A Ringing Endorsement?

By Ryan McGreal
Published April 27, 2006

On page 48 of Richard Gilbert's peak oil report "Hamilton: The Electric City", which he will be presenting to City Council tomorrow, he writes:

Hamilton needs employment lands for its projected population growth, and to redress the trend whereby Hamilton residents increase work outside Hamilton (see Box 20). The airport area presents an opportunity to provide for new employment lands, because lands surrounding the airport are nor generally suited for residential purposes.

Aerotropolis supporters, particularly the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, have already jumped on this as the justification they need to develop 1,200 hectares of rural land around Hamilton International Airport.

However, it's important not to overstate Gilbert's endorsement of the aerotropolis plan.

To the extent that the proponents of aerotropolis defend it as Hamilton's "number one strategic priority", responsible for over half the projected job creation from now to 2031, Gilbert's report directly refutes their central premise, assigning it a tertiary role at best.

The impetus for the extreme measure of converting 1,200 hectares of rural land to industrial use was predicated on the necessity of airport development for Hamilton's long-term growth.

However, Gilbert's conclusions about the declining viability of air transport and his focus on energy conservation and production as Hamilton's most important priority reject the main justification to expand the urban boundary in the first place, even if his report includes lukewarm support for an industrial park that happens to be around the airport.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.

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By Rusty (registered) - website | Posted April 27, 2006 at 12:11:20

Gilbert's 'luke warm support' of the Aerotropolis appears to be creating some confusion and differing interpretations. I understand the difficulty in creating a report that is critical of the very people who are paying you to write it. I work in the audit profession and managing the balance between critisism, professionalism and making sure you keep the customer happy and get more business - is very tricky. That's why we need an independant auditor at City Hall, funded by an external source. But that's another matter for another day...

On the whole Gilberts report seems fair, however his attempts to describe a suitable use of the airport lands seems a little wishy washy to me - perhaps he is simply playing to the paymasters.

If the essence of what he is saying is, 1 - 'Airports are noisy so it makes sense to have an Industrial Park there' 2 - 'If you do decide to tie the park to the aviation industry then be careful, and make sure you can reverse this if gas prices go up' and 3 - 'You have a lot of other Industrial Parks and brownfields sitting empty...' then it would have been nice for the author to have provided some clearer conclusions and recommendations around this thinking, rather than the mixed bag of observations we seem to have been given.

By rationalizing the development of the airport lands - however marginally - Mr Gilbert may have allowed a 'way in' for Aerotropolis supporters to forge ahead. I doubt that many of the our elected representatives will seek to clarify and understand Mr Gilberts remarks the way that Ryan McGreal has.

I guess we'll find out soon enough...


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