Call to Action: Public Meetings on February 28 and March 8

On the evening of February 21, members of WellingtonX met with representatives from IBI Group and Patry Inc. (Mark Touw and Rob Gibson), at their invitation, to learn about Kingston developer Jay Patry’s proposal for the Davis Tannery site. It was an informative meeting.

The plan is not new: as some of you will remember, it was developed and proposed to the City in 2014. But Patry only acquired the tannery lands from Rideau Renewal in fall 2017. This week he released a slightly revised plan which has been submitted for various approvals – a process which requires a public meeting to be held in City Hall on March 8 at 6:30 p.m.

Here is what the development would look like:

Patry proposes to build 1500 units (80% rental, 20% condos) plus some commercial space in four blocks of 6-story wooden-frame buildings to occupy 9 out of 13 hectares of the waterfront site. Each unit will have 1.25 parking spots in above-ground lots “wrapped” by buildings. Because of the extreme toxicity of the former industrial site, major remediation will have to take place and the whole developed part will be capped with clay. There will be amenities such as pools, and Patry is proposing that the Rowing Club move a little north to be part of his project. There is a setback along the waterfront, as required because of municipal and provincial “ribbon of life” policies. River Street and two other entrances at the western side will connect the development to the Wellington Street Extension.

Wait: say that again?

Yes, you read right: Mark Touw explained to us that for a development of this size, the Wellington Street Extension would need to be built. Indeed, Patry is counting on the construction of the WSE. He is going ahead seeking approvals before the North King’s Town Secondary Plan – initiated with the express purpose (see Council minutes of May 5, 2015) of finding alternatives to the WSE – is complete.

We know, and planning staff and consultants know, that the majority of those who have participated in the North King’s Town planning process are against the WSE [see here and here]. The Visioning Report from June 2017 states that “a large majority of people who provided comments during the Study were overwhelmingly opposed to building the proposed WSE,” and includes attention to other community concerns such as active transportation, heritage, greenspace, and affordable housing.

However, all we have so far with the NKT is its first phase: a pretty vision. The next phase of the Secondary Planning process, getting underway now, is where the rubber hits the road. Or the @#$% hits the fan. This is when we get into details about land use, transportation and infrastructure, and so on. The first public meetings are next week, February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street.

It’s tedious, sure, but it’s even more important we engage this time than it was in the first phase. We have to be there because we live here, and we want to continue to live here. We have to insist that a good plan be developed, and that it be respected. The tannery lands are only one part of the NKT area. We can’t get too focused on them because there are other sites and issues that need attention. Consultants and staff may advise us that we can’t discuss a project on private lands that is going through approval before the results of the planning exercise are complete. But the Patry proposal should remind us of the stakes of this planning process and why it’s so important to get it right. The Patry proposal is what we will get if we don’t get — and follow — a good plan. So, again: February 28, 2:30-5 and 6-8:30, at the Legion on Montreal Street — see more information here

The March 8 special Planning Committee meeting (6:30 p.m., City Hall) is all about the Patry proposal — it’s the best occasion to speak directly to City Council and City staff and get into the full range of varied concerns about the future of the tannery lands. Public safety, for example (Patry estimates that 400,000 tonnes of soil would have to be remediated or removed from the site. Where is this contaminated soil going to go? Is it safe to disturb? How many thousands of truckloads of hazardous material would exit the site, and what impact would this activity have on the surrounding neighbourhood?). Habitat protection, waterfront naturalization, design, the need for more affordable housing, prioritizing transit and active transportation instead of adding 1800 cars onto nearby streets, and so on and so forth: lots of things to talk about.

The IBI representative did acknowledge that the developers expect several months of back and forth revisions over the proposal, and that the plan will and can change to some extent within the general framework of the existing proposal. Construction will likely continue over ten to fifteen years in four phases. Mark said that the existing road network would not suffice after the third phase. There are many changes required to make this proposal acceptable — but a bottom-line for Wellington X is that any development must be WSE-free.

At the March 8 meeting, we will remind the Planning Committee and Council that if approved as proposed, this project would preempt the due process of community-engaged planning. The Patry proposal presumes the construction of the Wellington Street Extension and, given that City Council promised full public consultation via an objective planning process on this issue, a hasty approval would undermine the very integrity of the Council.

