Barton-Tiffany Deal Being Made in Secret: CN Opposes Residential Development

By Ryan McGreal
Published February 07, 2012

Why is "mixed-use" such a difficult concept for some people?

A neighbourhood that mixes a variety of uses - people living, working, socializing in the same places - is a neighbourhood that is alive and active at all hours of the day.

It's a neighbourhood in which the flows of traffic are mixed instead of monolithic.

It's a neighbourhood in which there are always other people around, keeping an eye on the street and improving public safety.

It's a neighbourhood that makes more productive use of public infrastructure - roads, sidewalks, water lines, sewers - and extracts more property tax value per unit.

So why do we continue to build monolithic single-use developments in urban neighbourhoods literally decades after we learned unambiguously how harmful it is to economic, environmental and community vitality?

Today's Spectator features an article about a secret deal being struck between CN and the City over a disputed land use on the Barton-Tiffany site:

The railroad objected to the city's plan to convert the industrial Barton-Tiffany neighbourhood into a new residential enclave, arguing it was too close to the waterfront rail yard.

More than six years later, council will be asked to approve a settlement proposal at its Wednesday meeting - but not in public.

Residents won't hear what planning concessions are proposed until council approves them, said Shawn Selway, a member of the North End Neighbours group involved in the OMB appeal.

"It's frustrating because I would like to talk about it, but the settlement process is not public," Selway said. "All I can say is we aren't particularly happy about (the settlement)."

In the face of CN opposition, the city backed off last year on the original plan to allow hundreds of new homes in the area bordered by Barton, Bay, Queen and Stuart streets.

The absolute last thing this city needs is still more community-affecting decisions being made through in camera decisions under pressure from interested parties that do not have the public interest at heart.

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 mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 07, 2012 at 07:42:23

There are four articles in The Spec this morning that have in the background something I deal with in a recent commentary, due to be published in The Spec: 'The 8-Ball and The Curve: Why Are We Always Behind One or The Other?' (The other three are your article on a downtown supermarket, our garbage debate, and the release of the 18 initial options for a new BOE location. That 'something' is a far greater level of involvement on the parts of us, Hamilton residents, where our tax dollars and our future is concerned.

'Stop the madness, I want to get off!"

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 16:39:13 in reply to Comment 73773

So how do we get involved when some of these things (options for BOE and this Barton-Tiffany deal)are done in camera?

Can civic engagement pierce the municipal veil of secrecy?

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 08:52:59

Ryan, I'm a little perplexed at why the north side of Barton can't be residential when the south side is. If the railyard didn't want residential on Stuart Street, I'd be fine with that....although I'm not fine with it at all considering what they've allowed to happen right over their tracks 40 minutes down the highway. Why are our leaders compromising our own city planning when a precedent has been set already. Are we going to allow Setting Sail to become another joke like Ivor Wynne 2.0? We need some real leadership in this town who will fight for what is right and not being willing to compromise our position all the time, again, especially with a precedent already in place down the road:

One other thing, if we're losing a HUGE swath of residential space I'd like to see us change the Barton St frontages to 'high density' instead of medium. If I recall, Hamilton's definition of medium is townhouses.
Adding more retail/commercial space here without new residential could be a huge problem in terms of over-saturating downtown with retail space without adding more customers.

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By jacob (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 09:22:50

Matthew Van Dongen has gotten this story wrong from the very start. There has been a series of articles in the spec on Setting Sail that seem to have no understanding of our zoning by-laws. The fact that the city changed the zone from residential to commercial does not mean residential will not be allowed. The fear on the part of NEN that the result will be big box stores seems wrong to me - that would be contrary to the OP and not exactly a minor variance they can settle behind closed doors. I'm not sure that mixed use is out of the picture. In fact the change from residential is required to get mixed use - residential is an extremely narrow designation. Commercial can include a range of uses including residential. It makes eminent sense why CN would object to residential, since that would result in more single family homes abutting the yard. And if you ever walk along Stuart, Barton, Tiffany, Caroline, or on the park side of the rails, you can very quickly see why they would oppose that. The yards are in heavy use. They're noisy and extremely smelly. A properly designed tower could abate those noises and smells, but a small home could not.

As for the 'secret deal', that's a separate issue and I can't speak to that, though the Municipal Act allows in camera where real estate deals are concerned or litigation. There are some serious issues around this, not to mention the 10 years it's taken for setting sail to get finished.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 11:56:25 in reply to Comment 73787

does not mean residential will not be allowed.

