By Tanya Ritchie
Published August 08, 2011
The Hamilton Guest House, Hamilton's first backpackers' hostel, is open for business. Unfortunately, at reduced capacity. Since our altercation with City by-law last May, we have been reduced to only three guests per night.
At $20 per night... that's right. Not exactly a money-spinner.
I've spoken to just about everyone who knows anything about zoning in this city. In the last two months I've learned my way around City Hall. Almost to an individual, people have expressed enthusiasm for the idea of the hostel, even disbelief that in a city of our size, this is the first.
Many city staff also warned me to beware of "agitators". They like people who work with them. I tried to do this because, like them, I believe it's important that there be a process. There has to be oversight. I'm not advocating a development free-for-all.
But anyone can tell you that a city that prefers parking lots to progress is following the wrong manual. For most of the city, the current set of by-laws regarding zoning were written in the 1950s. The red tape for change-of-use in perfectly good buildings is ludicrous. Costs are prohibitive. Waiting times are absurd.
So many people are trying to help this city raise itself up, but our dreams are being decimated, reduced to a shadow of their ideal, or closed down completely. Because of by-law enforcement, many of these fledgling business owners are too nervous to put their hands up and say that it's not fair.
I'm scared, too. But I'm not breaking any laws, and all I want is to talk to those like me, who have had their dreams and businesses crushed. It would be an insult to all those agitators who stuck their necks out for us in May, if I were to just take the City's orders and shut up.
Anyone wishing to discuss this with me is encouraged to email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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