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I, the undersigned, urge all Hamilton councillors to protect the city’s remaining prime agricultural land and to oppose the use of scarce foodlands for the creation of an aerotropolis (also known as the airport employment growth district). Employment expansion should be focused on the re-use of existing bayfront industrial lands.
The staff report concerning the urban boundary expansion for the proposed Airport Employment Growth District (“Aerotropolis”) has now been released to the public for review. Presumably, the 74 page report – along with approximately 2100 pages of appendices – is to be absorbed and understood by Councillors in the middle of an election campaign and in time to make a final decision at the council meeting on October 13.
The Pan Am stadium debate has obscured a much more significant decision for Hamilton’s future. At the same October 13 council meeting now earmarked for a stadium decision, city council will also decide on the Aerotropolis – a scheme that will cost far more, and have far greater consequences.
As it now stands, the Aerotropolis (Airport Employment Growth District) will convert 2050 acres of vital foodlands into an industrial zone. This proposal is proceeding forward despite the unraveling of nearly all of its premises and despite the fact that many questions regarding the risks associated with this massive endeavour remain unanswered.
We call upon Mayor Eisenberger and Council to postpone the final decision-making process – for what would be the single largest urban boundary expansion in the history of the City of Hamilton – until after the municipal election. In this regard, we urge our elected officials to consider the following:
- The need to preserve vital prime agricultural foodlands has become obvious to nearly everyone. Global food security is much more threatened, with severe climatic events this summer in Russia, Pakistan, Saskatchewan, China and Australia pushing the world price of wheat up 70 percent.
- The official admitted cost of servicing the Aerotropolis is now over $350 million – and that doesn’t include building 25-km trunk water and sewer pipes from Woodward Avenue to the airport district. This is far higher than the $100 million maximum that a previous mayor said would make the project unaffordable.
- Grand expectations of airport expansion have evaporated. Passenger numbers peaked in 2003 and are now less than half that level. Total flights to and from other airports have fallen from 22nd place nationally to 36th. There has been no net growth in employment since at least 2004, and even the cargo tonnage attracted by all-night flights has declined from a peak of 93,000 tonnes in 2000 to 84,000 tonnes last year.
- It’s become much more plausible that the real agenda isn’t industrial development at all – it’s to turn the Aerotropolis lands into more residential sprawl when the airport inevitably falters and possibly even shuts down.
- The promised Aerotropolis lands employment is now expected to be primarily low-wage, with city consultants forecasting that warehousing and trucking companies will occupy 70 percent of the land.
- The Mid-Peninsula Highway has died. It was to link the Aerotropolis to the US market and thus make the airport area lands much more attractive to new businesses.
- The expected expansion of Highway 6 to six lanes has been abandoned by the province.
- The planned size of the Aerotropolis has fallen by 45 percent in the first Pasae – but since it will still require new trunk pipes and roads, the cost per acre for these services has climbed steeply.
- It’s recently been revealed that businesses around the airport pay five times the electricity rates charged in most of the rest of Hamilton.
- Most of the land along the new Highway 6 extension is part of the protected Greenbelt where industrial development is not permitted, leaving only a tiny portion of the remaining Aerotropolis within two kilometers of a 400-series highway.
- City-funded investigations have shown that storm water management will be over $100,000 an acre because the lands form the headwaters of four significant streams, have low permeability, and because open ponds attract birds and are bad news for airplanes.
- Sewer and water systems are more expensive because the airport is the highest point of land in the city and some of the lands slope towards Caledonia and thus require fluids to be pumped uphill before being sent downhill.
- The already existing airport business park is 85 percent vacant. Even the biggest council advocate for the Aerotropolis, Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, has stated “there’s no rush because no corporations are lining up to move in”.
- Development of already existing green field lands in other parts of the city has been far slower than predicted. The 700 acre green field North Glanbrook business park has added nothing except the promise of Canada Bread using 25 acres.
- Oil prices are three times higher than they were when the Aerotropolis was adopted by the city in 2001. They are predicted to climb much higher and already hit $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008 – helping to plunge the world economy into the current extended recession.
- Council is eagerly giving away existing industrial lands, including green fields, to Wal-Marts, stadiums and gas bars.
- Hundreds of acres of existing industrial land that are vacant or grossly underutilized along the bay front have not been counted in the existing land inventory. The obvious priority should be the re-use of these lands before destroying more farmland.
- Recognition of the value of local food land has increased dramatically. The local food movement didn’t exist when the Aerotropolis scheme was adopted.
