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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

One thought on “The People Speak

  1. As a citizen and homeowner, I have lived in close proximity to the proposed Welllington street extension for the past 19 years. I cross Montreal St and Rideau St almost on a daily basis; neither as a pedestrian or as a driver do I see a need for another road in such close proximity. Many people enjoy Flurer Park as it is. The Flora, fauna, animals, reptiles and insects are also stakeholders in this area. If changes are made here please do not roll out lush, green monocultures of sod. The diversity in this area has inherent worth, not to mention how it helps to sustain an ecosystem that is essential to healthy human life.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s