A citizen group fighting the largest urban boundary expansion in Hamilton's history is feeling optimistic ahead of Monday's Ontario Municipal Board battle.
Environment Hamilton and Hamiltonians for Progressive Development will take on the city in a seven-day hearing over the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD), also known as the Aerotropolis.
The city has budgeted $300,000 for the hearing. The other side is still trying to fundraise $70,000 for legal bills and expert witness fees.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Peter Hutton, Dundas resident and treasurer of Hamiltonians for Progressive Development. "Hopefully we'll have a reasonable discussion about whether this is the right thing to do or not."
The AEGD plan would open up about 720 hectares around the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport for long-term development. The city says it will attract jobs, economic development and as much as $70 million per year in taxes by 2031.
At a public meeting Wednesday night, Hutton and Environment Hamilton director Don McLean said they are skeptical about the city's growth projections.
There is enough brownfield land and undeveloped industrial land along the bay front to accommodate growth for the foreseeable future, they said. And they will argue that next week's hearing.
The hearing will likely hinge on how quickly the city will grow and how badly it needs more space, Hutton said.
"This phase of the hearing is about need, and the hearing officer's assessment of that need," he said. "The officer may side with the city's position, or no boundary, or something in between."
The money raised will pay for lawyers and expert witnesses. The Council of Canadians has joined in the fundraiser, which started in November.
The group has sent letters and emails to raise money. There have also been generous private donors, said Kathie Clark, chair of the Hamilton chapter of the Council of Canadians.
"I'm very optimistic we'll make our target."
Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, said they'll keep working until they raise the money.
"If we don't reach the goal in the timeframe of the hearing, there have been discussions about community fundraising," she said. "A lot of us have experience holding spaghetti suppers."
The hearing breakdown is as follows:
- Day one (Monday, Jan. 14): opening statements
- Day two and three: discussion of the city's land needs
- Day four: airport discussions
- Day five: planning matters, specifically whether the Aerotropolis plan conforms with provincial policies
- Day six: other participants take the stand
- Day seven: closing remarks