Carlijn and Shane Kennedy hold their one-year-old son Kellen in front of a mound of dirt where a playground was to be built when their Nisbet Boulevard-area subdivision was developed. – Julia Lovett/Torstar
When Shane Kennedy and his wife bought their home near Nisbet Boulevard three and a half years ago, part of the draw was that a park was slated to be built nearby.
In fact, some residents have been waiting for the park — which is slated to be constructed on the land around the water tower, bordered by Nisbet Boulevard, White Gates Drive and Cole Street — for close to a decade.
But in its place remains nothing but a barren lot — and a large mountain of dirt.
“For us, a big part of moving there was it’s a growing community, it’s a young community,” said Kennedy. “We had heard there were plans for parks in the area and we were really excited about that.”
“A park makes sense in this young, growing community.” — Shane KennedyBut after living in the area for a year or two, Kennedy said he noticed the park was not forthcoming — and heard from neighbours that the saga had been dragging on for years.
“It was a draw for us,” he said, especially with a young son, Kellen, who just turned one. “Memorial Park, it’s only about a half-hour or so walk with an infant, but we’d rather not drive.
“It would be nice to have something there and if it’s planned, why not make it happen?”
However, the planned park remains in limbo, due to an ongoing Ontario Municipal Board challenge.
Sally Yong-Lee, the City of Hamilton’s manager of infrastructure planning, said the park will be built by the city, once Country Green’s Parkside Hills development proceeds to Phase 2 — something which is delayed by the OMB challenge.
She said the developed will cede the land to the city once they have a plan of subdivision for the new phase, but there is no timeline for that to take place.
“As a condition of this development there is land swap with the developer and the city will obtain the balance of the lands for the park,” Yong-Lee said. “The developer will be responsible to grade and seed the park block.”
She said while the draft plan of subdivision for phases 2 and 3 — and therefore the park land — is still at the OMB, a settlement may be pending.
“We don’t have all the land for the complete park,” she said of the city. “(The developer has) not received approval to proceed — I know that they are anxious to proceed with the next development.”
While the OMB has been replaced by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, anything that was commenced under the previous board will be completed by the OMB.
Two cases in relation to the Parkside Hills Phase 2 development remain before the OMB, with both commenced by the developer due to the city’s refusal to make decisions on applications to allow amendments to the Official Plan and bylaws, in order to facilitate the plan of subdivision.
A pre-hearing on one of the cases is slated for July 2019, while a pre-hearing for the other is scheduled for June 2020.
Although Yong-Lee said the developer could technically give the land to city prior to the plan of subdivision being approved, there is grading and drainage work that needs to be completed prior to the transfer.
“It’s not that easy,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Give us the piece of land and we can build you a park.’
“There have been quite a few inquiries about getting that park established, but we can only do so much without having all the land.”
She said generally the process is that the developer registers their plan of subdivision, then they cede the park block to the city.
Yong-Lee added the city has put aside money for the development of the park as part of the 2019-2028 capital budget plan, with the funding allocated in 2022.
“If we find that they are moving faster than we are anticipating, the budget items get reviewed every year, so there’s a potential that we could move the funds forward, so we can get the park built earlier.”
She explained that the actual development of the park is paid for through development charges.
While she couldn’t speak on the specific park or neighbouring properties, Yong-Lee said generally properties that are adjacent to wooded areas, environmentally significant areas, ponds or parks are sold at a premium price.
However, that money is not directly linked to development charges, she said.
Ward 15 Coun. Judi Partridge said the park has been an ongoing issue for her office.
Partridge said the park is expected to be five acres around the water tower. She said the area around the water tower that is currently grassed part of the first phase of development, while the rest of the park is considered part of phases 2 and 3.
“It has been tied up at the OMB for quite a few years,” she said.
Partridge added the large pile of earth needs to be relocated to allow for the construction of the park.
She said the timing of when the developments are completed is the prerogative of the developer.
“It’s up to them when they move forward with development,” she said, adding there is nothing to stipulate the time frame for when a park must be completed. She said some developers choose to build parks sooner, due to promises to customers in early phases.
She said residents have been raising concerns about the park for eight years.
“When people buy a home and they’re promised a park — then eight years later, they still don’t have a park, they get annoyed.” Partridge added. “Some people are downright angry about it.”
Country Green Homes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
But for his part, Kennedy and his fellow area residents — many of who have young children — would just like to see the park built.
“It’s a nice amenity,” he said. “I feel bad for my neighbours, if they live on White Gates and paid $10,000 extra for this house because of the advantage of having a park there.
“A park makes sense in this young, growing community.”