Disgust and disbelief over garbage plant zoning approval

Councillors Matthew Green and Chad Collins blasted a garbage plant proposed for the waterfront that received zoning approval from the city Tuesday, while community opponents were in a state of "disbelief."

City staff confirm the plant met all zoning conditions for a waste-processing facility

The proposed garbage plant would be on a site of leased land on Pier 15 on the Hamilton waterfront. (Courtesy of Port Fuels and Materials Services Inc.)

Calling a proposed garbage plant on the waterfront a "bait and switch," Ward 3 Coun. Matthew Green blasted the Port Fuels project Tuesday after the city admitted the project fit into its "waste processing facility" definition, which is allowed on Pier 15. 

Green, fellow councillor Chad Collins and community opponents all had strongly worded reactions Tuesday as the project got a green light from city zoning staff.

I think the Port Authority is using Hamilton as the place where they can put industries that won't be accepted elsewhere.- Matthew Green

A "disgusted" Green contended the project had been "green-washed" to get special provincial environmental consideration, but then when city zoning for an energy production plant proved a hurdle, the project was recast as a waste processing facility to remove that hurdle.

"I think they used one sales pitch to sell the province the renewable energies part of the project, then they came back to the city to say that it was waste management," he said.

Green said he would make a motion at city council Wednesday to ask for extra provincial scrutiny on the project, which is in his ward. 

Kate Andrus, spokesperson for Trash the Garbage Plant a community group opposed to the project, echoed Green's comments that the company is representing itself one way at the provincial end of its approval process and as something else locally. She said she was in "disbelief" at the decision, especially after so many assurances a zone change would be required.

"The question begs, if I decided to build a strip club and call it a change room for a gym, would the zoning department allow me to build it without further comment or consideration? The community would really like to know."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger didn't take a position on the news Tuesday, but said through a spokeswoman that he is keeping tabs on the project and that "this is just one step in the process." 

The Hamilton Port Authority did not return requests for comment.

Port Authority role questioned

Green criticized the port for pushing the project forward.

"I think that they're the problem," Green said. "I think the Port Authority is using Hamilton as the place where they can put industries that won't be accepted elsewhere."

Coun. Chad Collins, who represents Ward 5 in the city's east end, joined Green in criticizing the port's role in bringing the project to the city.  He said the port's approval of this project "set the city back decades" on environmental and economic development progress. 

"They continue to facilitate 1950s-style developments that prevent other investors from even giving the lower bayfront lands a look."

The zoning change was the one mechanism city staff and elected officials were holding out as a reason why Port Fuels should listen to and work with the city and not just with the Hamilton Port Authority.

The main approval process remaining is now the provincial environmental screening, where the various environmental impacts of the project are assessed.

Independent review coming soon

An independent technical review of the project from consultant WSP Canada will be "forwarded to the City shortly in order to assist in their decision making," said the firm's Hamilton operations manager David MacGillivray.

The project site is on Pier 15, federally owned Hamilton Port Authority lands, and Port Fuels representatives have said the project would go forward with or without city approval.

The change in thinking in among city staff comes from a technical redefining of what the project is. The initial rejection was because it was seen as a "private energy generation plant" which is not permitted and would require a rezoning application. After a closer look, staff now accept that the two processes that are part of the operation make it a "waste processing facility"  that includes thermal treatment and the creation of energy as part of it. 

A group of community members who oppose the plant will hold a forum with international environmentalist Paul Connett at City Hall on April 10 at 7 p.m.

With files from Samantha Craggs