Hamiltonians for Progressive Development releases 20 arguments against the City's planned Airport Employment Growth District.
By RTH Staff
Published September 28, 2010
Hamiltonians for Progressive Development just issued the following press release:
The staff report concerning the urban boundary expansion for the proposed Airport Employment Growth District ("Aerotropolis") has now been released to the public for review. Presumably, the 74 page report - along with approximately 2100 pages of appendices - is to be absorbed and understood by Councillors in the middle of an election campaign and in time to make a final decision at the council meeting on October 13.
The Pan Am stadium debate has obscured a much more significant decision for Hamilton's future. At the same October 13 council meeting now earmarked for a stadium decision, city council will also decide on the Aerotropolis - a scheme that will cost far more, and have far greater consequences.
As it now stands, the Aerotropolis (Airport Employment Growth District) will convert 2050 acres of vital foodlands into an industrial zone. This proposal is proceeding forward despite the unraveling of nearly all of its premises and despite the fact that many questions regarding the risks associated with this massive endeavour remain unanswered.
We call upon Mayor Eisenberger and Council to postpone the final decision-making process - for what would be the single largest urban boundary expansion in the history of the City of Hamilton - until after the municipal election. In this regard, we urge our elected officials to consider the following:
The need to preserve vital prime agricultural foodlands has become obvious to nearly everyone. Global food security is much more threatened, with severe climatic events this summer in Russia, Pakistan, Saskatchewan, China and Australia pushing the world price of wheat up 70 percent.
The official admitted cost of servicing the Aerotropolis is now over $350 million - and that doesn't include building 25-km trunk water and sewer pipes from Woodward Avenue to the airport district. This is far higher than the $100 million maximum that a previous mayor said would make the project unaffordable.
Grand expectations of airport expansion have evaporated. Passenger numbers peaked in 2003 and are now less than half that level. Total flights to and from other airports have fallen from 22nd place nationally to 36th. There has been no net growth in employment since at least 2004, and even the cargo tonnage attracted by all-night flights has declined from a peak of 93,000 tonnes in 2000 to 84,000 tonnes last year.
It's become much more plausible that the real agenda isn't industrial development at all - it's to turn the Aerotropolis lands into more residential sprawl when the airport inevitably falters and possibly even shuts down.
The promised Aerotropolis lands employment is now expected to be primarily low-wage, with city consultants forecasting that warehousing and trucking companies will occupy 70 percent of the land.
The Mid-Peninsula Highway has died. It was to link the Aerotropolis to the US market and thus make the airport area lands much more attractive to new businesses.
The expected expansion of Highway 6 to six lanes has been abandoned by the province.
The planned size of the Aerotropolis has fallen by 45 percent in the first Pasae - but since it will still require new trunk pipes and roads, the cost per acre for these services has climbed steeply.
It's recently been revealed that businesses around the airport pay five times the electricity rates charged in most of the rest of Hamilton.
Most of the land along the new Highway 6 extension is part of the protected Greenbelt where industrial development is not permitted, leaving only a tiny portion of the remaining Aerotropolis within two kilometers of a 400-series highway.
City-funded investigations have shown that storm water management will be over $100,000 an acre because the lands form the headwaters of four significant streams, have low permeability, and because open ponds attract birds and are bad news for airplanes.
Sewer and water systems are more expensive because the airport is the highest point of land in the city and some of the lands slope towards Caledonia and thus require fluids to be pumped uphill before being sent downhill.
The already existing airport business park is 85 percent vacant. Even the biggest council advocate for the Aerotropolis, Ancaster Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, has stated "there's no rush because no corporations are lining up to move in".
Development of already existing green field lands in other parts of the city has been far slower than predicted. The 700 acre green field North Glanbrook business park has added nothing except the promise of Canada Bread using 25 acres.
Oil prices are three times higher than they were when the Aerotropolis was adopted by the city in 2001. They are predicted to climb much higher and already hit $147 a barrel in the summer of 2008 - helping to plunge the world economy into the current extended recession.
Council is eagerly giving away existing industrial lands, including green fields, to Wal-Marts, stadiums and gas bars.
Hundreds of acres of existing industrial land that are vacant or grossly underutilized along the bay front have not been counted in the existing land inventory. The obvious priority should be the re-use of these lands before destroying more farmland.
Recognition of the value of local food land has increased dramatically. The local food movement didn't exist when the Aerotropolis scheme was adopted.
Development charges for industrial lands are currently discounted more than two-thirds, meaning residents will have to pay for most of the servicing costs of the Aerotropolis.
There are multiple and complex federal restrictions on lands near an airport, including building heights, noise attenuation, and use of electronic equipment. The draft secondary plan directs prospective businesses to do pre-consultation with the private operator of the airport
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