Opinion

HPD to Council: Don't Accept Aerotropolis Secondary Plan

When Hamiltonians learn that their property taxes are going to be raised to subsidize the destruction of our farmland, it is safe to say that they will become rather more interested in the AEGD.

By Michael Desnoyers
Published June 14, 2010

Editor's Note: Michael Desnoyers, co-chair of [Hamiltonians for Progressive Development](http://progressivedevelopment.ca), just sent this letter to Hamilton City Council.

Mayor Eisenberger and Members of Council,

It has come to our attention that the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD, aka aerotropolis), including its draft secondary plan, will be addressed at Tuesday's meeting of the Planning and Economic Development Committee. Hamiltonians for Progressive Development (HPD) has several serious concerns with the proposal to circulate the draft plan at this time and we urge the committee to refuse to accept the draft plan.

The OMB minutes of settlement assigned a key role to the Community Liaison Committee. The CLC has not met since January, despite a firm written promise that it would do so. Below we have copied the communication to the CLC members from early March that contained those assurances.

You are familiar with the reasons for our longstanding opposition to the "aerotropolis" plan. The secondary planning process, which HPD has monitored closely through the Community Liaison Committee (CLC), has confirmed our worst fears about the plan for this giant industrial park, from the standpoint of financial responsibility, environmental concerns, and sustainable land use planning.

While we have used every opportunity to voice these concerns through the CLC process and otherwise, the draft secondary plan does essentially nothing to address the big-picture problems.

Our immediate concern, and the reason for this letter and our call for your attention to the matter, relates to a failure to properly address the potential financial implications of the draft secondary plan. HPD has been calling for the public release of this information for some time.

It was agreed at the last meeting of the CLC (which took place on January 26) that a further meeting would be convened to address the extremely controversial financial issues; it was also agreed that representatives of the Province would be invited to attend. In the email to the CLC of March 8, 2010, reproduced below, the facilitator specifically advised that:

The Master Plans are being reviewed with City staff and further modifications and adjustments are expected in the next few weeks which could impact the numbers being used for the Financing Plan. The Project Team would like to review the final Financing Plan with you and has undertaken to provide it in advance of a meeting so as to have an informed discussion of it.

The complete and final Financing Plan has never been released to the CLC and there has never been any discussion of it, informed or otherwise. It remains hidden from not only the public but the CLC. While a new CLC meeting date was promised by mid-March, this has never been scheduled, despite follow-up communications from HPD.

It is our expectation that the financing plan for the AEGD will be the source of considerable public concern and can reasonably be expected to galvanize opposition to the industrial park by Hamilton's taxpayers. Proponents of the have thus far avoided scrutiny of the financial implications by focusing on design features of the industrial park, and have succeeded in keeping public interest in the "aerotropolis" at a minimum.

When everyday Hamiltonians learn that their property taxes are going to be raised to subsidize the destruction of our farmland, it is safe to say that they will become rather more interested and we expect that your constituents will be communicating their concerns to you and your colleagues as we move towards the fall election.

In terms of the specific issues before you on Tuesday, we believe that once the financial plan is disclosed and subjected to debate at the CLC, this critical aspect of the draft secondary plan may affect the willingness of the committee and Council to put the proposal forward for broader public consultation, at least in its present form.

Given the information that we have received thus far, we anticipate that the financial plan may call for taxpayer funding at a level which will not be politically acceptable, particularly in light of the scaled-down size of the development and the other concerns which HPD and other groups and individuals have been expressing for years.

In light of this, we ask that at a minimum the current report (and motion for acceptance of the draft report, etc.) be tabled pending the release of the financial plan to the CLC and the completion of the agreed-to further CLC meeting to scrutinize and debate this pivotal aspect of the AEGD plan.

It remains our position that the CLC process - and the discussion of financial implications as part of this process - are legally-binding aspects of the settlement which HPD and the Province secured from the City at the Ontario Municipal Board.

