Submitted by Sheri Selway
Friends of the Sunset Cultural Garden, and other volunteers and residents attended the Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday March 21 to speak on behalf of the Sunset Garden in opposition to a motion that would declare the land at Bay and Strachan surplus in order to rezone it and sell it for residential development. (The motion can be found on the City website – Planning Committee March 21) https://www.hamilton.ca/council-committee/council-committee-meetings/planning-committee
We did not think that enough notice was given to the volunteers and to the Friends of the Garden, nor was there any discussion with the group or the neighbours. Many of us assumed the discussion was incorporated into the community discussion about “redeveloping parts of Eastwood Park” to help save the arena.
Sunset Cultural Garden is an accessible neighbourhood park. It has been a tremendous success both in the area and beyond, attracting visitors, something the City of Hamilton can be proud of. It was built and maintained by a group of volunteers and is an established eco-system for pollinators, birds and butterflies. Many plants are indigenous, and drought-resistant. The Garden itself was designed by well-known designer Candy Venning of Venni Gardens. It is a speciality garden, certainly the only one of its kind in Hamilton that I know of.
Although disappointed that the motion passed, the motion did specify that the garden can be relocated to Bayfront Park across the street. But the group is disappointed that we have to start over which is discouraging to those who volunteered thousands of hours of community engagement and $20,000 of donated money!
I think many can agree, we are not opposed to the development of new housing in the West Harbour and recognize that there is a special need for “family” housing in our neighbourhood. But is a large amount of City owned land already identified for development. This land is identified as low density Residential in the Secondary Plan in 2005 before the James Street Go Station was contemplated and Places to Grow was adopted by the province. This change in zoning (from Park to low density residential) should have, and could have, been part of a bigger discussion of the future of Parks and green spaces in the North End and downtown.