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Greenbelt and Growth Plan review Hamilton Comments

June 30, 2015

With the 10-year anniversary of the Greenbelt Plan and Growth Plan, the City of Hamilton would like to see boundaries rejigged and policies clarified to better guide its land use planning.

While Hamilton staff sent preliminary comments on the coordinated review to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing prior to the May 28 deadline, council did not approve the report submitted to the province until its June meeting.

Hamilton staff and council are largely positive about the impact the Greenbelt Act, Niagara Escarpment Plan and Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe have had on the revitalization of the city. The Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Act, which is also under review, does not apply to Hamilton. Since the plans have been in place Hamilton has undergone residential intensification, waterfront and downtown revitalization and been the recipient of provincial investments in public transit.

Hamilton is keen to maintain its existing stock of employment lands and staff say the protection of these lands has been beneficial. Staff would like long term protection for strategic employment areas to continue.

“We’ve had less pressure on converting land from employment to other uses as the Growth Plan has strong protection for employment lands,” planning policy and zoning by-law reform manager Joanne Hickey Evans said in a presentation to planning committee.

City staff also have some concerns that they would like to see addressed through the review. Like other municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton wants all of the plans consolidated and more consistent definitions used. (See May 27, 2015 issue of NRU.) Hamilton would also like the Growth Plan targets changed to de-link the employment and population targets, which staff says would make meeting employment targets more realistic.

As the province prepares to review the plans’ boundaries, staff would like them to be refined. Hickey Evans said the city has more detailed data and would be prepared to share its information with the province to help this process.

There are also two places where staff has asked for specific changes, amending the Niagara Escarpment Plan from escarpment rural to urban designations. Hickey Evans said the Robert E. Wade Park in Ancaster has grown into a city-wide park and the Olympic Park in Dundas should originally have been designated urban.

Hickey Evans also said the province should consider how emerging issues impact planning. This includes climate change, challenges with energy planning and how the built environment impacts public health. Staff suggest ways to incorporate these ideas into provincial planning. Recommendations include adding climate change policies, focusing on adaptation and mitigation, to the plans, creating new policies that link energy and land use planning to encourage energy mapping, and that recognize the link between public health and the built environment.