By Arend Kersten
Wednesday, June 10th, 2015
While Hamilton is caught up in the euphoria of the $1-billion LRT announcement, dozens of small businesses in rural Flamborough and Ancaster are fighting for their corporate lives.
Thanks to amalgamation, the city is in the final stages of preparing a comprehensive Rural Zoning Bylaw (RZB) for the entire rural area of the “new” City of Hamilton. As proposed, the RZB could result in forcing some 150 landscaping companies head-quartered in rural Flamborough and Ancaster to relocate to neighbouring municipalities. It would also “down-zone” some existing commercial and industrial properties, eliminating a number of uses presently permitted. That would result in a dramatic reduction of property values.
Officials in Hamilton’s planning department say they have no choice, arguing that the RZB must be in compliance with provincial policy statements and consistent with the Greenbelt legislation.
Thankfully, Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge (East Flamborough) and Ward 14 Councillor Robert Pasuta (West Flamborough and rural Ancaster) were able to convince their colleagues to allow — under certain conditions — rural landscapers to seek an exemption from the RZB.
The issue of down-zoning is more problematic. For instance, Galer Farm Equipment — a 65-year-old, third-generation, family-owned business passionately committed to supporting Hamilton’s agricultural community — is located on a property just outside Greensville zoned “highway commercial.” Among the current permitted uses — including the farm implement dealership — are hotel/motel, restaurant and car dealership. The RZB would eliminate many of these uses — dramatically reducing the value of the property.
Please don’t misunderstand. The Galer family hopes to continue to operate a farm implement dealership for many more years (and generations). But in the real world of business, financing (for purposes such as inventory and cash flow) is frequently based on the value of the property on which the business is located. Reducing the number of permitted uses will severely limit financing options.
If Hamilton is truly “open for business” it needs to find creative and innovative solutions to these challenges. Chasing 150 landscapers out of town (to more business-friendly jurisdictions), or down-zoning the number of permitted uses on commercial and industrial properties sends exactly the opposite message.
Arend Kersten is the Executive Director of the Flamborough Chamber of Commerce