Hamilton Ontario Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

Hamilton’s Chief Planner Steve Robichaud says his staff will soon release a working draft of new Site Plan guidelines.

Site Plan is the final stage of planning approval, during which details are negotiated between city staff and developers. Under the City’s new permissive zoning bylaws, such as the Downtown Hamilton Secondary Plan, many development applications now go straight to Site Plan as they meet all requirements of zoning.

Many of the new condo buildings under construction in Hamilton’s downtown were approved at Site Plan – which was the intent of the new secondary plan to set clear rules for new development and to provide the incentive of a streamlined approval process for developers whom meet all the criteria set in the new plan.

Going direct to Site Plan saves both the City and developers significant sums of money, and can be the difference for a project happening in Hamilton where the sale values remain lower than Toronto but construction costs are nearly the same.

Hamilton’s current Site Plan guidelines are from September 2003, and reflect a time when Site Plan was not as complex.

Robichaud shared two of the priority focuses of the new Site Plan Guidelines – harmony with bylaws to avoid red tape situations and climate change.

“There’s a strong interest in how the design guidelines address and respond to challenges presented under climate change consideration”, Robichaud told representatives of the development industry during February’s Development Industry Liaison Committee meeting.

He says the City will be looking at some best practices around climate change management.

“In terms of also how we deal with sort of an easy example, we just simply updating our planting list to identical to that sort of process to identify which type of vegetation will be a climate change winner in which type of vegetation will be a climate change loser. And then to ensure that the recommended preferred tree planting species aligns with sort of the climate change winters and putting in trees or materials that won’t survive in five to ten years because of climate change considerations.”

The Planning Department will run a series of engagement and consultation sessions.

Robichauds says Planning wants to ” we hear from all stakeholders, not only … the development community”. He says the City will reach out to NGO and other interest groups.

Matt Johnson, a Registered Professional Planner at UrbanSolutions, stated the industry looks forward to the consultation.

“We look forward to the opportunity to really contribute”, Johnson stated. “I think we’re all looking forward to working together on the new Residential Zoning Bylaw”.

The RZB will be coming to City Council in March, and will update zoning across the City to allow for development and controlled intensification along the Hamilton’s nodes and corridors.