Friday, December 28, 2007

boxed in?

City fights big-box bid in Mac's Innovation Park

The Hamilton Spectator (Dec 28, 2007)

The city is gearing up to protect its zoning of the area around the McMaster Innovation Park to stop a proposed big-box development.

Trinity Development Group Inc. has a conditional offer on about 15 hectares (37 acres) of land near the park, 10 hectares of which can be developed.

Trinity has a proposed automotive tenant for part of the land, but zoning would have to be changed before the store could go ahead.

The lands all fall within the West Hamilton Innovation District, which was specifically zoned to support the innovation park.

The district is roughly bounded by Aberdeen, the CP rail line, Main Street West and Highway 403. It encompasses the innovation park located along Longwood Road South.

"We, at this point, I think disagree 100 per cent with their concept," said Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie.

Trinity has appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and a full hearing on the issue is tentatively set for February.

McHattie said the work the city has done in the district -- putting an interim control bylaw in place for two years to study the area and essentially freeze land use changes -- is tied into the province's Places to Grow Act.

The act stipulates that a certain percentage of residential development must be achieved through intensification and a certain number of jobs must be produced per hectare.

When complete, it's estimated the district could provide 1,500 well-paying jobs.

Al Fletcher, senior project manager with the city, said the concept plan Trinity presented to the city calls for about 325,000 square feet in retail space, about 101,000 square feet in office space and about 27,000 square feet of restaurant space.

As for the major automotive tenant?

"I've heard so many different rumours, I'm not sure what it is," Fletcher said. "When we asked them directly, there wasn't an answer."

Trinity is also the company responsible for developing an area around Clappison's Corners.

A call to Trinity Development Group Inc. for comment was not returned but the company lists Canadian Tire and PartSource as tenants at other developments.

McHattie said he thinks it's important to support the "BIA-style of retail" and that big-box stores tend to have a negative impact on neighbourhood mom-and-pop shops.

"The other thing that comes to mind is the traffic that would be generated by such a development," he said. "And we certainly don't have a lot of traffic capacity."

The McMaster Innovation Park was meant to be a vehicle to take research from the university and commercialize it, McHattie said.

The park recently announced the formation of an advisory board to help guide the relocation of CANMET-Materials Technology, the park's anchor tenant, from Ottawa to Hamilton.

The laboratory will be home to 100 top federal scientists.

A public meeting has been scheduled Jan. 10 to provide an update on the OMB appeal, with city staff present to answer questions. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at St. Joseph's Church, 260 Herkimer St., in the basement of the parish hall. An OMB pre-hearing is set for Jan. 15.


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