A Plan Worth Sticking To?

One of the messages that came through loud and clear at Tuesday night’s special meeting of Council was “Stick to the Plan.” The form that infill and intensification should take in Kingston, especially downtown, is on everyone’s minds. Delegation after delegation stood up to say it’s not the city’s responsibility to prop up developers’ bottom lines. Nor do residents have patience with development proposals that demand considerable relief from the zoning bylaws and the Official Plan.

We in WellingtonX agree that we need to respect policy as we plan our city, and yet we have some qualms about the “Stick to the Plan” message because, after all, the Wellington Street Extension is in the Official Plan. We should be able to change the Plan; we should be able to remove old and outdated ideas like the Wellington Street Extension; and then once we create an Official Plan that’s right for our city we have to be able to count on it.

A year ago we believed that City Council was poised to remove the Wellington Street Extension from the Official Plan, the Transportation Master Plan, and the development charges bylaw; instead, we were handed a complicated, expensive, and lengthy process by which we might, just might, be able to remove the road from policy documents. Every time we have tried to have the Wellington Street Extension removed from a policy document, we are told it’s not the right time. It’s an interesting juxtaposition: getting this road — which is not consistent with good planning practices — out of the OP is an enormous challenge, whereas it appears far less difficult for developers to be granted OP amendments and relief from the zoning bylaws in order to build something which does not mesh with the city planning documents.

In previous Official Plan consultations, WellingtonX and others have repeatedly defended the necessity of the “ribbon of life” buffer of undeveloped land along waterfront. On Tuesday, Manager of Policy Planning Greg Newman highlighted “infill and intensification” and “the ribbon of life” as two of the three local concerns he’s had the most public feedback on. While Planning agrees with residents that we need clarification of policy around intensification, Newman said that it’s still not clear to staff whether the language around the “ribbon of life” needs to be tightened up or made more flexible. We were also told that things said in public meetings will not be included in the question-and-answer-matrix that Planning is compiling for release with the third draft of the OP update. Finally, Commissioner Lanie Hurdle cautioned Council that OP revisions involve all stakeholders, including the development community (which tends to be conspicuously absent at public meetings and is supportive of the WSE).

It’s a struggle to remain confident that the update to the Official Plan will reflect the planning principles and desires of many Kingston residents. There is still more time for public input (in writing!) and we hope our allies for a liveable city will help us keep the full range of issues in play, including, yes, the Wellington Street Extension. The “Stick to the Plan” message could be powerful, but we’ve got to be sure we have a plan worth sticking to.

— Anne Lougheed

Transit Instead of Wellington Extension

Letter published in the Kingston Whig Standard February 19, 2016

In her letter (Funding for transit infrastructure a priority, February 18th), Mary Farrar suggests that Kingston should take advantage of the opportunity presented by the federal government’s new green infrastructure investment plan; otherwise we risk missing out. I entirely agree.

As MP Mark Gerretsen stated at the Feb 9th pre-budget consultation, the federal government is planning to nearly double federal infrastructure investment, adding $60 billion dollars in new infrastructure over the next decade, to be divided equally between public transit infrastructure, green infrastructure and social infrastructure. Canada’s major cities are already lining up. Toronto has already been pledged nearly $2 billion in infrastructure dollars for its SmartTrack plan, and is likely to receive federal help to finance extensions of the Crosstown LRT line, as well. In BC, Vancouver and Surrey have been all but assured that they will receive large amounts of federal funding for their $3 billion plus subway and $2 billion plus light rail system. These are all transit infrastructure projects.

Since the new infrastructure funding is to be provided over the next decade, there is time for Kingston to develop a thoughtful transit proposal to make our city more livable. The first priority that comes to mind is creating a reliable, convenient transit system that runs between north Kingston and downtown instead of building the proposed Wellington Extension. Preserve our waterfront for the use of people walking and bicycling and enjoying nature instead of using it as a passageway for cars. Give us a K&P Trail that will be a path through quiet green space, not a sidewalk along a major road. Improving public transit instead of building the Wellington Extension is a plan for a more livable, green, people-centred city that perfectly fits the funding criteria of the federal government’s new $60 billion infrastructure investment program.

— Mary McCollam

Feds: no funds now for 3d crossing- it’s time to invest in social & green infrastructure

On Tuesday, February 9 our relatively new Member of Parliament, Mark Gerretsen, held his pre-budget consultation with the public at Memorial Hall in City Hall. Considering how poorly advertised the event was,  a pretty good crowd was in attendance.

Gerretsen introduced the event with a slide which showed three pockets of money, each holding $20B to be spent over the next decade: one pocket for public transit, one for social infrastructure, and one for green infrastructure. He made it very clear that the first wave of infrastructure funding from the feds will be for repairs and rehabilitation of existing infrastructure, not for any new infrastructure. He spoke directly to the mayor (who was present for the first part of the meeting), and told him that there was not going to be money for the third crossing in the near future. Presumably this was not the reason for the mayor’s early departure from the meeting: nonetheless, he left Ryan Boehme behind to argue for the third crossing later in the meeting.

During the Q&A portion of the event, people stood up to talk about nearly every issue currently on the radar of Kingston residents: urban and rural transit, environmental protection, the TPP, climate change, social housing, hospital funding, Internet for rural communities, indigenous issues, the arts, pipelines, and the prison farms. More than any other issue, the third crossing was part of the conversation.

Our MP said repeatedly that he will do what the municipality asks but that he is not currently fighting for third crossing funding; he will do so when the municipality directs him to do so, as long as the project is shovel-ready. “I’m not currently in Ottawa advocating for a third crossing because the city is not at that stage yet,” he said. “I will advocate on behalf of the city once the city formally makes that decision. When the city finally says: ‘Yes, we are going ahead with the third crossing.’ If they do that, then I see it as my role to advocate.” When asked a question about whether the Feds would continue to maintain the LaSalle Causeway were they to help fund another bridge, he didn’t have an answer. He advised the municipality quite forcefully not to take over the LaSalle Causeway, given its age and the $1.5M annual maintenance budget. He suggested that smaller projects might meet with more success in requests for funding.

Gerretsen’s message was clear: there will be no federal funding for new infrastructure in the next several years. Our new federal government is echoing what WellingtonX has been saying all along: invest in transit and existing infrastructure, not new roads. Let’s plan for a city without the Wellington Street Extension.

— Anne Lougheed