Some Flamborough folks are worried about the loss of their rural identity — and having to pay for transit — after an Ontario Municipal Board decision to eliminate Ward 14.

'They're going to keep breaking up Flamborough into little pieces, and pretty soon, there won't be a Flamborough.' - Roman Sarachman, Committee to Free Flamborough

The OMB ruled this week that the city has to redraw its ward boundaries. The reconfiguration, drawn by city consultant Watson and Associates, most impacts Flamborough, Stoney Creek and the Mountain.

It eliminates Flamborough's rural ward and divides it between the Dundas and Ancaster wards. Matteo Patricelli, executive director of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce, said Ward 14 residents have "unique concerns that require them to be heard."

"We'll be asking the person representing Ancaster to be representing rural Flamborough, which are very different communities," he said.

Option 2

These are the proposed ward boundaries under the OMB ruling.

Ward 14 is Hamilton's least populated ward, with 16,640 people in 2015, and a projected 16,075 in 2026. But geographically, it represents about a third of the city.

Ward 7 on Hamilton Mountain, for example, had 62,435 people in 2015. Every area has one councillor.

'There was never a need to have an exclusively rural riding.' - Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Patricelli understands wanting to balance those numbers. But the OMB decision doesn't factor in communities of interest as much as he'd like.

Prince Edward Island, he said, is the least populous province. But it would be inappropriate to lump it in with a larger area.

The ward boundary issue dates back to 2000, when Hamilton went through a provincially ordered amalgamation. The transition board recommended reviewing the boundaries — which run largely along pre-amalgamation lines — within 10 years. City council finally tackled it last year.

Current boundaries

These are the current ward boundaries. (City of Hamilton)

The city hired Watson and Associates, which recommended redrawing the boundaries. City council made their own suggestions, which sparked cries of gerrymandering.

In the end, council chose an option only slightly different from the status quo. Two citizens — Mark Richardson and Rob Dobrucki — took it to the OMB.

Council will debate in closed session Monday whether to appeal.

For some, the loss of Ward 14 triggers anti-amalgamation sentiments in an area where many didn't want to amalgamate. Roman Sarachman of Freelton, organizer of the Committee to Free Flamborough, says under the current system, Flamborough at least has some voting power.

This just adds to the loss of identity, he said.

'It's not my ward. It's the people's ward. They've lost their ward now.' - Coun. Robert Pasuta

"Flamborough was supposed to stay together," he said. Once you divide the area, "it's not Flamborough anymore."

"They're going to keep breaking up Flamborough into little pieces, and pretty soon, there won't be a Flamborough."

The realignment also includes a new ward on the Mountain — labelled Ward 14 on the map — and redraws ward boundaries around Stoney Creek and Winona. There's less change in the lower city.

Other wards merge urban and rural

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said city council could appeal at the OMB. If there's an error in law, he said, it could ask for a judicial review.

If council doesn't fight the decision, he said, the boundaries will likely be in place for the October 2018 municipal election.

"It may very well be that council accepts this," Eisenberger said. "My personal view is that they should."

Other wards combine rural and urban areas, he said. This option takes rural residents into account, he said, while fixing the population disparity.

"There was never a need to have an exclusively rural riding."

'They've lost their ward now'

Robert Pasuta, Ward 14 councillor, said his residents may have to pay for transit now.

Under the current area rating system, suburban and rural wards pay only for the amount of transit they receive. So Ward 14 doesn't pay at all. It's a growing issue with the advent of light rail transit (LRT), a $1 billion system due to launch in 2024.

Pasuta isn't happy about the OMB decision, but he's not sure what can be done.

"The decision's been made," he said. "I think this is one where it's done."

"It's not my ward. It's the people's ward. They've lost their ward now."