Speak Up for Belle Park

For four years now, Wellington X has been working to keep Kingston’s river waterfront quiet and green and healthy. The Mayor has recently promised no road through Doug Fluhrer Park. Now, it’s important to speak up for the nearby waterfront green space at Belle Park.

V25_6-5-27 belle island copyKnowing how precious waterfront green space is within the city, we have been closely following the city’s proposals for Belle Park now that the golf course has closed. There is precious little unmanicured public greenspace in the City of Kingston — and none in the downtown other than Belle Park. Indeed, Belle Park can never be returned to what it was — a marsh — before it literally got filled in with garbage, and later turned into a golf course. But we have a chance here to let nature reclaim the space in the ways it will. For people of all ages from toddler to senior, trees, quiet, ducks and ospreys can be called “amenities” that add to recreational experience. Just plain old “walking” always emerges the #1 activity in surveys about people’s recreational habits. A few paths and benches — and maybe a natural play area or a dog park — would be a lot cheaper than courts, lights, parking, etc. In addition, Belle Park is adjacent to Belle Island, with its indigenous burial sites: that makes the case for contemplative space and consultation with the Indigenous community even stronger.

20141026_144639Some have asked for pickle ball courts, golf, rugby fields, and generally more space for organized sports. But no credible case has been made that the new sports facilities have to be in this location specifically, nor does there appear to be data demonstrating or clarifying what the needs are in this neighbourhood or the city overall. The vast majority of people who responded to a survey this summer about the future of Belle Park did not approve of the sports-oriented concepts presented. While 27 people liked one of the concepts with pickleball and rugby fields, and 74 liked the other, 245 people didn’t like either. Among those who commented, a large majority said they wanted a natural park without sports facilities. But given how the earlier survey was designed, the City now seeks to clarify or confirm why people did not approve of their earlier proposals.

And thus, in this season of joy, we invite you to participate in filling in yet another survey! Even or especially if you did the summer survey, please take the time to do this one too. It is very short. It lets you rate how much you’d like to see each type of facility in the park, such as sports fields and nature trails, and the results will be used to guide what happens to the park over the coming decade. 

The survey closes December 27th. Here’s the link again. Thank you! 

— Vicki Schmolka, Mary McCollam, and Laura Murray


NKT Traffic Consultants say WSE Not Necessary

Those of you who attended the North King’s Town Secondary Plan consultations last week will already know that the transportation experts from ARUP consultants, having run the numbers, have determined that “the WSE does not present a substantive improvement to the road network’s service.” Modelling for 2034, with the Third Crossing in place, they see no substantial difference between having the WSE and not having it, “with some congestion and delays present in all scenarios.” Thus they will not be recommending any part of the WSE be built and they have removed all of it from all of the design maps in the draft plan currently under consideration. After all, estimates for the cost of the WSE have been been sitting between 22 and 35 million dollars, so it simply doesn’t make sense to build something without demonstrable benefit. You can see the four scenarios they tested and their findings here (scroll down).

Screen Shot 2018-10-08 at 9.29.17 PM

This is very good news. We will see the whole final report before the end of the year. The planners may end up proposing some other changes to the road network — for example, on the poster boards they showed this week they suggest that Russell Street be extended eastward, and a new road may come down from Counter Street and turn west to connect with Division. Given that Wellington X opposes any unnecessary expenditures on roads designed for motor vehicles, these will all be things to evaluate. But their finding that the WSE is not necessary confirms our long-held contention that a broad approach, in which the WSE was considered in the context of community values and the whole transportation picture, is much preferable to the more focused “Environmental Assessment” model which only evaluates one project idea and as such is highly biased towards endorsing it.

If indeed the final version of the Secondary Plan does not include the WSE, once passed by Council it will follow automatically that the WSE will also be removed from the Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan.

But, while enjoying some cautious optimism on the WSE, let’s not forget there are a lot of other issues to attend to. We invite you all to spend some time with the whole range of plans and ideas for the North King’s Town area indicated in the draft materials now available (and the full reports will be rolled out for our perusal before the end of the year). Park space. Affordable housing. Cultural heritage. Bike paths. Community wellbeing in general. With the future of Belle Park, the tannery lands, and the Outer Station up in the air, there are a lot of things to stay on top of these days and we encourage you to think about them as you vote on October 22.

— Laura Murray

Is the Wellington Street Extension Dead? A Pre-Election Update

You may remember that Wellington X formed in the months leading up to the 2014 municipal election. The Wellington Street Extension (WSE) — a road that would run north/south along the Great Cataraqui River through Douglas Fluhrer Park, across Montreal Street, and through the Old Industrial Area to John Counter Boulevard — had been “on the books” for a while.

