By Graham McNally
Published July 05, 2011
Dear Mr Mayor and Councillors,
I'm writing to express my support in the proposed LRT.
I was disappointed to read the recent article in the Spectator, titled "City being 'backed into a corner' on LRT: Clark" (July 5, 2011).
The opinions expressed by the councillors quoted in the article seem, to me, to support outdated city planning and building ideas. Ideas that have been proven time and time again not to create great cities, as I'm sure Hamilton aspires to be.
First, Councillor Clark is quoted as suggesting that the city's current studies, "should be focused instead on Rymal Road, where he says development is happening without any sort of plan in place."
While the plan might be a bit out of date, to suggest that there is no plan is not true. There are zoning bylaws and the site plan approval process that, while perhaps not the best of plans, is a plan.
However, it is not the specific plan or lack of plan that I take issue with. My concern is the desire to look at the boundaries of the city for land to grow on. The list of cities that expanded out for years and years while neglecting their downtown is long. Most prominent in my mind is Houston, Texas, a city that has spent millions of dollars and several years trying to reinvigorate its downtown.
In addition to this concrete example, the fact that we have moved beyond endless expansion is evidenced by several provincial plans that look at growth and how it should happen in Ontario. Namely, "Places to Grow" and the "Greenbelt" plans, both intended to focus further growth on intensification rather than expansion.
Second, discounting the work of city staff is counter-productive. Councillor Collins is quoted saying, "If 50 to 60 per cent of interest (from developers) is in another place, we might want to put our eggs in another basket but council doesn't seem to have that option."
Perhaps Councillor Collins isn't familiar with the work of the land use study or the results of several workshops that the Rapid Transit group has held with developers.
Developers have told city staff that one of the reasons development isn't occurring downtown or along the corridor is because the financial equations don't make sense for a variety of reasons - out of date zoning bylaws, insufficiently large lot sizes to name a few.
The land use studies are looking at ways to make the corridor more attractive to developers so that 50 to 60 percent aren't looking at the fringes but are instead looking downtown.
It's a question of priorities. Its easy to say, "Look. No one wants to develop downtown," and do nothing to change that fact. However, if creating a vibrant downtown is a goal of the city, then the response should be, "Look. No one wants to develop downtown so lets find out what framework we can put in place that makes it more attractive to developers!"
In summary, there is an energy in Hamilton right now that, given strong leadership, will result in this city moving in amazing new directions. With all the great work being done to think about where the city could go, I believe that our councillors need to champion good city building and strong development ideas.
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