Hamilton Ontario Credit: Joey Coleman / The Public Record

Land values are driving the variances at Hamilton’s Committee of Adjustment this week with numerous applications for severances and secondary units.

The committee will consider numerous applications to sever mid-to-large size lots to build separate detached homes across all urban areas of Hamilton with applications in East Hamilton, the north Central neighbourhood of Downtown Hamilton, various areas of Hamilton Mountain, and in Stoney Creek.

Similarly, there are requests for secondary units across Hamilton and in Stoney Creek under Section 19 of the Planning Act – changes the previous Liberal government implemented to add rental housing to the market. Secondary units tend to be more reasonably priced.

One of the applicants for a secondary unit, in Stoney Creek, notes in their application that they hope to use the rental income from a secondary suite to assist them as they have lost income due to the economic impacts of COVID. City Hall is opposed to the Stoney Creek secondary suite stating the City is not yet ready for secondary units in suburban communities and for the person to resubmit their application (which costs thousands of dollars) again in the future when the City is finally read to implement new zoning which is long overdue and years behind schedule.

In Stoney Creek, the plaza at Gateshead Cresent and Highway 8 is seeking to legalize a package pickup kiosk in the parking lot. This requires a minor variance. Online ordering and package pickup kiosks are not something the old Stoney Creek Council could foresee while creating zoning decades ago. The Committee of Adjustment is serving its purpose serving as a “relief value” in this instance.

The Beach Strip in Ward 5 continues to see larger homes and additions coming to the Committee of Adjustment, keeping with a decade long trend for the area. It will be interesting to see how census data and growth projections combined for the next East Hamilton school review. The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board closed Woodward elementary school in 2015 due to lack of enrolment. Enrolment is cyclical over decades, as people raise children then remain in their homes for periods of time after the children grow into adults and leave. This points to the serious problems of the school funding formula implemented in mid-90s by the Mike Harris Progressive Conservative government – school boards must sell closed school properties, and then when there is a need for schools, the school boards must find land. [Education governance reform is needed, but none of our political parties are willing to risk putting forth bold plans that anger entrenched constituencies. The current system is broken, but works for politicians because none of them are held accountable for long-term problems]

In Ward 2’s North End, a proposal to create an addition to the rear of a heritage designated home at 455 Bay Street North and to construct a new detached home at 457 Bay Street.  There are community letters of support for the proposal.

Hamilton’s new Commercial Mixed Use Zoning remains under appeal at the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, meaning many areas of Hamilton remain under zoning bylaws created decades ago. Applications seeking to build under the new bylaw continue to use the Committee of Adjustment to do so. The new by-law is more permissive and supportive of mixed-use developments.

415 Main Street West, the former site of a Dairy Queen complete with a drive-thru and parking lot larger than the restaurant, is proposed to become a six-storey 107 residential unit building. The proposal meets most of the requirements of the new zoning along Main Street West. The developer was in front of Committee of Adjustment in December, at which time staff had concerns and requested tabling. City staff and the developers agents met. Staff are now recommending approval. There are letters opposing the development, with one person writing six-storeys is too tall for Main Street West. Another letter is concerned the increase in the number of people living in the area will increase noise from fire, police, and ambulance responses.

If at first you are denied, try again. This is the approach of the owner of 29 Magill Street who is seeking a variance for their North Strathcona property to build a second detached home on the site. The argument submitted by the owner’s planning agent is there are similar tightly configured homes nearby and the variance should be granted this time. The owner already appealed their previous denial to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. While they have made some changes to their proposal, materially it is the same plan. The staff comments are divided with a overall recommendation of denial. This application has drawn strong and organized opposition from neighbours. It is unlikely the CoA will reverse themselves, this is going to remain at the LPAT awaiting a hearing.