Kingston Ignores National Climate Change Goals

Tomorrow, December 1, Kingston City Council will almost certainly approve an extremely flawed Transportation Master Plan. At its November 17 meeting,  Council heard from climate change expert Dr. Warren Mabee. Dr. Mabee explained why this TMP puts Kingston in flagrant disregard for even the Harper government’s low targets for greenhouse gas reduction.

Kingston has the highest per capita vehicle emissions in Canada. Yes folks, this is true. We put out 3035 kilograms of carbon dioxide PER PERSON in this city, compared say to Montreal where they put out 1219 kg per person, or even St. John’s or Trois-Rivieres, other small centres without subway systems that have a far far lower carbon footprint than Kingston (see Stats Can, Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Private Vehicles in Canada, 1990 to 2007).

Dr. Mabee explained that to meet the Harper targets on Greenhouse Gas reduction, the average Kingston family of four has to drop their total annual car transportation by 2000 to 8000 km per year.

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Another speaker at Council that night, Roger Healey, pointed out that the only way to achieve such a reduction is to make active and public transportation the most convenient choice: safe, easy, and inexpensive. The KTMP Council will consider and almost surely approve tomorrow, December 1, does not do this. Instead it sets the stage for sprawl by emphasizing bridges and roads.

Where does Kingston get off thinking it doesn’t have to do its part to reduce greenhouse gases? We want people to know we’re a special place, but couldn’t we find other things to be proud of instead of being the biggest auto emissions producer in the land?

— Laura Murray

Another Planner Against the KTMP

November 14, 2015

Dear Mayor and Councillors, City of Kingston

I am writing to ask Council to reject the latest Kingston Transportation Master Plan (KTMP). It lacks vision and is headed down the wrong road.

I have three main concerns:

1. The KTMP further encourages car‐oriented sprawl without evidence to support this kind of development pattern. Cities around the world are embracing more visionary plans that encourage more compact, pedestrian, bike and transit-­ friendly urban form. Take Calgary, for example, once known as one of the most sprawling and unsustainable cities in Canada, it now has ambitious plans to increase the share of trips without the use of the car.

2. The KTMP puts millions of dollars into new and widened suburban roads, again without sound evidence supporting the need. In fact, as the plan acknowledges, Kingston will grow very slowly in the next eighteen years and is predicted to see a population decline after 2033. This is a concern. The very modest growth that will occur will mostly be in the downtown area as more seniors and students look to live in multi‐story units. There will be receding demand for single-­family detached homes. Recent research on Kingston by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and the Conference Board of Canada confirms these trends. The recent Conference Board Report on Kingston also notes that much of the modest growth in single‐family homes is expected to be outside the city limits as families are attracted to the lower costs in The Township of South Frontenac and Loyalist Township. Building big road infrastructure provides the illusion of growth but the demographic evidence does not support it. We just seem to be moving people around in a more sprawled‐out development pattern.

3. The KTMP is also very unambitious with respect to active transportation. As others have said before, our comparator Ontario cities have much more aggressive targets to increase trips without the car: Guelph and Cambridge are two examples. Outside Canada, there are many examples of places that have turned their city economies around with forward-thinking transportation plans. Portland, Oregon is consistently ranked as one of the most livable cities in North America. In the 1970s Portland was a city in decline with a car‐oriented development pattern; now it is one of the most desirable cities to live with a population and employment boom. Many attribute the decision by Council in the 1970s to reject a consultant report to spend money on freeways, and to instead inject millions into active transportation, as a reason for this livable city reputation. In Copenhagen – a cold climate city – over 35% of its citizens commute by bike. But like Portland in the 1970s, Copenhagen was a car‐oriented city and the modal share of bicycles was at 10% (similar in fact to what it is today in Kingston). Copenhagen is now on track to raise its modal share of the bicycle to 50% of commuter trips by 2025. Contrary to popular myth, Danes are not naturally more interested in biking than us, but because that city made explicit policy decisions over 30 years ago to invest in proper bike paths and transit over auto infrastructure, people responded accordingly.

In sum, we need to do better. We must do better. Kingston strives to be “the most sustainable city in Canada”. Rather than spend time making up slogans that no one takes seriously, let’s put 0ur words into action and ask for something greater, something with vision, and something that will make us proud to call Kingston our home.

Thank you for your work in public service and for taking the time to read this letter.

Dr. Betsy Donald
Associate Professor
Department of Geography and Planning
Queen’s University

Pavement in the Park

WellingtonX has been working hard as you know to respond to the massive Official Plan and Transportation Master Plan drafts. Meanwhile, at the very same time, a proposal has been brought to the Environment, Infrastructure and Transportation Policy Committee to extend the K&P multi-use pathway from Binnington Court up by the 401 to the heart of downtown. This has been fast-tracked to make the sesquicentennial deadline of 2017.

On the face of it, extending the trail is a good idea. However, as we have written in an earlier post, it has risks in that it may potentially open a path for the WSE. Councillor Hutchison, the longest opponent of the WSE amongst us, has been assured this is not a problem, so we have to take him at his word at that and have taken a back seat on discussions of this trail.

