Why the Aerotropolis threatens to split this farm in half

Craig Smith will have to wait a little longer to find out if the land that’s been in his family for more than 200 years will be split in half by the controversial Aerotropolis urban boundary expansion.
Craig Smith farms on Smith Road, located in the Aerotropolis urban boundary expansion area. The city could draw the boundary line in a way that splits Smith's farm in half. (Mark Chambers/CBC News)

Craig Smith will have to wait a little longer to find out if the land that’s been in his family for more than 200 years will be split in half by the controversial Aerotropolis urban boundary expansion.

The Ancaster-area farmer owns nearly 50 hectares of land near the Hamilton airport. It's land he uses to farm cash crops, including grain corn, wheat and soybeans. Parts of it have been in his family since 1801.

That’s about to change thanks to Hamilton’s Airport Employment Growth District, known as AEGD or simply the Aerotropolis. The city will expand its urban boundary by 555 hectares around the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, zoning sections of it for business and manufacturing.

Local environmental and citizen groups fought the plan, which the Ontario Municipal Board voted in favour of last year. All that’s left now is to draw the boundary.

Councillors face two decisions — options 1 and 1a. Option 1 cuts through the middle of Smith’s land, while option 1a leaves it intact.

Smith is fighting for option 1a. There’s so much development around his farm that he’ll likely have to sell anyway, he said. Whatever is built around his property, it won’t be for people who tolerate farms.

“Farming includes odours, dust and farm equipment traffic,” said Smith, who already sold his hogs because of neighbour complaints. “People don’t really accept that.”

Smith was among about a dozen presenters at a planning committee meeting on Tuesday. Councillors discussed the Aerotropolis plan for several hours, including a lengthy closed-door session with the outside lawyer representing the city at the OMB. In the end, they made no decision on it.

Jim Sweetman of Dundas told councillors that using such a large swath of land for development eats up valuable farmland, ultimately jeopardizing the food supply.

“The loss of our prime agricultural land undermines the food security of the residents of Hamilton,” he said.

Smith’s farm remains in limbo until the Aerotropolis issue is settled. He will likely sell the land and farm somewhere less crowded.

“It won’t be easy,” he said. “There’s no other way to put it. It won’t be easy.”

But his ancestors are United Empire Loyalists who were forced to leave the United States, and “they never looked back,” he said. “That’s the way it’s going to be.”


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