Hamilton City Hall's west wing Credit: Joey Coleman

Encampments dominated the agenda for one of the longer Planning Committee meetings of the COVID-era.

In a 4-2 vote at committee, councillors present voted to require bylaw enforcement to request Hamilton Police remove encampments within 12 to 72 hours of one becoming known.

The other major item, significantly underreported, was passing a new Secondary Plan, Urban Design guidelines, and Transportation Management Plan for Waterdown.

Other items dealt with include: voting to start a heritage designation process for the Grace Lutheran Church at 1107 Main West, increasing taxi fares, approving rapid housing at 221 Charlton East, responding to expected Planning Act changes, and more.

The meeting adjourned moments before 7:15 p.m. in the evening.

The total time in public session was approximately 8 hours and 47 minutes, councillors were in closed session for approximately 33 minutes.

In a noteworthy change, prompted by TPR’s coverage of Ontario Land Tribunal filings, Council will now release its OLT positions to the public.

Encampment Enforcement

There were 37 delegations in response to Councillor Jason Farr’s motion.

The meeting began with Clr Lloyd Ferguson questioning if the delegations should be allowed. During the delegations, there were tense movements as individuals directed comments at councillors and council as a whole.

As Chair of the Planning Committee, Clr Brenda Johnson had to cut the microphones of both council members and delegates to retain control of the meeting. Johnson handled the challenges well.

Farr’s motion passed 4-2, with Farr, Ferguson, Johnson, and Pearson in favour. Wilson and Danko voted opposed.

For more details on the debate, with extensive quotations from both councillors and delegates, read the full story on TPR here: Council’s Planning Committee Votes 4-2 for Quicker Encampment Evictions.

The motion will be debated at Council’s ratification meeting on March 30.

Waterdown Zoning, Design, and Traffic Plans

The most significant long-term decision made by councillors during Tuesday’s planning committee was approving a new Secondary Plan for Waterdown, Urban Design Guidelines, and a new Traffic Management Plan for the rapidly growing suburb upon the escarpment.

The plans will work together to guide the transition of Waterdown’s residential core to a pedestrian-friendly form while enabling the conversion of suburban commercial plazas to mixed-use at the same time the plan protects the pre-confederation neighbourhood character of the original Euro-Canadian settlement area centred on Dundas Street around the Grindstone Creek.

Ward 15 Clr Judi Partridge, who represents Waterdown and initiated the planning, says the new plans will “protect the heritage within Waterdown and Flamborough.”

Partridge asked staff to confirm the plans provide heritage character protection to 40 Mill Street North, commonly known as the Jam Factory, which is presently for sale.

“40 Mill Street North and the other properties that the councillor mentioned are located within the existing Millstreet Heritage Conservation District and are therefore designated under Part V (five) of the Ontario Heritage Act,” stated City of Hamilton Planner Melanie Pham.

The new Secondary Plan limits properties to “three storeys within that area to maintain the small scale character of that portion of the core,” she added.

Councillors praised the plans.

Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson commended Partridge for initiating and working on the plans.

The Waterdown Transportation Master Plan says the City needs to add transit service connections west on Dundas Street into Burlington, and direct transit east to Downtown Hamilton. Additionally, the plan maps out plans for a network of bicycle and pedestrian routes to enable local trips to be taken by active transportation.

“We know where we are today with the traffic concerns, which are which are just ridiculous,” Partridge stated. “The sooner the last extension of the bypass is built, the better.”

Partridge asked how concerned Council and the community should be regarding rumours the Province will overrule local planning as part of expected Planning Act changes.

Hamilton’s Director of Planning and Chief Planner Steve Robichaud stated the Secondary Plan reflects present provincial planning policies.

“I’m not anticipating that we will see in the short term, any of the significant provincial changes around that anything could happen after an election,” Robichaud stated.

He stated he is “confident that we can still proceed with a secondary plan today, and that we will then obviously respond to any provincial changes as they come down the pipeline.”

More information on the new plans here: Council Planning Committee Unanimously Approves New Waterdown Zoning and Traffic Plans

Designating 1107 Main Street West Under the Heritage Act

Councillors endorsed the position of the Hamilton Municipal Heritage Committee to begin the process of designating the former Grace Lutheran Church under the Ontario Heritage Act.

The building is in Ward 1 at 1107 Main Street West.

Councillors voted to add the building to the municipal heritage registry which will give it 60 days of protection if a demolition permit is sought, sufficient time for the Council to issue hold special meetings to fully designate the building.

The developer proposes to retain “a portion of the church’s facade which includes the stained glass window” to be reused “in the redevelopment as part of the community garden at the corner of Main Street West and Dow Avenue,” the developers planning agent David Falletta stated.

Sarah Sheehan, a Hamilton heritage advocate who is writing a book on adaptive reuse, says Hamilton needs to be “standing by our heritage buildings by giving them official protection” and send “a clear message that we care about the environment.”

