression this particular recommendation was reviewed by the public.
2. You are alleging that city staff have mislead council on the recommendations for changes to the greenbelt. How exactly are you alleging that this occurred? What form did it take and what impact do you believe it has?
As stated above, it is because this specific recommendation was never reviewed by the public (like the other specific additions and removals were) but the report gives the impression the public reviewed and commented on the specific recommendation. When you read their detailed report, they advise that this specific recommendations came out after they reviewed public comment. However, there is no specific recommendation from the public recorded in any of their reports to remove this specific area. In addition, this specific area would not have been re-reviewed by the Stakeholders, which includes the Hamilton Conservation and Halton Conservation Authorities. There is nothing stated in their report that they re-contacted the Stakeholders and specifically the two conservation authorities, for their comments on this recommendation.
3. You have asked for specific contact people in the Ontario Government who could address your concerns, if the city is unprepared to do so to your satisfaction. Has your request been responded to and have you received any response from the city on the issues you have presented? If so, what was the response?
Attached is their response to my earlier emails.( Please click here and here to see the emails ) They did not provide me with any contacts in the Ontario Government as requested. Attached is my latest email response back to them.
4. Why should people care about the issues you have raised? What would you recommend they do to get involved?
The specific area also contains a PSW (Provincially Significant Wetland). This is not mentioned anywhere in the detailed Dillon consultants report that tries to justify the removal of this area. Therefore even the consultants and City staff report recommendation are missing key information that unless known by the decision makers, unfairly tries to justify their recommendation to remove the specific area from the greenbelt.
5. Is there anything else you’d like the public and/or city/government officials to know about this issue?
I have dealt with city staff before. The average single person's input means nothing and we are usually tagged with the term NIMBY if we live anywhere near items we comment on. There are always many issues to a recommendation, but unless they are fairly provided and commented on, poor decisions will continue to be made.
My email asked for public consultation on this recommendation. The City Council ended up requesting staff to sent a letter to those affected by this recommendation. What we received was a letter re-stating their recommendations to council. Any input we give now to that letter is not going to be added to the report or brought back in front of council for review. Therefore as it sits right now, their falsely stated recommendations to Council, the public and the Ontario Ministry will remain as is.
Please note: some email addresses that would not be ordinarily available to the public have been blanked so as to not unduly reveal email addresses. The rest of the email content has been left untouched.