This IS the issue. We wouldn't be going through all this if CN was fine with residential uses there. They don't want any.

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By jacob (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 15:12:12 in reply to Comment 73820

I'm not sure this is true. CN appealed against 'residential' zoning not residential uses. This is an important distinction. Residential is also allowed in many of the commercial and mixed use designations. If they appealed against pure residential in favour of a higher density commercial/ residential mix that would make sense to me. That in fact was required for mixed use to occur. To automatically assume the result would be no residential is not justified. I guess we will see tomorrow...

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 17:22:10 in reply to Comment 73850

Hmmm, interesting point. I hope you're right. It would be a tragedy to not allow any residential towers in this whole area.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted February 07, 2012 at 12:38:01

From The Spec:

Development Issues: Rail Corridor Setbacks and CN Guidelines

Ontario Real Estate Law Developments, CCH Canadian Limited, September 2011 (No. 322) ~ by Barnet Kussner, Tiffany Tsun ::: :::

"Currently, there are no uniform consultation protocols or land-use appeal mechanisms to ensure consistency in planning of development near railways across the country. ---- "With few exceptions, railways have no power beyond their rail right of way and cannot control adjacent landowners' land use. ...[A] federal regulator can cause a railway to address a proximity complaint, but has little or no authority over a municipal authority whose inadequate planning may have led to the incompatible land use situation in the first place." :::

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By WM_Greeter (anonymous) | Posted February 07, 2012 at 23:52:58

It's going to be a Walmart.
It's being done behind closed doors since the City knows there would be huge backlash if they let area residents know.

Let's thank Shawn & Sherri Selway for this. Maybe they can hold their NorthEndNimby meetings in the giant parking lot Walmart will surely demand.

No Residents + New Grocery Store = Win-Win for the City & CN!

Now let me put a sticker on your bag so you don't steal anything!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 13:12:25 in reply to Comment 73924

Trust me, there's no chance a Walmart goes in this location. Zero. You think the stadium brought out strong feelings from residents. This would be unprecedented to allow city hall to waste a bunch of land on a big box parking lot. Won't happen.

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted February 08, 2012 at 09:00:46 in reply to Comment 73924

If this is their idea of a "downtown" grocery store, they are crazy. It's no closer to King&James than the Food Basics!

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By jacob (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 08:46:02 in reply to Comment 73924

what's the matter with you? If you're so sure it's a walmart then you should be shining the Selways' shoes for having worked so hard to oppose any measures that would result in a walmart. Yet you manage to both slag the walmart and slag the NEN as nimbies. Unbelievable!

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By jcw (registered) | Posted February 08, 2012 at 11:02:48

Ryan, I'm with you. A community comprised of differing uses seems much more harmonious. To me, I draw an analogy from my back-yard vegetable garden: if I plant only potatoes, the risk of diseases and attraction by pests is much higher. But if companion planting, as, for example, 'Roses Love Garlic' says, is the way to go, then the benefits of one plant and the insects it attracts or denies can balance the drawbacks of another plant. My belief is that the further we draw ourselves away from the land and root our discussions in the ether of money and facts without a base, the more difficult it becomes to imagine a human community.

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 09, 2012 at 08:17:20

In Emma Reilly's article titled "Setting Sail gets a green light", She reports that Hamilton city council has approved the Setting Sail settlement and that "The entire plan for the west harbour neighbourhood was released on Wednesday night". The plan, which will be submitted to the OMB for approval within the next several weeks, includes:

-residential buildings of up to four stories on Barton Street east of Queen Street

-a condo proposal of up to eight stories on Bay Street

-a variety of commercial uses for the lands along Stuart Street

-a wide trail which will run from the intersection of Stuart Street and Bay Street North through the Barton-Tiffany area up to Barton Street

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-02-09 08:19:42

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By RenaissanceWatcher (registered) | Posted February 09, 2012 at 21:21:34

Here is the link to an article by Emma Reilly titled "Neighbours iffy about commercial zoning in west harbour" on the website tonight:

Comment edited by RenaissanceWatcher on 2012-02-09 21:22:25

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted February 16, 2012 at 06:22:05

I don't think it's noise complaints that CN is worried about, it about limiting exposure to lawsuits if a spill, derailment or any other accidents occur. Just a personal opinion.

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