Keep Parkland, Don’t Swap It

While the proposal to move the Outer Station into the Inner Harbour may not lie at the core of Wellington X’s fight, it is closely related. Just as putting a road through the park deprives people and animals of free and quiet and ample use of the park, moving this building there to house private tenants would do the same. Also, Hank Doornekamp of ABNA investments is on record as supporting the Wellington Street Extension, so it would seem that moving the station to the park is part of a bigger plan he has to connect his various properties (9 North Street, the Woollen Mill, and as he hopes, the Outer Station) with a road. In my opinion, relocating the station poses a threat to the waterfront and to the idea of public space and, therefore, is not acceptable.

On Monday May 16th I attended the City Open House for the proposed ABNA land swap at the Central Library Wilson Room. It was not clear at the outset that this meeting was just an open house, meaning no time was scheduled for the public to ask questions and hear responses as a group. Many of us did want a meeting so we asked for one and staff responded by creating one in the moment.

I initially went to express that I thought the discussion about a land swap in order to move the Outer Station to the park should be rolled into the North King’s Town Secondary Plan. After listening to the other attendees speak, I now think that the discussion should not be happening at all.

One attendee asked if this process itself was not premature in that ABNA does not yet have permission to move the Outer Station to the park. Why were we talking about this issue now, he asked. When staff replied that the heritage questions would be addressed later, he asked, how can we talk about a land swap without specifically discussing what the swap is for? I think we can’t and should not.

Below, I have attempted to summarize the various questions and ideas that came up during the meeting, for your information. I hope that City Staff will answer these questions in any next steps for this process.

Special thanks to Commissioner Hurdle and other staff for being responsive to residents by adapting the open house to a meeting, and to Councillor Schell and Councillor Hutchison for attending the meeting and staying until the end to hear the public questions and comments.

– Sayyida Jaffer

Questions from members of the public about a potential land swap in Fluhrer Park

  • Is it likely that ABNA will receive permission to move the Outer Station given the federal laws and rules that apply – e.g. the Heritage Railway Stations Protection Act and the Historic Sites and Monuments Board? Is it likely that the federal government will agree to separate out one of the three buildings that together have a heritage designation and that functioned together at the site?
  • Why have staff recommended this project? Shouldn’t the first step be for ABNA to buy the Outer Station property? Isn’t this proposal premature? Would Council be “putting a thumb on the scales” by agreeing to the land transfer before the station is ABNA’s property? Could ABNA use this in negotiations with the federal government to show community support when that is not necessarily the case?
  • Why would the city agree to any exchange of land when it already holds an easement on the ABNA land and can re-build the waterfront trail on it without any permission or land swap with ABNA? How is a land trade here – when the city already has everything it needs – in the best interests of the city?
  • What justifies reducing the size of Doug Fluhrer Park and allowing a private development in a public park?
  • When would land pass from city ownership to private ownership? Would the property owner have to pay property taxes? Is this property a brownfield? Would clean-up be required? Would property taxes be waived for ten years as has happened with Block D?
  • What effect would having an office building at the edge of Doug Fluhrer Park have on the surrounding buildings and uses? Would this lead to gentrification in the area?
  • If the city is considering reducing the number of parking spaces for the Park to make room for this project, could the city, instead, turn some of the parking spaces into a green space to extend the Park?
  • Shouldn’t the city wait until after the North King’s Town Secondary Plan process before deciding anything? Could the Outer Station be a jewel in the redevelopment of the north end? Is it right to take away this opportunity from the north end? Is it right to have this discussion now when the community has been invited to participate in the community visioning exercise as part of the Secondary Plan process? Has the city asked the company hired to conduct the first stage of the Secondary Plan about the possible role of the Outer Station in the revitalization of this area of Kingston?
  • Since ABNA owns other vacant land in the area, why does the company need to acquire city parkland for this project?
  • What is the actual size of the Outer Station and of the parcel that ABNA wants from the city? How much land around the ABNA building will be for parking and building-related uses? Will there be enough bicycle parking which is a good way to get to a building in the park? (Noted that the city Q and A sheet combined metric and imperial measurements, with inaccurate information, and that the drawings were not to scale.)
  • How would putting a building in Doug Fluhrer Park respect the heritage of the Park which was the site of the K&P roundhouse and had many industrial train-related uses and which would not have been an appropriate place for the Grand Trunk passenger station?
  • What impact would the building have on the park and park users?
  • Would the building include lighting and a public washroom?
  • Have any studies been done to show that the Outer Station can be successfully moved? How long will it last in its current location?
  • How does this proposal interact with the Official Plan? Would the old or new Official Plan apply?
  • What would stop ABNA from adding more storeys to the building as part of the project plan?
  • What impact would the building have on wildlife?
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