Despite what some may think, WellingtonX is not opposed to development. What we do oppose is development imposed upon the residents — two-legged and four-legged — of North King’s Town. We look forward to working with others to preserve and grow our community. Please join us at one or both of the upcoming meetings.

— Laura Murray and  Anne Lougheed

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Toderian Takes On Kingston

You have some of the worst architecture on a waterfront that I have ever seen. And I have seen waterfronts all over the world.”                                                 — Brent Toderian

You might have seen comments about Kingston made by a visiting “urban planning expert.” Who is he? Why was he here?

Brent Toderian (pronounced TODD-er-in) is renowned for his work as Vancouver’s Chief Planner for six years, and as an urban design consultant in cities in Canada and internationally. The City of Kingston invited Mr. Toderian to visit Kingston to address the challenges of intensification in our city, especially in the downtown core. We heard his presentations at the January 17th City Council Town Hall meeting on intensification and at the January 19th Climate Change Symposium. As well, he had discussions with City planning staff. Perhaps he might return in a city planning consultation role? He’s done that in places such as Copenhagen, New York, Buenos Aires and Burlington, ON (ya, Burlington, too).

It was on his first morning in Kingston that Mr. Toderian remarked on Twitter and CBC radio that Kingston has made a mess of its waterfront and that the tall buildings downtown have made residents understandably nervous about densification if it means more of the same. Mr. Toderian is an advocate of “gentle density,” but does not oppose high-rises as long as they are attractively designed and reward the pedestrian at street level — unlike those along our waterfront downtown: “Slab buildings boxing it in, blank walls, fences & parking along the building edge at-grade.”

The planner’s expertise on transportation planning and its relationship to the health of the city are of particular interest to us. Very early on in his Town Hall presentation, Toderian brought up induced demand. The fact that widening streets does nothing to improve traffic congestion is one that we’ve included many times in presentations to councillors and to staff, so we were happy to have that truth hammered home. Unfortunately, we can’t tell you what effect it had since the faces of engineering staff (and of particular councillors) were not visible when the slide went up that said “Building bigger roads makes traffic worse.” In his presentation at the Climate Change Symposium, Toderian paraphrased Lewis Mumford: “Trying to address congestion by adding more roads is like trying to solve obesity by loosening your belt.”

Mr. Toderian believes our city may be at a turning point where key issues such as climate change, housing affordability and public health are converging. It’s time to stop “doing the wrong thing better.” For instance, replacing current vehicles with electric, self-driving vehicles is better, but “unless we share them, self-driving vehicles will just make traffic worse.” Instead we need to do the right thing:  prioritize pedestrians, cyclists and transit users over drivers.

But Toderian maintains that doesn’t mean he’s anti-car. He just doesn’t believe that cities should be planned around the car. “If you design a city for cars, it fails for everyone, including drivers … The best thing those who feel they need to drive could hope for, is for other people to be able to walk, bike and ride transit.” In his opinion, the rhetoric of a “war on the car” is an unfortunate relic of Rob Ford’s term as Toronto mayor. Increasing active transport (walk/bike/transit) is the most effective way to reduce traffic congestion, and to build a city that is more livable, healthy, visitable, environmentally sustainable and economically successful. He pointed out that doctors (for instance those in Australia where he was consulted about urban planning at the request of the Heart Association) are now advocating for walkable cities — and attracting more attention than planners would by doing so.

One of Toderian’s slides stated, “The truth about a city’s aspirations isn’t found in its vision. It’s found in its budget.” Another said, “Progress doesn’t just depend on starting the right things. It depends on stopping the wrong things and fixing the mistakes.” While he wouldn’t comment on the third crossing or any other specific proposal, the takeaway for a lot of us is that we now have some high-level support for our own arguments against the expansion of Kingston’s road infrastructure.

A video of Mr. Toderian’s Town Hall presentation can be found here:  https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=615AJ_ig9ms

His slides can be found here:  https://www.cityofkingston.ca/documents/10180/23500176/COU_A0418-Presentation.pdf/946108ab-01f5-442f-90a5-4037f15f7fa2.

— Anne Lougheed and Mary McCollam

In which Wellington X Meets with the Mayor and Promenades on Princess Street

You may have seen the Whig-Standard’s article in early September entitled “City to address Wellington St. Extension: Mayor.” The piece caused a fair bit of alarm in the community, and we thought we should speak with the mayor to clarify his plans.

