City Hall can't see beyond its own internal cubicle walls, resulting in red tape and absurd fees that frustrate, delay, and block new businesses, developments, and get in the way of Hamilton's revival.
Absurd rules mean even the simplest of good ideas must deal with archaic regulations and costly unexpected fees to "compensate" City Hall for creating economic vitality in Hamilton.
The latest example?
The City's parking department needs to be "compensated" for the "loss of on-street parking revenue" if a proposed 30-storey condominium is built on the former site of the James Baptist Church on the southwest corner of Jackson Street and James Street South.
The new condominium will have an outdoor cafe patio, main entrance, and a parking entrance along Jackson Street West.
These features - common to any urban core - will make Jackson vibrant, generating economic activity and associated positive spinoffs.
But.. but ... but wait, City Hall says this will result in the loss of "three highly utilized parking metres" and the City must be compensated for this.
Why? The parking department doesn't feel it necessary for the building to have an area for people to be picked up or dropped off on Jackson Street.
Sure, the parking department acknowledges that such a "layby" feature would have "several benefits for the building", but it would cost the parking department some coins.
This is City Hall narrow-minded nickel and diming (quarters and loonies in this case, literally). Parking is losing something, and it must be compensated for an underutilized downtown street becoming vibrant - the overall benefit to the community be damned.
Forget the new development will generate hundreds of thousands per year in property tax, ignore 259 new units of housing downtown generating spin-off economic activities, ignore likely new condominium developments that will result from the Toronto-market media coverage when the 30-storey building sells out and is built. (Easily adding millions per year to the Core and City Hall coffers)
Forget all of the great things that will result, because City Hall must have "compensation" for their "loss".
In the event that parking spaces [on Jackson Street] are removed to accommodate the layby, then the applicant will be required to prove the City with financial compensation for the loss of on-street parking revenue.
Overall, the 55-page city staff report is a comprehensive well researched recommendation in favour of the proposed development. The above statement, unfortunately, reveals that somewhere in City Hall, they didn't read the interoffice fax saying Hamilton will be open for business.
This is not about this specific instance of red tape, it's about red tape.
Without a doubt, the cost of "compensating" City Hall for improving our downtown can be split among 259 units and most condo buyers likely won't notice the fee.
What happens when a small development proposes to build, let's say six-storeys, on a vacant piece of land or parking lot downtown?
Does City Hall impose these "compensation" fees for making street vibrant on all developments in the core?
It's enough to stop small business and smaller developers from being able to improve our Downtown Core.
It's time for Council to send a strong message that cubicle thinking is no longer City Hall thinking, Council must immediately remove these absurd "compensation" fees, and while they are at it, get rid of the insane road widening requirements downtown!
(And yes, this development required a road-widening waiver because mass demolition of the downtown core is still officially on the books at City Hall)
Editors Note: The City of Hamilton prevents direct linking to public reports by expiring links. (More on that problem here.) Hence, there is no direct link to the 55-page report.