Approximate route of the proposed WSE (red) and the new urban K&P trail (blue)

We organized because we were concerned that the incoming City Council would move to renew the expiring Environmental Assessment and thus reenergize a project that would, at a cost in the many millions, harm nearby residents, wildlife, and the global climate. During the 2014 election campaign, mayoral candidate Bryan Paterson touted the “important benefits” of the WSE, and suggested that there was a way to help pedestrians cross the WSE and still enjoy Douglas Fluhrer Park. (This claim prompted us to demonstrate in our “Mark the Park” exercise that the proposed road would simply take up most of the park.) Paterson did get elected mayor, but King’s Town district reelected a councillor (Rob Hutchison) who has been an effective long-time opponent of the road, and with support from Rob and many others Wellington X has managed to hold the WSE at bay for the past four years.

This is no small achievement. We’ve attended countless public and private meetings, hosted numerous events, read reams of reports, written responses and statements on all sorts of related issues and initiatives, and just generally tried to be awake at every moment. Many of you have been at our side.

The work may be paying off. Council initiated a secondary planning process for North King’s Town as a way to pursue alternatives to the WSE, and planners and consultants have so far been very responsive to community concerns about the WSE. Lately, we have sensed the general mood and tone at City Hall and in the town itself swinging in favour of waterfront greenspace, in favour of active transportation, and against the road.

But the road is still on the books. Four years after we started, where are we? Have we won? Can we go home now?

Sad to say, the answer is no. We haven’t yet won, and we can’t yet go home. From what we are hearing from the mayoral candidates, only the southern section of the road (through Doug Fluhrer Park) seems to be safely off the table. The northern section that would run alongside the K & P trail is not. At the end of August, Mayor Paterson announced that he has changed his mind about the WSE: he no longer supports the southern part. Good news! But in an email, he told us that he thinks Kingston would “likely still require the northern section of the WSE that would run through the Old Industrial Area. That’s because there are a number of properties in this area that currently have no road access, and so in order to redevelop these properties to provide space for new small businesses in our community, that road access will be essential.” Mayoral candidate Vicki Schmolka also opposes the southern section — and in fact she has long been active in opposing it. She defers to the secondary planning process for a decision on the northern section — although she does state that “the community needs to be convinced of the value of another road in this part of town and its impact on the well-used K & P trail.” Among the four mayoral candidates, Rob Matheson is the only one who supports a road through Fluhrer Park, suggesting that he would “explore with a newly formed City Council converting the road itself into an artery for active transportation as a priority with perhaps a one vehicle lane (if necessary) that can be reversed depending on time of day traffic.” And candidate Eric Lee is alone in opposing the whole road as a “make work project,” saying, “I love that we still have green friendly places, and want to make sure that isn’t interfered with.” (For full comments received from all four candidates, see here.)

But, you might say, isn’t Doug Fluhrer Park the most important? Isn’t that good enough? We think not. Our position has been and will continue to be that the northern section is equally problematic. We are unconvinced of there being any sensible rationale for building any portion of the WSE. Here are some of our concerns about the northern section:

Downgrading of the K&P Trail

The City invested heavily in building and landscaping the very popular trail, a corridor for active transportation and recreation. North of Railway, it runs exactly along the road alignment (an old train track route) for the proposed WSE. Should the northern section of the WSE be built, that trail would change from lovely peaceful space to a bike lane beside a road. That doesn’t make sense. A green trail running right through a municipal area is such a great asset for a city!

Lack of Need

The City’s own analysis shows that the 3rd Crossing will move traffic east-west and reduce north-south traffic, thus negating previous arguments of need for the WSE. And while as the Mayor notes there are properties in the OIA that lack road access, there are also currently undeveloped properties there with road access with no new businesses on them, which makes us wonder if road access is really the barrier to starting businesses in the OIA. Furthermore, a few small east-west connector roads could solve the problems where they exist.

We note also that the traffic consultants working on the North King’s Town Secondary Plan seem to agree that the WSE is not needed. They may propose some small road network adjustments, but so far, they tell us, they do not expect to feature the WSE, north or south, in their proposals.

Other Unacknowledged Factors and Effects

We know that Jay Patry wants the WSE to serve his highly problematic and far-from-approved Tannery development. Is that the unstated reason for keeping the northern section of the WSE in play? And where would the traffic be dumped at the southern end? If the northern section of the WSE were built, arguments might be made in the future to build the southern section – as its ‘natural’ extension.