In a cordial meeting, Mr. Paterson told us that he’d also been surprised at the article and its headline, and surmised that the reporter had used a couple of comments made to him after a council meeting to craft an article. He says he would prefer to see green space preserved and sees no reason to bring more cars downtown. However, he told us that he wants to see road network improvements that would result in better access to landlocked properties in the Old Industrial Area, and that would incentivize development on brownfield sites in the Inner Harbour. He asks, what do we need to do to attract developers to come in and for development to take place? He thinks this may be possible with the upgrade or expansion of existing roads, or with a hybrid solution- upgrades in conjunction with new roads. He’s willing to look at all options and says he won’t exclude any possibilities.

The mayor agrees that the K&P trail is a great asset for the city and has always supported it. Although he thinks that the K&P should be considered when looking at a possible road network in the Old Industrial Area, he is not willing to reject an option that might have a road next to part of the K&P in that area.

We were concerned that Mr. Paterson didn’t seem to have a grasp of the timeline for the North King’s Town secondary planning process. He wondered if some of the technical studies might be available to Council by next spring, before the secondary plan is completed. In our understanding, no decision about the WSE can be made before the plan is completed and approved by Council, and the consultants have not even been hired yet; it seems impossible that it could be completed before the election in fall 2018. We will continue to follow and discuss this with Planning staff and Councillors.

For more energizing discussions, we are always happy to meet our fellow Kingstonians on the streets. A couple of days before our meeting with the mayor, we had a booth at the fall edition of the Princess St. Promenade. We brought Nancy Douglas along and her splendid map banner of the neighbourhoods and landscapes near the planned WSE — kids and adults alike had the chance to use glue and scissors to add their sense of what is valuable in this space.

The event gave us an opportunity to speak with residents from all over town. We encountered a broad interest in active and public transportation, and a skepticism about increasing road capacity for cars. A woman who lives north of the city said that she and her spouse started taking the bus from a Park and Ride to get to work at Queen’s because parking near Queen’s is so difficult, and they find the bus very convenient. We heard comments such as, “If you build another road, you just get more traffic.”

It was interesting that quite a number of people we spoke with have recently moved to Kingston. They may not have heard of the WSE, but they were surprised at the idea, and were very vocal about supporting public and active transit which they experienced elsewhere, or moved here hoping to find. They considered traffic congestion a non-issue here compared to what they had experienced in Montreal, Toronto, and Washington D.C. One couple who just moved here from Montreal said that with all of the bike lanes there now, the rush hour congestion in their old neighbourhood was primarily from bikes. Someone else said that they were surprised and dismayed when they moved to Kingston at the lack of bike paths, especially downtown. They said that they didn’t feel safe bicycling downtown. (This is a comment we’ve heard many times.) However, many of the newcomers had already discovered the K&P trail and appreciated it. They were aghast to hear that there is the possibility that a road would be built next to it.

“But the trail is so beautiful. A road next to it would ruin it”.

In fact, overall, the K&P Trail was the biggest topic of conversation. After all, the WSE as planned is set to run right beside it up through the Old Industrial Area.

“Why would the city put a road there when they just spent all of this money on the trail?”

The public is already invested in and actively using the trail. A young person, 12 or 13 years old, said, “My friend uses the K&P trail a lot because it’s near her house. It’s how she gets downtown. We bike and skateboard there.”

People were also asking for improvements to the trail. There were safety concerns, such as the lack of reflector tape on the black gates, and worries about the dangerous intersection at the bridge on Division Street at John Counter Boulevard. There was also frustration that the poor signage makes it difficult to find where the trail goes north of Counter St., and that the trail north of Counter to Binnington Court is primarily on ugly roads and bumpy trails. Several people who live north of Kingston said they would use the trail to commute to work in town if these concerns were addressed.

Our impression is that many people stay in Kingston or move to Kingston because it offers the possibility of a relatively ‘green’ lifestyle — and so far, the City is balking at truly embracing the infrastructure that would support that.

One resident said something that resonated with me for many days after: that the infrastructure we’re building is for the way things used to be. Needs are going to change as the climate changes. People are concerned about climate resilience. This will be the challenge as we plan our city for an unpredictable future.

