Zoning has an instrumental effect on development. Recently the City of Hamilton overhauled their Zoning By-Laws for all of the industrial zones from the former regional centres including Ancaster, Glanbrook, Flambourough, Dundas and Stoney Creek into one consistent plan meant to be current, flexible and relevant. The net result was a reduction of 25 former zones to just 6. One of the outcomes of this change was the exclusion of recreational uses in industrial zones with the exception of children’s play gyms and gymnastics studios. The new zoning also reduced the amount of heavy industrial (former K & KK zoning) to mainly north of Burlington Street, resulting in a shortage of heavy industrial land/buildings, creating a potential opportunity for the development of new industrial buildings.
Undoubtedly zoning is vital to the development and site selection process. Buildings can change and undergo modifications. Zoning on the other hand tends to be a more permanent fixture with changes to zoning by laws. Attempts to change zoning can be a long, frustrating and arduous process that may consume months or even years. In some cases its not possible to amend regardless of time and money spent on it.
This article focuses on the effects of the zoning changes in The City of Hamilton on industrial development.
The former Municipal Zoning By-laws permitted a wide range of uses within an Industrial Area, from very specific types of manufacturing uses to commercial recreational uses (e.g. Gymnastics Studios) to large-format retail uses to institutional uses (e.g. Place of Worship). Changes to Provincial legislation, which place an emphasis on the preservation of Employment Lands for employment uses, required a shift in municipal planning for these areas. Under the Places to Grow Growth Plan, municipalities are required to plan for, protect and preserve employment areas for current and future uses. The Plan makes the distinction between what are considered to be appropriate uses within an employment area (industrial uses) and those which are not (non-industrial uses), for the purpose of conversion.
Employment uses include: manufacturing, warehousing, equipment repair and service, and other uses which have the potential to impact surrounding land uses (such as residential) through noise, odour, truck traffic, and outdoor storage requirements and which must be appropriately setback from sensitive land uses. Examples of non-employment uses include: commercial recreation facilities, dance studios, places of worship and major retail establishments, which do not have the same impacts on adjacent land uses, and therefore do not require a separation from sensitive land uses. The Growth Plan does not support the conversion of employment lands to non-employment (i.e. commercial uses) outside of a municipal comprehensive review.
It is important to note that secondary commercial uses (such as a bank or restaurant) which support employment areas are permitted through the Growth Plan. Therefore, the uses permitted within the new Municipal Zoning By-laws were rewritten to permit employment uses, and remove permissions for major retail, commercial and institutional uses to locate on industrial lands.
Prompted by a lack of employment lands, these zoning changes became part of the Urban Hamilton Official Plan back in 2012.
Despite urban boundary expansions and the recent softening on some commercial uses in industrial zones changing, paint colours and moving a few walls around will almost always be easier than trying to change the zoning of a property.