The People Speak

WellingtonX was cc’d on at least 65 letters to the Planning Department concerning the Draft Visioning Report for the North King’s Town Secondary Plan, Phase One. The neighbourhood must be rich indeed to draw forth such eloquence and insight. We hope some of your vision makes its way into the final draft of the Visioning Report. Here are excerpts from what you wrote.

At the meeting that I attended, and at the music festival  (and even in the photos included in the report) one of the key words that people were using as a principle to guide any changes to the waterfront was “wild.” I don’t see this principle elaborated in the report. While improved access to the waterfront is important — it should not come at the cost of the unique urban wildness along the shores of the river. By using the term ‘wild,’ I think that people were trying to communicate a desire for absolutely minimal interference with natural shorelines — as opposed to the kind of  ‘parkified’ green spaces that are designed for humans rather than plants and animals.

The opposition [to the WSE] makes sense given the strong support expressed for preservation of the natural heritage of North King’s Town. However  it seems to me that this position was not clearly reflected in the Draft Report. I draw your attention to the section about the Wellington Street Extension on Page 21- it sounds like there was equal support for a variety of positions, but that is not the case. I suggest that this be edited to reflect widespread opposition to the Extension.

I was unable to come to yesterday’s meeting, but I have reviewed the recently released draft North King’s Town Visioning Report and I participated in some of the activities that form its basis. It is my observation that this draft does not adequately reflect the repeatedly and clearly expressed desires of the public to emphasize protection of the natural features along the waterfront and to NOT build the Wellington Street Extension.

I’ve attended numerous events at Doug Fluhrer Park and appreciate that its location is critical to the growing vitality of the area.  I also know the importance of Belle Park and of Belle Island (where my kids went to day camp).  Protecting and improving our waterfront and waterfront area parks for full use as parks for walking, cycling, community events or just being with each other and nature without being dissected by a full street should be a high priority or those other activities aren’t likely to be enjoyed. My understanding is that this same message has been what the public has communicated almost exclusively to the consultants.

It is great that the city hired consultants to complete a North King’s Town visioning study and report which recognized the importance of walking and cycling in the area, but I was very disappointed that the draft report does not reflect the strong neighbourhood opposition to the Wellington Street Extension.  In all of the meetings I attended, this is what was said again and again: “No Wellington Street Extension!”

I would like to suggest a symbolic change be made on page 6. This is where the list of Community Stakeholders appears and I was struck by the fact that it begins like this: “Landowners • Developers •    Land development professionals •    Real estate brokers •    Property owners…” Not until the middle of the list do we see “Residents of North King’s Town” and “Indigenous Community Stakeholders”. And nowhere does it list Residents of Kingston. Now perhaps the list was just randomly generated, or perhaps it reflects the numbers of submissions from these groups? Or does it unintentionally reflect the priority we tend to give to these voices? (Landowners and developers topping the list)  I suggest that this list be rewritten so that the City’s report puts the voices of the people who live here front and centre.

I attended various public consultations and most of what was said was that people opposed the WSE.  Yet again, developers and business owners were not present at these meetings. This is an ongoing challenge and reproduces the notion that certain people with power get a back door to city hall and never have to publicly disclose their interests. A transparent consultation has been a concern for many residents. It would strengthen the public’s relationship with the city for the Planning Department and Dialog to disclose who you spoke to and the data gleaned from these consultations.

The vision statement included in this report does not emphasize that our neighbourhoods should be a place for current and future residents and people of all incomes. It seems too focused on the economy and not enough on residents’ quality of life.

The vision for North Kingston should cross-reference other city policies such as the  Sustainability Plan, the Culture Plan, the emerging youth employment strategy, and so on — and it should state that — if need is demonstrated for them — alternatives to the WSE need to be found.

Some critics may dismiss aspects of the Visioning Report as idealistic. I think that that is wrong, and that the North King’s Town area presents enormous opportunities. In particular, Montreal Street is at the centre of this area, and as a result holds the most potential. Take, for example, the stretch of Montreal Street between Russell and Rideau Streets. There are a number of empty lots, some unused or under-used industrial buildings, and the occasional industrial, commercial or residential building. But this stretch is only a twenty minute walk to downtown! That’s the length of walk (shorter on bike) I make to and from work every day, so I know that it is feasible to imagine this stretch of Montreal Street closely connected with downtown Kingston.