In conclusion: we hope that others will continue to fight with us against this road — all of it. We hope that the Secondary Plan, when complete, will imagine a sustainable, equitable, productive future for North King’s Town, and that the incoming Mayor and City Council will respect and implement that plan. In the end, only a decision of Council can kill the road, and that will take votes from councillors representing districts across the city. So to get this road off the books we’ll have to have a Council in which a majority “gets” fiscal prudence, environmental responsibility, and respect for residents and the places they live.

Early on in our efforts, Wellington X took time to set our opposition to the WSE in the context of a broader set of values and goals. We will close with those, as a reminder that the WSE stands for more than just itself. For us, and we hope for you, the fight against the WSE is about asserting grassroots control over neighbourhoods, prioritizing protection of the environment, and promoting quality of life for people of all walks of life over profit and convenience for a small number of investors and developers.

— Laura Murray for the Wellington X team

Skeleton Park Festival Conversations

On Saturday June 23rd, members of Wellington X tabled at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival. Thank you to everyone who stopped by.  We reconnected with old supporters and met new ones.  We sold t-shirts and banners as we did in 2016. Thank you, Craftivists, for your help with the screen-printing!

It has been a little while since we have canvassed the neighbourhoods so we decided to offer a paper survey asking festival attendees two questions:

  1. What do you like most about living in Kingston?
  2. What are you most worried about in Kingston?

Below are word clouds based on the responses we received to these questions. The word clouds speak for themselves so we won’t do any heavy-duty analysis of the responses, other than to say that people are feeling both good and worried about this city! (Apologies to those whose handwriting we couldn’t quite read.) We hope that in general and leading up to the municipal election folks feel up to standing up for what they like and fighting what they fear.

— Sayyida Jaffer

I like:

I’m worried about:

Do we need the WSE now that we’re getting a bridge?

Map with 3rd Crossing

Approximate route of proposed WSE (red), K&P trail (blue), and Third Crossing (purple)

Let’s answer this question head on, as it seems to have raised its ugly head again recently. Council has approved the Third Crossing to be built across the Cataraqui River, connecting to John Counter Boulevard on the west side. Does that provide a rationale for the Wellington Street Extension, which, if built, would run from John Counter Boulevard south to downtown Kingston?

NO! If anything, the Third Crossing provides an additional reason NOT to build the WSE. Why? Because the Third Crossing is conceived as a way to move east/west traffic, and to reduce north/south traffic related to people getting to or coming from the causeway or the 401. 

This claim is supported by the City’s own analysis of how traffic patterns will change after the Third Crossing is built. The report on the City’s Third Crossing website titled Background and Strategic Case for the Third Crossing states that Third Crossing traffic will have two main components: 

  • 20% of Highway 401 traffic going between the north-west and north-central parts of the city and the east side of the Cataraqui River

I.E., NONE of that traffic would go north/south to and from downtown, and thus none of those drivers would use the WSE, if built.

  • 20% of La Salle Causeway traffic going between the west, south-west, and south-central parts of the city and the east side of the Cataraqui River

I.E., only a small percentage of drivers coming from the east side would head south from the Third Crossing to downtown (south-central Kington). The rest would head straight west or west and then south. Let’s say 1/4 of the 20% redirected from the Causeway heads to downtown. That’s only 5% of the current Causeway traffic.**

THE BOTTOM LINE:  a substantial amount of current north-south traffic is just people getting to and coming from the causeway. The Third Crossing is predicted to reduce that traffic. Our rapidly expanding and improving Kingston Transit (have you tried the new Montreal Express bus?) will reduce it further. 

Taking another look at the aerial photo at the top of the post, consider what the WSE would look like, if built.

It would ruin human and wildlife habitats in Doug Fluhrer Park. 

It would run adjacent to most of the splendid new K&P recreational trail below John Counter, converting a quiet trail to a noisy bike lane.  

Even if it were built, drivers crossing the bridge from the east and heading downtown would likely choose to go south on Montreal St. at John Counter Boulevard, rather than on the proposed WSE, since the WSE would be further west and thus out of their way.

And at some places the WSE would be merely one house-width away from Rideau Street. Imagine how unpleasant it would be to live or work on Rideau Street if it were built. Currently, the backs of those properties overlook the quiet, landscaped K&P trail.

Yes, we want all Kingston residents to have easy access to downtown, and yes, we know that many people drive to get around. But by the numbers, the WSE is still not needed. And, of course, the multitude of very strong arguments against building the WSE that have nothing to do with the Third Crossing still hold. For an excellent overview, see:  What is the WSE and why don’t we want It? 

