Dundas councillor bans Valley Town movie shoots for three years

Hamilton Spectator

Film production will be banned in Dundas for the next three years.

The decision was made after eight months of collaboration between Coun. Arlene Vanderbeek, the Dundas business improvement area and city staff at Hamilton’s music and film office. It took effect Aug. 1.

“Over the course of many discussions, it came to light that Dundas has been supersaturated with filming in the last two years,” Vanderbeek said.

Since the city started logging filming in Dundas, the number of productions has jumped from one in 2001 to 16 in 2014.

The area’s abundance of Victorian buildings and resemblance to small town America make it very popular. But not everyone was happy about the activity.

Businesses complained about parking issues, extended road closures and permits not being followed, said Phyllis Kraemer, BIA board chair and a local store owner.

At a meeting a few months ago, more than a dozen residents showed up and some “were absolutely furious and not happy about the way which the property was left or which the property was handled.”

The issues aren’t new, Kraemer said. They’ve been going on for years.

The ban affects all of Ward 13. It did not have to go through council as it’s part of a bylaw covering the film industry, part of which says that if there’s saturation of filming in a particular area, the city can limit how much or whether filming can occur, said Vanderbeek.

The councillor said even before the moratorium, shooting was not available in August because of the Cactus Festival or between November and January.

“So the only impact is really September and October.”

She said there has been damage to municipal parking lots because of big vehicles and also listed two large construction projects as part of the rationale for the move: a three-year construction project on Governors road, set to start next year, as well as a project currently underway across from University Plaza, which started in April and is set to end in October.

“Trying to schedule movie shoots around construction projects and impeding traffic, as movie shoots do … it just became very obvious that it’s just not going to work,” said Vanderbeek.

Susan Monarch, manager of Tourism Hamilton, and Vanderbeek say the ban won’t deter companies from coming back and using Dundas in the future.

But location manager Quincy Morgan disagrees.

“We’ll forget about it and we’ll move on.”

He worked on the first two instalments of the “Good Witch” (a television show that aired on the Hallmark Channel) in 2008, and has done a lot of filming in Dundas since 2004.

“Maybe we’ll come back, maybe we don’t, I mean three years is a long time so we’ll find some other quaint location and call that home.”

Morten Dorrell, a location manager who’s been filming the “Good Witch” in Dundas for 10 years, said he’s “never seen such a drastic change in policy in such a short timeline.”

Two weeks warning was given about the ban.

Irene Stepus, owner of Heirlooms Bridal Shoppe, said since she took over in January 2014 there have been a few Christmas productions, “Murdoch Mysteries” and “The Secret Life of Ms. Claus” filmed inside her store. She wasn’t aware of the already-in-place moratorium.

Kathryn Fairfield, owner of Terraware, said she complained about the shoots because it was hard on her business, but she understands both sides.

“We all want to support the movie industry, but I don’t want to pay for the movie and we’re small businesses so we depend on our clientele to be able to get to our location.”

Kraemer said the BIA hopes to see some changes after the moratorium that would better reflect present-day Dundas.

“I think the answer is to at some point just to not have as much filming.”

The estimated direct spending from film productions in Hamilton is just over $7 million.


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