This Tuesday (tomorrow!), Council will consider another report they requested from staff on March 3, this one on the “scope of work” required to consider alternatives to the WSE. The report does represent a considerable shift in thinking, in that it acknowledges “a demonstrated need to tie together the elements of land use planning and transportation planning in a manner that appropriately reflects a long-term vision for this area of Kingston.” Staff is proposing a “secondary plan” for the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area along with an update to the current EA (Environmental Assessment) for the WSE. This “holistic approach,” they say,
provides an opportunity to receive community input to assist in the development of a long-term vision for the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area, which in turn will provide information to help to guide a comprehensive review and evaluation of alternative transportation solutions within the study area. Moreover, this approach will also provide an open, traceable and systematic means of developing sufficient supporting rationale in the event that the WSE is no longer the preferred transportation solution and is removed from all municipal policy and strategic planning documents.
We are happy with the broader approach of this report.
But we do have several concerns and questions.
The first question is, does the Secondary Report have to include the WSE? In the past, with the Doug Fluhrer visioning exercise for example, the public was invited to consider imaginative solutions and visions, but only in the context of the WSE. We wait to be reassured that this Secondary Plan can include visions without the WSE.
Our biggest concern at present is that we do not see why or how these two processes, the visioning and the EA, can or should proceed in an interlocking fashion. We believe that the Secondary Report should happen first, and only then, once alternatives and needs and visions are identified, should the scope and shape of an EA for any proposed action take place. Otherwise, the Secondary Report really may end up secondary — that is, window-dressing rather than real new planning. The report suggests changing the title of the EA: “Removal of reference of “Wellington Street Extension” from the title… will be an important first step to provide public assurance with the process and that all alternative transportation solutions will be given equal consideration.” Retitling sounds like a smokescreen. Let’s decouple the planning study from the EA and only do the EA once we are good and ready and know what we really want to assess.
Please come to Council (again!!!) on Tuesday night to hear what Councillors decide to do with this report. Or write them and tell them what you think!
— Laura Murray