Candidates express dissatisfaction with 'antiquated' zoning rules, regulations and charges that deter business investment in older neighbourhoods.
By Ryan McGreal
Published September 30, 2010
this article has been updated
So far, 44 out of the 86 candidates for municipal office in Hamilton have responded to the RTH election policy question: Is Hamilton doing enough to support and encourage new investment in our older neighbourhoods? If not, what should the City be doing?
As at this writing, 39 respondents, or 88.6%, answered no. 2 respondents, or 6.8%, gave qualified maybe answers, and just 2, or 4.5%, answered yes.
See the full results on the RTH Elections site.
Eight out of the 15 mayoral candidates responded, all arguing that Hamilton is not doing enough.
Michael Baldasaro wants the city to "put an immediate end to urban sprawl onto food lands." He believes this will "raise property values of our inner city and encourage its clean-up and rebuilding throughout."
Calling the Pearl Company situation the "tip of the iceberg", Mahesh P Butani calls for three steps: replace our zoning regulations with "performance and design based outcomes"; replace the "bureaucratic obstacles" at City Hall with "'can-do' personality types" to change the culture; and to develop a "humane solution" to address mental health issues in our older neighbourhoods.
Fred Eisenberger says, "We've done a lot but we need to do more." He touts the waiving of development fees in the downtown, a registry of vacant buildings to prevent demolition by neglect, funding for low-income homeowners for repairs, landmark restoration, and an anti-graffiti program. If re-elected, he wants to establish a "Hamilton 360 economic development team" to focus on brownfield redevelopment.
Edward HC Graydon notes that he has "experienced the red tape at City Hall first hand" and believes there is "no political will to allow for progress". He argues that the city must get more aggressive about stopping graffiti vandals and making them pay for the damage they cause. He also argues that the Downtown BIA is "derelice in duty" to bring excitement and change to the downtown.
Andrew Haines merely said the City should be doing "everything they possibly can!"
Ken Leach notes the city "currently [has] multiple programs directed at rejuvenation of our neighbourhoods" but that investors are "waiting to see progressive movement from the city" by removing red tape.
Tone Marrone believes the city has been "neglecting the core neighbourhoods for some time now." He states that Council's mandate should be "nothing but revitalization of neighbourhoods that have suffered years of neglect" and that rules should be based more on common sense.
Gino Speziale says Council's "'knee-jerk' reaction policy" has been going on for 20 years. He says the city should spend its money not on City Hall but on reconstruction and beautification on run-down streets coupled with stronger anti-crime measures.
Several candidates specifically mentioned the recent Pearl Company situation, in which the the city has charged the owners of an art centre and theatre in a formerly abandoned industrial building of uses that violate the building's residential zoning.
Ward 3 candidate Paul Tetley argues that the Pearl Company owners' decision to close "after five years fo unsuccessfully dealing with the city's red tape" demonstrates the city is "not doing enough to attract new business or support and encourage existing business in our older neighbourhoods."
Ward 5 candidate Dave Stacey calls it a "shame" that "council has put bureaucracy before innovation when it comes to examples such as The Pearl Company." He says we should stop "punishing those who are helping to rejuvenate this city."
Ward 7 candidate Trevor Pettit argues, "The current brouhaha surrounding the Pearl Company highlights that we need to rethink the way we do business." He advocates cutting red tape and streamlining the applications process for business investment so Hamilton can shift the tax burden off residential ratepayers.
Ward 13 candidate Ron Tammer says the Pearl situation suggests the city is "trying to discourage" new investment in older neighbourhoods. He advocates "loosening the antiquated zoning bylaws and offering tax incentives to those who want to redevelop closed-down and dilapidated buildings, instead of kissing up to developers that want services handed to them when they build on prime farm land."
In a recent RTH article, the challengers for Ward 3 responded directly to the Pearl Company issue. Incumbent Ward 3 councillor Bernie Morelli has not responded to any of several RTH requests for comment.
The two respondents who believe Hamilton is doing enough to encourage new investment in our older communities are both incumbents: Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson and Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson.
Pearson writes: "Hamilton Economic Development team is doing the best it can to encourage new investment in our older neighbourhoods. Further incentives, programs, etc. can always be brought forward and reviewed by Council."
Ferguson writes: "I believe we doing enough, based on the number of building permits which have been approved in those areas. Also ERASE provides exception from development charges and a 10-year tax break for those neighbourhoods."
McHattie noted that the city as a whole has been in "an urban sprawl model" for the past two decades but notes that recent legislation is starting to change this. He points to recent examples of urban redevelopment in Ward 1, including the Victoria Park renovations, public art and streetscaping on Locke Street, bike lanes on Dundurn St, new "purpose-built" student housing in Ainslie-Wood Westdale, upgrades to Coronation Park and planned improvements following the Churchill Park master Plan.
Duvall touts grants, loans and programs to support business improvement areas and new business owners in older neighbourhoods. However, he notes that many residents in his ward "have been promised new sidewalks and roads for 15 or 20 years" and is "appalled" that the City continues to spend money on other projects while this "infrastructure crumbles".
Update: edited article to add response from mayoral candidate Mahesh P Butani.