However, it has become clear now that what is proposed for the Fluhrer Park section is a THREE METRE WIDE asphalt pathway to replace the current more narrow path. See the report here.

The WellingtonX core folks have no time or energy to go to EITP tonight to fight this (we are still in the throes of the Transportation Master Plan coming to Council next week), so we hand it off to you: do you think this is a good idea? How will you feel when those bulldozers come along? Is this what the greening of Kingston should look like? Tell EITP what you think. Contact councillors Allen, Schell, Hutchison, Neill, Turner, and Stroud today. The meeting is at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers; there will probably not be an occasion for the public to speak other than special delegations that the committee would have to permit with a 2/3 vote.

— Laura Murray

Our Comments on the Second Draft of the Official Plan

Here is what we sent in to — the address for comments on the draft, which can be found here. You can send in comments until November 5: Wednesday. Feel free to draw from ours — they were laboriously compiled by Anne Lougheed with assistance from Julian Scala and Mike Cole-Hamilton.

Below please find WellingtonX’s responses to the second draft of Kingston’s Official Plan. While we recognize that some elements of the Plan have been improved, we have grave concerns with the issues listed below.
1. In response to many complaints from Kingston residents, city planners have removed the word “generally” in the second draft of the OP where references to the 30 metre setback occur, but we are concerned that it has been replaced with something worse. The (new) phrase in bold seems to be weakening the protection of waterfront.

The City recognizes its waterfront areas along Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, the Great Cataraqui River and the Rideau Canal as important public resources and will acquire waterfront lands wherever and whenever it is feasible. The City seeks to protect the shoreline ecology by way of a natural area setback buffer of 30 metres or a “ribbon of life” adjacent to the water; however, this policy is not intended to prevent any development on existing lots of record that can be legally developed, nor is it intended to prevent any existing development from legally expanding or improving.
Maintaining or adding natural vegetation along lakes, rivers and streams helps to protect water quality, minimize soil erosion, provide fish habitat and wildlife habitat and contribute to the aesthetic of the City. Natural shorelines are often referred to as a “Ribbon of Life” along the water.
Public and private agencies, as well as residents, are encouraged to protect the “Ribbon of Life” along waterbodies and watercourses. New development must be set back a minimum of 30 meters from all waterbodies and watercourses; however, this policy is not intended to prevent any development on existing lots of record that can be legally developed, nor is it intended to prevent any existing development from legally expanding or improving. In some cases a greater setback may be required to address water quality, natural hazards or natural heritage requirements.

It may be that the word “legally” here refers to already approved development projects. That’s what would normally be grandfathered and maybe it would be acceptable to specify that. However, we worry that “legally” could cover anything that Council approves so that there would be, in effect, no ribbon of life protection at all.

To city planners we ask, what is an example of the kind of activity that would be prevented within the setback, given this wording?

Why can we not have a more direct wording: “this policy does not apply to projects already approved or built”?

2. In section 3.10.1, the Environmentally Protected Area designation no longer includes the habitat of endangered and threatened species, nor habitat of species tracked by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry.
Why have these been removed?

3. We appreciate that a new section has been added (after 4.6.35 Major Road Extensions, in which the WSE, north and south sections, are still listed) which identifies that
“The proposed Wellington Street Extension, listed in Section 4.6.35 (e) and (g), will be examined through a future Secondary Planning process.”
However, with respect to the secondary planning process we would like to propose a change to section

The following locations are prioritized for the preparation of secondary plans in accordance with the policies of Section 9.7.2. The City will pro-actively approach the owners of these lands to encourage and work with them to complete secondary plans…
b. the North King’s Town area, which includes the Old Industrial and Inner Harbour areas…

It is crucial that residents/ tenants and users of these lands are consulted too (not just owners), especially given that the North King’s Town secondary plan will affect industrial land and parkland.

4. In Section 3.18.17.b (site specific policy for 8 Cataraqui St.) there are two references to the Wellington St. Extension:
•that the site design incorporates appropriate streetscaping treatment along the proposed Wellington Street extension. This treatment is to include hard and soft landscaping elements, in keeping with the importance of the Wellington Street extension being a major pedestrian and vehicular access to downtown.
Pedestrian links from the pathway must connect through the site to any pedestrian systems built along Wellington Street.
We would like to see these references to the WSE removed.

5. If the Rideau Canal site extends north from the LaSalle Causeway (section 3.10.A) and has UNESCO World Heritage Designation, then why does the Environmental Protection Area (described in section 3.10.A.1) extend north from Belle Island rather than the causeway? Shouldn’t the EPA cover the entire canal?

6. In Sections 6.1.21 thru 6.1.24, MNRF and CRCA roles in assessing the appropriateness of development/site alteration/EIAs within sensitive areas (Natural Heritage areas A & B)  (or even the deletion of Heritage B areas from the schedule) are reduced from approval to consultation. Why?

7. In Section 3.8.2 there is a new permitted use within an Open Space:
(f) adaptive re-use of built heritage resources.
Why has this been added? Does it mean that buildings can be moved into green space?

We have a few more items not included here that we look forward to discussing with you in person. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this second draft of the OP.

Sayyida Jaffer, Anne Lougheed and Laura Murray
for WellingtonX