- Development charges for industrial lands are currently discounted more than two-thirds, meaning residents will have to pay for most of the servicing costs of the Aerotropolis.
- There are multiple and complex federal restrictions on lands near an airport, including building heights, noise attenuation, and use of electronic equipment. The draft secondary plan directs prospective businesses to do pre-consultation with the private operator of the airport
Later this year, city council will be asked to permanently eliminate 1630 acres of prime Hamilton farmland to create another large zone dedicated to corporate industrial development near the airport. It is very foolish to again reduce our local foodlands and thus make Hamiltonians even more dependent on long-distant sources that are becoming less reliable because of rising fuel prices and climatic changes. It is equally irresponsible to abandon the existing industrial area along the bayfront and replace it with the faint hope that the airport will drive the city’s economic future.
We should oppose the aerotropolis – also called the airport employment growth district – because:
1) The aerotropolis threatens our present and future food security. When oil prices spiked just before the recession, the price of food also jumped – by 77 percent for wheat and over 140 percent for rice. Last year, water shortages in California (where most of our produce comes from) forced half a million acres of farmland out of production, and those shortages are expected to worsen.
2) The aerotropolis lands are not needed for employment. The city already has over 1500 acres of greenfield lands available for industrial use in existing business parks (third highest in Ontario), plus hundreds more acres of under-utilized old industrial properties along the bayfront. The aerotropolis lands are being justified by very inflated growth projections, and by an unbelievable claim that less than two percent of the bayfront industrial area will be available over the next twenty years for redevelopment.
3) Aerotropolis servicing costs are unacceptable. The financial burden on taxpayers to service the 1630-acre aerotropolis has not even been made public. But preliminary estimates of public costs for just the first 385 acres exceed $100 million – some of which the city hopes to get back in development charges – even though this first phase will use existing water and sewer capacity. The post-2021 second phase will require new trunk pipes to connect the aerotropolis to the Woodward Avenue water and sewer treatment plant 25 kilometres away from the airport.
4) It is irresponsible to leave the cleanup of the bayfront to our kids and grandkids. More than anything else, the aerotropolis scheme is about catering to land speculators and corporations who find it more profitable to destroy farmland than to re-develop existing industrial lands. We have a responsibility to clean up our messes, and stop sacrificing more good land.
5) Preserving agricultural land is official city policy. It has been since 1994, but the influence of land developers has kept on converting irreplaceable foodlands into more sprawl. City reports acknowledge agricultural land losses in every year but one up to 2001. In 2002 over 800 acres were converted. Subsequent figures have not been released, but include at least 550 acres consumed in the Stoney Creek urban boundary expansion in 2006.
6) We should stop rewarding speculators. Known land sales in the proposed aerotropolis are exceeding $40,000 an acre – ten times the affordable price for farmland. And the taxpayer subsidy for aerotropolis lands appears certain to exceed a quarter million dollars an acre.
Hamiltonians for Progressive Development (HPD) has announced that it is appealing the decision of Hamilton City Council to convert scarce employment land to another big box power retail centre on Centennial Parkway at the QEW. The appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board will be filed shortly.
HPD believes that the conversion of these employment lands to commercial uses contradicts Ontario’s Smart Growth initiatives, the principles of Vision 2020, and the recently-approved first Official Plan of the City of Hamilton. HPD takes the position that Hamilton cannot afford to lose opportunities for job creation within the urban boundary and argues that the conversion of these lands will create unnecessary pressure to push Hamilton’s urban boundary into prime agricultural land.
For further information please contact HPD Chair Michael Desnoyers at 905-308-4947 or email HPD at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public information meeting with Mike Desnoyers
Wed. December 3 @ 6:30 pm
Mount Hope Community Hall
This is NOT a City of Hamilton public meeting … just straight talk and the facts about the City’s plans to industrialize 3,000 acres of prime agricultural land around the airport.
Sponsored by Friends of Red Hill Valley, MacGreen, Environment Hamilton, Sierra Youth Coalition, Hamilton/Burlington KAIROS Committee, Hamiltonians for Progressive Development
First Unitarian Church
170 Dundurn Street S, Hamilton
Communities around the world are preparing for the transition required by climate change and an energy-constrained future. In response to these challenges, long-time Hamilton residents Jack and Joanna Santa-Barbara are participating in the “transition towns” initiative in Motueka, New Zealand, and helping to build a nearby self reliant village based on permaculture principles. They will each do brief presentations and then respond to questions.
Below are pictures for the event sponsored by Hamiltonians for Progressive Development and the Hamilton and Burlington Society of Architects:
Read more information on Raise the Hammer