Statement from Councillor Rob Hutchison

It seems that Tuesday’s council meeting will be even more exciting than we may have anticipated. Rob Hutchison explains:

On Thursday, February 26, 2015 the Mayor contacted me to indicate that he had heard from developers that they objected to the motion to cancel the extension that I had put forward. Their position is that the motion is premature, potentially interferes with their business expectations and is open to legal challenges from them.

Despite this road bump, the Extension can still be cancelled. However, the City must follow the proper legal process for amendments to any official documents such as the Official Plan and the Transportation Master Plan. If due process is not followed, while we could win the initial Council vote to cancel, we may well ultimately lose through a court case or OMB challenge for failing to follow the proper procedures and public consultation.

In this context, I have agreed to withdraw the current cancellation motion, in favour of a motion that will present a comprehensive review of the City documents related to the Extension on March 24th and staff report in May 2015 on what is required to explore alternative transportation solutions in place of the Wellington St. Extension.

In short, the political process to cancel the Extension is still going forward.

This represents a frustrating delay for those of us working to stop the extension. However, it would appear that if it is normal practice to have consultation prior to changes to the Official Plan, that is something we must do here as well. The majority of council stands against the WSE. The trick will be to stay mobilized so that even if heavy-duty traffic arguments are mounted by staff, developers, and some councillors over the coming months, we ensure that they do not trump more current and progressive approaches to the health of our environment, our economy, and our community. On March 3, councillors will debate an alternative motion, and it is more important than ever for us to communicate to them our steadfast opposition to this road, and for us to come to council to witness their actions. Please write, and please come.

— Laura Murray

The Motion for March 3

From the agenda of the meeting, just posted on the city website:

Moved by Councillor Hutchison
Seconded by Councillor McLaren
Whereas waterfront parkland in downtown Kingston is extremely limited, especially north of Princess Street; and
Whereas the southern section of the proposed Wellington Street Extension (WSE) from Montreal/Railway to Bay Streets runs counter to important elements of the Official Plan (the southern section is less than the required 30 metres from the
waterfront), the Parks and Recreation Master Plan (which indicates that the City should “make the preservation and enhancement of parkland and open spaces a priority”), and the Sustainable Kingston Plan (that the City should “Reduce single occupancy and short distance motor vehicle use,” “Increase the amount of natural areas within Kingston including natural corridors, shorelines, and significant woodlots,” and “minimize noise pollution”); and
Whereas the WSE is not consistent with the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement (PPS) in that the PPS supports active transportation and transit over other forms of transportation; use of existing infrastructure over new; highlights the protection of public health, safety, parkland, water resources and air quality; and promotes healthy active communities, in part by “providing opportunities for public access to shorelines” (1.5.1);
Therefore Be It Resolved That:
a)
expenditures towards the development of the Wellington Street Extension (WSE) southern section (from Montreal/Railway Sts. to Bay St.) be halted effective immediately;
b)
the southern section of the WSE be removed from
i) the Transportation Master Plan
ii) the Official Plan
iii) and any other pertinent planning documents;
c)
staff be instructed to research the traffic situation in the absence of the WSE southern section, and identify alternative ways of meeting those needs including improvements to arterial roads, local roads, active transportation, and improved transit;
d)
any development charges gathered by the City for the purposes of building the southern section of the Wellington St. Extension from Montreal/Railway to Bay Streets be redirected to other City arterial roads and transportation needs.

Another great letter — keep ’em coming!

To Mayor Paterson, Council, CAO Hunt, all the Commissioners as well as Paul MacLatchey and Mark Van Buren:

I am writing to you today regarding the proposed Wellington Street Extension that is soon to be discussed by City Council. I very strongly oppose the construction of Wellington Street extension for a number of reasons.

Firstly, new roadways send the message that driving through downtown is a viable option. Up until this point, motorists not headed downtown would otherwise drive around. The Downtown BIA thinks this will encourage more people to shop downtown, however, it will only cause new congestion points on Princess between Bagot and Ontario Streets. I must emphasize that downtown cores of this age are simply not designed to be driven through. No new roads will make the existing infrastructure compatible. Right now the congestion is at the edge of the lively shopping district, not the center. For the sake of the atmosphere of my shopping district, please leave it there. Downtown congestion and parking issues can better be dealt with by offering free transit between parking lots at CFB Kingston and the Kingston Centre respectively.

Secondly, Kingston has a plan to become “The most Sustainable City in Canada” – a goal which will absolutely never be achieved if council continues to approve new roadways designed to accommodate long daily commutes. Seriously supporting public transit and cycling infrastructure means taking a challenging stance to encourage our culture to embrace new values.