We’ve always maintained that the WSE is an outdated proposal: now, more than ever, we have to prioritize green infrastructure over grey.

— Anne Lougheed, with additional notes from Mary McCollam

Nesting Neighbours

Visitors to Douglas Fluhrer Park will notice the turtles basking on the logs in the Cataraqui River during the warmer months, but for the past two summers people may also have noticed pieces of mesh screening nailed over depressions in the ground in various locations around the park. These covers are to protect turtle nests or suspected nests from predation. Likely predators of turtle eggs are skunks, raccoons, and foxes. During May, June, and July, a dozen volunteers took turns visiting the park in the morning and again later in the day, several times a week. This summer, as in the previous summer, they covered over 100 nests or suspected nests. Despite a late start to the summer weather, and the upheaval in the park during trail construction last year, it appears that Fluhrer Park — especially the stretch where the WSE would go — is a favourite nesting area for painted, snapping, and northern map turtles. A paved road would certainly make it impossible for them to nest here.

Twice during the summer, students Aaron Sneep and Dayna Zunder from Queen’s University came to the park to record the gps coordinates of the nests. You can see the map showing the locations of the nest covers here (the covers have since been removed). Turtles may dig decoy nests (holes that they’ve peed in) to throw off predators, and it’s hard to tell the difference, so that’s why some of the holes were recorded as “suspected nests” — but we are confident that most were real nests.

Furthermore, as one of the volunteers who visited the park weekly to look for nesting turtles, I was struck by the fact that for every nest I covered there were a number of nests nearby that had already been predated. A predated nest is a hole surrounded by broken shell, which looks like bits of popped white balloon. This observation leads me to believe that there are or were many more nests in the park then are registered on the map. It was also observed that very few covered nests were excavated by predators, so the covers appeared to be helping.

It’s possible that tiny turtles will be hatching now, and will be moving through the park. Keep your eyes peeled — and send us photos if you happen to be lucky to catch the moment.

— Anne Lougheed

 

Celebrating What We Have

Wellington X decided to start out the summer season in a spirit of celebration.

Last weekend we hosted a plant swap in Doug Fluhrer Park that exceeded all expectations. People brought whole tarp-loads of perennials and flats of tomatoes — others left with new treasures. We had nothing left at the end. We met new people. And we celebrated the lovely green parkspace, habitat to plants, people, turtles.

This weekend we set up a sequence of signs on the K&P Trail during the launch day, just in behind Quattrocchi’s, and talked with scads of people who were surprised and shocked to hear that the City proposes to build a road having just built such a promising trail. We served lemonade and basked in the sun, surrounded by birds and newly applied grass seed. Down behind the legion, cycling enthusiasts traded tips and watched a softball game.

 

It was such an affirmative and lovely start to the summer. Here’s hoping that now that the K&P is open, more people from all parts of town will want to keep this corridor of the city’s transportation and recreation infrastructure car-free.

— Laura Murray

City engineers predict more asphalt in our future

Two weeks ago, we attended what was purportedly a “consultation” on the third crossing scheduled by the City’s engineering department for the Friends of Kingston Inner Harbour, WellingtonX, and the McBurney Park Neighbourhood Association. We were not impressed; few in attendance were. More questions were raised than answered, especially with respect to bridge financing and those pesky development charges.

One surprise in the latest batch of third crossing releases is the inclusion of the WSE on the engineers’ future traffic flow maps. Conveniently, the Director of Engineering did not include these maps in his presentation, nor were the original on-line versions of a high-enough resolution to determine for certain that the WSE was there. We requested clearer maps, however, and now we can see that most of the WSE is indeed featured in the engineering department’s 2034 traffic flow predictions.

The following letter was sent to staff at the beginning of the week, and we await a reply.

Dear Mr. Van Buren, Ms. Wilson, Mr. Keech, Ms. Kennedy and Mr. Franco,

Thank you for the invitation to attend the presentation on the proposed third crossing held at Artillery Park two weeks ago on Monday, April 24.

We understand that the event was supposed to help fulfill the required consultation with community groups; however, it was all rather confusing. The start time was changed, the person at the desk didn’t know that the meeting had been postponed (not cancelled) and sent away those who came at 7 o’clock, there was difficulty with the projection equipment, there was insufficient time for all our questions, and the answers to some of the questions were contradictory. We do not feel that this was a “consultation” opportunity and are left with many more questions. Could you please answer the following at your earliest opportunity?