Sheehan states the developer can build behind the church and retain the structure, stating the City should require this as part of its climate action strategy due to the “high environmental cost of demolition.”

“Buildings have huge carbon footprints. demolishing a building throwing it away in a landfill is a staggering act of conspicuous consumption” and a “destructive approach to Canada’s built heritage” that has been “normalized over generations.”

Sheehan suggests the developer consider alternatives.

The vote to proceed towards designation was unanimous, with Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson in favour.

Expected Changes to the Planning Act

Council discussed the fifty recommendations of the Ontario Housing Affordability Task Force and the response sent to the Province by the City’s planning department.

The Province is expected to implement some of the recommendations by amending the Planning Act during the present session of the Legislative Assembly.

The Queen’s Park rumour mill has included various dates the legislation would or will be tabled.

During Tuesday’s debate, Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko said he heard rumours the legislation be tabled Thursday.

There were rumours the week prior it be tabled on Tuesday, and a rumour for each day of the coming week.

The staff response asks Ontario’s Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark to not impose “one size fits all” measures and to retain local control over planning, development, and heritage.

“We’re saying that it is not one size fits all major urban centers, such as Hamilton, it’s very complex, the issues that we are dealing with,” Hamilton’s Director of Planning and Chief Planner Steve Robichaud stated.

“We also have to deal with issues of gentrification, renovictions, homelessness, and how does our housing strategy respond to all of those elements?”

Clr Danko noted the provincial “report deals with market-based affordability but … didn’t address actual affordable housing.”

Danko suggests the Province needs to include “requirements for a certain number of units of affordable housing or other incentives for building below market value affordable housing.”

Danko is concerned the Province will allow developers to go to the Ontario Land Tribunal to get approval for 40-hectare urban boundary expansions, which he says be “a rubber stamp for incremental urban boundary expansions.”

Councillors received the staff update.

99-307 John Street South and 97 St. Joseph’s Drive, Ontario Land Tribunal Appeal

Jason Farr opened the brief public discussion of this Ontario Land Tribunal saying this is “a pretty significant project in our core” asking staff to provide reasons the developer is appealing for non-decision to the OLT.

Staff responded the development proposal received unfavourable comments from the Niagara Escarpment Commission and were concerned the NEC will not support the proposal if it were approved by City Council.

After a closed session meeting, councillors voted. Farr stated he may change his vote at the Council ratification. The meeting clerk did not disclose the vote result.

First Taxi Base Fare Increase since 2013

The City of Hamilton is increasing the base fare for municipally regulated taxis from $3.90 to $4.90, the first increase since 2013.

Clr Maria Pearson introduced the motion as a no-notice walk-on item, saying the increasing costs of fuel and insurance make it necessary to increase fares to maintain viable taxi services in Hamilton.

Clr Lloyd Ferguson declared a conflict of interest. Ferguson owns taxi plates.

The motion passed unanimously.

Restaurant Permission for the Ancaster Business Park

Councillors unanimously approved a zoning change to allow a restaurant in the Ancaster Business Park. The existing Prestige Business Park Zoning did not permit a restaurant.

Permission to Apply for Variances Granted to Developers of 206 King West

The developers of a Council-approved mid-rise on the northeast corner of King Street West and Caroline Street have made modifications to the project related to setbacks and need smaller parking stall sizes related to the planned parking stacker system. The manufacturer of the parking stacker changed the dimensions of the unit since Council approved the project.

All these changes require minor variances under the Planning Act. The Act requires any development approved by Council during the previous 24 months to have Council consent to apply for variances.

Councillors approved consent to apply.

Reviewing Ottawa Street’s Status as a “Major Arterial Road”

Back when tens of thousands of people worked at Hamilton’s steel mills, Ottawa Street was a major commuter route between the Mountain and the Mills.

Ottawa Street remained a major arterial road as the link between the Hamilton Brick Works Yard at the foot of the escarpment and Burlington Street. It is no longer in operation.

Ward 3 Clr Nrinder Nann, who represents the west side of Ottawa Street, asked the Planning Committee to approve a motion to request staff review the road classification of Ottawa Street. It passed unanimously.

Granting McMaster University Permission to Demolition the Traymore Houses

Ward 1 Clr Maureen Wilson asked councillors to approve allowing McMaster to demolish the detached homes on the Traymore Avenue lands that McMaster will develop into a new residence.

The City and McMaster reached a settlement at the Ontario Land Tribunal which was approved by the Tribunal in early March.

Hamilton’s demolition control bylaw requires final site plan approval for new developments before allowing old buildings to be demolished.

Wilson noted McMaster is guaranteed to build the new building, and that the vacant structures are attracting “untoward activity at the property.”

Councillors approved the motion.