If you’re going to keep the language of “big moves,” I would like to see a “big move” that would value and acknowledge and build on both built and intangible heritage. This would allow us to think more holistically about Belle Island and Belle Park, about the Outer Station, about Fluhrer Park, for example, and about ordinary streetscapes and recreational spaces around the neighbourhood – all of them with historical and social meaning, and generations of human activity and social relations that should not be lightly changed, developed, or moved.

Almost all the maps in the document show the third crossing as if it were in place. This is disingenuous because it serves to promote and legitimize a huge public works project that has not been approved by City Council. Acting as if the third crossing is real influences the decision about the Wellington Street Extension. The two projects are linked, and implying that one (the bridge) is going to be built, adds weight to the pro-Wellington Extension arguments, undermining the report’s supposed ‘neutrality’ on the issue.

I am not against development in principle. I want a safe and economically viable neighbourhood like everyone else. But I’ve grown very fond of this area and I take exception whenever I hear it referred to as nothing more than a “corridor.”

Also, moving the Outer Station seems like a ridiculous idea that would send a message that the City would prefer to appease developers’ interests rather than invest in protecting its own heritage resources, as it claims is a priority in this draft plan.

My travel requires choices.  Sometimes I make the wrong one and end up sitting in a Kingston “traffic jam” for 5 or ten minutes. Usually I’m able to make a choice that gets me home without delays.

As a car driver I know that my right to travel more quickly by car into more areas of the city ranks far below local residents rights to healthy quality of life. I also know that the health of this world-class ecosystem is more important than automotive convenience. As someone who uses the K&P trail for biking and walking I want more incentives to park my car in the outskirts of the city and access the downtown through a physically active, less polluting, and more responsible way.

I appeal to you, and your department to work with Dialog to address the many components of this report and subsequent decisions around this project to better embody waterfront and parkland protection, environmental sustainability, a strong focus on active transportation, and the preservation of cultural heritage character.

If the WSE were to be built, it could not be undone. We need to do our utmost to protect green space, our climate, and natural/recreational opportunities for future Kingstonians, not invest precious resources into something with no evidence of benefit, no public support, and very grave possible consequences. I believe the plan should reflect this spirit of careful stewardship for North King’s Town and its future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Four Days Left to Ask for Changes to the Vision for North King’s Town

A person can feel a little helpless about the state of the world right now. But here’s something you can do — it’s nearby, it’s easy, it’s right, and it might make you feel a little better.

The Planning Department and Dialog consultants have released a draft of the North King’s Town Visioning Report & Preliminary Market Analysis. We only have until Tuesday, November 15th to suggest changes to it  — and it does need changes! It is important that we get this right, because this is the document that will guide Phase Two of the Secondary Plan. And Phase Two will be the guiding policy document for the future of the Inner Harbour and Old Industrial Area.

We need you to submit your suggestions for changes to Sonya Bolton, Senior Planner, at nktplan@cityofkingston.ca. The more people who write, the more likely we will see a report that will help, not hurt.

In our view, the following changes are absolutely critical.

ONE: Here is the report’s first mention of the WSE:

“The Wellington Street Extension was discussed frequently during public and stakeholder engagement events over the course of the Study. Opinions varied: some members of the public made clear they were not in support of the Wellington Street Extension, in whole, or in part. Others were receptive to building a portion of the extension, from John Counter Street to Railway Street, through the Old Industrial Area. Some expressed support for building the full extension.” (p. 21)

This is simply inaccurate! Here is what we think the paragraph should say:

“The Wellington Street Extension was discussed frequently during public and stakeholder engagement events over the course of the Study. Most of the opinions provided by the public were strongly against the Wellington Street Extension, especially the southern section below Railway Street. Very few expressed support for building the full extension. Members of the public have voiced a strong need to find solutions to transportation issues that do not include building a road along a quiet waterfront park or a recreational trail.”

