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Intensification issue on display in LPAT decision re James North complex

 

Intensification issue on display in LPAT decision re James North complex

John Best

A nine-story residential and retail complex at the corner of James North and Burlington Street will be allowed to proceed, after a recent ruling by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT). The eight-day hearing before LPAT was a classic example of the competing forces at play in development these days—the Ontario government drive for intensification in urban areas, versus the desire by existing property owners to prevent invasive development in their neighbourhoods.

Opposing the project were the City of Hamilton, The Harbour West Neighbours represented by Herman Turkstra and individual resident, notably Hamilton Waterfront Trust Executive Director Werner Plessl who has a home in the area.

The North End Neighbours were chiefly concerned about the height of the project exceeding that envisioned in the Setting Sail north-end development plan as well as parking. LPAT found that the height was not excessive, partly because the project will be close to the Harbour West GO station and is on an HSR route, making it part of a Major Transit Station Area—a designation that favours higher density. Also, as the decision noted, “taller buildings are not absent in the immediate neighbourhood, given the residential towers to the west and northeast of the site (Soble Towers) , and the potential for future tall buildings on the harbourfront pier lands as noted by the Applicant and HWN. As noted earlier, the City has either approved or is considering midrise, 8 storey buildings further south along James (468 James and Jamesville). Of significance is the office building across James to the west of this site, (Hamilton Port building) being of similar height to that proposed here.”

The decision dismissed Plessl’s concern about shadowing, saying, “the Tribunal relies on the uncontested shadow study prepared in accordance with conventional practices. At the equinoxes, the building’s shadow will not reach dwellings along the west side of Hughson Street North until after 5:00 pm, and the building’s stepbacks result in shadows in the rear yards of those dwellings not substantially different than would be produced by a 5 storey building on this site.”

The decision came down on the side of transit-oriented development, a concept that seems to trump most other objections to developments. “The experts acknowledge that transit services and residential density are mutually supportive. Existing transit both benefits from and supports the creation of higher density housing. The reverse is also true: higher density both benefits from and supports existing and future transit. This site is a model example involving transit, with the existing City bus service at this intersection, the existing GO Station on James within walking distance, and the City’s intent to enhance the James corridor in future with a rapid transit line from the harbour in the north to the airport in the south.” The latter reference to James North enhancements, an apparent reference to the A-Line BRT, which is under consideration

In summary, wrote LPAT, “the Tribunal finds the OPA and ZBA to result in development that contributes to a complete community. After careful consideration of the policy and neighbourhood environment and related decisions of the City, the Tribunal finds that the height, transition and parking proposed by the Applicant represent good planning in the public interest.”

The full decision is here

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