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City of Hamilton votes to protect farmland

City of Hamilton votes to protect farmland

13 of Hamilton’s 16 councillors voted against an urban boundary expansion

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

The City of Hamilton’s urban boundary won’t be expanding for the time being.

On Nov. 19, 13 of 16 councillors voted against growing the urban boundary by 1,310 hectares (3,327 acres).

Had the vote gone the other way, developers would’ve had the opportunity to build on land within the “whitebelt.” This is land that sits between the current urban boundary and the greenbelt.

Area farmers are happy with the result of the vote.

“I was pleased with the vote,” Drew Spoelstra, a dairy and cash crop producer from Binbrook, told Farms.com.

Spoelstra is also vice president of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

He made multiple presentations to council about the implications the urban boundary expansion could have on local agriculture.

“Parts of the presentations were about the City having other areas to build,” he said. “And others were about the value of the land and potential production we’d be losing. It’s millions of loaves of bread and millions of litres of ethanol that can be produced off this land.”

Citizens from rural and urban communities were engaged in this issue.

Councilors heard from their constituents that now is not the time for an urban boundary expansion.

“We received over 8,000 replies for a survey we sent out,” Ward 11 (Glanbrook) Councillor Brenda Johnson, who voted against the expansion, told Farms.com. “The responses came from all over the city, and they were overwhelming. If we received 8,100 replies, 8,000 of them said not to touch the urban boundary.”

A large portion of the land in question is in Johnson’s ward.

She hopes the farming community feels supported in this issue.

And she hopes those who took the time to participate in the survey continue supporting area farmers.

“I hope when all the signs about saving the farmland go down, these people will take it one step further,” she said. “I hope they’ll eat local and shop local. I get complaints from people about their streets being dirty at harvest or because machinery is on the road. Well, folks, slow down and look at the food these farmers provide us and enjoy it.”

Johnson heard from her urban councillor counterparts that Spoelstra’s presentations helped them to reject the boundary expansion.

Him putting the expansion into context about what it could mean in terms of food production brought the issue home, she said.

“Drew nailed it for some of them,” she said. “With COVID too and people struggling to find food, I think it woke people up about what could happen if we take that farmland away.”

Having the support of the urban councillors and the greater community meant agriculture took centre stage in the city, Spoelstra said.

“I’ve never heard so many people talk about farming and agriculture in Hamilton,” he said. “I hope it translates into greater support for farmers in the area and respect for what we do.”

Councillors who voted in favour of the expansion feel it’s necessary to bring home and land prices down.

“We’re closing the gate behind us so my children, your children, will never be able to afford a single-family home,” Ward 14 (West Mountain) Councillor Terry Whitehead said, CBC reported. “We’re making a huge mistake right now, and land values will jump significantly and will be priced beyond our control.”

The Ontario government didn’t support council’s vote either.

Keeping the boundary at its current size “will only serve to drive home prices further out of reach for Hamiltonians and exacerbate the housing crisis,” the ministry of municipal affairs and housing told Global News.

The council vote doesn’t close the door on the urban boundary expansion issue for good.

Council could raise the issue again next year, or the provincial government could force the expansion.

How Hamilton councillors voted on the urban boundary expansion issue:

In Favour

  • Lloyd Ferguson (Ward 12 – Ancaster)
  • Maria Pearson (Ward 10 – Lower Stoney Creek)
  • Terry Whitehead (Ward 14 – West Mountain)

Against

  • Maureen Wilson (Ward 1 – Chedoke-Cootes)
  • Jason Farr (Ward 2 – Downtown)
  • Nrinder Nann (Ward 3 – Hamilton Centre)
  • Sam Merulla (Ward 4 – East Hamilton)
  • Russ Powers (Ward 5 – Centennial)
  • Tom Jackson (Ward 6 – East Mountain)
  • Esther Pauls (Ward 7 – Central Mountain)
  • John-Paul Danko (Ward 8 – West/Central Mountain)
  • Brad Clark (Ward 9 – Upper Stoney Creek)
  • Brenda Johnson (Ward 11 – Glanbrook)
  • Arlene VanderBeek (Ward 13 – Dundas/Central Flamborough)
  • Judi Partridge (Ward 15 – Flamborough East)

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