Our contention that nearly all of the comments about the WSE in the public consultations were against it being built is based on the City’s own summaries of the consultations. See our previous blog post for more details.

TWO:  Several sections of the report need to be strengthened to protect our waterfront and Douglas Fluhrer Park in particular. Some possibilities are:

  • p. 53: explicitly list our waterfront parks in Principle 5: “Conserve natural and heritage resources, and Belle Park and Douglas Fluhrer Park in particular.”

  • p. 55 & 58: include all of our waterfront parks, not only Belle Island, in Big Move 5:  “Protect the green space in Belle Park, Belle Island and Douglas Fluhrer Park. Conserve Belle Island as a naturalized area sacred to Indigenous People.”

  • p. 66, Section 6.2.5, Natural Heritage, needs to be strengthened. Again, all of the waterfront parks should be listed. As well, the word “should” must be changed to “must” in the following paragraph, as highlighted:  “New buildings or structures developed along the river’s edge MUST abide by setbacks that mitigate the development’s negative ecological impact and protect for a ‘ribbon of life’ along the waterfront.”

  • p. 73, Section 6.3.8: the report states there is a potential for higher density development along the waterfront. High density development does not belong along the waterfront.

THREE: The report appears to favour the northern section of the WSE, from Railway Street to John Counter Boulevard. It needs to be changed to make sure the full implications of this road are considered before a decision is made. 

Let us first remind you of some important concerns about that northern section:

  • the WSE is slated to run alongside the new K&P trail. It would destroy an only-just-constructed attractive bimodal (cycling & pedestrian) trail through green space, making it nothing more than a bike lane.
  • there is an urgent need for good cycling access from the north to downtown, given the narrowness of Montreal and Division Streets. The city has invested a great deal in bike lanes recently, but they all end as they approach downtown. With the report’s emphasis on “pedestrian priority” streets, the place for bicycles is underemphasized and the K&P (without the WSE) could be a crucial part of the active transportation network.
  • the report shows no assessment of the benefit of this road, and fails to either justify its $10,000,000 cost, or propose a study to do so. In fact the report suggests that there is little market demand for development in the OIA, so it is not clear why such investment would pay off.
  • there is a risk that the northern section of the WSE could potentially be used in the future to argue for the southern section being built.

With this in mind, some revisions to the report that we would like to see are:

  • All of the maps in the report that show the WSE with the following in the legend, “Potential Wellington Street extension: Subject to further study during the next phase of the Secondary Planning Process” should be changed to show the WSE or a bike/pedestrian only corridor (i.e., the K&P trail) with the legend: “Potential Wellington Street extension or bimodal transportation corridor for bicycles and pedestrians: Subject to further study during the next phase of the Secondary Planning Process.” And the visual needs to show the dotted green line for that corridor going all the way north to John Counter Blvd.

  • On p. 74, Section 6.4.2, Movement Network, the last “Opportunity” describes the vision for the WSE. This paragraph needs to state that the entire WSE needs to be re-evaluated through a transportation study, not only the southern portion, and that a bimodal corridor here only for bicycles and pedestrians must be considered as an alternative that would promote Active Transportation and provide a continuous commuter cycling pathway.

  • on p. 81 the report says that “the transportation study should revaluate the need for the Wellington Street Extension, in consultation with the public, using a study framework that balances transportation, place-making, and urban design objectives. The study framework must also prioritize the Vision’s objective to create a pedestrian-oriented environment and multi-modal street network. It must include a rigorous approach to public consultation, beyond what is typically included in an Environmental Assessment (EA) process.” That’s all very well, but there are more factors to be considered than “transportation, place-making, and urban design.” This list should also include waterfront protection, environmental sustainability, and cultural heritage character.

And, last but not least:

The vision should cross-reference other city policies such as the  Sustainability Plan, the Culture Plan, the emerging youth employment strategy, and so on — and it should state that — if need is demonstrated for them — alternatives to the WSE need to be found.

Please write to Sonya Bolton, as above, and please copy us at wellington.x.kingston@gmail.com.

Thank you! — Mary McCollam and Laura Murray