Hamilton·Hamilton Votes

Dundas council hopefuls say VanderBeek doesn't call people back

As Hamilton-wide issues go, a Canadian Tire replacing a Metro grocery store isn't a big one. But for some Dundas residents, it represents a bigger beef — they don't feel like they hear enough from Arlene VanderBeek.
Incumbent Arlene VanderBeek, centre, reacts to Kevin Gray, left, when he says she doesn't respond to residents. All seven Ward 13 candidates attended an event Tuesday. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

As Hamilton-wide issues go, a Canadian Tire replacing a Metro grocery store isn't a big one. But for some Dundas residents, it represents a bigger beef — they don't feel like they hear enough from Arlene VanderBeek.

The incumbent councillor joined six other candidates for a Ward 13 election event Tuesday. One by one, competitors took aim at VanderBeek for not calling people back about Canadian Tire.

Kevin Gray, a candidate and Dundas business owner, said some residents told him they've been calling VanderBeek for six months.

"I was up last night," Gray said. "I couldn't sleep. It was driving me nuts that these residents had gone unaddressed for six months."

Ward 13 candidates talked LRT, Canadian Tire and keeping public land public at an event Tuesday. From left: John Roberts, Kevin Gray, Arlene VanderBeek, John Mykytyshyn, Gaspare Bonomo, Rich Gelder and Pamela Mitchell. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

John Mykytysyn, a Conservative political consultant, also attended a Monday meeting VanderBeek held about the Canadian Tire. Citizen concerns include 10 planned vehicle mechanical bays, which they worry will harm nearby conservation land.

"I heard the councillor wasn't responsive," he said. "She said she was. Now we've got a he said, she said."

VanderBeek wouldn't comment afterward on the six-month claim, saying it's a "personnel issue."

Residents can give input at a committee of adjustment meeting Oct. 18, when the arm's-length body will vote on the Canadian Tire request for a parking exemption, VanderBeek said. Otherwise, there isn't much city council can do.

But she did fire back at the notion that she doesn't answer phone calls.

The new Ward 13 includes Dundas and part of rural Flamborough. (City of Hamilton)

"Don't tell me I don't engage," she told Gray. "I'm sure there are many people in this room who have been at neighbourhood meetings with me, or been at the town hall and told me what they thought."

"I try to do what I can to protect and preserve us."

About 175 people attended the event at Dundas Baptist Church, held by the Association of Dundas Churches and the citizen group Dundas Works.

All seven candidates — Gaspare Bonomo, Rich Gelder, Gray, Pamela Mitchell, Mykytyshyn, John Roberts and VanderBeek — were there, although Bonomo ducked out early.

The Canadian Tire issue at University Plaza was an ongoing theme. So was light rail transit (LRT) — only Gelder, avid cyclist and high school teacher, is firmly in favour — and keeping public land in public hands.

From left: Gaspare Bonomo, Rich Gelder, Pamela Mitchell. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The latter dogged VanderBeek through her first term.

VanderBeek drew criticism for approving the sale of an unassumed laneway that connected a school to a day care centre. A developer who's done city work bought it for $2. Some 300 residents marched in protest.

"The alleyway, Arlene?" Mitchell said Tuesday. "Naughty, naughty, naughty."

Then there's the former Parkside High School property, which the city is turning into a cemetery.

"I am extremely proud that land will stay in public hands because it will be a cemetery," VanderBeek said.

From left: John Roberts, Kevin Gray, Arlene VanderBeek, John Mykytyshyn. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Gray, however, said the cemetery is "a sad choice." It should have been affordable housing or a seniors centre. Bonomo, a Mohawk College professor, said with a cemetery, technically "we are going to be selling it off piece by piece."

Roberts, a construction company manager, most often mentioned rural Flamborough. That area used to have its own ward. The Oct. 22 municipal election will be the first with new ward boundaries. Those divide rural Flamborough between Ancaster and Dundas.

"I have seen the way we have been put on the back burner," Roberts says on his campaign site.

About 200 residents signed a petition in 2016 to protest the closure of an unassumed laneway. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Campaign promises are one thing, VanderBeek told the audience Tuesday. But with Canadian Tire, as in all matters, the job has limitations.

"I have worked in planning and development for 30 years, so I know the planning act and I know our zoning bylaw," she said. "I know what can be done and can't be done. The way that I can help is to take my responsibility very seriously and tell you the truth."

"There are 15 people on council. I'm one. And whoever wins this election is no different."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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