1. Now that higher resolution images have been posted on line (“Strategic Case” travel flow maps) we can see that much of the proposed Wellington Street Extension has been drawn on these maps. Why does the WSE feature in your 2034 traffic pattern mapping?

2. Can you please tell us if there is a stated caveat in the full document that the WSE is currently under review through the secondary planning process?

3. If $20M is predicted to be available from development charges for the bridge by 2019, would there be nothing left for any other road (and related) projects? Recently we were told there was only $11M in the development charge fund. Is this $20M a separate fund?

In answer to a question, Ms. Kennedy stated that if the bridge were not built, the $20M would either return to the development community, or be used for other projects.

4. Whose decision would that be?

5. What is the impact on other road projects if all the roads money in the development charges envelope is used for the third crossing?
Many thanks in advance for your responses.

Sincerely,
WellingtonX

Improved NKT Visioning Report

DIALOG Map

Last November we asked you to write letters suggesting changes to the North King’s Town Visioning Report and Preliminary Market Analysis. Boy, did you ever come through! WellingtonX was copied on more than 65 letters, and planners received about 120 submissions altogether.

Because of the extensive public input, the revised draft report is now a solid foundation for the next phase of planning. We would like to thank all of you. If there are further changes that you would like to see, you can send comments until Monday, April 24th to nktplan@cityofkingston.ca. Just remember, the real work will have to be done in the next phase of the Secondary Plan, and we probably don’t want to slow this down any more at this point. 

We would like to thank City Staff in the planning department and the DIALOG team for the work that went into making substantial improvements in the revised report, and for responding to community feedback. 

Significant improvements were made with regard to the proposed Wellington Street Extension, the Waterfront, Transit and Active Transportation, Natural Heritage, Wildlife Habitat, Cultural Heritage and Social Equity. 

For example, compare the descriptions of the transportation study that will be completed during the next phase of the Secondary Plan:

Before revision (p. 81):

“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.”

After revision (p. 100):

“The transportation study will re-evaluate the need for all portions of the proposed Wellington Street Extension, in consultation with the public, using a study framework that balances a variety of objectives that are important to the community and that will be given emphasis over accommodating the transportation demands of personal vehicles. These objectives include, but are not limited to:

  • protection of the waterfront, parks and open spaces;
  • protection of natural heritage resources;
  • protection of cultural heritage resources, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site designation for the Rideau Canal;
  • promoting environmental sustainability;
  • promoting active transportation and transit;
  • improving access and multi-modal connectivity within NKT and to adjacent neighbourhoods; and,
  • prioritizing the Vision for NKT to create a pedestrian-oriented environment and a multi-modal transportation network.

The City should also consult the public health unit about health impacts as part of the review and analysis of the proposed road extension. The study will ultimately consider alternatives to the WSE, including maintaining the right-of-way as a multi-use path as suggested by members of the community.”

YES! We will have to keep watching and providing input in the next phase, so that the ultimate product, which will guide the future of this part of Kingston, fulfils this promise. 

Speaking of input, community feedback is incorporated extensively within this version of the report, and the full summaries of the public consultations are included in Appendix A, providing a permanent record. But we would have liked to know what some of the other “stakeholders [who] contributed their perspective” said. Maybe in the next phase we will get something like Appendix B:  Consultations with Land Owners, Developers and Real Estate Professionals. Full transparency is very important. 

 — Mary McCollam

A Sampling of Other Changes:

The report now acknowledges that the decision to undertake a secondary planning process for North King’s Town was due not only to the age of planning studies, but due to community concern over the proposed Wellington Street Extension. As well, it states accurately that a majority of the public who provided comments were overwhelmingly opposed to the WSE, whereas the first draft only stated that opinions varied, with some opposed and some in favour.

The new Executive Summary includes the following: “With respect to DRF Park, many people would like the park to remain as it is. They want to protect the urban wilderness that exists along the shoreline, and they do not want the proposed WSE running through it or next to it … The K&P trail was generally noted as a positive addition to NKT’s open space network, but some people expressed concern that it would be negatively impacted by the proposed WSE.”

Vision

Before revision (p. 51)

“…home to walkable neighbourhoods, with strong connections to jobs, and amenities, so families can grow, thrive and age in place.”

After revision (p. 61)

“…home to walkable neighbourhoods, with strong connections to jobs, amenities, open spaces, the waterfront and neighbouring communities, so residents from a variety of backgrounds and income levels can grow, thrive and age in place.”

Maps

Before revision (pp. 54, 75, 77), the maps showed a dotted line with question marks and the legend “Potential Wellington Street Extension:  subject to further study during next phase…”

After revision (pp. 64, 91, 95), the legend reads “Former rail right-of-way:  proposed WSE or multi-use trail (subject to further study during next phase…)”

Natural Heritage

Before revision (p. 66)

“Develop a conservation strategy for natural heritage resources … that sets out mitigation measures where natural areas may be redeveloped.”

After revision (pp. 76-77)

“Develop a conservation strategy for natural heritage resources … that sets out mitigation measures where natural areas may be redeveloped, such that natural heritage features and areas are protected.”

Inner Harbour

Before revision (p. 73)

“There is some potential for higher density development along the waterfront.”

After revision (p. 88)

“There is some potential for higher density development within a short walking distance of the waterfront, with the waterfront protected for ecological functions, wildlife and public access. Land use compatibility and protection of the waterfront, including the area’s ecological function, will be necessary and will be reflected in the policy framework established by the secondary plan.”

Outer Station

Before revision (p. 84)  

The report stated that a developer had proposed relocating the stone structure of the Outer Station, a designated heritage property, to Doug Fluhrer Park and stated that the City should continue to work with the developer.

After revision (pp. 103, 104)

The report gives far more information, including that now the application to the federal government is to relocate the property instead to 2 Cataraqui St, north of Doug Fluhrer Park, and that the majority of people in the community wish to see the Outer Station redeveloped and re-purposed in its existing location.

Bailey Broom Bylaw: Confusion at Council

WellingtonX has had a lull in our interactions with City Hall as we’ve been waiting for the revised draft of the NKT report: recently, however, there was a little flurry of excitement over the request from Engineering that council pass a bylaw to designate a small strip of land beside Cataraqui Street and the former Bailey Broom factory as Highway. (Here ‘highway’ just means public road.)

The broom factory was recently sold to RAW Design Ltd. of Toronto, but the City of Kingston withheld a slender wedge of the property in order to conserve it for the possible widening of Cataraqui Street. They also kept aside a “sight triangle” that would accommodate a right turn onto Cataraqui from the proposed Wellington Street extension. (See the shaded piece in the image below that looks like half a golf tee on its side. 305 is the broom factory building.)

Unknown

Because the municipality owned that parcel of land in 2014, before Council directed that no more land be acquired for the Wellington Street extension until the secondary planning process is completed, the City’s ownership of this piece of land did not contravene the motion passed in March 2015. After the reading of the bylaw was deferred twice from previous council meetings, it was withdrawn altogether on Tuesday evening. Councillor Hutchison moved for withdrawal, in order to return at a later date with a motion of direction for staff to reconfigure Part 3 (as the piece of land is known on the reference plan) to separate the potential sight triangle. Hutchison said his primary concern was the public perception that the City might be facilitating the construction of the WSE while the secondary planning process is underway.

Staff have said that the bylaw is nothing more than a necessary piece of “housekeeping” associated with the future redevelopment of the broom factory and the necessity that services for that building come from Cataraqui St. However, we are not quite sure why it is necessary. And we are puzzled at the timing: why has this come forward now? RAW purchased the land last fall. As yet, they have not submitted a development application. The response from staff to a question from Councillor Boehme was that there would be no immediate implications for the new owners of the broom factory if the bylaw wasn’t passed that evening.

After considerable head scratching and discussion, Wellington X’s position is that if the bylaw would create extra cost or hassle if delayed, and if it is merely a land use and development requirement to allow the building’s new owner to establish access and services from Cataraqui Street, and if it has nothing to do with advancing the Wellington St. Extension, there is no harm going ahead with it. However, it is indicative of our strained relationship with the City’s Engineering department that we are indeed suspicious of their every move.

— Anne Lougheed

2016: The Year in Review

rideau-landscape

Well, that was a year!

Wellington X started 2016 recommending revisions to the City’s Request for Proposals for hiring a consulting team for the North King’s Town Secondary Plan, and ended it heartened by the community response to the DIALOG consulting team’s draft report. Over 65 letters to the City asking for changes to the report were cc’d to Wellington X!

In between there were highs and lows:

Canvassing – Sayyida Jaffer, Justine Scala, Colin Khan and other volunteers enjoyed going door-to-door and talking with people in North King’s Town, both in 2015 and 2016. They were gratified to find how much people want to talk and are already engaged, and by how many are already opposed to the Wellington Street Extension.

Land Swap with Weston Bakeries – Council’s approval of the land swap with Weston Bakeries, in which the entire width of the WSE was purchased for parts of the northern section, surprised the DIALOG consultants. This occurred during the initial planning stage of the NKT Secondary Plan and restricts the potential for alternatives to the WSE. More recently, other attempts to jump the gun on the NKSP include the ABNA proposal to move the Outer Station, and the City’s idea of ending golfing in Belle Park. We will continue to stand against any proposals that pre-empt the Secondary Planning process.

Changes to the Official Plan – community members- including Anne Lougheed, Mike Cole-Hamilton, Julian Scala and Vicki Schmolka- slogged through four drafts of the City’s Official Plan and made presentations and wrote letters to Council and Staff. This resulted in important changes to language in the OP about the WSE and protection of the waterfront, including:

  • Recognition in the transportation section of the OP that a Secondary Planning Process for NKT will examine the feasibility of the WSE
  • Changed wording in the OP’s treatment of the Woolen MiIl area to no longer include and describe the WSE as an important link to the downtown
  • Corrected wording to state that the UNESCO World Heritage Designation protects all of the Rideau Canal north of the Causeway as an Environmental Protection Area with a 30-metre wide setback from the waterfront, not only the section north of Belle Park
  • Improved language with regard to the 30-metre wide Ribbon of Life along the waterfront
  • Wording changed to refer to road widening and extensions as “projects” rather than “improvements”

De-greening of Doug Fluhrer Park – DFP has changed from mostly green to mostly pavement and gravel with the construction of the K&P trail and the City’s gravelling of the lane along it.

DIALOG’s draft NKT Report – The draft NKT Secondary Plan Visioning Report misrepresents the results of DIALOG’s and the City’s community consultations, which clearly showed that nearly all of the public are against the WSE. As well, the draft report does not require sufficient protection of the waterfront or reflect that the secondary planning process is happening, in part, to determine alternatives to the WSE. More generally, it seems to reflect little vision for the integrity of this diverse and environmentally sensitive area of the city with a long industrial and residential history.

Community Engagement! – At community and City events throughout the spring, summer and fall, the community attended and spoke loudly in favour of waterfront and cultural heritage protection, environmental sustainability, active transportation and social equity, and against the WSE. People made Tshirts, bought Tshirts, and wore Tshirts (thanks Barb Danielewski!), and helped create an ongoing big banner designed and guided by Nancy Douglas. As well, the community filled in surveys and wrote letters, including those 65+ letters already mentioned asking for changes to the NKT draft report. As a result the City has requested a second draft of DIALOG’s report to be presented for further comment from the community.

You are all awesome! As one of our group said, “Some highlights for me were the t-shirt workshops, the banner and the canvassing. They all reminded me that we live in an amazing and vibrant community and that it is possible to be an activist and to have fun, too …  I’ve also been encouraged by how many people do come out every time that there’s a public meeting. Whether we win or lose this fight, that gives me hope.”

Stay tuned and stay involved for the next season of this gripping drama!

  •  Will DIALOG’s revision of its draft NKT report reflect the concerns raised by the public?
  • Will the City protect the lane next to Doug Fluhrer Park from use by vehicles as promised and will weeds be allowed to grow back on it in the spring?
  • When will the second phase of the NKT Secondary Plan process begin and which consultants will the City hire for that process?
  • What will happen to the Outer Station?
  • Will the new urban K&P trail be used extensively and will those who use it want the WSE to be built alongside it?
New K&P trail east of Rideau St

New K&P trail east of Rideau St

However things unfold, we will keep insisting on our right to participate in decisions that affect our lives and our City.

— Mary McCollam

 

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.