The Hamilton Spectator
DUNDAS (Nov 13, 2008)
There's new debate over development on a privately owned property near Cootes Paradise that McMaster University once proposed turning into an off-campus parking lot.
J. Douglas Hammond of Ancaster, former owner of the Dundas Canadian Tire store, wants to rezone two hectares on the northwest corner of King Street East and Olympic Drive to build four self-storage warehouses.
McMaster gave up on its parking-lot plan five years ago in the face of stiff opposition from Friends of Cootes Paradise and others who argued it was a turtle nesting site.
The same arguments are being raised now, along with concern that the warehouses will block views of the Niagara Escarpment to the north.
The property is now in a park and recreation zone that would allow restaurants and recreational services such as a swimming pool, tennis club or mini-golf course.
Dundas resident Brian Baetz, who heads the Sustainable Communities Research Group at Mac, wouldn't mind a restaurant, but says: "As a private citizen, I very much see an alternative vision for that whole area.
"I see it as a gateway portal to Dundas and to Cootes Paradise, a beautiful transition zone between the raw beauty of Cootes and the built form of Dundas, from the marsh to the Beer Store."
But supporters such as Catharine Maybee of Sydenham Street have written the city to say the proposal is in keeping with the recycling centre and underground sewage tank to the north, the Hydro One station across Olympic and a public works yard to the west. They point out that the former garbage dump is already covered with fill excavated from the sewage tank site.
City planning staff recommend rezoning in a report that says a study earlier this year concluded "natural heritage resources associated with this site are generally of low quality and low diversity."
The report says both the Hamilton Conservation Authority and the city's Environmentally Sensitive Areas Impact Evaluation Group agree.
City council's economic development and planning committee scheduled a public meeting on the application last month, but postponed it until Jan. 20 at the request of Hammond's planning consultant, Ken Dakin of Burlington.
Dakin said he had just learned the Royal Botanical Gardens, which owns the Cootes nature sanctuary, was developing a Cootes to Escarpment Conservation Strategy that he felt might affect the property.
David Galbraith, the gardens' director of science and conservation, says, however, that the strategy will make "no recommendations about individual properties in private hands" and won't be available by January.