Michael Desnoyers is co-chair of Hamiltonians for Progressive Development. He is also the founder, president and CEO of Etratech, a successful high tech business.

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By Bill (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 06:18:41

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By Louise (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 07:56:17

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By nobrainer (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 08:02:45

I guess Bill and Louise didn't bother to read the city's own reports on what kind of jobs they expect around the airport. But I'm sure we'll all be grateful we paved over the best farm land in the country and sunk a billion dollars on new infrastructure so we could grab those 12-buck-an-hour warehouse jobs in a dying air transport industry.

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By zookeeper (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 08:07:00

You also can't help but notice the "anonymous" haters come out in droves for certain topics on RTH...almost like an astroturf campaign....

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By grassroots are the way forward (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 08:07:29

During the event that the Civic League held, the one speaker on the side of Aerotropolis, speak about Branfort,as being the leader.

However, in Brantford, right now, TEMP jobs, reigned supreme. These jobs are low wages, no benefits never mind trying to save for retirement. These warehouses will create very few jobs and nor will they lift people from the depths of poverty.

And where is that thought behind FOOD SECURITY.

Dont worry people, your taxes will increase, as infrastructure is not ocmpleted up there by any stretch of the imagination and putting dollars into this, will not sovle the on going issues (FLOODING), that is happening down in the city.

Keep up the good work Michael, others in the city are behind you.

Comment edited by grassroots are the way forward on 2010-06-15 07:08:06

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By Rene Gauthier (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 08:43:06

While I think rezoning an area around the airport is good growth management policy, it brings the biggest question of them all: if you build it, will they come? We don't know. We do want to bring more economic opportunities to the city, but we don't have the right people in the right places to make this happen. Do we have companies lined up to set up shop in these areas or is this once again a situation of putting the cart before the horse.

The only way the plan makes sense is if there are companies confirmed to be moving in, otherwise we're just building another arena, hoping we get the NHL. And we know how far that got us.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 10:23:26

When, exactly, does this end? Once the airport's paved every scrap of land for miles in every direction?, Once you can drive right down Dundas St from downtown Toronto right to Clappison's Corners without seeing a single farm? Or when we really just can't tell where Hamilton ends and Brantford, St Catherines, or Caledonia begin? The second they're finished this one they're just going to go looking for something else to build over some other farmland - just like the Red Hill and Mid-Pen highways.

This is the problem with handing over the reigns of municipal power to developers and construction companies (not that anyone on our current city council has a vested interest in concrete...). None of them really care whether anyone comes after they build it, they just want the contract. What on earth are we going to do with Pan Am Games facilities? Or an industrial facility around a dying airport? And why on Earth would we commit to policies of residential and industrial expansion which requires massive population growth (at extreme levels of consumption)? When pundits cry about a slowdown in growth (especially population), and how it's "bad for the economy", there's one primary reason for this - our economy is chiefly concerned with building new homes.

Even if they paved all of southern Ontario, from Kingston and Barrie to Buffalo and Detriot, that wouldn't really be that much arable land on a global scale. The continent worth of rural hinterland (farms, mines, aquifers etc) which would be needed to keep it going, on the other hand, is not.

Those first couple of comments look professional - those words are too carefully chosen for most amateur trolls (do you guys log IPs?). Perhaps I'd be more convinced by their business actually committed to actually leasing space in Aerotropolis.

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By Bill (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 14:15:57

$12.00 per hour jobs. A large section of Hamilton’s population would love to have a job that is higher than minimum wage. They do not have the education or skill sets to do much more. Funny thing is that Mississauga and Oakville are just full of warehouses and they have some of the most expensive housing around here. On poorly paying jobs, these types of lands attract other industries that are looking for large tracks of lands and are high paying. You are stereo typing for your own benefit.

