Res­i­dents want to keep patch of green

Mov­ing Sun­set Cul­tural Gar­den to make way for hous­ing doesn’t sit well with neigh­bours

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - MATTHEW VAN DON­GEN mvan­don­gen@thes­pec.com 905-526-3241 | @Mat­tatthes­pec

A plan to swap a com­mu­nity gar­den for new hous­ing near Bayfront Park is not go­ing over well with neigh­bours.

The patch of green space at the cor­ner of Bay and Stra­chan streets, right across the road from Hamil­ton’s big­gest har­bourfront park, was pur­chased by the city decades ago for a lower city “Perime­ter Road” that was never built.

The land was des­ig­nated for low-den­sity hous­ing un­der the west har­bour sec­ondary plan in 2012, but lo­cal res­i­dents banded to­gether with a 1,100-name pe­ti­tion and even­tu­ally se­cured city per­mis­sion — and fund­ing — to cre­ate the Sun­set Cul­tural Gar­den on the site in 2015.

That gar­den was al­ways meant to be to be “tem­po­rary,” said ward Coun. Ja­son Farr, who is re­vis­it­ing those de­layed hous­ing plans with an eye to pro­vid­ing 12 to14 units of af­ford­able-hous­ing flex­i­bil­ity in the fast-de­vel­op­ing North End.

“This is not a park; it is a gar­den,” he said at Tues­day’s plan­ning meet­ing, where mem­bers voted to de­clare the land sur­plus. “And a gar­den can be trans­planted.”

But gar­den sup­port­ers and nearby res­i­dents ar­gued Tues­day the city should fo­cus on re­de­vel­op­ing brown­fields, not ex­ist­ing green space that has been trans­formed into a gar­den by res­i­dents’ hard work and tax­payer dol­lars.

“A tremen­dous amount of vol­un­teer labour went into cre­at­ing this gar­den,” said Candy Ven­ning, a land­scape de­signer who vol­un­teered her ex­per­tise for the project, which in­cludes na­tive plant­ings, a gravel walk­way and stone plaques in­scribed with orig­i­nal po­etry about sun­sets in 12 lan­guages.

About 30 res­i­dents helped build the gar­den, and pe­ri­od­i­cally get to­gether to care for the na­tive and pol­li­na­tor plants, said gar­dener Nancy Hind­marsh.

“We’ve put in thou­sands of hours.”

Ven­ning ac­knowl­edged she feels “per­son­ally in­vested” in the prop­erty, but also ques­tioned why the city of­fered $10,000 in arearat­ing cash to build the gar­den if de­vel­op­ment of the prop­erty was ex­pected so quickly.

Farr is also ex­plor­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of sell­ing a slice of East­wood Park to help pay for the re­build­ing of its fail­ing arena, al­though that idea is slated for pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion.

“The North End needs more green space, not less,” ar­gued Hind­marsh. “There must be other op­tions that aren’t al­ready used as park space.”

Farr said the $10,000 was ini­tially ap­proved for a Chi­nese cul­tural group’s planned gar­den in Bayfront Park and later trans­ferred to what is now the Sun­set Cul­tural Gar­den “on the un­der­stand­ing” the in­stal­la­tion would be tem­po­rary.

Farr pointed out the North End has far more park­land — about 86 acres — than any other neigh­bour­hood in Ward 2, with most oth­ers mak­ing due with less than five acres. Re­gard­less, he noted on­go­ing plans for new hous­ing on Pier 8 will add five ex­tra acres of green space to the west har­bour.

He said the city is will­ing to “re­lo­cate and repli­cate ex­actly” the Sun­set Cul­tural Gar­den to a nearby mu­nic­i­pally owned grassy boule­vard if the vol­un­teer care­tak­ers are on board.

The mo­tion was sup­ported by Coun. Chad Collins, who ar­gued a low-den­sity hous­ing de­vel­op­ment could pro­vide a mix of mar­ket and af­ford­able hous­ing units at a “crit­i­cal time” for the neigh­bour­hood.

Collins, who chairs the Ci­tyHous­ing Hamil­ton board, said the agency is forg­ing ahead with an am­bi­tious redevelopment of the ag­ing Jamesville so­cial hous­ing com­plex on James Street North that will in­evitably dis­place some low-in­come res­i­dents tem­po­rar­ily.

New fam­ily units at Bay and Stra­chan could pro­vide ei­ther tem­po­rary or even per­ma­nent af­ford­able hous­ing for those dis­placed res­i­dents, he said.

“We’ve promised to do every­thing within our power to let those res­i­dents stay within the neigh­bour­hood dur­ing that tran­si­tion,” he said. “The city is land-rich but re­source-poor … we need to take ad­van­tage of the op­por­tu­ni­ties we have avail­able.”

Coun­cil still has to rat­ify the de­ci­sion to de­clare the land sur­plus at next week’s coun­cil meet­ing.

BARRY GRAY, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

Mered­ith Evans, Nancy Hind­marsh, Sheri Sol­way, San­dra Hud­son and Candi Ven­ning don’t want to lose Sun­set Cul­tural Gar­den to North End de­vel­op­ment.

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