A group of residents near the Chedoke Tot Lot say the City of Hamilton’s plan to install lighting along a park pathway will harm their quality of life, property values, increase crime, and as one writes, “exposes our neighbourhood to fringe members of society.”
The three residents, and a half-dozen supporters, are taking the Niagara Escarpment Commission to the Ontario Land Tribunal to overturn an NEC permit allowing the City to install the lights.
The Tot Lot is located within the development control area of the NEC. The NEC granted permits in July, finding the pathway lighting is in the public interest.
The pathway is a connector used by bicyclists and pedestrians travelling between the residential areas of Kirkendall and the Hamilton-Brantford rail trail bridge which goes over Highway 403 to the Ainslie Wood neighbourhood.
The City has installed similar LED lighting in public parks across Hamilton following crime prevention through environmental design principles.
“Lighting of the path exposes our neighbourhood to fringe members of society in an area with a ton of children. Lighting the path allows these folks to enter into neighbouring homes. Also ‘lights’ in an environmental area are a concern too,” writes appellant Aaron Scime in his statement of appeal to the OLT.
Scime resides on Chedoke Avenue.
Appellant Jacqueline Winters, who lives on Aberdeen Avenue, writes, “these lights will also invite people and activities that will add noise (sound carries from that area all the way to my back yard) and cause other issues (parties, drugs etc.) for the neighbors.”
Winters writes, “I believe these lights are not necessary and they will disrupt the area and pathways used many animals that cross between the golf course and the ravine (skunks, raccoons, wild turkeys, opossums, deer etc.) as they are generally out at night looking for food etc.”
The third appellant, Chedoke Avenue resident Gabe Crowder’s full statement is short and within the jurisdiction of the NEC, “the proposed use to light up the trail is not consistent with environmental policies.”
Ward 1 City Councillor Maureen Wilson, responding to questions from The Public Record, writes:
“I respect the right of residents to appeal and the process allows for this; however, I fundamentally disagree with the grounds of their appeal. It is my responsibility to advance the broader public interest especially on matters of health and safety. This active trail is on public property. It is heavily used by Westdale Secondary students, essential workers, McMaster University students and staff and residents. Conditions generated by COVID-19 have underscored the importance of safe outdoor transport routes, either by foot or cycle. This is a matter of creating equity for users of a public space.”
Chedoke Avenue residents Michelle Torsey and Steve Barrett are seeking to be added as participants to the appeal. They jointly write, “the application for the addition of lighting to the trail is concerning as it goes against the agreement that was made with the city in 2010 following the outcome of the NEC hearing W/l/2009-2010/147.”
They state the lighting is unnecessary, “When asked, our current city councillor was not able to state whether anyone had requested lighting of this trail, rather her reason to request lighting was simply her own election commitment to add additional lighting, even, it appears, if it is deemed unnecessary.”
They close their letter, “we would like to deter teenagers and others from using this space for gatherings.”
The OLT appeal file includes correspondence between Councillor Wilson and area residents, the residents cc’d the NEC as part of their appeal filings.
In August 2021, Janis Blimkie, who lives on Chedoke Avenue, wrote on her own behalf and Cameron Blimkie, “we are surprised and dismayed that you would seek to spend taxpayer dollars adding light to a trail that was not welcome in 2010 and that we (all concerned residents who spent many hours in meetings with the city and NEC) were all assured at the time in 2010 when we tried to save the natural habitat from an asphalt trail that the trail would not have lights.”
“The objections to the development plan may seem minimal as it is only the tax paying residents backing onto the trail who will be impacted by this thoughtless decision. No one impacted uses this trail for other than leisure activity during daylight hours,” Blimkie wrote.
Wilson responded, “this trail has become a well-travelled commuter route for our city’s health care workers, students, university staff and essential workers along with many others during all four seasons … Aberdeen Avenue is a “minor arterial” road under the city’s classification system. There are no plans for bike lanes on this street for the foreseeable future and it is not felt to be a safe alternative for most who cycle.”
In response to Wilson’s email, Cameron Blimkie wrote, “I do not want my taxes on our beautiful property to subsidize occasional use by cyclists whose property values and living styles are NOT impacted by this lighting proposal. If it’s that critical a concern for the few that might use this trail in the evening then recoup the cost from them by licensing a night cycling permit or tariff of some sort to pay for it…I’d prefer along Aberdeen or some alternative route. My vote in the next municipal election will have a long memory.”
In today’s statement to The Public Record, Wilson states, “I initiated this proposal in response to concerns raised with me by many local residents. For example, a female resident described how she tripped and fell over a fallen branch on the pathway during an early morning walk. Another resident reported feeling unsafe in the evening when using the pathway. The lighting will provide enough illumination to allow pathway users to identify hazards and facial recognition.”
The OLT has not yet set the date for the appeal pre-hearing. The Public Record will report the date, and provide information on how to view the hearing, in our newsletter when the notice is issued.