Hamilton, Ont., residents who own property in the local Greenbelt are giving their side of the story after a public meeting dominated by dissension over an Ontario housing plan calling for the removal of green space.
A group at an in-person planning committee meeting Thursday continue to counter claims they were properly consulted seven years ago when Hamilton councillors recommended the Book Road lands be put into the protected zone.
The Book Road Landowners Group said in a recent statement they support the Ford government’s intent to remove some 795 hectares of protected area in Hamilton, suggesting the lands will “provide much-needed housing” at “no cost to the taxpayer.”
Since first coming together as a delegation to city hall in the summer of 2016, the group has insisted there has never been “a technical process” or “due process,” indicating that the lands were being considered for inclusion and submit there was no reason for it.
Their grievance cited claims that 120 landowners had property “frozen” and were “severely impacted” by declining property values and the ability to enjoy “normal land use.”
Fred Bristol, whose family has owned a Garner Road property in the Greenbelt since the ’30s, was one of those in attendance during the 2016 council session that saw the Book Road West lands be placed into the Greenbelt.
On Thursday, he told hundreds at the Ancaster fairgrounds to understand there are “two sides to the story.”
“The majority of people are against us going…out of the Greenbelt, but where is our side?” Bristol said.
“We’ve got the properties to sell … I think we should have a right to have a say in this too.”
Meanwhile, Kathy Roberts said she and her husband bought their Garner Road West property in 1973, and is stunned by the criticism she and others have received over the years for their opposition of the 2016 decision.
“I am surprised that the hypocrites who bought houses built on farmland, when they feel so strongly about protecting it, then condemn people who have looked after farmland for 50 years or more which is not profitable to farm,” she explained.
Hamilton councillors and Mayor Andrea Horwath listened to over 30 delegates during last week’s committee meeting inside Marritt Hall.
The Ancaster session saw a majority of attendees and others joining virtually to urge councillors to fight the land removal, citing that some parcels are environmentally sensitive and could precipitate loss of species, food insecurity and negatively affect stormwater management.
Ward 15 Coun. Ted McMeekin, who briefly served as the province’s minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing between 2014 and 2016, was involved in the 10-year Greenbelt review and to this day supports the decisions made characterizing them as “a badge of distinction.”
He says “due diligence” was undertaken by his office after the city voted unanimously seven years ago to include the Book Road lands in the Greenbelt.
“Ultimately there were several consultations, the one with the City of Hamilton which brought on by Coun. (Lloyd) Ferguson to include the Book Road Lands in the Greenbelt … and the developers had an opportunity to avail themselves of it to talk about their concerns,” said McMeekin.
He added there were also questions back then by his Liberal staff on why the area wasn’t already in the Greenbelt since it had environmentally sensitive areas, airport control lands and prime agricultural land — as stated in a Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs report.
Ward 12 Coun. Craig Cassar attempted to move a notice of motion Thursday to revoke a July decision to engage with a provincial land facilitator — deployed to the city for the first time Friday to prepare the soon-to-be ex-Greenbelt lands for developers.
However, a city clerk ruled the motion was out of order since it had already been approved by council and could only be reviewed in the same setting.
Cassar is expected to present it again at a future full council meeting.
It will require the support of two-thirds of council members to pass.
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