Hamilton councillors vote down a massive expansion to the city's urban boundary

The vote was deferred from Nov. 9, when hundreds of residents gave input, most against the expansion.

The vote was deferred from Nov. 9, when hundreds of residents gave input, most against the expansion

Hamilton city council has decided not to expand the city's urban boundary by 1,310 hectares. (Patrick Morrell/CBC)

Hamilton city councillors have voted down a controversial plan to expand the city's urban boundary by 1,310 hectares.

After more than nine hours of discussion, councillors voted 13-3 against an "ambitious density" scenario. That scenario would have expanded the city limits to so-called "whitebelt" land between the existing boundary and the greenbelt.

It was seen as a win by the advocates who had spent much of 2021 rallying in support of a no-expansion option. 

Now city planning staff will report back in January with a plan to accommodate Hamilton's projected population growth over the next 30 years, but without expanding the boundary.

Those who wanted the expansion say the decision will now restrict people who want backyards and single-family homes. 

Those against the expansion Friday cited climate change as a factor, and a desire to see how much housing is built along the city's planned light-rail transit line from McMaster University to Eastgate Square.

A 'Stop Sprawl' sign is seen outside a home in east Hamilton. (Eva Salinas/CBC)

Most of all, those opposed to expansion say they don't want to gobble up precious land for growing food.

"That's what's caused me serious concern," said Tom Jackson, Ward 6 (east Mountain) councillor. 

Jackson said he still anticipates residents complaining about more density in neighbourhoods. He also pointed out that most, if not all, of the councillors live in single-family homes.

"I'm lucky to have my little bungalow," he said. "My own little piece of earth." 

Terry Whitehead, Ward 14 (west Mountain) councillor, voted for the expansion, saying people need choices when it comes to housing. Rejecting the expansion, he said, will only create more commuters, working against people's desire to protect the environment.

"We're closing the gate behind us so my children, your children, will never be able to afford a single-family home," he said.

"We're making a huge mistake right now, and land values will jump significantly and will be priced beyond our control."

Mayor Fred Eisenberger doesn't think so. At Eisenberger's prompting, city staff will now report every year on the following:

  • Residential intensification.
  • Construction activity in terms of housing mix.
  • Supply of vacant land to accommodate forecasted growth.
  • A comparison of actual versus forecasted growth.

If need be, Eisenberger said, the city can revisit the issue later. For now, "there's an opportunity here for us to create the kinds of infill and intensification that we aspire to," he said.

"This is not a no-growth option. This is a where-do-we-grow option. And in my view, that where-do-we-grow option ought to exist in the current urban boundary."

City staff had said an expansion was necessary to meet provincial density targets, and to accommodate a projected population increase of 236,000 people over the next 30 years, for a total population of 820,000 by 2051. In that time, the expansion plan said, the city will need to grow by 110,000 more housing units and 122,000 more jobs.

The province can still intervene and force a plan on the city.

How they voted

In favour of the urban boundary expansion

Lloyd Ferguson (Ward 12), Maria Pearson (10), Terry Whitehead (14).

Who was opposed

Maureen Wilson (1), Jason Farr (2), Nrinder Nann (3), Sam Merulla (4), Russ Powers (5), Tom Jackson (6), Esther Pauls (7), John-Paul Danko (8), Brad Clark (9), Brenda Johnson (11), Arlene VanderBeek (13), Judi Partridge (15).