Thirdly, Doug Fluhrer Park is the quietest, most serene park in the downtown core; it deserves to be preserved and cared for by the community that has embraced it over the past years. I strongly encourage Council to embrace Joe Quattrocchi’s vision for a multi-use path along the water on the North and South sides of the Rideau. Expediting the construction of this path sends the message that we are serious about promoting active, healthy commute options for those living on the North and East ends of the City. Supplement the building of the paths with free safe cycling and winter cycling training for those who may need a little extra encouragement. All this can be achieved at a fraction of the cost of the Wellington Extension.

Council needs to decide of it wants to cave to the pressure from suburbs and developers, or build a community that is appealing to innovative young professionals they are working so hard to attract to our city.

Sincerely, Jolene Simko

Expensive Mistakes

One advantage we have in Kingston is that we have delayed building the Wellington Street Extension, though it’s been talked about for years. Hadley Yates, a planner who frequently visits Kingston, made this graphic. She points out that Niagara Falls, NY is planning to spend at least $33 million to remove a two-mile stretch of “parkway” that residents have to cross to access nature trails and waterfront. And she asks:draft 4 expensive mistakesFrom the Buffalo News, here’s more on the situation in Niagara Falls, NY:

the two-mile stretch along the heart of the gorge – where residents have to hop fences, scale embankments and walk across four lanes of concrete expressway to access nature trails – will be gone in three to four years, officials say. In its place will be native plantings and a multi-use nature trail that could feature hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding and even zip-lining, all of which will be accessible from city streets for the first time in more than 50 years.

The story goes on:

Mayor Paul Dyster said, “I don’t think there’s anything that could be more impactful to the revitalization of downtown and the city’s North End business district than dealing with the Robert Moses Parkway. We’ve been dealing with this for some time, and we’re anxious to see some action.”
The highway, which stretches along the city’s waterfront, was built by Moses, the state’s “master builder,” in the 1960s as a supplement to the Niagara Power Project. The road provided unparalleled views of the Niagara Gorge to motorists but cut off generations of city residents from the waterfront and diverted traffic outside of the central business districts of Niagara Falls.
State officials have considered the removal of Moses’ masterwork for years – with no success – before agreeing a few years ago to work with the state’s USA Niagara Development Corp. and city officials to facilitate a concrete plan. Officials say the plan unveiled Wednesday reflects hundreds of public comments on the matter.
The move would connect city streets – currently walled off by fences and guardrails – to the breathtaking but largely untapped asset that is the gorge, raising property values and potentially saving neighborhoods that are slipping into decay.

It may seem a bit hyperbolic to compare the Great Cataraqui River with Niagara Falls and the Wellington Street Extension to the Robert Moses “Parkway.” But all roads along waterfronts are part of the same costly and outdated philosophy. We may not be one of the seven wonders of the world here in Kingston, but we have a chance and responsibility to look after our own little part of the planet.

— Laura Murray

A Letter from Jamie Swift

Hello Kingston City Hall People:

It would be hard to count the studies, books, films, and reports that show the essence of what Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery calls “the happy city.” That’s what Montgomery calls his recent book. Successful cities have stopped emphasizing automotive traffic. They have turned their backs on car-dependent sprawl. They have embraced the ever more urgent need to “transform our lives through urban design” (a variation on the subtitle of Montgomery’s book.)

Kingston is being presented with a great opportunity to embrace a sane and happy future. We can do this by applying the spirit of our Official Plan and its emphasis on density promotion. We can do this by making the decision to stop the Wellington Street Extension. This forward-looking move will show that we are willing to do more than apply adjectives (“sustainable”) to our community. It will prove that we’re willing to walk (pun intended) the walk and not just talk….well, you know.

Adopting a more thoughtful and environmentally-conscious approach to urban design is now more necessary than ever. Global climate chaos threatens to destroy the planet. We are NOT free to ignore this cataclysmic threat by blindly adopting a business-as usual approach and spending scarce public dollars on an unnecessary arterial road through a waterfront park.

In 2011, just after I joined a group of fellow Kingstonians in starting DARN (the Downtown Action Revitalization Network…check out the hundreds of new “I love” Valentine’s posters we’ve just put up at downtown businesses) , I wrote an article for our neighbourhood association’s blog. Please take a moment to read it.

We need to improve, not hinder, waterfront access. As Kingston implements the downtown densification priorities of our Official Plan, the increased numbers of centre city residents will need more, not less, parkland. A key reason for densification is decreasing car dependence. Densification makes economic sense — it’s cheaper to provide utility services for residents. Why spend money on an unnecessary road when we’re trying to save money through wiser planning measures?

I urge the city to put this bad idea behind us, once and for all.