And feel free to send your questions to us — we’ve spent a lot of time with these maps and documents and are happy to try to answer them. 

— Mary McCollam

** The east/west traffic flow that would be created by the Third Crossing is also illustrated by the maps in Figures 3 and 4 on pages 9 and 10 of the City report, Background and Strategic Case for the Third Crossing.

Walk ‘n’ Roll Rocks

Wellington X is deeply committed to pedestrian, transit and cycling infrastructure as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and traffic congestion, and to promote active, enjoyable living. We aim to live in a city where road building is an option of last resort after all other transportation and land use options are fully considered.

If you feel the same, you’ll want to know about the draft Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP), Walk ’n’ Roll, that was released this past Friday, and the two upcoming information Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour. 

Walk ‘n’ Roll will be the Kingston’s first comprehensive Active Transportation Master Plan, developed in response to Council’s directive that 20% of all travel be via active transportation by 2034. Currently it’s about 12%. The downtown stats are better: over 50% of the working population in North King’s Town bike or walk to work. And over 75% in the downtown core and general Williamsville area do so. We hope that Council will prioritize implementation of the ATMP and achieve or surpass the 20% goal.

How Good is the Draft ATMP?

Overall, it looks good. Its implementation would significantly support active transportation in Kingston.

Here are a couple of positive points as examples of the plan’s strengths. It looks like the plan shows “In-Boulevard Trails” along Sir John A McDonald, Highway 15 and some other busy north/south roads. An In-Boulevard Trail is a separated space along a roadway instead of a sidewalk that accommodates both pedestrians and cyclists. (The explanations of the various terms for types of lanes and paths can be found in Section 3.4 of the Draft ATMP on page 63.) The plan for these in-boulevard trails is positive because separated lanes along busy roads are safe and could be used for commuting via e-bikes, as well as regular bikes. Also, some of these in-boulevard trails meet up with the K&P trail to the north, providing an enjoyable commuter or recreational route.

Section 4.4.1 suggests that the City’s development charges bylaw should be changed to allow these charges to be used to fund Active Transportation network improvements. Great suggestion!

However, there are aspects that need improvement. Poor resolution maps with similar colours used to designate very different types of bicycle lanes make things confusing, but we are concerned that downtown cycling is not sufficiently prioritized. This is definitely something to ask about. And, directly related to Wellington X’s home turf, we are concerned that there is not a strong enough commitment to retaining or enhancing the K&P Trail as an off-road trail. 

It looks like the plan shows no improvement planned for the bike paths downtown on Johnson and Brock Streets! Will we have the  same “signed roads with sharrows” (chevrons painted on the pavement in lanes shared with cars) rather than separate bike lanes on Johnson and Brock, and for Princess St., as well? It’s difficult to tell what, if any, biking infrastructure is planned for Queen Street. If we are interpreting the maps correctly, that could mean four parallel streets through downtown that all remain unsafe for bikes. Really? And they say they’re trying to encourage active transportation to downtown businesses?

Beyond the basic necessity for safety, the plan seems to fall short in encouraging cycling routes that are pleasant. Pleasure is implied in the image they’ve chosen for Walk ‘n’ Roll, but is not included in the vision or principles. It’s the combination of pleasure and safety that will attract new cyclists. Make it a nice experience and people will want to do it. For example, the city needs to be more aware of the newly-available pedal-assisted e-bikes. These bikes — which look like mountain bikes and require pedalling — have great potential for enhancing tourism and extending commutes (with no need to take a shower once one arrives). They are a moderate form of exercise accessible to adults of all ages with a wide range of abilities. Dockless pedal e-bike sharing systems are also now available at prices comparable to those for regular bikes. And they are really fun! Talk about motivating change to use active transportation. The ATMP should include pedal e-bikes and dockless sharing systems in Section 4.4.1, Additional Initiatives. 

There are a number of new urban trails specified in the ATMP (Great!), but nothing about the value of off-road trails is included, and there is nothing about protecting current off-road trails. It’s possible that this omission could result in off-road trails being removed from plans during the implementation stages.

The K&P trail is mentioned repeatedly in the ATMP, and is shown on the maps as primarily an off-road trail, including most of the urban portion, but there is no statement anywhere that promotes protecting the K&P trail as an off-road trail. The public, on the other hand, have explicitly and repeatedly stated that the urban K&P trail should be protected and that the Wellington Street Extension should not be built alongside it, as indicated in both of the feedback reports of the open houses.

