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

 

Advertisements

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

 

A double standard?

A letter to the editor of the Whig-Standard (2 Sept. 2016) from Anne Lougheed.

The Whig butchered the letter: here’s the original.

 

Over a year ago, opponents of Kingston’s proposed Wellington Street Extension were informed that the WSE cannot be removed from the Official Plan and other city policy documents without a secondary planning process for North King’s Town. This spring the visioning for that process began, with a launch in May at the Royal Canadian Legion on Montreal Street. In June, a well-attended brainstorming session led by Dialog (the consultants hired by the city) was held at the Portuguese Cultural Centre. With Skeleton Park Arts Festival organizers, city planning staff co-hosted a very successful barbecue and concert in Doug Fluhrer Park. City staff were on hand in McBurney (Skeleton) Park on Saturday June 25 to solicit input from festival attendees on the North King’s Town visioning, and set up an information booth at the Princess Street Promenade on July 30th. More pop-up consultations took place August 4th, and the process is just getting started.

All this is necessary, apparently, because although running an arterial road through a waterfront park is an unpopular plan that is neither consistent with good planning practices nor Kingston’s own policies, nothing can be changed without at least two more years’ work and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars spent.

In contrast, if a developer wishes to ignore city documents (the Official Plan, its specific policies, the architectural guidelines, zoning bylaws etc.) and propose a high rise development for an area of the city where building height is restricted to preserve the human scale and historic fabric, there are fewer obstacles in the way.

Removing the outdated Wellington St. Extension from the Official Plan and other documents is proving to be an enormous challenge. Residents respect the process, however, and have seized the opportunities to engage with city planners and the consultants. Meanwhile, the owner of the Capitol Theatre property has jettisoned our guiding documents and is poised to stomp on our downtown.

The City actively encourages us citizens to participate in city planning, but fails to demonstrate to us why we should even bother.

 Anne Lougheed

Imagining the Future of North King’s Town

On the evening of June 20th, with a tornado warning in effect, about 60 people braved the storm to participate in the second public consultation about visions for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour, hosted by the City of Kingston Planning Department and Dialog, the consultant firm the City has engaged. About 1/3 of attendees had participated in the first public consultation held on May 24th. The session began with an open house format where we reviewed panels that included Dialog’s preliminary study area vision, principles and emerging themes statements, developed by Dialog after the first public consultation. That was followed by a presentation by Dialog’s principal, Antonio Gómez-Palacio, in which he expanded on the ideas and process used to develop this initial vision and showed maps of the study area with possibilities illustrated. We were then invited to provide feedback and discuss further options in five groups facilitated by the consultants at tables with large maps and markers.

At my table, we started with a round robin where each person was asked to say what “resonated most in their thoughts” when they listened to the vision and principles statements. The first statement by the first person (not from Wellington X) was “We don’t want the Wellington Street Extension!” Nearly all at our table immediately agreed. That was later echoed in the group summaries, in which three of the four other spokespersons stated that their table was unanimous in being against the WSE. At only one table did anybody speak out in favour of the extension. The message from attendees about no roads in the park was very clear.

DSCN5078

As always, I’m heartened by the people who attend these meetings and impressed by what they have to say. Smart people with good ideas. Here are a few key points that emerged from my table and from the summaries from the other tables:

  • Create a green space corridor (extend a walking/bike path) that connects the existing green spaces, instead of building the WSE. This would link up several of the existing parks, would provide enhanced waterfront access, increase ecosystem services, and would overall mesh with Kingston’s sustainability goals. Peterborough is an excellent example of a city that has green paths linking up neighbourhoods and more open ‘natural’ spaces.
  • Maintain the more wild areas of the waterfront and the Old Industrial Area. Be cautious about the green corridor idea and what that could turn into. New trails are likely to be very wide (for accessibility, etc.), most likely asphalt, and with severely cut back vegetation alongside, e.g., plans for the K&P trail. New trails would be good as active transportation routes, connections between neighbourhoods and public access to waterfront. We need to balance that with the need to leave as much of the waterfront as wild as possible (including leaving some of the wilder parts without formal trails for humans), and not ‘parkify’ all of the green spaces in the OIA.
  • Revitalize the Outer Station at its current location. The Outer Station (also called the Grand Trunk Train station) should not be moved into the Inner Harbour, not only because there should be no private building in a public park, but because the station could be a focus for the area where it is now. Imagine a brewery with a bistro. Young home buyers could be attracted to this area with lower housing prices, a hub around the Outer Station with food centres and small businesses, transit and bike paths to downtown and to parks nearby, both existing waterfront and new inland parks. Brownfield sites in this area are a problem, but the brownfield sites further south are also a problem. These sites need to be rehabilitated, as is specified in Kingston’s Official Plan.
  • Plan for a second “Innovation Hub” around the Outer Station, instead of only one large hub further south. The two smaller hubs could attract different kinds of businesses. Connect these hubs with active transportation routes: biking, walking, transit. Downplay the car. This ties in to the idea proposed by Dialog to create neighbourhood areas in which people can both live and work. Also, people are increasingly choosing life styles that are not car-dependent, especially young people, partly for life-style reasons and partly to save money.
  • Do not build roads in green spaces or near waterfront. Green spaces and waterfront within cities are a rare resource. Many cities are trying to reclaim their waterfront and add green spaces, including tearing out roads that were previously built. We should keep all of the quiet green spaces we have and add more where possible, not lose them to development. Businesses, as well as citizens, will benefit in the long run.

We did have some concerns with this meeting. Participants at one table were told that studies show an increased need for roads in the north section of the study area, so they asked what studies that was based on and were told that there were many studies (but not which ones) and that following the visioning work traffic studies will be conducted. It would make more sense to have the traffic studies performed in conjunction with the visioning. And all studies on which planning judgments are based should be shared with the public.

A second concern was the lack of note-taking by city staff or the consultants. An attendee was designated as note-taker during the discussions, but not while the spokesperson for each group tied ideas together and summarized. And no one was systematically recording what was said. Thus many of the comments and ideas were lost. (If we had thought of it, WellingtonX should have done an audio recording of all this!)

Overall, though, this was a well-organized, productive public consultation, and we would like to thank Dialog and the City of Kingston. We hope that during future consultations comments from attendees will be systematically recorded and that those comments and all studies used for planning will be shared with the public. We also hope to see many of the excellent ideas provided by the public incorporated into the vision for the Old Industrial Area and the Inner Harbour.

There are two further opportunities for public input this week:  tonight at Fluhrer Park and on Saturday in Skeleton Park. Tonight is a free bbq and concert in Fluhrer Park, 5:30 to 7:30 pm. This Saturday, June 25th, there will be an information booth at the Skeleton Park Music Festival in McBurney Park, 10 am to 6 pm. Come to one or both to say what you want for your city!

— Mary McCollam

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?