There were kudos all around the council table Wednesday as Hamilton’s Brownfield Remediation Program (ERASE) presented a five-year update on its activities. It was pretty much good news all round, as Phil Caldwell, who heads the project took councillors through the program’s achievements. The program, operated by Hamilton’s Economic Development Department, offers incentives for the cleanup and redevelopment of abandoned and usually contaminated industrial sites. The program is self-financing in that the money comes from the reduction of up-front development fees paid by the property owner to mitigate the extra cost of cleaning up the site that wouldn’t apply with a greenfield site. The effect is to ‘level the playing field’ so contaminated sites can be considered for redevelopment on an equal footing, financial and otherwise, as non-contaminated sites.
Caldwell told councillors the 5-year review pointed to the following benefits to Hamilton:
- supporting the remediation of 206 acres (83 hectares) of contaminated land
- leveraging approximately $18.00 in private sector investment for every $1.00 provided in financial assistance towards site remediation
- achieving the creation of over 3,300 new residential units and over 176,000 sq. m. (1,900,000 sq. ft.) of Industrial/Commercial/Institutional floor area on brownfields
- generating over $1,000,000,000* in new property assessment on brownfields and over $11,000,000 annually in new municipal property tax revenue.
Going forward, staff recommended tweaking the program to:
- Expand availability of select programs to further support remediation and redevelopment of Brownfields
- Introduce new financial supports for planned not-for-profit affordable housing developments on Brownfields
- Leverage existing programs to support City priorities for environmental sustainability and housing affordability
- Incentivize more environmentally sustainable remediation practices
The report says it is time to expand the program from its Harbourfront and core area focus to cover the entire city including rural areas, BIAs and other commercial corridors. This will allow remediation of sites such as former gas stations and dry-cleaning operations.
Staff are also recommending that remediation grants of up to $200,000 be available for not-for-profits to encourage affordable housing development. They are also recommending grants to encourage onsite soil remediation rather than the “dig-and-dump” method where contaminated soil is removed and transported to a hazardous soil site.
Unlike almost every departmental presentation seen during the recent budget deliberations, ERASE is not looking for any staff increase nor additional operating funds.
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