Or an industrial facility around a dying airport? The airport is bomming. Read the 2009 annual report. Did any of you bother and go to the release of the airports annula report? I don’t thinks so. I did. You would not be able to make things up about it and fixaite on one negative item and ignore the rest. You could have asked questions on their findings. You would see that they lost of passengers like everyone else but they where the only airport to see gains in cargo. You would have heard that they go through as much fuel, because of large cargo planes as Halifax and Winnipeg. The airport is bomming.

And guess what. New study out shows the lower polution levels around the Red Hill Expressway since it opened. I guess the expressway supporters where right.

As to the Hamiltonians for Progressive Development, I expect that it will come out one day that they are secretly funded by developers in Halton and Peel to make sure thay Hamilton does not steal away any business from them.

I also expect this post to go white quickly as anyone who decent on the party line is banished from this site. It is not free speech if your voice is silenced. Go ahead and vote your dislike for my sayings, but don’t silence it. I have the right to speak my mind.

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By TreyS (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 14:30:12

Wait!! Hamilton actually has an Economic and Development department?

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 14:58:06

I also expect this post to go white quickly as anyone who decent on the party line is banished from this site. It is not free speech if your voice is silenced. Go ahead and vote your dislike for my sayings, but don’t silence it. I have the right to speak my mind. - Bill

Of course you do Bill... and I have the right to think you are completely wrong and this site just happens to let me act on that right. I'm not sure how that "silences" you though???

I have been down voted on this site, I have disagreed with others and not been "banished from site", in fact I often welcome it as a catalyst for discussion. If you cannot convince people of the wisdom of your ways, that is no reason to declare a conspiracy or belittle those with differing opinions. There are many different opinions on this site, many good discussions and yes (shock) disagreements.

If all you want is for people to agree with you all the time, you're in the wrong place. And if you feel everyone here is disagreeing with you, perhaps your opinions and ideas just aren't as great as you think they are.

Comment edited by Kiely on 2010-06-15 13:58:57

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 15:02:54

This is the problem with handing over the reigns of municipal power to developers and construction companies... None of them really care whether anyone comes after they build it, they just want the contract. - Undustrial

Excellent point Undustrial!

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 16:24:49

Although the letter to the Mayor and Council is lengthly it is fundamentally asking rather simple questions that we all, as taxpayers, should be asking and demanding answers to.

Why is a very detailed and extensive report being released for public comment without including perhaps the most vital and controversial aspect - the finacial cost and implications to taxpayers?

In January a draft of the report was released to the CLC that suggested that the "contribution" (fancy word for paid by taxpayers)for the first Phase of the development could be in the $100 Million range. This estimated amount is for only a small portion of the total development that represents the "easy" part. This amount obviously caused a great deal of controversy and since January there has essentially been no further public disclosure of costs. In other words - the wool is about to be pulled over your eyes!! Despite this very important point staff is asking that the report be released. It is likely we will not find out until it is way too late and only then will the true belly achers come out of the wood work when taxes go up yet again.

Here are some real "facts for Bill;

Almost 70% of the estimated jobs to be create by the AEGD will be warehousing and logisitics and will take up the majority of the land space. (Dillon Phase 1 study)

HPD argued (along with MMAH) that the initial attempts by the City to expand the urban boundry was premature and won an Order by the OMB to prevent this from occurring - Strike 1.

HPD argued that the City should not proceed with the studies for the proposed huge industrial park without completing the Land Budget as required by the OMB settlement. They proceeded anyway, spent several million taxpayer dollars with Dillon only to have to battle with the province every step of the way - Strike 2.

HPD has argued since 2005 that the aerotropolis posed too many environmental constraints, used vital food lands and would simply be TOO expensive. In 2005 our estimates were 200 to 300 million in taxpayer "contribution" and we are potentially at $100 million for about a third of the proposed park - Strike 3.

For 5 years we have asked the questions and demanded answers to all these tough questions only to be ignored and now the truth is begginning to emerge - Out of strikes!!!

