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Creekside condo plan cut down to size

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 The city of Hamilton has agreed to purchase the open space property on Creekside Drive, which had been proposed for a 67-unit condominium development, and convert it into a public park.

“There is a willingness to make this happen,” saidDundascouncillor Russ Powers, who helped orchestrate the complicated agreement among the parties. “People are chomping at the bit for this. The owners of the land are pleased about it.”

Councillors this year turned down a proposal from the owners, Alterra (SpencerCreek) Ltd., to allow official plan and zoning bylaw amendments, for a seven-storey residential development at2555 Creekside Drive. Politicians at the time sided with area residents who argued there had been an agreement to develop the site as a low-rise recreational or clubhouse building, with a minimum of 2,000-square-feet of open space. City planning staff had recommended the amendments. The site remained zoned for parks and recreation.

Politicians agreed to the deal after the Oct. 10 council meeting.

Alterra appealed council’s decision to the Ontario Municipal Board. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Nov. 5 at 50 Main Street E.in downtownHamilton.

The OMB hearing, though, could be scuttled, with a deal in place. Powers, and city staff after negotiating with Alterra representatives, and residents of the area condominium owners, including Amica, the property will become a park for the community.

“It works for the neighbourhood,” said Robert Cooper, president of Alterra. “We are fine with the outcome. We think it’s fair.”

The city didn’t release how much it will pay for the property. But Powers said the funds will come from his ward budget.

“It’s a very fair price,” said Powers.

He said the price for the property will remain confidential until the deal can be finalized later this year.

While the city will buy the land, local residents have agreed to transform the property into a public park. Powers said it could cost about $300,000 in capital funds, to install playground equipment and benches, plant mature trees, build trails, and walking paths. Powers would like to see the park completed in 2013.

“I think it is a very, very positive result,” said Larry Button, the spokesperson for the area residents. He said people in the four existing condo units, plus Amica, which total over 600 residents, have agreed to raise the money for the project.

“We are looking at different models, such as the Hockeyville’s legacy project,” he said. “(The park) has to serve the entire community. But the design will be senior friendly.”

Ideas to raise the money include submitting a grant application to the Trillium Foundation, and receiving in-kind contributions.

Cooper said he was willing to take the decision to the OMB, believing it was good planning for the area. He had already put in a lot of work, and money for designs, to construct the development.

Residents in the area, though, objected to the intense development, which they believed would affect their lives.

“This is not a NIMBY issue for any of us,” said Button, who used to work in municipal government. “This was about what constituted good planning. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get it right.”

He said the original vision of the property to have a low-rise recreation or club house building with green space would have “benefitedDundasandHamilton,” he said.

After council’s rejection of the plan, there was an attempt by city officials to see if Alterra would be interested in a land swap, but no other parcels of land were suitable for the company. Then city staff talked about purchasing the property.

“Powers helped to broker the deal,” said Cooper. “This would not have happened without him.”

Powers said city studies have revealedDundashas a lack of green space within its downtown area. TheCreekside Driveland, then, will be “perfect” for the community, said Powers.

“It makes all kinds of sense,” he said.

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