The public has also suggested prioritizing a pedestrian bridge to connect the K&P trail to north of the train tracks safely. This is referred to in the ATMP, but only as “desired.” A strong case for this option should be included in the plan.

What should I do?

Go to one of the Open Houses:  4:30-7:30 pm, Wednesday, May 9, at the Invista Centre and next Monday, May 14, at Portsmouth Olympic Harbour.

And/or look at the Draft ATMP on the Walk ’n’ Roll website at https://www.cityofkingston.ca/city-hall/projects-construction/walk-roll-kingston and send your comments to the project team at walkroll@cityofkingston.ca.

Maps can be found in the Executive Summary between pages 8 and 9. Two key maps are labeled Map ES.2: Cycling Network by Facility Type (Urban Area) and Map ES.3: Pedestrian Network by Facility Type (Urban Area).

Tell them what you like about the draft ATMP and what you think should be improved. You will each have your own priorities, concerns, and ideas, and that is wonderful. The main thing they need to hear is that people want active transportation to be made more safe and more pleasant. 

Thank you!

— Mary McCollam

Public Consultation Update: NKT Secondary Plan and Patry Tannery Project

Before events move on, here is a brief report on two meetings you might have had the pleasure of attending — or missing!

On February 28, there were several public meetings concerning the North King’s Town Secondary Plan at the Legion on Montreal Street — and in the days following, some drop-in events at Artillery Park. People were invited to hear about the Cultural Heritage, Land use, and Transportation Studies, and comment. We did not generally find the format very congenial — the full and complex documents were not available (in advance or at the event), it was really unclear what we were supposed to be responding to, and there was uneven facilitation and little chance to really clearly engage with or reach solid conclusions about the brand new material. Nonetheless, we are happy with the summary of responses available on the City website as it seems to represent a range of views we heard at the meetings and elsewhere. We await the next phase of discussions. The Planning Department will be at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival with a North King’s Town booth on Saturday June 23, and more community open houses are planned for September. It looks like the “workshop” format will continue to be part of the community consultations in the fall. And we want to thank Planning staff and the members of the Community Working Group who have been keeping us apprised of developments and offering a conduit to the work underway.

A few days after these meetings, at the Planning Committee of March 8, the public was able to comment on the IBI/Patry Tannery Lands proposal which we described earlier on this blog.

The meeting, which was chaired by a hired facilitator rather than the Planning Committee Chair, was notably polarized. When we arrived, 13 spots had already been claimed on the speakers’ list, many of them in the same handwriting. Eight of them identified as rowers or relatives of rowers, and they all argued for the proposal; the other five first speakers were also all in favour of the Patry proposal. (The proposal features a new Rowing Club boathouse, to which Jay Patry, a rower, would contribute handsomely.) All the spots in the Council Chambers had been claimed well in advance; almost all opponents to the plan were shunted off to Memorial Hall. Hence, the Planning Committee did not know until the fourteenth speaker that there was any opposition to the plan at all. Nonetheless, the committee did ultimately hear that loud and clear. Whatever the attractions of a new rowing club may be, it is a minor issue in the context of a massive development with enormous social and environmental impact. Almost all of the second half of the night’s speakers offered various critiques of the proposal. Here are some concerns they raised:

  • Kingston’s growth rate fell to 1% between 2011 and 2016 against a national average 5.9%, and a development of 1500 units is not warranted given the other developments in the pipeline
  • The development would endanger the UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Stripping the property of trees would increase runoff, and then capping/paving it as well; would this not increase pollution in the river, and/or is Ravensview equipped to process heavy metals and other toxins?
  • The parking is massively excessive and goes against Kingston’s claims and aims to being sustainable. Putting all those cars on the roads will bolster calls for the WSE, which would if built run adjacent to the new K&P trail, ruining its beauty and contradicting its intent of increasing active transportation
  • The CRCA and Parks Canada have grave concerns
  • The North King’s Town Planning process is not over. Approving a project that states clearly its need for the WSE when the NKT process was explicitly conceived to find alternatives to the WSE is a violation of public trust
  • Turtles and other animals would be put at grave risk by the development and the Environmental Impact Statement is shallow and inadequate
  • The proposal contravenes the Provincial Policy Statement and Official Plan concerning “ribbon of life” protection of waterfront
  • Taller buildings with a smaller footprint further from the water might be more appropriate
  • Why is land only considered “productive” when something is built on it? The greenspace is valueable as a carbon sink, and may be regenerating itself from the damage humans have already done to it.
  • Consultation with Indigenous parties is a legal duty and has not been followed.