Yours sincerely
Jamie Swift

How Not to Study Inhabitants of the WSE Route

The 2006 Environmental Study Report (ESR) has this to say about fauna in Fluhrer Park:

Due to the late time of year of the field survey, wildlife observations were limited but included dark-eyed junco, American robin, European starling, blue jay, American goldfinch, eastern garter snake and grey squirrel. As well, along the edge of the Great Cataraqui River, ring-billed gull, mallard, Canada geese and American widgeon were noted. No provincially, regionally or locally significant wildlife species were observed in the 2004 natural environmental site investigation or in the natural environment reviews of the study area.

The study was done in December. So, for example, no turtles were observed, although they are common features of the park landscape:

IMG_7137

Northern Map Turtle and Painted Turtle in Fluhrer Park, courtesy Brenda Foubert

By looking at the park in the winter, the study ignores all sorts of life forms that live there.

The 2006 ESR also studied human Kingston residents in January:

Based on a recent travel survey from January 2002, the overall modal share in the City of Kingston during the afternoon peak hour is as follows:
· Cars – 82% of trips
· Walking – 11% of trips
· Cycling – 1% of trips
· School Bus – 3% of trips
· Public Transit – 3% of trips

This is quite hilarious. Given our recent weather, how many of us have been out on bicycles? Is the coldest time of year an accurate time to measure our transportation choices? By studying people’s transportation habits in winter, the study ignores the range of ways we actually get around, and downplays the importance of cycling and pedestrian transportation.

I submit that the methodology on human and animal inhabitants in this study is seriously flawed. Cars it pays lots of attention to, but living creatures, not so much. This report cannot be a convincing basis of the need for or costs of the WSE.

— Laura Murray

Two Letters to the Whig against the WSE, February 17

Street extension would be poor decision

If Doug Fluhrer Park isn’t the entire grassy area between the Cataraqui River and the Wall that was adorned with murals last summer, it should be. It is only about 90 to 110 feet wide from MetalCraft Marine Inc. at the south end to just south of Cataraqui Street where it widens a bit more. It is a park not only adjacent to the downtown core of the city, but a park along a river, and together, the park and river provide a huge potential for outdoor activities. One could argue that the intensification of the downtown core of the city is greatly enhanced by these two amenities.

Any extension of Wellington Street northerly would almost completely wipe out the majority of Doug Fluhrer Park and its many potential positive influences on city life. The new roadway right-of-way width is estimated at about 86 feet. How could one envision any semblance of a “park” area with the noise and smell of diesel fuel from trucks and transports rumbling through this area?

As well, an extension would likely have a negative bearing on the operations and land configurations at MetalCraft. And, an extension would surely mean that it would open the gate for re-examining the Highway 401 emergency detour route between Highway 15 and Montreal Street. Imagine vehicles crawling along, back to back, down Highway 15, across the La Salle Causeway to Place d’Armes, up to Wellington Street, then north through Doug Fluhrer Park.

The northerly part of the proposed Wellington Street extension, from Montreal and Railway northerly to John Counter Boulevard may well be a good idea to open up lands in that area for development. But the southern portion, through the Doug Fluhrer Park area is a bad idea, bad for families wishing to occupy new housing in the downtown area, bad for wiping out a park, bad for its potential negative effects on MetalCraft, bad for its negative effect on healthy lifestyles, bad for its potential to create gridlock in the downtown with its accompanying negative effects on air quality, and bad because the city can use all the money it can find to reinvigorate our existing infrastructure.

A Wellington Street Extension would promote the use of the automobile in the city. Let’s stop building new roads and start building healthy lifestyles and outdoor amenities. Let’s start recognizing a gem when we have it, not years from now when the riverside park is buried in asphalt.

Bruce Todd, Kingston

Cons outweigh pros in building extension

Firmly in favour of the proposed extension of Wellington Street, several recent correspondents made comments that included thinly veiled accusations of NIMBY behaviour by Wellington X, the Friends of the Inner Harbour and at least one named person. I’d like to move away from the emotional side of this argument.

Putting aside the impact on Doug Fluhrer Park – and it would be an impact – I’d like to pose two questions:

Do we actually need the proposed extension? I see nothing to support it save personal convictions and a nine-year-old study.

Can we afford the proposed extension? The suggested $35 million would go a long way toward fixing many of Kingston’s more pressing problems.

Does the city that aims to be Canada’s most sustainable really want to shoot itself in the foot?

Mike Cole-Hamilton, Kingston

Ontario Policy on Sustainability and Environment : What Kingston Can and Can’t Do Since 2014

When the Environmental Study Report for the Wellington Street Extension was done in 2006, the legal framework for planning was different than it is today. In 2014, Ontario passed a Provincial Policy Statement under the Planning Act which is binding on City Council. We can make exceptions and carve-outs to our own Official Plan, but we don’t have as a municipality the power to exempt ourselves from provincial policies. Any decision made to take the road planning process any further must comply with PPS2014.

