Potential storage facility review didn’t address conservation property
Applications before committee Tuesday
By Craig Campbell, News Staff / Oct 31, 2008
Hamilton Conservation Authority and City of Hamilton staff did not review how a development within the Cootes Paradise Environmentally Significant Area may impact plans for a new natural site across the street.
Applications for zoning and official plan amendments to permit a four-building storage facility on a site currently designated parkland at 201 King St. E. across from Conservation Authority property — the former Veldhuis Cactus Greenhouse in Dundas — will be considered by the city’s planning committee Tuesday morning, Nov. 4 at the Hamilton Convention Centre.
Residents are allowed to speak at the meeting and do not need to register prior to the meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a. m.
Purchase of site
Despite the conservation authority’s purchase of the Veldhuis site, in partnership with the City of Hamilton in February, with a plan to eventually dismantle greenhouses on-site to expand the natural corridor and habitat already in place, neither organization raised any related questions in their reviews of the zoning and bylaw amendment applications for 201 King St. E.
City councillors committed $300,000 to the purchase of the Veldhuis site
One month before he died in a car accident, former conservation authority general manager Bruce Duncan envisioned a natural area open to the public, next to the Desjardins Canal.
“It would be an attractive piece of conservation property,” Mr. Duncan told the Dundas Star News. “It’s very close to Cootes Paradise and the Royal Botanical Gardens as well. We think it’s a nice opportunity for natural habitat.”
The application before city councillors on the planning committee Tuesday morning asks for permission to amend the existing parkland designation to specifically permit a self-storage facility.
It would feature four buildings, each 27.4 metres wide with varying lengths of 63.2, 76.2, 71.7 and 81.8 metres, facing King Street East.
A file for the application included no references to the effort across the street, despite the fact the Veldhuis site links to Royal Botanical Gardens properties that feature at least two endangered turtle species.
The Cootes Paradise area has also been designated an “Important Amphibian and Reptile Area” by the Canadian Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Network. There is evidence turtles cross King Street to nest in gravel adjacent to 201 King St. E.
Dozens of different wildlife and bird species have also been recorded at 201 King St. E.
But RBG executive director Mark Runciman said the amphibian and reptile designation has no status in land use planning. And although the organization is aware of the applications for development within the sensitive area, RBG has no official authority.
“Of course, we would always hope to establish a proactive partnership with any projected developments adjacent to our natural sanctuaries to ensure all considerations are taken into account regarding the natural characteristics and landscapes,” Mr. Runciman said in a written statement.
The city’s Environmentally Significant Areas Impact Evaluation Group reviewed the applications for 201 King St. E. on July 17 and had no objections to the development plan.
Minutes from the meeting note the subject property is within the Cootes Paradise flood plain and is designated as a Special Policy Area by the Conservation Authority. Flood-proofing is required to comply with SPA policies, so the site must be raised to 81.3 metres.
“A small portion of Volunteer Marsh (about five square metres with the loss of a few poplar trees) will be filled in order to complete the required flood-proofing across the site,” the ESAIEG minutes state. “In addition to flood-proofing, security fencing and screened landscaping will be incorporated as part of the site plan.”
It’s not clear how this is affected by a provincial policy statement which does not permit development on land adjacent to wetlands, including Volunteer Marsh, “unless it has been demonstrated there will be no negative impact on the natural feature or their ecological function.”
The Hamilton Conservation Authority review noted all parking and building must be setback at least 15 metres from a watercourse on the property that connects Lake JoJo to Cootes Paradise. But the authority will allow some grading within the 15-metre setback.
The HCA requires a sediment and erosion control plan in conjunction with the future site plan for the property.
The Hamilton Conservation Authority informed the city it had no objection to approval of the official plan or zoning bylaw amendments.
A 2007 geotechnical report found methane gas on the site, apparently originating from organic deposits underground. While there are reports of a possible historic landfill, or garbage dump, at the site the Environment Ministry has no record of a landfill operating there with provincial approval. The ministry is also unaware of any contamination or methane gas under the property.
“The city and the developer haven’t passed any information onto us,” said Environment Ministry spokesperson Jennifer Hall. “It wouldn’t be time yet for the Ministry of Environment to be engaged by any of the parties.”
Ms. Hall said if work begins on the site and contaminated material is discovered, the ministry may become involved. However, she said an environmental officer has visited the property and taken photographs, and a ministry representative “may hover in the background” at next week’s public meeting.
A consultant determined a venting system is required inside each of the four proposed buildings to collect and vent methane before it enters the buildings.
A note in the city’s planning file from Steve Barnhardt, supervisor of open space development, asked planning staff to “…please ensure the parcel was not included as part of the total area for parkland dedication calculated for Dundas.”
The subject property at 201 King St. E. was owned by the Regional Municipality of Hamilton-Wentworth. In 1994, the region investigated the possibility of building a business park on the site.
During that review, the Hamilton Conservation Authority and Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources expressed concern that placing fill along the Volunteer Marsh wetland boundary “may impact the wetland function.”
A 1994 environmental impact statement stated: “Volunteer Marsh is considered sensitive… reviewing agencies requested special attention be given to minimizing any disruption of the wetland and its associated functions.
Less than a year later, in May 1995, the region declared the property surplus, and exempt from an appraisal of fair market value. It was sold in October 1999 to its current owner for $51,680. The current property value assessment of the site is $122,000.