It was further noted by a number of speakers that some pro-Tannery speakers were rude or derogatory in referring to the people who have been living on the Tannery lands, and that the facilitator should have recognized and responded to such comments, in keeping with the Public Engagement policy. It was not clear why there was a hired facilitator, but if this is going to become practice (which we do not recommend), facilitators must be fully trained in watching for and expecting respectful conduct, and discrimination based on income or housing status should not be tolerated.

We understand the Patry tannery lands application is now “in technical review.”

This enormous and highly problematic proposal needs extremely serious and deep analysis. We must insist that every dimension of it receives scrutiny. Presumably there will be more public consultation, but you don’t have to wait for that. If you have comments or questions regarding this development proposal please email them to Andrea Furniss, Senior Planner at the City of Kingston at afurniss@cityofkingston.ca. You can also read some comments already on the record here.

— Laura Murray

Call to Action: Public Meetings on February 28 and March 8

On the evening of February 21, members of WellingtonX met with representatives from IBI Group and Patry Inc. (Mark Touw and Rob Gibson), at their invitation, to learn about Kingston developer Jay Patry’s proposal for the Davis Tannery site. It was an informative meeting.

The plan is not new: as some of you will remember, it was developed and proposed to the City in 2014. But Patry only acquired the tannery lands from Rideau Renewal in fall 2017. This week he released a slightly revised plan which has been submitted for various approvals – a process which requires a public meeting to be held in City Hall on March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Here is what the development would look like:

Patry proposes to build 1500 units (80% rental, 20% condos) plus some commercial space in four blocks of 6-story wooden-frame buildings to occupy 9 out of 13 hectares of the waterfront site. Each unit will have 1.25 parking spots in above-ground lots “wrapped” by buildings. Because of the extreme toxicity of the former industrial site, major remediation will have to take place and the whole developed part will be capped with clay. There will be amenities such as pools, and Patry is proposing that the Rowing Club move a little north to be part of his project. There is a setback along the waterfront, as required because of municipal and provincial “ribbon of life” policies. River Street and two other entrances at the western side will connect the development to the Wellington Street Extension.

Wait: say that again?

Yes, you read right: Mark Touw explained to us that for a development of this size, the Wellington Street Extension would need to be built. Indeed, Patry is counting on the construction of the WSE. He is going ahead seeking approvals before the North King’s Town Secondary Plan – initiated with the express purpose (see Council minutes of May 5, 2015) of finding alternatives to the WSE – is complete.

We know, and planning staff and consultants know, that the majority of those who have participated in the North King’s Town planning process are against the WSE [see here and here]. The Visioning Report from June 2017 states that “a large majority of people who provided comments during the Study were overwhelmingly opposed to building the proposed WSE,” and includes attention to other community concerns such as active transportation, heritage, greenspace, and affordable housing.

However, all we have so far with the NKT is its first phase: a pretty vision. The next phase of the Secondary Planning process, getting underway now, is where the rubber hits the road. Or the @#$% hits the fan. This is when we get into details about land use, transportation and infrastructure, and so on. The first public meetings are next week, February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street.

It’s tedious, sure, but it’s even more important we engage this time than it was in the first phase. We have to be there because we live here, and we want to continue to live here. We have to insist that a good plan be developed, and that it be respected. The tannery lands are only one part of the NKT area. We can’t get too focused on them because there are other sites and issues that need attention. Consultants and staff may advise us that we can’t discuss a project on private lands that is going through approval before the results of the planning exercise are complete. But the Patry proposal should remind us of the stakes of this planning process and why it’s so important to get it right. The Patry proposal is what we will get if we don’t get — and follow — a good plan. So, again: February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street — see more information here

The March 8 special Planning Committee meeting (6:30 p.m., City Hall) is all about the Patry proposal — it’s the best occasion to speak directly to City Council and City staff and get into the full range of varied concerns about the future of the tannery lands. Public safety, for example (Patry estimates that 400,000 tonnes of soil would have to be remediated or removed from the site. Where is this contaminated soil going to go? Is it safe to disturb? How many thousands of truckloads of hazardous material would exit the site, and what impact would this activity have on the surrounding neighbourhood?). Habitat protection, waterfront naturalization, design, the need for more affordable housing, prioritizing transit and active transportation instead of adding 1800 cars onto nearby streets, and so on and so forth: lots of things to talk about.

The IBI representative did acknowledge that the developers expect several months of back and forth revisions over the proposal, and that the plan will and can change to some extent within the general framework of the existing proposal. Construction will likely continue over ten to fifteen years in four phases. Mark said that the existing road network would not suffice after the third phase. There are many changes required to make this proposal acceptable — but a bottom-line for Wellington X is that any development must be WSE-free.

