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Hamilton neighbourhood groups successfully fight off new hospital parking lot

A group of neighbourhood associations that joined the city to fight against a new parking lot in their midst celebrated a victory at the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) this month.
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) wanted to expand its 640-spot lot near Hamilton General Hospital at Ferguson and Barton streets, creating 158 additional parking spots on an adjacent vacant lot abutting a residential neighbourhood. The City of Hamilton opposed the application, claiming that the plan for the area, already dominated by institutional buildings and asphalt parking lots, called for mixed-use development. Neighbours were concerned about safety, security and water runoff issues, as well as privacy. Because of the slope of the property, some neighbours worried headlights from the parking lot would be shining in their windows.
The case ended up at the OMB, where several neighbourhood groups banded together to support the city’s position against the new parking lot. They were granted participant status—able to make presentations but not using lawyers or having full “party” standing at the OMB. The provincially-funded Hamilton Health Sciences hospital network hired premier planning law firm Turkstra Mazza & Associates to represent them. But the OMB surprisingly ruled in favour of the city and residents.
“It was an interesting opportunity. We hadn’t had experience in that sort of situation,” says Allison Chewter, president of the Beasley Neighbourhood Association.
What advice would Chewter give to other neighbourhood groups waged in OMB battles?
“Be knowledgeable about how the OMB works. It’s very complicated. We’re fortunate we had another neighbourhood association where several of their members had extensive experience with the OMB and they were able to give us advice. Several other members have background in planning, so we had a good understanding of how it works and were able to not make the decision to spend money on lawyers and planners, and just represent ourselves,” says Chewter. “Be sure that you have a clear message and be to the point and to the facts. A lot of groups tend not to go to the planning argument, which is what the OMB wants to hear.”

HSS currently has an off-site parking lot with an employees shuttle to the hospital. Chewter says the hospital is on a major bus route. "It's not the most reliable bus. Transit could definitely be improved. We think that's something the hospital, which is such a large employer and really a driving force in the city, could have a hand in encouraging the city to expand transit options in that area."
Writer: Paul Gallant
Source: Allison Chewter
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