In ruling citing concerns about urban boundary pressures and housing affordability, the Ontario Land Tribunal is denying an application by a Waterdown developer to build stacked townhouses instead of apartments at 157 Parkside Drive.

The owner of the land, LIV Developments Ltd, applied to build 123 stacked townhouses on the site instead of higher-density uses such as apartments which the land is zoned for as part of the Urban Hamilton Official Plan (UHOP) and the Waterdown North Secondary Plan (WNSP).

“The provision of affordable housing is an important consideration of the UHOP and apartment-style residential tends to be more affordable,” wrote OLT member Bryan W. Tuckey.

Tuckey upheld the City’s plan for higher density on the site against the developer’s wish to build more profitable stacked townhouses – a form of housing in high demand presently.

LIV Developments appealed to the OLT in March 2020 for non-decision after filing their stacked townhouse plan in December 2016.

City planning staff were not supportive of the plan, there was never a council debate prior to the appeal.

“It is incumbent on the Tribunal to have regard for the City’s position and maintain the existing High Density designation on the subject lands in the face of differing immediate market conditions effectively argued by the Appellant’s Counsel,” the ruling states.

The OLT makes repeated references to the importance of ensuring new development meets density targets for to protect rural areas from urbanization.

“A reduction in a planned high density area and failing to optimize the use of undeveloped lands, potentially compromises the achievement of the City’s vision to be a more sustainable community while having potential impacts on the rural areas of the City,” Tuckey writes.

“Density targets not met within individual neighbourhoods or communities will result in additional pressures being placed on other areas of the City to make up the difference or the need for additional unnecessary boundary expansions.”

The OLT’s mandate requires it to uphold Provincial planning policies and local official plans. In this case, as the local official plans mandate higher density, the OLT is defending that plan.

“Changes to the approved WNSP’s approved structure, no matter how minor, merit a very close and careful consideration.”

The OLT ruling states apartments, while less profitable for developers, are important to ensuring a range of housing choices in neighbourhoods and housing affordability.

“The provision of affordable housing is an important consideration of the UHOP and apartment style residential tends to be more affordable.”

The ruling’s release today comes only one day before Hamilton City Council is scheduled to make a decision on a potential urban boundary expansion.

The ruling will be on CanLII in the coming days.