City undermines Conservation Authority
Oct 16, 2015
The Conservation Authority is purchasing lands for a major east escarpment park at the same time that the city has floated the idea of removing these same areas from the protected Greenbelt and opening them up to residential and industrial development. The city move opens hundreds of acres in upper Stoney Creek to intense speculation and steep price increases and is also being promoted with false and misleading statements.
Environment Hamilton argues these city proposals issued last month for cuts to the Greenbelt are a “straw man” scheme that are “out of the realm of what the provincial review was asking for municipalities” and ignore the criteria set out by the Ontario government for the ten-year assessment of the Greenbelt agricultural protection area established in 2005.
“It states that upper or single tier municipalities are required to provide a comprehensive justification or growth management study to support proposed boundary changes,” notes the citizen non-profit group. “The city of Hamilton has not provided this.”
City planners have asked the public to “consider for removal from the Greenbelt” several large blocks including one in Upper Stoney Creek designated as Area 2. In the public consultation held last month the block is described as suitable for residential or industrial uses and the public is assured it contains “no conservation areas, existing trails, or city classified parks.”
There is no mention of the 15-year-old Dofasco Trail that runs through the block, and the use of the “city classified park” terminology apparently allows city planners to ignore the large park run by Dofasco for its employees that was set up long before the company was purchased by foreign interests.
And earlier this month the Hamilton Conservation Authority announced the purchase of 178 acres (72 ha) that comprises about a quarter of Area 2. The acquisition is part of the East Escarpment Wetland Project that is partly funded by a $2 million contribution from the city.
“The two properties purchased are adjacent and also link to the Dofasco 2000 Trail and the Devil’s Punchbowl Conservation Area,” says an HCA announcement, “making the purchase a major step in the project, which aims to acquire floodplain lands, existing and former forested and wetland areas in the East Escarpment with the potential for restoration and enhancement and to provide for passive recreation,”.
The HCA statement emphasizes that the lands contain over 800 metres of Battlefield Creek as well as some of its tributaries because flood control on in the creek watershed is a stated objective of the HCA project. This is the creek that flooded the National Drive area in December 2006 after debris diverted it down a railway corridor and across Greenhill Avenue.
Area 2 is one of five large blocks – three in Upper Stoney Creek and two on tenderfruit lands near Winona – that city planner suggest should be removed from the Greenbelt. Environment Hamilton calls these areas “land that is needed for food production, or to prevent flooding or extreme drought in the very near future” as climate change imposes more severe weather.
The group points to the serious “drought situation in California where we import much of our food from” as well as the Syrian refugee crisis which they say “provides a prime example of the upheaval that can result from extended drought”. It argues Hamilton should be increasing local food production to make the city more self-sufficient in feeding itself.
“The city of Hamilton has consistently disregarded arguments and objections raised by stakeholder groups and the general public concerning the continued shrinking of prime agricultural lands and natural areas across Hamilton,” says the Environment Hamilton submission to the city. “The city (planners) continues to plough ahead with 1950s ideas of planning for growth, minimizing the province’s direction to build with urban boundaries [and] instead encouraging, promoting and facilitating sprawl.”
A report on the Greenbelt boundary review initiated by the city is expected to go to councillors in early December.