Will Pier 8 plan not pass the smell test?
Harbour companies, residents concerned about noise and odour problems
The city’s plan to create a residential neighbourhood alongside a busy industrial port doesn’t pass the smell test, warn some nearby businesses and residents.
The planning committee endorsed a draft plan of subdivision and zoning bylaw Tuesday for a redevelopment of Pier 8 the city hopes will bring 1,500 new residential units to the harbourfront. A request for qualifications is underway to evaluate prospective redevelopers.
The city is acknowledging the surrounding harbour industry with a special land designation that allows for louder-than-normal noise levels on the redeveloped pier.
The eventual developer will be required to submit a noise impact assessment and recommended “control measures” to the city, and incoming land or unit owners would be warned upfront about the higher noise threshold.
But solutions for possible noise and odour issues should be nailed down now, argued Pitman Patterson, a lawyer representing grain company Parrish and Heimbecker.
“Approve it now, study it later, fix it later ... that is not what planning means,” he said, warning the city’s current plan could spur “years of complaints” and possibly an appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board.
The company recently built a $45-million flour mill on Pier 10, just 400 metres east of the proposed residential redevelopment. Patterson said the city’s own studies suggest noise and dust from ship-loading and unloading activities could have a “significant impact” on Pier 8 when the wind blows toward the redeveloped neighbourhood.
The Spectator reported last year on harbour residents’ complaints about windblown grain “clouds” from the company. The Ministry of the Environment said it monitors the “fugitive emissions” and the company had agreed to update its grain-loading technology to try to help.
Patterson said Tuesday the company does not oppose the pier redevelopment, but wants the city to enshrine specific mitigation measures in the plan.
For example, he suggested “reorienting” buildings to create a “noise wall” facing Pier 10.
Chris Phillips, Hamilton’s waterfront development point person, said the city would be “reaching out” to grain company officials to discuss their concerns.
But he added city studies to date suggest the company’s existing noise levels aren’t an issue and that it’s rare for prevailing winds to push noise or dust pollution from Pier 10 toward the proposed redevelopment.
Those same studies suggest the loudest noise issues could actually come from piledriving manufacturer Bermingham Foundation Solutions, which is just 275 metres to the east. Phillips said the company and city are voluntarily partnering on studies of how to reduce noise problems if they arise.
It’s worth noting, Phillips said, that people already live near the sights, sounds and odours of a working port. “The vision Hamilton has always had for the west harbour is the coexistence of a working industrial port and a fantastic mixed-used development.”
Some of those existing residents, however, also warned councillors about possible problems.
Carol Hoblyn and Herman Turkstra, a North End activist, told councillors the current redevelopment plan doesn’t do enough to account for noise, dust or other pollutants.
Turkstra pointed out the city ignored Canadian National Railway’s concerns about building homes near its noisy shunting yards and was later forced at the board to change development plans in the Barton-Tiffany neighbourhood as a result.
Hoblyn tracks fine particulate clouds from waterfront industry with an air quality monitoring device from her 18-storey apartment on John Street North.
“Being unable to enjoy our balcony, or have our windows open, and being subjected to unwanted noise even when windows are closed has been our lived experience since 2012,” she wrote in a letter to the city.
“Developing this parcel of property without ... detailed plans for mitigation of environmental issues will be problematic on many levels.”
Top, workers from Modu-Loc set up a fence around former Hamilton Harbour Commission shed.
Left, work crews prepare the former HHC building at the foot of Catharine Street North for eventual demolition.