Council Takes A Step Towards Cancelling WSE

This is the motion passed unanimously at Council last night:

Be It Resolved That:

Expenditures towards the acquisition of land and construction of the Wellington Street Extension (WSE) southern section (from Montreal/Railway Sts. to Bay St.) be halted effective immediately, until further direction from council;

THAT staff be requested to prepare a comprehensive report for the March 24, 2015 Council meeting that provides factual information of all aspects directly or indirectly related to the wellington Street Extension including but not limited to, the Official Plan, the Transportation Master Plan, the Development Charges Background Study and By-Law, the Employment Land Review, the K & P Trail Project, the Doug Fluhrer Park visioning exercise and property interests such as 9 North St., for the purposes of informing decisions and to provide full transparency on the matter; and

THAT staff be requested to report back to council in May 2015 with the scope of work, timelines and budget required to explore other potential alternative transportation solutions in place of the Wellington Street extension and address current and future traffic flows in the area to further inform council on the matter; and

That the staff analysis of potential alternative transportation solutions in place of the Wellington St. Extension be presented within a demonstrated framework of and in accordance with the principles and values contained in the Official Plan, the Kingston Sustainability Plan, the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, and the Kingston Climate Action Plan.”

The motion represents a compromise negotiated among Jim Neill, Jeff McLaren, Rob Hutchison, and Bryan Paterson. Hutchison’s original motion, proposing to take the WSE out of all planning documents as posted previously on this blog, was opposed by developers and by the mayor, who holds that changes to the Official Plan must be preceded by public consultation, or otherwise be vulnerable to challenge at the Ontario Municipal Board. Paterson proposed a replacement motion consisting of the middle two clauses of the motion above, stating, “as Mayor I have an obligation to safeguard the interests of all residents and to advise Council on the possible ramifications of the motions we support. In this case, there were several possible legal ramifications for the city if we supported that motion. Councillor Hutchison and I have spoken and agree the best way forward is to find a compromise.” It is unclear to us how real these legal threats are or were. However, it seemed politically impossible at this time to go ahead with the original motion. Realizing that Patterson’s substitution took out more of the original motion than was justified by legal concerns, Councillors Neill and McLaren proposed the addition of the first and last clauses, above, which stop expenditures on the road, and insist that staff take into account the “principles and values” of various planning documents.

There are many pitfalls here, and a longer fight ahead than we might have hoped for. The emphasis on “balance” and “compromise” amongst councillors was a little disconcerting in that compromise usually means status quo. Views of the “principles and values” of policy documents will vary. But we think the momentum has shifted against the road. In delegations, At the meeting, Justine Scala was absolutely brilliant in helping councillors imagine a world in which not everybody wants to drive; Mary Farrar sketched a vibrant and enticing vision of the inner harbour; Laura Murray showed shortcomings of the EA and urged councillors to put into practice the sustainability emphasis of city and provincial policies. Rob Hutchison grilled Director of Engineering Mark Van Buren on the basis for the suddenly reduced estimated price for the extension. The answer fell far short of convincing. Several councillors spoke eloquently about the need to stop the road; Peter Stroud was especially memorable in his plea for a balance between “green infrastructure” and “grey infrastructure.”

Thank you to the many people who wrote letters or otherwise participated in the struggle so far. Stay tuned for the next stage. We will all need a little stamina for this, but we will win it.

— Laura Murray, Sayyida Jaffer, Anne Lougheed, and Mary Farrar

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