Hamilton's AEGD industrial land expansion is almost a done deal
Ferguson: Reaching an agreement has saved weeks of OMB hearings and about $250,000 in legal costs
After 11 years of debate, appeals and outcry from environmentalists, the saga of one of Hamilton’s largest urban boundary expansions is nearing the end.
The city has one more hearing related to the Airport Employment Growth District (AEGD), otherwise known as the aerotropolis. But with a unanimous vote on Wednesday, council approved the final version of which 555 net hectares will be included.
Now the city can start seeing new industry and businesses on the land, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ward 13 in Ancaster. The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) will give the final nod during a two-day hearing starting Feb. 4, but it will be straightforward, Ferguson said.
The development “means a lot of new jobs and a lot of new tax revenue," he said.
“The main message to the public is after 11 years, the AEGD is now finished. We’re moving forward.”
Plans for the AEGD began in 2003. It’s been 11 years of negotiations with landowners, council debates and Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) appeals, including a major 2013 appeal spearheaded by Environment Hamilton and Hamiltonians for Progressive Development.
Their objections included that the project would result in the loss of farmland and green space. They also challenged the assertion that there wasn’t enough existing serviceable employment land.
Mayor Fred Eisenberger says he's still concerned about the loss of green space. Years ago, he pushed at council to have the size of the AEGD reduced. The 555 net hectares dictated by the OMB is “pretty much at what I suggested we should be at,” he said on Wednesday.
But “if we’re going to sell ourselves as a good place for new commercial and industrial then we need places for them to land."
The remaining issues involved a land negotiation and swap involving four parties. The DeRubeis and Hossack farms weren’t included in the AEGD, and the owners wanted them to be, Ferguson said.
Council also approved a settlement with the Twenty Road West Group, which wanted to be excluded, and Silvestri Investments, Ferguson said.
Michael Desnoyers, co-chair of Hamiltonians for Progressive Development, reminded council in an email this week that they promised the land wouldn't include space for residential development. A version he saw before Christmas did, he said. He wants to look at the new boundaries to make sure they don't.
“The people of the city of Hamilton have been repeatedly assured in the last 10 years by previous councils and existing council members that there would be no residential permitted," he said.
Reaching an agreement has saved weeks of OMB hearings and about $250,000 in legal costs, Ferguson said.
Once documents are signed in February, he said, the AEGD will be a done deal.