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Greenfield can house 80 thousand

Nov 20, 2017

The city’s newest expansion onto rural lands will accommodate three times the population of Dundas and consume more area than the aerotropolis. The next step in the controversial Elfrida Growth Plan is to gather public views on how much natural area should be protected for the headwaters of four streams.

Three options for watershed management will be presented at a public meeting on Wednesday December 6 at Valley Park recreation centre starting at 6:30pm. The 3100 acre L-shaped block lies east and south of the intersection of Upper Centennial and Rymal Road. It extends from Trinity Church Road to Second Road East and from Mud Street to Golf Club Road in upper Stoney Creek. Altogether it’s equal to about half of the built-up area on Hamilton Mountain.

Most of the lands are drained by Twenty Mile Creek which flows through Smithville and Balls Falls to Jordan Harbour. There’s also a substantial block of headwaters for Stoney Creek and smaller portions of the upper reaches of Hannon Creek and Davis Creek that both feed Red Hill Creek.

Consultants have calculated that between 72,000 and 80,000 residents will live and/or work in the growth area depending on the amount of protected area. While provincial law requires saving about 600 acres of the natural features in the land block, one of the options would add another 250 acres.

The consultants say this option would “retain/enhance headwater drainage features”, “enhance all potential restoration areas”, and “retain some hedgerows”. This would reduce the developable area and accommodate the lower population numbers.

A second possibility would urbanize potential restoration areas and hedgerows and only “retain some headwater drainage features” thereby making room for an extra 8000 residents. The third option would preserve slightly more than the second, but still nearly two hundred acres less than option one.

The growth area is currently agricultural with a small number of rural residents. It is largely owned by a handful of residential developers including Multi-Area Developments, Paletta International, Desozio Homes, and the Frisina Group. It was originally designated by the city as a future greenfield development zone in 2006 but the provincial government blocked its inclusion in Hamilton’s official plan.

That decision was appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board in 2012 by both the city and the affected developers, but five years later no hearings have been scheduled. Instead the city has pushed ahead with consultant studies aimed at creating an urbanization plan for the area. The December 7 meeting is part of this process and is the second of three opportunities for public input.

The block was originally expected to house far fewer residents, but since the city selected it the province has imposed a growth plan to reduce urban sprawl. Initially that required a minimum of 50 residents or jobs per hectare (20 per acre) but has since been bumped up to 80 per hectare. As a result, it’s unclear whether the city could get permission to bring the entire Elfrida block into the urban boundary or would have to do it in stages.

Hamilton’s population is projected to increase to 723,000 by 2041 – about 160,000 more than today. But provincial rules also require most of that growth must be accommodated by increased density in the already built-up parts of Hamilton. And there are also some competing undeveloped greenfield areas already inside the urban area.

The Hamilton Conservation Authority recently purchased lands just east of the Elfrida block so it could construct wetlands to control flooding in the lower city. Similarly the watershed plan prepared by the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority for the Twenty Mile Creek watershed specifically warns about the impact of urbanization:

“Water quality and quantity can be negatively impacted when land is converted from natural areas and low-density use as in rural areas, to more intensive uses such as medium density residential or commercial use. A reduction in the size of natural areas leads to increased flow rates and velocities, and an increase in stormwater pollutants. This results in increased stormwater flows and flooding, erosion and sedimentation, and loss of natural features (e.g., wetlands), which are all problematic in the Twenty Mile Creek watershed.”

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