Hamilton’s zero-boundary expansion decision will result in a denser, more vertical city in the coming decades. Members of the Hamilton Planning committee got a look at what the zero-boundary expansion option that was approved last fall will look like in a massive list of proposed bylaw and zoning changes recommended by Planning Staff. As expected, it will mean significantly increased density to accommodate the 236,000 people and 122,000 jobs that will be added to Hamilton by 2050. In the downtown core the plan will call for 250 to 500 residents plus their jobs per hectare. Along the proposed LRT line the density will be 160 residents plus their jobs.
Only 30 percent of the intensification will take place in the core, The rest will pop up along arterial roads all over the city and its suburban communities, and 30 percent of the intensification will take place in existing neighbourhoods. To achieve this level of intensification, neighbourhoods will have to get used to more semi-detached and townhomes in their neighbourhoods and higher apartment buildings.
All of this is to be achieved while still allowing for complete streets and transit-oriented neighbourhoods, protection of greenspace and more trees.
There was extensive public consultation conducted which attracted over 500 attendees to public workshops and 550 written comments. The West End Home Builders Association recommended that to achieve the level of density required will mean removing things like height limits, shadowing restrictions, and policies referencing the maintenance of existing neighbourhood character. They also recommended allowing apartment buildings on 12 storeys in height without the developer having to request an official plan amendment. They also discussed removal of a longstanding Hamilton zoning concept that no apartment tower in the lower city exceed the height of the escarpment.
Staff have already submitted the planned zoning changes to the Ministry of Housing for comment but have received nothing within the 90-day period allowed for feedback. Nothing will happen until after the election, but Housing Minister Steve Clark has already expressed concerns about the zero-boundary expansion option that Hamilton Council approved. In a letter sent to council he waned that Hamilton’s zero boundary expansion might force development in communities further afield to that are less equipped to handle intensification. When the matter was debated last fall at Council, several members openly acknowledged that the real planning picture for Hamilton will, likely get settled either at the Ontario Land Tribunal or by a ministerial order. That is the elephant in the room that awaits the outcome of the Provincial election.