In its Vision section, PPS2014 says:

Efficient development patterns optimize the use of land, resources and public investment in infrastructure and public service facilities. These land use patterns promote a mix of housing, including affordable housing, employment, recreation, parks and open spaces, and transportation choices that increase the use of active transportation and transit before other modes of travel. They also support the financial well-being of the Province and municipalities over the long term, and minimize the undesirable effects of development, including impacts on air, water and other resources. Strong, liveable and healthy communities promote and enhance human health and social well-being, are economically and environmentally sound, and are resilient to climate change.
Throughout, PPS2014 emphasizes increasing population density and redeveloping former industrial lands. It also emphasizes the necessity of supporting these initiatives with open space and active transportation:
Healthy, active communities should be promoted by:
a) planning public streets, spaces and facilities to be safe, meet the needs of pedestrians, foster social interaction and facilitate active transportation and community connectivity;
b) planning and providing for a full range and equitable distribution of publicly-accessible built and natural settings for recreation, including facilities, parklands, public spaces, open space areas, trails and linkages, and, where practical, water-based resources;
c) providing opportunities for public access to shorelines; and
d) recognizing provincial parks, conservation reserves, and other protected areas, and minimizing negative impacts on these areas.
On transportation, PPS2014 asserts that “transportation systems should be provided which are safe, energy efficient, facilitate the movement of people and goods, and are appropriate to address projected needs.” The city’s engineering department may contend that the WSE is necessary “to address projected needs.” But it will have to consider other elements of PPS2014 as well. For example, there is this:
A land use pattern, density and mix of uses should be promoted that minimize the length and number of vehicle trips and support current and future use of transit and active transportation.
Or this:
Planning authorities should promote green infrastructure.

And the city will be bound by the following statement (note the “shall” which is stronger than the “should” in the previous statements):

Infrastructure,… and public service facilities shall be provided in a coordinated, efficient and cost-effective manner that considers impacts from climate change while accommodating projected needs.
That is to say, the city is obligated to look broadly for solutions with minimum environmental impacts. It is not enough to say that we need an effective transportation network: it has to be an environmentally responsible one.
–Laura Murray

Yes to Trails, No to Roads

At the Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation Policies committee earlier this week, staff presented a report on the current state of development of recreational and active transportation trails throughout the city.

Some supporters of the trails, particularly the K&P trail that follows the line of the old Kingston & Pembroke railway, have been championing the Wellington Street Extension, because its proposed design would allow for the trail to run alongside the road.

I think it is time for Kingston residents to insist to our council that we want these trails, now, and that they ought not to be tied to road building. Frontenac County has spent $2.2 million dollars to bring the K&P trail from Verona down to Kingston, and it has plans to extend it north to Sharbot Lake. Kingston has done a stretch near Dalton Avenue that is really lovely — even though it’s in an industrial area near the 401, it is bucolic! This summer I met a man from Quebec up there who had come down from Verona by bike. He wanted to know how to get downtown where he was supposed to meet his girlfriend on a patio. It was embarrassing to tell him that, no, he’d reached the end of the trail, and to get there he would have to go along Dalton, down Sir John A, and so on.

Imagine what a wonderful transportation and recreational resource it would be to have the K&P go all the way to downtown. It would allow safe cycling commuting, and recreational hiking and cycling as well. It would be a great opportunity for education about Kingston’s railway history. It would be a superb amenity to complement any development that may happen on the tannery lands or the inner harbour, offering residents a quick and pretty way downtown and also a connection to the north end. The staff report this week indicated that the trails do qualify for development charge spending, because they are infrastructure.

We should not have to build big new roads to get bike paths. Let’s assert that to our councillors, and encourage them to put some muscle behind our proclaimed commitment to sustainability.

–Laura Murray

No to the Whole Road

An intrepid group of people came out to H’art Studios in last night’s frigid weather to get an update on consultations with councillors and to vote on the scope of our opposition to the Wellington Street Extension. As the emphasis tends to be on the stretch in Doug Fluhrer Park, we wanted to find out whether in fact members of the group are also opposed to the the entire southern stretch up to Montreal/Railway:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.22.59 AM

And the northern section from Railway/Montreal up to John Counter:

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 8.18.49 AM

Other than two abstentions, the entire group voted to oppose both sections, and in a further motion for good measure voted to oppose the whole extension. We also approved a motion about general principles:

We affirm the priority of active transportation, environmental protection, and community involvement in park and transportation planning.

Quite a few councillors agree with us that the north section has no clear rationale or payoff on its own. It would cost $11 million and it isn’t clear it would create jobs or serve an important transportation purpose. It also might threaten the K&P trail, and be a “Trojan Horse” for future continuation into the southern section. This is not just about saving a park: it is about sound fiscal management and sustainability. We hope that council will reject the whole WSE.

— Laura Murray