Unless you are really good at reading Annual reports and have followed the airport progress as HPD has for many years I would not put too much weight on what is published. The airport is far from boomming and in fact their story is getting rather tired.

Pasenger numbers for HIA have dropped steadily from a peak of 1,000,000 4 years ago to less than half of that today. Take away the revenue generated by the $20.00 airport improvement fee (non operational revenue generator) and I believe the airport loses money in 3 of the last 4 years.

Cargo out of the airport is calculated on the Gross Take Off weight of the aircraft not the actual tonnage. This is where the larger aircraft flown by Cargo-Jet can fly empty but still generates reveue for the airport as if it were full! I hardly think a 1% increase in overall tonnage can be equated to booming.

The report is quick to state that Tradeport has saved the taxpayers of Hamilton 7 million dollars in annual loses since they have taken over th eoperation but makes no mention of the $25 millin additional taxpayer dollars put into the airport for land etc.

The shareholders of tradeport have taken nearly $10 Million in dividends in the past 4 years but the taxpayers of Hamilton have received about $650,000 for rental payments on an asset worth easily $250 Million.

As a successful business owner the numbers just don't add up.

No one should be afraid to ans the tough questions but it would seem the powers to be are afraid to provide the answers becasue of the inevitable public backlash!!

M. Desnoyers
HPD



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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 15, 2010 at 17:00:59

2009 Annual report? That's funny. The whole point of an annual report is to make investors feel like business is booming. You'd be hard pressed to find a 2009 Annual report that said otherwise, despite what happened to the world's economy that same year.

I've been hearing about how the Airport is "the next big thing" since my 9th grade history class was visited by Stan Keys. There's an almost cult-ish devotion to the idea among those in city hall, despite the fact that there clearly isn't any real desire in either the business world or among the electorate for such a boondoggle.

So where's the hundreds of millions of dollars for rail and harbour freight? Both of which already heavily service our existing industrial areas, and both of which are much more likely to be economically viable three or four decades from now than planes and trucks.

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By Devil's Advocate (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 17:42:19

I find it a bit amusing that the president of Hamiltonians for Progressive Development is advocating against potential employment lands around the airport yet lauds his owns business, but doesn't happen to mention where it is located. Sometimes I don't know what to think. Sure there's issues with potentially low wage jobs around the airport. Is it better that people just live in Hamilton, yet commute to Burlington, Oakville or Mississauga rather than work at the airport? I'm really not sure.

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 17:58:15

Devil's Advocate;

Not sure where you see the humor as the comment " As a successful business owner the numbers just don't add up." was intended to demonstrate that I have some experience and knowledge reading/ creating and analytically challenging annual reports.

I have on more than one occasion previously stated the location of my business on this Blog and others, however, for your benefit it started 20 years ago in Burlington, grew and prospered in Burlington and currently resides in Burlington. In the context of the letter to council and the statements above this has no relevance. I also don't point out that I have been a resident of Hamilton for 52 years - is that fact relevant?

M. Desnoyers

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By z jones (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 20:06:21

Mr Advocate, I find it a bit amusing that you have to resort to personal attacks against Mr Desnoyers, maybe because he makes more sense than you care to admit??

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By kevin (registered) | Posted June 15, 2010 at 22:20:19

Hey Bill:

You get paler, but your words are stil there for anyone interested and dumb enough to read. Don't be so paranoid. By the way, "quite" is not spelled q u i e t; that spells "quiet;" as in "shut up." It's hard to take the right seriously when most of them are stooped.

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By Devil's Advocate (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 00:51:27

z jones
I wouldn't call it a personal attack, merely pointing out obfuscation.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 02:47:59

Oh Please. Etratech (Michael's Company) is located on the very near side of Burlington, right between the Aldershot Go Station and Plains road. It's much closer to the RBG and LaSalle park than any of the 403's office parks. This would be an infinitely easier bike, bus or train commute from downtown Hamilton than the Airport, which as of now is serviced by neither bus nor train, and confronts many of the city's cyclists with a certain...elevation issue.

