What Happened at City Council This Week and What Does it Mean?

Here’s what we saw and heard.

What happened?

Council approved a motion for staff to “enter into discussions” with ABNA (Doornekamps) for a land swap in which ABNA would move the stone section of he Outer Station from Montreal Street into Doug Fluhrer Park, and in exchange give some waterfront further north by the Woolen Mill. The motion also calls for “appropriate consultation.”

What does it mean?

Moving the station is not a done deal and is not within the city’s purview: it is governed by the federal Historic Railways Protection Act. First, ABNA has to work up a “feasibility study or plans describing all planned alterations to the site following its transfer or sale, while ensuring that the Principles of conservation are met.” CN sends that to the Minister of the Environment, who passes it on to the Historic Sites and Monuments Board for review. In due course, the HSMB reports back to Cabinet, who decides whether to approve or not. The criteria are quite strict. There has to be public notice when the application is filed, followed by a sixty day window for public feedback. The purchaser must commit to respect the “heritage character of the station as identified in the Heritage Character Statement” for the building. The HCS emphasizes the heritage value of its location and all of its three parts.

It’s also not a done deal in that Council did not approve the move. They allowed staff to enter into discussions. Any decision to do the land swap would have to be approved by Council at some future date. Clearly, the mayor and staff and a number of councillors are in favour of the move. Maybe some of you are too. However, there remain a number of questions:

•why Fluhrer Park, when ABNA owns other land it could use?

•what actually is the value of the land around the Woolen Mill, when it is waterfront that couldn’t be developed?

•what is the net gain/loss for users of the park, habitat, etc.?

•what implications does this have for the WSE?

•what about the park planning process, which did not say anything about an office or condo building in the middle of the park (any more than the Memorial Centre plan allowed for a new school building on the site)?

•why is it appropriate to take a building of heritage and potential redevelopment value from the north end, which has so few, and move it downtown, where there are already lots of historic buildings?

•and what about the heritage value? According to accepted current heritage planning principles, moving or cutting up a building divorces it from its actual historical social and economic use. Wouldn’t parachuting it into the middle of what was a railway yard and turntable but not the location of a station be a kind of “theme park” history?

It will be very important for Kingston residents to insist that “appropriate consultation” be understood broadly to include us. Luckily, there is time.

What Happened?

Council referred the Industrial Lands Report to the Planning Committee and the updated Transportation Master Plan to the Environment, Infrastructure, and Transportation Policy Committee.

What Does it Mean?

Councillors concerned about sustainability issues seized the power of delay. The Industrial Lands Report is based on presumptions about development, transit, and so on that need to be studied further. Read it, and tell councillors what you think! The same is true of the TMP. Contact us if you have ideas about how to reimagine approaches to transit that could get the car count down. Not only is that necessary in itself, it will be necessary to find ways to lower traffic projections in order to get the WSE off the books. Planning meeting date TBA; EITP is 6 pm, April 14, City Council Chambers. Be there!

What Happened?

Council deferred discussion and possible approval of the CAO’s report about the WSE until after the TMP comes back to Council.

What Does it Mean?

The report contained a recommendation for a new Environmental Assessment for the WSE. On March 3, Council asked staff to report back in May on the “scope of work” to explore alternatives. We take that to mean that Council wanted essentially the terms of an RFP or request for proposals that would go out to consultants, sketching the scope of possible alternatives to be studied. Staff wants an EA, focused on the WSE, taking account of alternatives, presumably better than the 2006 EA did. We agree with a number of councillors that an examination of alternatives and a new EA are not one and the same. In any case, the recommendation is now stalled. It is a bit unclear to us at present how things will proceed. Maybe staff will have an extension on the May deadline. That isn’t necessarily bad. The CAO and Mayor are insisting that the only way to study alternatives is to have a new EA, but we don’t understand why that would be the case. It could be to our advantage as the terms of EAs now require more attention to social and environmental factors than they used to, but we’re not sure yet.

In any case, community members need to think specifically and seriously about what alternatives we can imagine. They include the emphasis on transit as described above. They include assessing effects and costs of “opening up the grid” around the Tannery Lands. What else? Council needs a second opinion or peer-reviewed assessment of traffic needs in Kingston going forward, from experts who understand both sustainability and traffic. But in order to get that, they and staff have to imagine some starting points of alternatives for consultants to consider.

We hope this summary is useful and look forward to hearing from you about how you see things!

— Laura Murray

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2 thoughts on “What Happened at City Council This Week and What Does it Mean?

  1. Who wrote this report? Bylines are helpful.
    An environmental assessment is much more than just lands, buildings, roads. It includes habitat, understanding of what WAS on the land previously, etc.
    The city seems to think that an EA is just a little thing, when it isn’t.

    Like

    • sorry, forgot this time. As for EA, do tell us if you know more about today’s EA requirements in Ontario and how they differ from what applied in 2006. We are looking into this and need expertise and help.

      Like

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