The North End neighbourhood faces an assault of planning initiatives by the City. Partly because the City has accelerated the transfer of Piers 7 and 8 from the Port Authority, partly because the signficance of the Go station is sinking in, and partly because the neighbourhood is once again the focus of VISION planning with its focus on what it might be instead of what it is. In the context of the approved Secondary Plan for the Neighbourhood, Setting Sail, here are the 13 key challenges to be resolved in 2015 as identified by the HWN planning team:
Will you help with resolving these 13 key Planning Challenges in 2015?
- The City is both owner/developer with a drive to maximize the value of the lands it owns and it is also the land use regulator with an obligation to adhere to the development criteria and participation mandates in Setting Sail. It has chosen the former and virtually abandoned the latter. This serious conflict of interest has to be resolved.
- Designation of areas of future change are critical. Those designations impact the attitude of property owners to everything from investment to repairs to ownership. Setting Sail carefully defined those areas. The City has consistently attempted to enlarge them, a process which destabilizes a functioning neighbourhood.
- The neighbourhood reached agreement with the City on the density of the future housing on Piers 7 and 8 of 750 new residential units including affordable housing. Without involving the neighbourhood in the planning process, City staff developed and Council illegally approved a density of 1600-1800 units without regard to traffic impacts, neighbourhood character impacts, or any other negative impact on the community.
- The same unilateral major increase happened with the retail and commercial land designations on the harbourfront where the City has proposed the equivalent of a Walmart at the foot of James Street.
- The City has embarked on a clandestine program to move Hamilton's primary entertainment district to the water's edge and as part of that program has attempted to exempt bars and restaurants on the Piers from the City's city-wide prohibition on live and recorded music on patios.
- Planning documents prepared by the City show the construction of a parking garage on (under?) Bayview Park with loss of open space and increased traffic on McNabSt.
- Official Plan documents are obscure and open to future manipulation.
- City plans for recreational areas and recreational boating organization are unclear.
- 2014 public participation by residents has been consultant controlled, representing a significant retreat from the partnership that developed Setting Sail.
- The fundamental open space and recreational nature of the west harbour shoreline, an irreplaceable public resource for people in the lower city, is being changed to a highly urban tourist/retail/entertainment character.
- Public housing in the neighbourhood is under serious threat as the City looks for ways to monetize its land holdings in the neighbourhood.
- The use of the North End neighbourhood as a place to drive through, “the corridor from the gore to the shore” continues to be part of the City approach to planning.
- Open Space in the neighbourhood is at serious risk.
To the best of our knowledge, there is no other neighbourhood in Hamilton that faces anything like the risk of the planners' invasion that has started in the North End.
Every new planner that is hired by the City means a new plan. For example, here is one planner's preliminary draft of what might happen in the North End, prepared after speaking with the City. After discussions with the planner, this may never see the light of day again, or it may...
The concept of the North End as a corridor from the Gore to the Shore first showed up in 1995. The North End becomes a place to drive through. We have been told many times that the concept has been shelved. But it showed up again in a 2014 draft concept plan.
To be clear, these are not plans that have been approved by Council. Those can be found in the research tab. These are concepts that were developed for discussion in 2014. Those concepts included radical change on John Street and Bay Street, radical change in public housing at James and Strachan, and a different place to live.
They are referenced here because they demonstrate what can happen when the dialogue is between City staff and consultant planners and the experts who know the neighbourhood because they live there, are not consulted. When the neighbours were consulted, the views of the consultant appeared to change. Time will tell.