At the March 8 meeting, we will remind the Planning Committee and Council that if approved as proposed, this project would preempt the due process of community-engaged planning. The Patry proposal presumes the construction of the Wellington Street Extension and, given that City Council promised full public consultation via an objective planning process on this issue, a hasty approval would undermine the very integrity of the Council.

Despite what some may think, WellingtonX is not opposed to development. What we do oppose is development imposed upon the residents — two-legged and four-legged — of North King’s Town. We look forward to working with others to preserve and grow our community. Please join us at one or both of the upcoming meetings.

— Laura Murray and  Anne Lougheed

Toderian Takes On Kingston

You have some of the worst architecture on a waterfront that I have ever seen. And I have seen waterfronts all over the world.”                                                 — Brent Toderian

You might have seen comments about Kingston made by a visiting “urban planning expert.” Who is he? Why was he here?

Brent Toderian (pronounced TODD-er-in) is renowned for his work as Vancouver’s Chief Planner for six years, and as an urban design consultant in cities in Canada and internationally. The City of Kingston invited Mr. Toderian to visit Kingston to address the challenges of intensification in our city, especially in the downtown core. We heard his presentations at the January 17th City Council Town Hall meeting on intensification and at the January 19th Climate Change Symposium. As well, he had discussions with City planning staff. Perhaps he might return in a city planning consultation role? He’s done that in places such as Copenhagen, New York, Buenos Aires and Burlington, ON (ya, Burlington, too).

It was on his first morning in Kingston that Mr. Toderian remarked on Twitter and CBC radio that Kingston has made a mess of its waterfront and that the tall buildings downtown have made residents understandably nervous about densification if it means more of the same. Mr. Toderian is an advocate of “gentle density,” but does not oppose high-rises as long as they are attractively designed and reward the pedestrian at street level — unlike those along our waterfront downtown: “Slab buildings boxing it in, blank walls, fences & parking along the building edge at-grade.”

The planner’s expertise on transportation planning and its relationship to the health of the city are of particular interest to us. Very early on in his Town Hall presentation, Toderian brought up induced demand. The fact that widening streets does nothing to improve traffic congestion is one that we’ve included many times in presentations to councillors and to staff, so we were happy to have that truth hammered home. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what effect it had since the faces of engineering staff (and of particular councillors) were not visible when the slide went up that said “Building bigger roads makes traffic worse.” In his presentation at the Climate Change Symposium, Toderian paraphrased Lewis Mumford: “Trying to address congestion by adding more roads is like trying to solve obesity by loosening your belt.”

Mr. Toderian believes our city may be at a turning point where key issues such as climate change, housing affordability and public health are converging. It’s time to stop “doing the wrong thing better.” For instance, replacing current vehicles with electric, self-driving vehicles is better, but “unless we share them, self-driving vehicles will just make traffic worse.” Instead we need to do the right thing:  prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit users over drivers.

But Toderian maintains that doesn’t mean he’s anti-car. He just doesn’t believe that cities should be planned around the car. “If you design a city for cars, it fails for everyone, including drivers … The best thing those who feel they need to drive could hope for, is for other people to be able to walk, bike and ride transit.” In his opinion, the rhetoric of a “war on the car” is an unfortunate relic of Rob Ford’s term as Toronto mayor. Increasing active transport (walk/bike/transit) is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion, and to build a city that is more livable, healthy, visitable, environmentally sustainable and economically successful. He pointed out that doctors (for instance those in Australia where he was consulted about urban planning at the request of the Heart Association) are now advocating for walkable cities — and attracting more attention than planners would by doing so.

One of Toderian’s slides stated, “The truth about a city’s aspirations isn’t found in its vision. It’s found in its budget.” Another said, “Progress doesn’t just depend on starting the right things. It depends on stopping the wrong things and fixing the mistakes.” While he wouldn’t comment on the third crossing or any other specific proposal, the takeaway for a lot of us is that we now have some high-level support for our own arguments against the expansion of Kingston’s road infrastructure.

A video of Mr. Toderian’s Town Hall presentation can be found here:  https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=615AJ_ig9ms

His slides can be found here:  https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/23500176/COU_A0418-Presentation.pdf/946108ab-01f5-442f-90a5-4037f15f7fa2.

