An Ontario Land Tribunal appeal may freeze a Hamilton housing development as an ugly, unsightly mess for years to come.
Trash, graffiti, weeds, broken fences, port-o-potties and partially demolished buildings define a large, prominent block in North End Hamilton. A lone security guard is paid to watch over what looks like a war zone. This is Jamesville. A stalled redevelopment project that is now going on its fourth year of stagnation, though Jamesville has been in a gloomy decline for at least 12 years.
The plan here is for a combo of rent-geared-to-income and market rate housing to replace the 91 affordable housing units built by the province in the 1960’s. The site is an eyesore and is a particularly stinging symbol of development projects languishing in limbo.
Jamesville is just across the street from where an encampment of the homeless found shelter for many months in 2021.
After stripping the units of hazardous materials, taking out windows and doors, all demolition has stopped.
The reason for the stoppage the city says is because CN Rail has appealed the development to the Ontario Land Tribunal.
The main line of CN Rail is just across the street from the Jamesville site, and a major shunting yard is close by. Rail activity was just metres away from where the homeless camped. The tracks are down in a hollow-but close enough for CN to predictably oppose any new housing close to their tracks.
CN in their letter of appeal on September 14, 2022 which was posted today on Twitter by Ward 2 councillor Cameron Kroetsch, says the issues of safety, odour, dust, vibration and noise have not been addressed by the developers. Perhaps even more troublesome is CN’s question in the letter of appeal that asks-“whether the proposed sensitive land uses are appropriate for the Lands?”
CN’s appeal to the OLT has the potential to stall the development for at least another two years. News stories have recently reported that there is a one year backlog of appeals waiting for hearing dates.
The city in reply to the Bay Observer confirmed there are no hearing dates set for this OLT appeal.
The CEO of CityHousing Hamilton Adam Sweedland said today,”Until the appeal has been resolved, demolition and remediation remain paused, and further details relating to the completion of this project will become available at that time.”
That sounds like a pretty long news blackout.
Many people, including residents of the North End, visitors to Hamilton’s waterfront, and users of the West Harbour Go Station are impatient, even angry with the lack of progress.
The Bay Observer asked city officials why for instance the dangerous buildings cannot be demolished and the site cleaned up. Is there legislation that prevents this? So far no response.
Councillor Kroetsch did reply to that question on Twitter speculating that it could involve the status of city grants already advanced to the developer for demolition. He’s seeking clarification.
As background the prime piece of land for the Jamesville redevelopment was owned by the city, then sold to private developers including Marz Homes and Fram Building Group with requirements for a mix of housing including a percentage of deeply affordable units. The profit the city made on the sale of the land has helped finance an affordable housing project on Bay Street near Cannon.
While recent OLT appeals have favoured developers, even councillor Kroetsch said on Twitter that he is worried about the future of Jamesville.
Welcome to my neighbourhood of properties that look like war zones; James St Baptist aka The Connolly since 2015, and the former CHCH property aka Television City!
Property Standards and the MLE have been abysmal in their efforts so far! What is the answer?