Before events move on, here is a brief report on two meetings you might have had the pleasure of attending — or missing!
On February 28, there were several public meetings concerning the North King’s Town Secondary Plan at the Legion on Montreal Street — and in the days following, some drop-in events at Artillery Park. People were invited to hear about the Cultural Heritage, Land use, and Transportation Studies, and comment. We did not generally find the format very congenial — the full and complex documents were not available (in advance or at the event), it was really unclear what we were supposed to be responding to, and there was uneven facilitation and little chance to really clearly engage with or reach solid conclusions about the brand new material. Nonetheless, we are happy with the summary of responses available on the City website as it seems to represent a range of views we heard at the meetings and elsewhere. We await the next phase of discussions. The Planning Department will be at the Skeleton Park Arts Festival with a North King’s Town booth on Saturday June 23, and more community open houses are planned for September. It looks like the “workshop” format will continue to be part of the community consultations in the fall. And we want to thank Planning staff and the members of the Community Working Group who have been keeping us apprised of developments and offering a conduit to the work underway.
The meeting, which was chaired by a hired facilitator rather than the Planning Committee Chair, was notably polarized. When we arrived, 13 spots had already been claimed on the speakers’ list, many of them in the same handwriting. Eight of them identified as rowers or relatives of rowers, and they all argued for the proposal; the other five first speakers were also all in favour of the Patry proposal. (The proposal features a new Rowing Club boathouse, to which Jay Patry, a rower, would contribute handsomely.) All the spots in the Council Chambers had been claimed well in advance; almost all opponents to the plan were shunted off to Memorial Hall. Hence, the Planning Committee did not know until the fourteenth speaker that there was any opposition to the plan at all. Nonetheless, the committee did ultimately hear that loud and clear. Whatever the attractions of a new rowing club may be, it is a minor issue in the context of a massive development with enormous social and environmental impact. Almost all of the second half of the night’s speakers offered various critiques of the proposal. Here are some concerns they raised:
- Kingston’s growth rate fell to 1% between 2011 and 2016 against a national average 5.9%, and a development of 1500 units is not warranted given the other developments in the pipeline
- The development would endanger the UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Stripping the property of trees would increase runoff, and then capping/paving it as well; would this not increase pollution in the river, and/or is Ravensview equipped to process heavy metals and other toxins?
- The parking is massively excessive and goes against Kingston’s claims and aims to being sustainable. Putting all those cars on the roads will bolster calls for the WSE, which would if built run adjacent to the new K&P trail, ruining its beauty and contradicting its intent of increasing active transportation
- The CRCA and Parks Canada have grave concerns
- The North King’s Town Planning process is not over. Approving a project that states clearly its need for the WSE when the NKT process was explicitly conceived to find alternatives to the WSE is a violation of public trust
- Turtles and other animals would be put at grave risk by the development and the Environmental Impact Statement is shallow and inadequate
- The proposal contravenes the Provincial Policy Statement and Official Plan concerning “ribbon of life” protection of waterfront
- Taller buildings with a smaller footprint further from the water might be more appropriate
- Why is land only considered “productive” when something is built on it? The greenspace is valueable as a carbon sink, and may be regenerating itself from the damage humans have already done to it.
- Consultation with Indigenous parties is a legal duty and has not been followed.
It was further noted by a number of speakers that some pro-Tannery speakers were rude or derogatory in referring to the people who have been living on the Tannery lands, and that the facilitator should have recognized and responded to such comments, in keeping with the Public Engagement policy. It was not clear why there was a hired facilitator, but if this is going to become practice (which we do not recommend), facilitators must be fully trained in watching for and expecting respectful conduct, and discrimination based on income or housing status should not be tolerated.
We understand the Patry tannery lands application is now “in technical review.”
This enormous and highly problematic proposal needs extremely serious and deep analysis. We must insist that every dimension of it receives scrutiny. Presumably there will be more public consultation, but you don’t have to wait for that. If you have comments or questions regarding this development proposal please email them to Andrea Furniss, Senior Planner at the City of Kingston at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also read some comments already on the record here.
— Laura Murray