This kind of petty, semantic ad hominem attack is simply pathetic. It wouldn't matter if his life's work was hunting Santa Clause and his elves - Aerotropolis is a bad idea, and on that matter, he makes a very good point. An argument must be assessed on its own merits.

This isn't to say that I think Mr Desnoyers is a saint. I do have enormous respect for him as an activist, though - his work speaks for itself. As a businessman, though, here's how he feels about globalization:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/worl...

Nobody's perfect, I guess, lord knows I ain't - I've worked primarily for the development sector for years. Now, Mr Advocate, would ye care to provide some personal details so I can muckrake you?

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 07:51:52

Undustrial;

This response is definitely off topic but I think your point about "globalization" is an important one and deserves some feeback.

I cannot deny the fact that my company has an office in Hong Kong and an assembly facility in the PRC. As the article you pointed out clearly indicated we were essentially driven there by our largest customers. It is also true that our head office is here in Burlington where we employ approximately 110 people and at our pre recession peak almost 150. Here in Canada we produce about 6 Million electronic products annually destined for customers primarily in the U.S., Mexico, Sweden, Germany, Luxembourg, Great Britain and yes, China. There are several items that are produced in Canada and exported for consumption by companies in China. This is due to the superior quality and technology that we can provide from Canada. Sadly, only a small portion of what we produce is for manufacturers in Canada as most of these industries have left. The feeling that you have regarding globalization is probably felt by many individuals in the countries that we serve. In China, they produce less than 2 million products for Germany, Israel, Australia, Sweden and the U.S. but very little for domestic consumption.

This month our facility in Burlington begins high volume production of a new product fo a new customer that was previously produced in Taiwan. I guess you could say this was globalization in reverse!

The industry that we are in was decimated by the recession and we survived with strong management and adherence to our long term strategic plans. This is a concept that we seem to consistently abandon at the municipal level. The City of Hamilton routinely violates sound principles such as Vision 2020 for the latest "big bang theory". The aerotropolis is just another example.

I encourage you to visit our website and learn more about our Canadian operations and would be happy to communicate with you off line to discuss this further.

M. Desnoyers

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By NortheastWind (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 18:41:54

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By jason (registered) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 19:31:49

What if they took that same attitude in Toronto and went the route of mega freeways instead of later building more subways? That city would look like a big Hamilton right about now:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancelled_e...

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By Jimmy (anonymous) | Posted June 16, 2010 at 22:03:12

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted June 16, 2010 at 23:02:10

Why don't we fill the current empty industrial parks before building any new ones?

Who currently owns the lands in question near the airport (and will essentially cash in on the "very little" taxpayer investment)?

Let's get these questions answered first, "Jimmy" or "Bill" or "Louise" or whatever name you'll be using next...

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 09:46:33

On another note, this like Rome will not be built overnight but over a period of 20 years. - Jimmy

But that is the problem.

If you read anyone who wants to speculate about the health of the airline industry 20 years from now, it is often a murky picture they paint (at best).

In a "here today gone tomorrow" industry of constantly changing players, mergers, takeovers and rapid descents into bankruptcy, investing in an airport with essentially only two companies making it viable (WestJet and Cargojet) boarders on reckless.

If any one of those companies go belly up, we likely end up with a several thousand acre concrete monument to stupidity on the fringe of our city.