— Anne Lougheed and Mary McCollam

In which Wellington X Meets with the Mayor and Promenades on Princess Street

You may have seen the Whig-Standard’s article in early September entitled “City to address Wellington St. Extension: Mayor.” The piece caused a fair bit of alarm in the community, and we thought we should speak with the mayor to clarify his plans.

In a cordial meeting, Mr. Paterson told us that he’d also been surprised at the article and its headline, and surmised that the reporter had used a couple of comments made to him after a council meeting to craft an article. He says he would prefer to see green space preserved and sees no reason to bring more cars downtown. However, he told us that he wants to see road network improvements that would result in better access to landlocked properties in the Old Industrial Area, and that would incentivize development on brownfield sites in the Inner Harbour. He asks, what do we need to do to attract developers to come in and for development to take place? He thinks this may be possible with the upgrade or expansion of existing roads, or with a hybrid solution- upgrades in conjunction with new roads. He’s willing to look at all options and says he won’t exclude any possibilities.

The mayor agrees that the K&P trail is a great asset for the city and has always supported it. Although he thinks that the K&P should be considered when looking at a possible road network in the Old Industrial Area, he is not willing to reject an option that might have a road next to part of the K&P in that area.

We were concerned that Mr. Paterson didn’t seem to have a grasp of the timeline for the North King’s Town secondary planning process. He wondered if some of the technical studies might be available to Council by next spring, before the secondary plan is completed. In our understanding, no decision about the WSE can be made before the plan is completed and approved by Council, and the consultants have not even been hired yet; it seems impossible that it could be completed before the election in fall 2018. We will continue to follow and discuss this with Planning staff and Councillors.

For more energizing discussions, we are always happy to meet our fellow Kingstonians on the streets. A couple of days before our meeting with the mayor, we had a booth at the fall edition of the Princess St. Promenade. We brought Nancy Douglas along and her splendid map banner of the neighbourhoods and landscapes near the planned WSE — kids and adults alike had the chance to use glue and scissors to add their sense of what is valuable in this space.

The event gave us an opportunity to speak with residents from all over town. We encountered a broad interest in active and public transportation, and a skepticism about increasing road capacity for cars. A woman who lives north of the city said that she and her spouse started taking the bus from a Park and Ride to get to work at Queen’s because parking near Queen’s is so difficult, and they find the bus very convenient. We heard comments such as, “If you build another road, you just get more traffic.”

It was interesting that quite a number of people we spoke with have recently moved to Kingston. They may not have heard of the WSE, but they were surprised at the idea, and were very vocal about supporting public and active transit which they experienced elsewhere, or moved here hoping to find. They considered traffic congestion a non-issue here compared to what they had experienced in Montreal, Toronto, and Washington D.C. One couple who just moved here from Montreal said that with all of the bike lanes there now, the rush hour congestion in their old neighbourhood was primarily from bikes. Someone else said that they were surprised and dismayed when they moved to Kingston at the lack of bike paths, especially downtown. They said that they didn’t feel safe bicycling downtown. (This is a comment we’ve heard many times.) However, many of the newcomers had already discovered the K&P trail and appreciated it. They were aghast to hear that there is the possibility that a road would be built next to it.

“But the trail is so beautiful. A road next to it would ruin it”.

In fact, overall, the K&P Trail was the biggest topic of conversation. After all, the WSE as planned is set to run right beside it up through the Old Industrial Area.

“Why would the city put a road there when they just spent all of this money on the trail?”

The public is already invested in and actively using the trail. A young person, 12 or 13 years old, said, “My friend uses the K&P trail a lot because it’s near her house. It’s how she gets downtown. We bike and skateboard there.”

People were also asking for improvements to the trail. There were safety concerns, such as the lack of reflector tape on the black gates, and worries about the dangerous intersection at the bridge on Division Street at John Counter Boulevard. There was also frustration that the poor signage makes it difficult to find where the trail goes north of Counter St., and that the trail north of Counter to Binnington Court is primarily on ugly roads and bumpy trails. Several people who live north of Kingston said they would use the trail to commute to work in town if these concerns were addressed.

Our impression is that many people stay in Kingston or move to Kingston because it offers the possibility of a relatively ‘green’ lifestyle — and so far, the City is balking at truly embracing the infrastructure that would support that.

One resident said something that resonated with me for many days after: that the infrastructure we’re building is for the way things used to be. Needs are going to change as the climate changes. People are concerned about climate resilience. This will be the challenge as we plan our city for an unpredictable future.

We’ve always maintained that the WSE is an outdated proposal: now, more than ever, we have to prioritize green infrastructure over grey.

— Anne Lougheed, with additional notes from Mary McCollam