Hamilton and other cities ‘in control’ of expanded urban boundaries: minister


Published September 29, 2023 at 6:39 pm

Greenbelt protest Environment Hamilton urban sprawl urban boundary expansion land use zoning Ontario

Ontario’s new housing minister says that Hamilton and other municipalities remain “in control of the process” involving the expansion of urban boundaries, but a group of local environmental activists are concerned that’s not the case. 

“An expansion of the urban boundaries in and of itself does not necessarily mean that housing will be built on that expansion,” Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Paul Calandra told the legislature earlier this week. “The City will determine when homes or if homes will be built in that expanded area. The City determines if the land will be serviced and when it will be serviced. … So that is the reality of the expanded urban boundary.”

The minister’s remarks come in the wake of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s recent stunning decision to return all lands to the Greenbelt and the Ontario NDP’s request for a new investigation into whether his government “inappropriately” favoured speculator insiders with the urban boundary expansion and minister’s zoning orders.

Lilly Noble, spokesperson for Stop Sprawl HamOnt, questions if City council is really the one in charge at city hall. 

“Ford’s latest Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, Paul Calandra, says cities are in charge of development. Not so,” she said today (Sept. 29) in an emailed statement to inthehammer.com. “Land speculators in Hamilton can easily bypass the City by appealing to the Ontario Land Tribunal with their own hastily made secondary plans to build McMansions on urban boundary expansion lands. …   This will cause chaos at City Hall. Who is in charge? The speculators or our local Council?”

Secondary plans are a second layer of the City’s Official Plan, used to provide specific policies and address issues on land use in certain areas. The Official Plan is the City’s policy document for development in the community.

Noble pointed out that the City is exceeding the provincial housing unit approval target within the former boundary. “Serious concerns were raised in the Integrity Commissioner’s report about developer involvement in Hamilton’s Official Plan,” she said. “The province must respect local governance.”

Steve Robichaud, Hamilton’s chief planner and director of planning, told inthehammer.com that secondary plans can be appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal, which can approve amendments related to phasing and timing of growth.

He outlined scenarios in which this would occur. For instance, landowners can apply to the City for their own secondary plan and appeal council’s denial of the secondary plan to the Ontario Land Tribunal. In addition, the landowners could appeal council’s approval or denial of the secondary plan.

“The Minister’s comments align with the Council adopted position that planning for new growth areas should be a City led process, and through this process, the City should put in place policies and processes to control the timing and location of growth within the new growth areas,” he said in an email to inthehammer.com.This would be achieved through the adoption of a Secondary Plan for the new growth areas and implemented through the associated infrastructure master plans and subsequent development approvals (e.g. rezoning and subdivision applications).”

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising