Dramatically increasing the amount of prime agricultural lands that are to be used for urban boundary expansions across the province runs contrary to the climate change challenges that we are facing as a city, nation and world.
The recent plethora of changes to provincial planning policies is affecting most municipalities, as they are now required to conduct a Land Needs Assessment (LNA), a Municipal Comprehensive Review (MCR) and an Official Plan Amendment (OPA) to comply with these new policies. Given that the province is now requiring an LNA/MCR/OPA to establish housing needs until 2051, I can safely predict that the demand for additional prime farm land to be used for urban boundary expansions will be even more intensive.
Hamilton is ahead of most municipalities as we are well into the planning process with our virtual consultation process. While it has been a broad-based process, we are still relying on residents seeing an advertisement in local papers, on cable TV and/or on social media platforms to participate, limiting our reach.
Unfortunately, this process does not capture the opinions of most rural residents as they may not have internet or cable service in their neighbourhoods. Also, there are many others who may also have limited access to internet or cable services due to excessive costs or lack of interest. So, while the virtual consultation has been broad, I would argue that many residents have been unintentionally omitted from the process.
I also find it interesting that the current consultation, which will help form our positions on the extent of urban boundary expansion until 2051, has missed the very residents who should have been consulted. Ironically, rural residents have some of the strongest opinions about losing more prime agricultural lands to urban development.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to development. Rather, I would like to see us plan for a reasonable, sustainable, efficiently serviceable urban boundary expansion while encouraging more intensification along our transit corridors.
Accordingly, I will be filing a notice of motion to delay the decision on the LNA and to direct staff to conduct a mail-in survey, with postage-free replies to ALL Hamilton residents. Given the magnitude of these planning decisions, I sincerely believe that it is incumbent on the City to notify every household and give them an opportunity to provide their feedback.