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 18:20:07

Jimmy;

Unfortunately, there is very little about your comment that is accurate except in regards to the maximum that a municipality can charge in DC's which is 90%. That fact in itself says taxpayers must pick up 10% which based on estimated development costs for the aerotropolis still puts the "contribution" north of $30 Million. Again, unfortunately, Hamilton does not now, has not in the recent past and is unlikely in the future to recover anywhere near 90% of development costs from developers. As we become more and more desperate the city will discount increasingly the DC's (as they do now) to attract any kind of business opportunity. In regards to the AEGD costs as I point out above at the January CLC meeting the consultant hired by the city, Dillon, displayed a finacial estimates chart which clearly showed the estimated "contribution" for the first phase of the AEGD at approximately $100 Million. This is for the EASY part. This is not an HPD fact this was from the city hired consultant! I do believe there is a huge majority of people who have been inadequately informed about the AEGD despite the wealth of information available on the city web site. We should all try to make an educated and informed decision about this subject because it will impact the entire city for decades. A report from 2003 commissioned by I believe Hemson clearly indicated in the summary that the AEGD would only be successfull with municipal contribution to the tune of nearly $150K/ acre. Read the report and do the math!

M. Desnoyers

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By Jimmy (anonymous) | Posted June 17, 2010 at 22:11:43

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 18, 2010 at 07:09:23

Jimmy;

I hope you can understand that it is truly very difficult to trust someone named Jimmy Anonymous. If as you say you know more about development and the AEGD then I ever will, it should be no great feat for us to debate the facts and only that. The facts that I state are all taken from reports commissioned by the City and are available to anyone who wants to find them.

Estimated costs for land aquisition, roads, sewer and wastewater is in excess of $300 - $500 Million and at 10% (probably won't even get this) the taxpayer still injects $30 to 50 Million. From a planning perspective what do you think about the stormwater problems in the area?

M. Desnoyers

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By jimmy (anonymous) | Posted June 20, 2010 at 22:42:11

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 21, 2010 at 12:09:45

Jimmy,

That wasn't a shot - it too was stating a fact because you profess your knowledge but give us nothing to substantiate your claim! However, ok - we will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you require anonimity! Now address the facts and share with us the benefits of your knowledge regarding development and the AEGD. I will respectfully debate with you and for every fact I state I will direct you to the exact city report that the information can be verified. Let's do the best that we can both do to educate and inform all readers of RTH and sensibly argue our view points. Are you prepared to answer the question direstly about the stormwater issues in the AEGD!

M. Desnoyers

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted June 23, 2010 at 12:01:57

I will respectfully debate with you and for every fact I state I will direct you to the exact city report that the information can be verified. - Michael Desnoyers

That usually chases them off Michael : )

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By Jimmy (anonymous) | Posted June 23, 2010 at 23:03:41

Sure am, what are your questions about anything regarding the AEGD?

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 24, 2010 at 07:52:51

Jimmy,

Let's start with an easy one that has already been asked twice - "From a planning perspective what do you think about the stormwater problems in the area?"

M. Desnoyers

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By Michael Desnoyers (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 13:44:37

Kiely,

It has been 4 days since my last entry - in regards to Jimmy, me thinks you are right - "That usually chases them off Michael : )!!!

M. Desnoyers

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By Jimmy (anonymous) | Posted June 28, 2010 at 22:55:46

Sorry, Micheal, been busy.

A truly Eco-industrial design will relieve your fears over storm-water. By using such things as ditching (as opposed to storm sewers), roof top and super tunnel storage that can be used for irrigation purposes as well as providing not potable water for flushing of toilets, your fears will be eliminated. In addition by allowing permeable surfaces in parking areas will allow for ground water recharge. The problem is we have spent too much time engineering solutions to wisk stormwater away as opposed to reusing is for many purposes. Heck, so industry in the AEGD may use it for their purposes rather than using treated potable water. The possibility's are endless. The only problem with the AEGD from a development perspective is that you're dealing with the headwaters of three watersheds, the solutions are obvious and eco-friendly, lets not ignore them and the great opportunity that is present.

Fire your next questions, looking forward to it!

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By Jimmy (anonymous) | Posted July 01, 2010 at 22:28:12

Three days and no response............trying to do some research I suppose.

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