The city's planning committee has approved a multi storey condo project for Charlton Avenue East on former industrial lands.
The committee voted Tuesday to change the zoning on the industrial site on which a developer proposes building 162 condo/apartment units in three multi-storey buildings.
Their approval disappointed dozens of residents who showed up to City Hall Tuesday morning and waited for six hours for the debate to even begin over this project. The final decision came just after 7 p.m.
Residents perched “NO!” signs in the windows of the council chambers declaring their opposition. They fear the project will impact their escarpment views, the tree line, the adjacent Rail Trail and traffic and parking.
"We're not saying don't develop there, we're saying don't develop this way there," said Tim Perkins, who moved near the proposed development in February.
City planners recommended approving the zoning change. The project fits the city's and province's goals for growth in the region, is near downtown and transit and would be a new use for a former industrial and commercial, or brownfield, site.
A 'spectacular' location
The property is on a terraced piece of lower escarpment land above the Rail Trail in the southern edge of the Stinson neighbourhood. The parcel was previously Sportmen's Lanes, a bowling alley, before it was a transportation depot. The zoning change would take the property from its industrial use to allow for multi-unit housing use.
The property is owned by Ron Van Kleef, president of Hamilton Cab, and he is developing the site with Paul Black under the name Vetco Development Corporation.
"It is the location itself that will make this project spectacular," said Ed Fothergill, representing the developer.
Just one of the resident speakers Tuesday spoke in favour of the project. He said he would rather see a residential project there than a new industrial use that could draw trucks through the neighbourhood.
“I live two doors down from this proposed project and I don’t have a lot of neighbours, so that would be nice to get some neighbours next door," said Mike Medeiros.
“We turn our backs on a lot of good things that would help revive the core. If this doesn’t happen, I think I’ll be a little more angry and sad.”
Impact to the escarpment
The project does not have the backing of the Niagara Escarpment Commission, which raised concerns including the impacts to the views of the escarpment.
City staff asked the developer to revise the project in light of that position, but ultimately decided to recommend the project anyway, noting in their report that the commission's "approvals are not required".
"We felt that it seemed to be overdone, the extent to which they were willing to accept development” on the site, said Cam Thomas, the city planner on this project.
He said the city felt a "reasonable approach" would be to change the plans for the buildings to be two six-storey buildings and one five-storey building instead of all three the same height, in response to concern about the height of the easternmost building's impact on views.
Lynda Lukasic, executive director of Environment Hamilton, said her organization typically supports projects that propose intensification or added density like this. But she said that intensification must respect residents’ access to and views of the escarpment.
The debate over this project is a sign of things to come as the city prepares to intensify its existing neighbourhoods rather than sprawl into new land, she said.
"Intensification is not easy; it's not fun," Lukasic said. "And we're just getting started."
On Tuesday the developer suggested it will seek permission to add the storey taken off the eastern most building onto one of the others, making one a seven-storey building.
The developer has also asked for the city to share some costs connected to infrastructure and city services like water and sidewalks. That request was not part of Tuesday's zoning decision; any such arrangement would be something the city would decide later.